By Marcus Leach

Women's Fashion was centre of attention on Wednesday morning as the latest Like Minds Social Media Week event at the Hippodrome Casino once again delivered useful insight into a huge industry.

Moderated by Hannah Kane, Editor of Phoenix Magazine, the session looked at the impact of social media on the women's fashion industry and how the different players are responding and adjusting to the ‘social’ opportunity.

The guest panel of industry thought leaders featured Krista Madden, Founder of Handpicked Media and Beautyandthedirt, Roxanne Nejad of Boohoo, Emily Seares of Fashion Bite and Joanna Shiers, the Fashion & Beauty Editor of Stylus.

ES: "I'm an online editor and I started Fashionbite four years ago, as well as lecturing at Westminster."

KM: "I started a hair and make-up styling agency a long time ago, so have worked in the fashion industry from all sorts of angels. Beautyandthedirt started as a bit of a hobby but has grown rapidly. I have started to learn how brands work within the industry."

RN:[/b] "I'm the social media manager at Boohoo, which is one of the largest UK online fashion retailers. We have been named in the top ten social brands in the UK. I have also integrated a blogger outreach strategy."

JS:[/b] "We are a research and advisory agency. We provide content across the whole creative sector. We have consumer engagement, consumer product, and consumer lifestyle."

So, we are looking at the current state of play in terms of social media and the fashion sector. What social media strategy are you using at the moment?

ES:[/b] "I'm on Facebook, Pintrest, Twitter and Google +. Twitter and Facebook are best for my blog, and Twitter for the engagement level. In terms of newness and freshness, which is what people like, these are the best platforms. It is about engagement at the end of the day. It is difficult to engage on everything constantly one you are running everything yourself, so in that case it is what works for you and what you enjoy. Sometimes it is forgotten that you are doing all of this as an individual, and marketers who contact you need to remember this."

HK:[/b] "I think people sometimes forget that when you are a small business owner you do everything. That said it can be a real bonus as you have the same voice across all of your platforms, which some big brands fail to achieve."

RN:[/b] "Sometimes the bigger brands lose out in personality because they are being too creative, and they are a corporate beast, so it is hard for them to have a powerful social strategy that is a clear voice. The big exception to this is Burberry."

HK:[/b] "The Burberry way is to show and share everything, and on the flip side you have the Tom Ford approach which is show nothing and they have banned mobile phones going into shows. Paul Smith are clever as they show a little and hide a little, and by using the #takenbypaul they have a real personal feel to the brand."

KM:[/b] "I think they are very much 'brand Paul' there though and that fact he is still the face of it all is so important."

HK: [/b]"Really showing the heart and soul of a brand has so much more traction than just tweeting and sending out sales based stuff. And also using social as a research tool."

RN:[/b] "That is something we do. Now that we have got such a broad audience we can utilise it to get immediate responses and it influences our buying department. We put forward two items a week and let people pick which one they want a massive discount on, so we involve them and engage them. Showing behind the scenes is really important, as well as offering different content across different platforms."

HK:[/b] "Each platform needs to have a different purpose. So at Phoenix we use Twitter to drive traffic, but Instagram is much more a behind the scenes look at the brand and Facebook is sales."

JS:[/b] "Under the umbrella of your brand it is vital to have a slightly different voice on each platform, and to know your audience on each platform and what they want."

KM:[/b] "It is about continuing the voice, don't just tick the boxes and leave it. Once you have the traction do something quickly whilst you have the audience and keep them engaged. Because social moves so fast people can just go, so keep them engaged with your brand."

HK:[/b] "How much do you invest on social media and do you get a return on it?"

ES:[/b] "One luxury brand I work with have made over £1 million through just their Instagram account. It shows that if you get authentic followers it can be a real tool."

RN:[/b] "When I look at people's accounts and it shows how many followers they have, that means nothing to me. Ultimately it is how much engagement there is. Better to have a thousand followers who are all engaged than 10,000 who are not engaging."

KM:[/b] "I would rather have a bigger conversation happening with a smaller audience. Marketers still look at just numbers, but they don't realise which is most effective. There does need to be traffic, but there is a lot of smoke and mirrors in the industry. There needs to be a balance."

