Our social media director has a passion for helping teens learn how to use social media for good. Last year, she spoke to several thousand students about how brands and teenagers can approach social media powerfully. Understandably, Digiday’s Shareen Pathak contacted Laura Tierney while writing a Digiday article about retailers who are successfully reaching that teenage audience. 

 

Shareen: In terms of fashion/retail brands, why does Instagram “work”? What about it appeals to those brands?

Laura: We’re in the midst of a visual marketing revolution. More than ever before, brands need to develop quick-hitting, high-quality visual assets (photos, GIFs, videos) on a constant basis to engage their customers. Fans today expect nothing less. No industry is better suited for this revolution than fashion and retail. Because their products are always changing, they are telling new stories that sync up with mainstream culture and use social media as the vehicle for connection. 

Specifically, for retail brands, Instagram offers three key benefits:

1. It’s rooted in powerful imagery and storytelling, which are the essence of successful brands from Abercrombie to Lego.

2. Instagram is known for driving qualified traffic to retail sites. By using vendors such as Like2Buy that turn your Instagram account into a shoppable gallery, and by making their ads available to all brands, Instagram will drive even more e-commerce traffic in 2016. 

3. Unlike its cousin platform Facebook, Instagram allows curation of user-generated content. For retail brands featuring its customers and products, UGC is a powerful tactic in a brand’s content strategy. 

 

S: Why do teen brands do so especially well on Instagram? 

L: The most successful brands pinpoint where their customers are and deliver engaging content based on their measurable objectives. Teen brands like Abercrombie and Taco Bell do so well because they recognize the hotspot for today’s teenagers: Instagram. According to a recent Piper Jaffray study, one-third of teens called Instagram their go-to social platform, followed by Twitter and then Snapchat. 

The teens I work with say it is the last app they close at night and the first they open in the morning. If teen brands can speak teens' Instagram language and serve them fresh, entertaining content, they’ll connect with their audience. 

 

S: Abercrombie, Urban Outfitters, Aéropostale: Anything about each of these brands that jumps out of how they post, what they post?

L: All three brands do an excellent job at lifestyle marketing. Their content strategies are rooted in aspiration: not just showing the products but rather the lifestyle that the products enable you to live. In the spirit of social media marketing, I gave each a 140-character review: 

From outfit inspiration to braids, @Abercrombie uses highly stylized imagery that centers on its models and photo shoots.

@UrbanOutfitters has a natural look and feel with a mix of product montages, #FromWhereIStand looks and recipe ideas.

@Aeropostale’s balance inspires teens with stylized photo shoot content and outfit ideas, then surprises with real-model candids. 
 
All three brands are also strategically leveraging user-generated content to drive e-commerce. Abercrombie and Aéropostale use the Like2Buy feature, while Urban Outfitters is building a branded shoppable community at urbanoutfitters.com/urban/uo-community.


S: How much does post frequency affect engagement?

L: Your posting frequency should be based on your ability to deliver the kind of content your fans expect. Brands like Aéropostale and Urban Outfitters share stunning and stylized imagery up to four times a day because they have the resources to do so. For most brands, I recommend creating powerful messaging and posting one to two times a day to stay relevant but not overwhelm fans with subpar content. 

Rule of thumb: Never water down content in order to have something to share. It’s like sharing a bad story at a party just to hear yourself talk! 

It’s 2016, and we’re in a “pay to play” world for most social media platforms. Brands must use paid advertising to reach more targeted users rather than rely on frequent organic content, which will reach a less relevant audience.