Move over Instagram, there's a new platform with an even higher engagement rate. No other app offers the intimacy, exclusivity, and behind-the-scenes access to the fashion industry that Snapchat does, all while being totally instantaneous. Snapchat has officially taken over the fashion world.
This auto-delete social platform is already a commercial hit with some of the industry's most prestigious names. Burberry recently launched an advertorial on Discover, and it was a huge success. Other big names such as Valentino are using the platform to break the silence about what they get up to each and everyday at the brand HQ. Fashion media, including TeenVogue and Vanity Fair are on there, too. The industry has embraced the new social network in numerous ways, despite being relatively slow on the uptake (especially in comparison to Facebook and Instagram’s usage). We can all agree, Snapchat has everyone buzzing.
By allowing users to engage with brands and media alike in a more direct and intimate way, Snapchat creates strong consumer connections. In short, the overall informality that the app is known for makes everything much more authentic. During fashion week, we get a coveted sneak peek of the backstage action, often including glimpses at a collection moments before it hits the runway. We get to see the models having a good time, makeup artists prepping their looks, and all of the other fashion specialists hard at work. The intimacy lets the audience explore what fashion insiders are doing up close, from catwalk collections to photoshoots. In addition, the buzzy social network has given way to new kinds of fashion media innovation as well; last month, online clothing retailer Everlane was accepting job applications through Snapchat stories. Using their own creativity, applicants had to discuss why they were good for the specific position they were applying to, in an authentic, creative way.
As you can see, this app has many great aspects. However, something that almost no one seems to be talking about is that Snapchat has some fundamental limitations: the quality of the content produced, as well as restraints to both marketing and technical components of the fashion business.
While it’s one of the best tools to have fun with and to explore different parts of the fashion industry, Snapchat is still not all that efficient when it comes to sharing important information. Think about it - 10 seconds per Snap, tacky graphics, and a lack of space; fashion media is not able to effectively communicate high caliber content (excluding the projects on the Discover feature). That is precisely why most of them still rely on their main website and share auxiliary elements through their Instagram and Facebook pages, which are more lucrative for driving web traffic.
Even moreso, some publications are starting to use Snapchat and other social networks as their core-publishing platform. The perfect example of this is Obsessee, a page owned by Clique Media Group (a.k.a the publishers of Who What Wear). Their landing page consists only of icons linked to social media; there are no articles, no essays, no edits, nothing of the sort. As Katherine Power, co-founder and chief executive of CMG explained to BoF, “Gen Z are not visiting dot coms.” Industry experts have echoed that social media is where the eyes are in 2016.
The problem comes when readers start to see Snapchat, or even social media in general, as a reliable source of information. Some experts argue that most of today’s readers are solely interested in social media, and not in long-form publications like blogs or magazines. But the abbreviated information diffused through social media is often incomplete or sensationalized to increase engagement - this is especially true for young people. How is are fashion's future leaders going to effectively learn about the industry if they don’t read quality, cogent content, and are instead reliant on a momentary Snapchat story? I think we can have fun with Snapchat to explore what the fashion industry is doing behind-the-scenes, but we should definitely be encouraged to learn more through thorough, well-articulated research. Having uninformed and disinterested young individuals is not going to help us build a more thoughtful industry.
Secondly, Snapchat lacks of formal analytics and metrics tools; simple ones even, like one's exact number of followers, story completion rates, or total number of screenshots. This is harder for marketers to examine directly and therefore, brands would have to spend on costly third-party analytics programs in order to better understand the impact of their reach. This is not ideal for new emerging brands or media with a limited budget.
One of the aspects of Snapchat that I find to be particularily annoying, are incredibly long stories (think upwards of fifteen ten-second Snaps). They take ages to load and frankly, it becomes excessive. Because Snaps are originally programmed to last up to 10 seconds long, brands can post excessively if they have a large volume of content to share. Not to mention, other limitations include no look-up tools, no linking, and poor aesthetics when it comes to imagery and graphics - unlike Instagram, which encourages high-quality, curated, visual content.
Although Snapchat has its disadvantages, fashion insiders argue that the never-before-seen benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. These fundamental components - like its instantaneousness and innate authenticity - will continue to make it stand out. However, as with any new 'it' tool, the fashion industry needs to be conscious about how to effectively use this medium to create high quality content that is more and more creative with every Story.
Image by Amanda Lin