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Instagram marketing strategy: a fashion industry insight

Instagram marketing strategy: a fashion industry insight

It’s rare to be in fashion and not have an Instagram marketing strategy. The visual platform beloved by millennials has become a showcase for the industry. In this study, I compare the strategies of 27 luxury fashion brands. With 10x more engagement than other social networks, you too can't afford to miss out - get ahead with our interactive checklist. 

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What’s coming up?

1. Introduction: Instagram and fashion: a love story

2. Luxury fashion industry study: comparing the Instagram marketing strategies of 27 luxury brands

> Top 10 most engaging brands

> Top 10 largest Instagram communities

> Top 10 most active brands

3. Fashion industry deep dive: drill down into activity of all 10 luxury brands

4. Brand showcase: Victoria Beckham - Queen of Hearts

5. Brand showcase: Balenciaga - Edgy, disruptive and minimalist

6. Brand showcase: Gucci and Louis Vuitton - Glocal appeal

7. 5 best practices: optimize your own Instagram marketing strategy

Instagram and fashion: a love story

In the beginning, there was art. Before developing textual language, humans communicated through pictures.

Simple cave paintings enabled us to communicate, commemorate, decorate, educate and express ourselves.

Weirdly, in the digital age, images are often viewed as the natural progression of textual content - as though they are somehow a more complex version of the written word.

But, as technology advances, once again we are discovering that it is through images that we can most effectively and efficiently communicate concise, digestible messages.

Instagram marketing strategy checklist

The age of instant gratification

The fast pace of the digital world, and the overwhelming noise we all have to sift through, has led to an increased thirst for fast facts.

Marketers often have only a tiny window of opportunity through which to connect. And images provide a great medium through which to achieve this.

The beauty of Instagram is that it enables brands to utilize pictures as a pivot for their messaging, while also providing space for broader brand messaging.

The key to its success really is in its name:

So, in simple terms, it’s all about “Instant messages”.

Instagram definition

No need to bore you with the history, but…

  • Instagram was launched in 2010 and experienced rapid, organic growth in users

  • In 2012, Facebook purchased Instagram for $1bn

  • Now, in 2019, Instagram has more than 1 billion monthly users

Going into business

Many brands still have the misconception that Instagram is only for personal promotion and are ignoring its potential as a key marketing platform.

Indeed, when it comes to developing an engaged community, Instagram is far and away the most effective of all social media platforms - with 10x more engagement than 2nd placed Facebook (Forrester).

Forrester Report - engaged social platfroms

The business use case for Instagram has been enhanced over time by improved analytics, targeted advertising, the explosion of influencer marketing and, most recently, an integrated checkout button.

And today, there are more than 25 million business accounts across the platform.

Fashion and Instagram: a match made in heaven

Within the context of a challenging economic backdrop - especially with regards to luxury - digital transformation has played a key role in the continued growth of popular fashion brands and been central to the emergence of new ones.

Fashion is all about trend and belonging - two themes that go hand in hand with Instagram. The convergence of visual messaging, community, celebrity and consumerism are truly tailor-made for the industry.

Today, almost every luxury fashion brand has an Instagram marketing strategy, with some having built communities of more than 30M followers.

This study takes a look at 27 of Europe’s leading luxury brands on Instagram, with a focus on how they communicate, who they communicate with, and what impact this has on their business.

Instagram marketing strategy: a fashion industry study

Having initially monitored the channels of 27 of Europe’s most well-known luxury fashion brands, I then utilized Talkwalker’s market-leading Instagram data to identify the Top 10 most engaged brands from our study:

Instagram marketing strategy - Top 10 engaged brands

Top 10 most engaged brands during the 7-week study period.

As you can see, Gucci came out on top, with an impressive 11.4M engagements during the 7-week study period.

Louis Vuitton, Versace and Victoria Beckham completed the top 4 - the latter representing the only relatively new brand to make the list.

The Top 10 was completed by Dolce & Gabbana, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Burberry, Prada and Armani.

Having identified the most engaged brands, I then wanted to drill down a little deeper to understand how the Instagram marketing strategy of each of these fashion giants compares.

But prior to this, I also decided to investigate whether the most engaged brands also had the largest communities.

Instagram marketing strategy - Top 10 largest communities

Top 10 brands based on communtiy size.

Although the top two brands remained the same, Versace - which was 3rd for engagement - came down in 6th position with a relatively small community of 17.6M. This is little more than half the size of Gucci’s.

Another key takeaway was the fact that Balenciaga was able to have the 6th most engaged audience despite having the second smallest community - suggesting that they know their audience well and have been able to nurture a loyal following.

