Is social media for luxury brands counterproductive? Does it erode rather than elevate their status? Does it detract from that sense of exclusivity that appeals so much to their audience? When done intentionally and mindfully, the answer is a firm no. And if follower statistics for top contenders such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Dior (each with tens of millions of fans) are any indication, social media can be a powerful want to reach and connect.
When it comes to social media for luxury brands, the overall goal may be similar – i.e. increase profitability – but the approaches you will use to get there differ, often significantly, from average brands.
The Power of Social Media for Luxury Brands
By 2025, it is projected that one-third of all luxury sales will take place online. Further, depending on which studies you look at, between half (Pew Research Center) and three-quarters (Blackstone Digital Agency) of high-income households and educational attainment are active on social media. This is especially true of younger generations, with Millenials twice as likely to report that “when a brand uses social media, I like that brand more.”
Are all or most followers of luxury brands actual customers? No. Social media is a great equalizer; followers tend to fall into two camps: actual customers and aspirational customers. Actual customers are the affluent, the elite, and the exclusive who value that sense of prestige. Aspirational customers want that cachet too, and with nurturing, they may convert into actual customers. It’s all about playing the long game in this niche.
In any case, social media for luxury brands focuses on creating a community – one that, while inclusive, is also exclusive. There is a sense that one is “in the know” when one follows a certain brand.
5 Steps for an Effective Luxury Brand Social Media Strategy
A luxury brand's social media strategy will differ from an average brand's marketing strategy for one simple reason: luxury brands are different from average brands! The techniques and approach you will use will help build connections with elite and affluent buyers (while nurturing aspirational customers as well) and create that exclusive community that leads to brand loyalty.
Focus On One Platform – and Nail It
In the luxury brand world, you are not trying to deliver something for everyone. Rather, you seek to be everything to a select few. Luxury is exclusivity. To that end, rather than wading through the miasma of countless social platforms, choose one, target your audience, and delight them. From there, you can leverage your results and move them to another highly targeted platform.
Our money is on Instagram. Luxury shoppers are among the most ardent users of visual platforms, making Instagram a natural fit. In fact, these buyers view five times as much content, like posts three times as much, and post twice as often compared to average consumers.
Leverage Social Proof
Sometimes the most impactful message is the one you don’t deliver. Burberry’s “The Art of the Trench” campaign, for example, invited followers to submit photos of themselves donning the brand’s famous and highly sought-after trench coat. The response was incredible; users created consistent content for the brand, which increased engagement. And sales. Burberry reported a 21% jump in profits as a result.
By 2026, Millennials will be the main consumers of luxury products, and 60% of them depend on user-generated content when making purchase decisions. As Heba Sayed, IBM Cloud and AI Strategy Leader, says, “User-generated content will be the ‘crown jewel’ for great brands… The best pieces of content will be the ones marketers don’t create but facilitate. At a time when consumers’ lives have changed dramatically, they look to people, not brands, for inspiration about products and services that fit within their new lifestyles post COVID-19.
Prioritize Quality Over Quantity
Social media users are inundated with messaging; we have all become adept at tuning out the noise. Luxury brands need to rise above the din by focusing on quality. It’s not about flooding feeds with inanity, fluff, and filler. Rather, a luxury brand's social media strategy must focus on quality, delivering inspirational and aspirational messages, on building that world of exclusivity.
In this case, less can be much more. Upmarket Italian brand, Bottega Veneta, proves this. According to Forbes, “In a space overloaded with endless content, Bottega Veneta eliminates competition for likes and instead insights the power of silence, invoking mystery and intrigue.”
They don’t ignore social media, but they don’t shout to be heard. Rather, they let their followers deliver the message, as we discussed previously. “By returning to word of mouth – or carefully rendered photos from advocates and customers – the brand allows its products and audience to do the talking.”
Evolve from Influencers
Influencing is big business. The reality is, though, even as we are besieged with sponsored posts and paid promotions, just 3% of consumers are actually influenced by influencers. We have become jaded, and they appear inauthentic. Instead, your strategy should focus on creating connections and partnerships with genuinfluencers.
These are typically experts in their niche, and their goal is not to gain followers (by the way, fake followers account for as much as 70% of total followers for some influencers), generate likes, or get a hefty payday by hocking products they don’t necessarily use or even like. Instead, their objective is to create and share highly valuable content with select followers. They have the authenticity and transparency that luxury buyers respond to.
Deliver the Personal Touch
Luxury buyers expect an elevated experience. It is essential that social feeds are optimized and geared towards their needs and that customer service follows up with a highly personalized touch. For your best customers, for example, you may consider dedicating a real person to manage relationships on an ongoing basis. For others, live chat, chatbots, and other automated solutions will do, but be sure they are seamless and natural. For more complex inquiries and situations, always divert to a live representative.
Social Media for Luxury Brands
Developing and implementing an effective luxury brand social media strategy is a must moving forward. Capture the interest and engagement of your audience, and create a community of elite and affluent buyers who understand and appreciate the value and quality you offer.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in March 2019 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.