Why Using Social Media to Increase Sales is Not As Simple as Some Like to Pretend

social media marketing

So I read an article all about How Handbag Designer Gelareh Mizrahi Used Social Media To Increase Sales By 80 Percent. I initially opened this article because I was intrigued by the concept; that’s a lot of percent.

Unfortunately, I was really disappointed after reading it; I found it unrealistic and oversimplified. And I think that when advice is unrealistic and oversimplified, it’s also incredibly discouraging. And I really don’t like it when independent designers and makers are served up a dose of discouragement.

So, what got me about the concept?

The article suggests that if brands want to find success, they need to get their work into the hands of bloggers and editors. Actually it doesn’t just suggest it, it says it:

…if you want to build buzz around your product, you need to get it into the hands — and onto the Instagram feeds — of the right bloggers, editors and other “It” types who make frequent appearances in street style photos.”

Sure, that makes sense. But how exactly does the average emerging brand do that? The designer highlighted in this article:

  • has worked at Intermix and Chanel
  • has a mother who had owned boutique for 25 years, with handbag factory relationships
  • has either partnered with, hired, or is close to a publicist with a showroom background

While I’m not begrudging this designer her connections and her background, ALL of these things come into play (among other things like talent, drive, and the willingness to try) as part of the brand’s success. It wasn’t simply social media that did the trick. Yet, this is how the brand’s strategy was presented to readers:

…reached out to a handful of bloggers and editors they admired…to loan out their first sets of samples. Among the initial supporters were Lucky‘s Eva Chen and Style.com‘s Rachael Wang, who (unsurprisingly) were shot by the likes of Tommy Ton and Phil Oh while carrying Mizrahi’s bags last September.”

To suggest that simply reaching out to Eva Chen, editor in chief of Lucky Mag, is the answer to increasing a brand’s sales, is silly. 

I wish the article had more meat to it. I wish it had addressed the possibilities that Instagram offers to emerging brands that don’t have the decades of network connections and the ability to create samples in two weeks (because of family connections) to send to top bloggers and editors.

Because reading things like that without any sort of advice on how to do it, makes the thousands (millions?) of designers who read the article feel helpless.

It also makes a lot of designers question their ability to make things work. I mean, I’m not saying that these things aren’t possible, or even that a designer shouldn’t try, if they want to. I’m saying that there are a lot of designers out there trying to be seen and sending your first set of samples to the fashion elite in hopes of an Instagram shot or two, is an expensive experiment. 

I wish the article had talked about things like:

  • How Instagram is an incredible tool for connecting with potential customers, editors, and boutique owners by telling your story and conveying your values. Instagram is a platform for creating a visual journal of why you do what you do. This is what potential buyers connect with and this is what can help you build relationships with bloggers, editors, buyers, and consumers. It’s through this intimate outlet that bonds are made, and people start to understand your brand’s purpose and identify with it.
  • How long it takes for this work. Relationships take time. So does getting into your story-telling groove. Designers tell me all the time how frustrating it is that things aren’t happening faster with social media. And I always say, “focus on the followers you have, get close to them, share with them, because they are the ones who will help you spread the word.”  It won’t happen overnight but if you just relax and accept that fact, it’s amazing what starts to happen. Don’t focus on how many followers you don’t yet have, focus on the relationship you’re building with the ones you do have.
  • How social goes hand in hand with other things. The designer in the example mentioned above had other things going for her besides just getting into the feeds of Instagram royalty. A history in the industry and a professional publicist being two biggies. I don’t like when it’s suggested that social media is the golden ticket to six figure sales. It’s not. It’s one component of a bigger picture– both in the marketing sense and the production and operations sense.

Look, there are always going to be exceptions to the rules, and maybe in this case this designer is an exception. Maybe her network, her history, and her publicist had nothing to do with how she got famous editors and bloggers to wear her stuff. But the average new brand does not have the roadmap to Eva Chen’s desk. So that designer (you?) has to think creatively about how to leverage social media for increasing your sales.

I don’t want you to read an article about how 1.2.3 simple it was for one brand and wonder what you’re doing wrong.

What I want you, darling designers, to understand is that you can do it without those connections. You can leverage these tools to increase your sales. You just need to understand that it won’t be as straightforward and easy as some people make it sound.

So don’t get discouraged. Instead, see social media as one very awesome piece to the puzzle, and hustle, hustle, hustle.

Nicole Giordano

Nicole is the founder of StartUp FASHION, an online resource and community supporting for independent designers around the world with building their businesses. A deep love for the craft of fashion paired with an adamant belief that success is defined by the individual, led her to found StartUp FASHION, where she helps independent designers and makers screw the traditional fashion business rules, create their own paths, and build businesses they truly love. More than anything else, she’s in the business of encouragement and works every day to remind makers and designers that they have something special to offer the world and that they can, in fact, do this thing!

  1. Patricia Samaniego

    This is a great article Nicole. I read these types of stories all the time and it makes me cringe all the time because they leave so much “meat” out of the story. I like your writing style!

  2. Tosin

    Very straight to the point write up. Q
    Quite lucid and straight from the heart. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Kim S.

    Reality check for sure. Real talk as always. Thanks Ms. G.

  4. Billy Bones @billybonestx

    Great analysis Nicole. I agree with you. I think the comment “focus on the followers you have, get close to them, share with them, because they are the ones who will help you spread the word.” is arguably the most important part to being successful in marketing on not just social media, but really most all marketing in general.

  5. Karen Roth

    Thank you, Nicole! You are spot on here. Success and sales are dependent on many other factors that simply posting a few pics. Thanks again for the realistic information and tangible advice. After years trying the social media thing without success, I’m trying something different with my new line/business – there is no substitute for strong relationships – face-to-face – social media can augment the relationships we nurture. Slow and steady…

    • Nicole Giordano

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Karen! I agree, there’s nothing like face to face. I think when brands combine the in-person with the digital, the possibilities are incredible!

    • Nicole Giordano

      I love to hear from our readers when our articles are timely! There’s nothing like reading something that is so on-point at that very moment!. 🙂

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