The ability of Alexander McQueen to have the 7th most engaged audience, with the smallest community, was also impressive.

Next on my list of metrics was post frequency - who had posted the most during the 7-week period?

Instagram marketing strategy - top 10 post frequency

Top 10 most frequent posters during the 7-week study period.

As you can see, this Top 10 table bears very little resemblance to the previous two.

Gucci and Louis Vuitton, the top two for engagement, are down in 4th and 6th place, respectively, when it comes to post frequency.

Incredibly, Victoria Beckham, who was the 4th most engaged brand, had the 2nd lowest total number of posts.

Balenciaga again provides some interesting insight, with only 45 posts across the 7-week period - or approximately one per day. This is only around a quarter of the most frequent poster, Dolce & Gabbana, and by far the lowest throughout the group.

Instagram marketing strategy checklist

Fashion industry deep dive

Having identified insights related to total engagement and post frequency, the next logical step was to analyze the biggest engagement peaks throughout the 7-week study period.

Instagram marketing strategy - Victoria Beckham engagement

Key engagement peaks during the 7-week study period.

And well, the answer to the question - “what engaged the most?” - was, quite simply, Victoria Beckham.

As you can see from the graph above, the three biggest engagement peaks throughout the study period were all for posts from the Spice Girl, turned footballer’s wife, turned fashion icon.

This goes some way to explaining why, despite having the 2nd lowest total number of posts, her brand channel was the 4th most engaged.

But why the peaks?

And what is so special about Victoria Beckham’s Instagram marketing strategy that has resulted in two posts receiving more than double the engagement of any of the other brands in the study?

Victoria Beckham: Queen of Hearts

First, I wanted to investigate whether Victoria Beckham was doing anything different in terms of the types of posts she had been publishing.

Instagram users are able to post photos, videos or carousels. And, fortunately for us, the Talkwalker Instagram channel analysis can now provide clear insights on who’s doing what.

Instagram marketing strategy - post table

Post analysis during the 7-week study period.

The results revealed that a little over half of Victoria Beckham’s posts were pictures, with 29% videos and 18% carousels - on first impression, a nice balance.

Balenciaga’s Instagram marketing strategy again raised eyebrows, with all 39 posts containing pictures - no videos, no carousels, seemingly no thrills.

Burberry were similar, with a massive 93% of their posts being pictures, while they had only two videos and four carousels.

Gucci too seemed to have little appetite for videos - though they were more forthcoming when it came to mixing up the picture posts with carousels.

So, what’s working for Victoria Beckham?

Without any real clues coming from the above, I decided to drill down further into Victoria Beckham’s Instagram marketing strategy in a quest for answers.

Having already identified her preferences with regard to post type, it was now time to understand which posts were actually working for her in terms of getting the most engagement.

Instagram marketing strategy - Victoria Beckham what's working

Victoria Beckham: post frequency and engagement by post type.

It was immediately clear that videos weren’t working so well, with both photo and carousel posts taking a higher relative share of engagement compared to post frequency.

So, what about those three engagement peaks?

Instagram marketing strategy - Victoria Beckham engaged post

Victoria Beckham’s most engaged post during the study period.

The post with the most engagement throughout the entire 7-week period was this one - a carousel that combines family, personality, product, and celebrity.

The first image, the most strategic one, being a photo of Victoria Beckham together with her suited up son and model Brooklyn - tagged in the picture and, as a result, also pulling in his community of 11.5M followers.

This is, without doubt, a shining example of an emotion-driven Instagram marketing strategy, with this approach consistent throughout Victoria Beckham’s other main engagement peaks.

Instagram marketing strategy - Victoria Beckham engaged post 2

Victoria Beckham’s 2nd and 3rd most engaged posts.

Once again, these posts convey and enhance Victoria Beckham’s emotional connection with her audience.

Not only is she providing her followers with an insight into her brand, but also welcoming them into her own family and lifestyle.

Instagram marketing strategy checklist

Balenciaga: Edgy, disruptive and minimalist

As mentioned previously, Balenciaga also presented some interesting insights when I investigated the initial metrics.

Despite having a relatively small community and post frequency - and no videos - the Paris-based brand came an impressive 6th in terms of engagement.

To investigate their strategy further, first I decided to look into their peak engagements:

Instagram marketing strategy - Balenciaga engaged post

Balenciaga’s engagement during the 7-week study period.

Although their highest engagement peak was only around a third of Victoria Beckham’s most engaged peak, the 353.3k actually represents a similar proportion of Balenciaga’s total community at around 4%.

When we look at the post on Instagram itself, we are provided with further evidence of the minimalist and disruptive style of Balenciaga’s Instagram marketing strategy.