RN:[/b] "Advertisers approach blogs differently as they are after impressions and not reach, which is a big mistake."

ES:[/b] "It is about longer term engagement. If the blog is relevant then it's about the long game, building relationships. It isn't just about the instant gain."

HK:[/b] "There is a shift from main stream brands now where content is online and it remains there. That's where bloggers have started to step up, they are being treated like journalists."

KM:[/b] "You should always check to see if content has been copied. Bloggers just paste up press releases, and that makes the content worthless.

RN:[/b] "I think there is a split approach using social media in fashion. There is letting others talk about your brand, or there is utilising your own techniques to control everything. Boohoo's approach is to take a localised view on everything, because what is in season here isn't the same in Australia. We need localised content specific to each audience, so much so we have specific Facebook accounts for each country we are in.

KM:[/b] "It is about localising content and localising relationships as that help[s build the offline relationships too. Just because we are online doesn't mean we can't have offline relationships.

HK:[/b] "How have you found social media in the Middle and Far East?

KM: "It is really difficult because of how everything is censored."

RN: "The language barrier has been an issue for us at the moment.

KM: "Turkey is a huge growing market at the moment, and it is about trying to engage with them as most of them have grown up online.

HK: "Can we have a few examples of best practice on social media."

KM: "I think it's about making sure everything has a long-term strategy. Why do you ant to talk to people and what relationships do you want to build."

RN: "It's scary how many people are just getting graduates and chucking them straight in and expecting them to build serious social strategies, when they don't know the industry. Just because you know social it doesn't mean you know the industry."

ES: "Too many brands don't try and engage you, they just send press releases and hope you will cover them without thinking about building relationships."

KM: "I think it would be better for brands to do some smaller events and build some face-to-face relationships so you know going forward who is behind all of these online voices."

HK: "I think a lot of brands forget there is a world outside of London, and if you can focus on a wider area you will start to build better, loyal followers if you make the effort."

RN: "Other best practice can include Google +, its not going to go away so focus on it as it will be a big thing in the future."

KM: "You can have online meetings and engage on a regular basis. Give an hour as often as possible to be there for your audience. Don't just tweet and link to articles, talk back to your audience."

JS: "You don't have to be on every platform, as some don't work for certain brands, and you might not be able to have a regular voice over all of them. If that's the case focus on two or three and make them good."

HK: "What do we think will be the next rend?"

KM: "I think more video. And not just YouTube, but also different video platforms as you can get a more loyal following."

Audience: Do you think that the industry is youth-centric?

KM: "I think there are a lot of loyal older ladies out there who have a voice and influence through blogs and social engagement. Because they have the money I think they are a lot more important.

HK: "For an older audience it's about doing offline stuff alongside. With the younger generation you can just tweet and use social as they are that generation. But the older generation are a little more traditional.

Audience: Do you think blogging will go out of fashion?

RN: "I think it will evolve over the next few years. It will filter out to those who do it just because they want free stuff, and the real bloggers who are doing it because they love doing it. They will be the ones to engage with from a brands point of view."

KM: "I don't think they are going anywhere, if anything they are getting more powerful."

HK: "At Phoenix we are really trying to embrace bloggers now. At the start it was a bad relationship, but now we are speaking to them and engaging them. We are saying send us content, the best stuff will get published online and linked back to your site."

RN: "The reason we are working with bloggers is because we want honest opinions. Therefore we need to react positively to negative feedback, not just get our backs up and take it the wrong way.

Audience: "Social media has become so broad, where do you see this heading and how do you manage engagement over so many channels, especially when there are so many upcoming brands competing?"

HK: "We have stopped calling it social because it has become so integrated into everyday life. We are redesigning everything and changing the format because the traditional online magazine style is getting outdated. We are going to integrate all of our social into the site, that way we can publish content through social."

ES: "It is a challenge, especially when you are a smaller business. It is about choosing the platforms that work for you. If you are a fashion brand and it is all visual then work over a few visual platforms."

KM: "Use your analytics to see what is and isn't working and tailor your strategy around that."

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