By it’s very definition, social media is the darling of the masses. Can luxury brands mix new technology with tradition while maintaining the aura of exclusivity necessary to appeal to affluent consumers? Is there a way to reconcile the sophisticated ambiance of a bricks and mortar luxury retail or service environment with the persistence of communications required to gain market share via social media?
Yes. But developing the social media presence of a luxury brand requires a thoughtful extension of that brand’s online presence, consistent with the existing real-life brand experience.
A new Social Media Guide by Abrams Research, which specifically addresses the luxury market, recommends:
- Looking at each social media platform independently rather than repurposing existing digital assets.
- Considering each platform as an opportunity to fill a new or different need in digital the space.
- Focusing on quality content rather than quantity.
- Communicating visually with instantly appealing images.
The aspirational nature of luxury brands can be harnessed if sharing is approached in the right way. Customers are often eager to share their association with luxury products, but require the tools to do so. Like attracts like. Leveraging the passion, interest and connectivity of a brand’s supporters establishes connections to more affluent consumers. Social media enables customers and fans to share the value and experiences they derive from their luxury purchases in digital as well as physical spaces.
Constructing a narrative for a luxury brand that ties into the narrative customers have created about themselves is key.
A purse doesn’t qualify as a luxury item because it costs $4,000; it qualifies as a luxury item because its calfskin leather, imported all the way from Valencia, has been hand-treated using a process that has been kept as a family secret for six generations, features 22 karat white gold clasps, and maybe most importantly because it was mentioned favorably by a friend or celebrity on social media.
There is no one-size fits all approach, each luxury brand must carefully examine its core identity and commit time and resources to bringing their optimum social media campaign to life.
A fine example is provided by women’s designer, Tory Burch. In addition to an active brand presence on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, the Tory Blog is rich with content on style, culture, travel, entertaining, music and expert advice tailored to the Tory Burch woman. The copy and design rival any traditional high-end fashion magazine. and the content is not focused on selling but on building a lifestyle brand that speaks to the consumer like a trusted friend. Tory Burch herself contributes posts and publishes personal photos that make her accessible to consumers who identify with her.
In the luxury travel industry, Four Seasons, is an example of a hotelier that has embraced social media. The company’s corporate Twitter account interacts globally with all customers and individual properties are equipped with their own Twitter account that acts as a concierge service for guests who may have questions about that specific hotel or the surrounding area. The authentic rapport with guests is excellent as you can read in the Twitter exchange below:
Four Seasons is equally as engaging on Facebook, pushing awareness of what’s happening at their properties to people using both organic and paid strategies. What is the payoff? Almost half (48%) of Facebook users become fans of pages because their friends are.
Social media offers luxury brands an unprecedented opportunity to provide exemplary customer service to their clientele, connecting in a way that is immediate and powerful. Luxury brands must commit to being honest, receptive and communicative with their customers and respond promptly 24/7. Customer service is not just fighting fires; social media can educate and enrich a customer’s experience with a brand if staff are trained and equipped to be both creative and proactive.
Affluent customers crave special attention from their favorite brands through both traditional and, increasingly, non-traditional channels. Marketers need to emphasize status and lifestyle through compelling digital storytelling, effectively intertwining product browsing with content and imagery so that visitors become immersed in the brand world. In this way, marketers can realize the potential for social media to help build a strong brand community of loyalists, new customers and aspirational fans.