Instagram marketing strategy - Balenciaga engaged post 2

Balenciaga’s most engaged post.

As well as having only photo posts - and just 39 of those - they also have no associated caption. And this is the same with all their posts:

Instagram marketing strategy - Balenciaga engaged post 3

Sample of posts from Balenciaga’s Instagram.

Stepping away from social platforms momentarily, I also observed Balenciaga’s Instagram marketing strategy was very much aligned with their wider brand identity. Take their website, for example, which is once again disruptive in its minimalism.

Instagram marketing strategy - Balenciaga website

Balenciaga’s Homepage

A quick look at their posting schedule again highlighted this hyper-streamlined approach and suggested that they have a very targeted audience.

Instagram marketing strategy - Balenciaga post schedule

Balenciaga’s Instagram activity peaks during the 7-week study period.

The vast majority of their posts were published between 1pm to 4pm on Monday to Saturday, with only a couple of posts falling outside this very precise window.

For the sake of comparison, I can put this into context with two brands, Gucci and Louis Vuitton, who have illustrated a more global strategy.

Instagram marketing strategy checklist

Gucci and Louis Vuitton: Glocal appeal

Picking up from where I left off with Balenciaga, it is clear from the posting schedules of both Gucci and Louis Vuitton that they have a more global target audience.

Instagram marketing strategy - Gucci post schedule

Gucci’s Instagram activity peaks during the 7-week study period.

Instagram marketing strategy - Louis Vuitton post schedule

Louis Vuitton’s Instagram activity peaks during the 7-week study period.

Aside from having a similar posting schedule, which is clearly designed to ensure global coverage of their brands, there are a few other key synergies that connect the Instagram marketing strategies of these two fashion industry giants.

The first synergy is with regards the focus on both product and celebrity testimonials within their most engaged posts.

With regards the latter, the French, Louis Vuitton, and Italian, Gucci, are both collaborating with local and international celebrities. For example, two of Gucci’s most engaging posts included pictures of Miriam Leone, an Italian actress, and Harry Styles, an international popstar.

The same approach also appears to be working for Louis Vuitton, who is partnering with celebrities such as Lea Seydoux, a French actress, and Emma Stone, an American actress.

Instagram marketing strategy - Gucci Celebs

Two posts by Gucci with two of its celebrities, Miriam Leone and Harry Styles.

The brands also show a strong attachment to their roots.

Louis Vuitton, for example, became involved in the response to the dramatic fire that damaged one of the best known French symbols, Notre Dame.

The fashion house made a considerable donation towards the reconstruction of the Cathedral and used Instagram as a key channel to spread the news.

Instagram marketing strategy - Louis Vuitton Notre Dame

Louis Vuitton announces on Instagram that the LVMH group have made a donation for Notre-Dame.

This post created 219.237 interactions - not only as a direct response to the donation itself, but also because it showcases that the brand is maintaining strong connections to its roots.

Indeed, the brand is also promoting French art and talented young artists, with dedicated events and spaces, and has built the “Fondation Louis Vuitton” in the heart of Paris to host multiple exhibitions.

5 best practices

Optimize your own Instagram marketing strategy

Having drilled down into the strategies of 10 of Europe’s biggest luxury fashion brands, I can now provide you with 5 best practices to adopt as part of your own approach.

1. Focus on post types that are engaging the most

Compare the engagement levels across image, carousel and video - and don’t forget stories.

Define how you craft your associated captions and understand how this impacts engagement. Always include relevant hashtags and emojis, and analyze the impact of these.

2. Develop the most impactful influencers

Discover who’s already talking about your brand? Who could be talking about your brand? What size and kind of community are they influencing? Are macro influencers or micro influencers generating the most engagement?

3. Create schedule based on audience activity

Is your brand engaging a global or local audience? When are your target audiences most active?

If your channel targeting regions outside Europe? If so, your team should schedule posts to cover all time zones, especially if you’re creating specific posts for specific regions. This will help to create even more engagement for your brand.

4. Define usage of your hashtags

Hashtags represent a fundamental element of your Instagram marketing content strategy and you should seek to constantly optimize them.

Do you have general hashtags that you’re using throughout the year? Have you planned hashtags for specific campaigns? Are those hashtags clear and catchy for all your audiences?

5. Continue to analyze, interpret and engage

The optimization of your Instagram marketing strategy is not a spot activity but an ongoing process - you need to assess it regularly with the best Instagram analytics tools.

Our social listening and analytics platform can help you to identify the most relevant insights to optimize your strategy and monitor the competition.

Take your strategy to the next level, with our Ultimate Instagram Marketing Checklist!

Instagram marketing strategy checklist