Facebook is the new fashion blog
Where are today’s youth most likely to look for the latest fashion trend? For years, the answer has been mainstream media publications or blogs. Today, the answer is likely their friends on Facebook or Tumblr.
The fashion for tie-dye tees by brands such as dertbag, HUF, Freedminds and Thrasher that is currently sweeping through London’s hipster neighbourhoods wasn’t born of bloggers and media outlets, but ordinary people using social networks.
In fact, you’d be hard pushed to find a young person who put much stock in fashion blogs at all anymore. Fashion blogs tend to be good for describing what has already happened, but that is not much use to those trying to stay on top of the latest trends.
Instant, mobile-enabled tools such as Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr give ordinary people an opportunity to document and find out what’s hot before an influential blogger can get around to covering it.
The currency for what’s hot isn’t coverage in mainstream media outlets or blogs (in fact, by the time it has appeared there, it has likely peaked), but ‘Likes’ and ‘Reblogs’ from ordinary social media users.
Bloggers, in a way, are a victim of their own success. As social media empowered ordinary people to emulate mainstream media channels, brands rewarded the more influential bloggers with access and privileges.
Yet this almost immediately raised questions about credibility. A reader of a blog could never be sure whether a blogger was endorsing a product because they genuinely believed in it, or because they were being paid to do so.
Many bloggers too, particularly in the “mummy blogging” sector have been guilty of deliberately seeking out “review copies” of products. The Advertising Standards Agency has tried to clean up the practice, without much success.
Bloggers are also not directly accountable to their audience in the way that they would have you believe. The minority of people who do make negative comments are easily dismissed as “trolls” and “haters,” blurring the boundaries between blog and media outlet further.
For your average Facebook user, the picture is very different. The vested interest in a product usually begin and end at looking cool wearing it. The price of failing to do so isn’t abuse from an anonymous audience of ‘trolls’ – but a very public shaming in front of a large audience of online ‘friends.
The ‘Like’ is also a particularly brutal metric for relevance. Facebook’s EdgeRank means that if your online friends stop liking your content, it will become literally invisible to them. The price of not being ‘Liked’ is obsolescence.
Coupled with the immediacy of a Facebook NewsFeed or a Tumblr Dashboard, and the assurance of being ‘on demographic’ that comes with reading content sourced from your own friends, you can see why Facebook is becoming many people’s new fashion blog.
This has fundamental implications for how PR firms approach seeding. For a long time, agencies have treated ‘social media’ as another communications channel – influential publishers publish, and consumers consume.
Under the ‘Like’ model however, even identifying the influencers is hard. The 177 people who have liked the photo, not the person who shared it, confer legitimacy.
Neither is what is being described here particularly unique to the youth market – we are just seeing the change first amongst the heaviest users. No one likes vested interests, everyone wants their news faster, and everyone benefits from the democracy of the ‘Like.’
This is a fundamental shift for PR, and I don’t have all the answers as to how the industry might deal with it. Certainly though, it might be time for brands to reconsider what constitutes an influencer. We’re all influencers now.