If media shapes society, social media does it better than most. We need to realize that social media can not only influence election results, but can also give birth to social movements like #MeToo. We are constantly connected, spending more than five hours a day on our mobile phones, and as digital communication interactions rarely stop, the social impact of social networks is therefore essential.
Luxury and fashion brands also need to be aware of this social impact and have an increased duty of responsibility as they create and spread trends. On social media, even mass market brands mimic these influential and revered labels, so their power is multiplied. Brands are increasingly using social media to increase their exposure, work on their influence strategy and show their values: inclusivity, body positivity, transparency, diversity and solidarity. One example is the French underwear brand Chantelle, which in 2018 was one of the forerunners in terms of inclusivity, or the shoe designer Christian Louboutin in terms of diversity, or more recently the French skin care company Vichy, which is fighting its taboos. #Campaign for Menopositivity. Of course, Jean Paul Gaultier is also an inclusive brand from start to finish.
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Brands must not be late in taking steps to change, nor be too modest if they really carry values, because then they are regularly labeled with all kinds of laundry, including greenwashing. To avoid this, being trustworthy and proactive with your community is essential. Patagonia is a great example because the brand sees their ideas. Also worth mentioning is London-based designer Karoline Vitto, whose Spring-Summer 2023 show during London Fashion Week was groundbreaking in featuring only plus-size models.
Today, some brands are exemplary in the way they also lead others to push their limits. They have values with which they associate specific actions, and this provokes immediate reactions. Accountability can flourish everywhere: in social media, in communication, in choice of words, in products, and even in big financial decisions. At the same time, we must remain vigilant because manipulation is never far away.
Today it is clear that proving stories matters. We need to prioritize the evidence and put it in the spotlight. Spectators are looking for evidence, pledges and guarantees. We also need to match what we wear with who we are, because the outside is no longer enough for authenticity. The interior must also be aligned.
Regarding the change, we should also mention the relationships of brands with their audiences, which are no longer “top-down”. Fortunately, there is more horizontality as brands are increasingly challenged by their audiences, customers, prospects and competitors within their ecosystems. Today’s brand and social media territories are shaped by interaction, collaboration and personalization. Entertainment can dazzle us, but it should never blind us to our responsibilities. We are in a real world with real stakes.
The profession of communicator is not spared from these questions either. In reality, communication means raising awareness among tomorrow’s consumers, creating messages that resonate with them, setting the tone on social media and thinking about advocacy and influence strategies, all while remaining accountable to both brands and younger generations. This is an eminently critical moment for communicators, marketers and agencies that work in territories of influence and power such as social media, as they must decide on important issues to guide both brands and young people, and one cannot go without the other.
It is a double challenge: to be an excellent professional without having to compromise the responsibility of being a good parent, especially when you “shake up” the disciplines that are constantly monitored. In the race for results and audiences, we can do nothing and everything. A space needs to be created that recognizes agencies, communicators and talent that do things well.
We talk a lot about responsible influence, but in reality all our work must be as responsible as possible. It is also a very topical issue at the political level, but as far as we are concerned, we have an obligation to lead by example. These modern, animated and fast interfaces can have a very dark side. CTZAR has always wanted to stay on the bright side and adhere to demanding values regarding education and transmission. This is also why we were the first agency to become a member of the French advertising self-regulatory organization ARPP and integrate transparent labels into our platform and our way of working with influencers.
Social networks are currently writing a new chapter, in part because of their algorithms that favored divisive and superficial content. But the world is changing and new models are already emerging: the rise of communities with greater proximity, companies launching media such as newsletters or podcasts, influencers advocating authenticity, TikTok giving pride of place to spontaneity and giving recognition to niche creators. . Nobody wants walking billboards anymore! Social networks also bring fashion trends. For example, luxury and fashion brands have massively moved into the second-hand market, and this is partly thanks to social media personalities who have managed to “recool” second-hand clothes and accessories and make them something other than sub-fashion.
Who are these people anyway? In 2021, we published an article about the end of the word “influencer”, and this reasoning is still relevant today. We believe that we must be very careful not to confuse influence with “influencers”. Influence is just a kind of loudspeaker, an amplifier, a consequence. It is a sign of legitimacy gained within communities. They will recognize themselves in a personality with an authentic, fair and trustworthy character, a talent capable of showing imagination and creativity, and a voice that has the character to carry ideas and values. An influencer hides under different profiles; they are never just influencers in their lives. Have you ever noticed that people don’t want to be called influencers? The term has been used so much that it almost has a negative connotation. This is also why at CTZAR we talk about social talent or creators instead. It’s more relevant to everyone and it’s closer to reality.
Camille Olivier and Thomas Silve are the founders of the creative agency CTZAR, specializing in social media and influence.
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