It is perhaps stating the obvious to say that social media platforms are by and large dominated by the conversations of youth culture. In this digital age it is the younger consumer who is acutely aware of the presence of brands in this arena; they choose who they follow carefully (who they essentially champion by ‘liking’, ‘re-tweeting’, ‘pinning’ etc.); they ask questions; freely pass opinion; actively share what they believe to be great and shoot down en masse what they don’t.

Social media can therefore be a fairly scary place for luxury brands to attempt to engage with a less mature customer – but it shouldn’t be. With a little savoir-faire, this is the very place to grab the ever-fickle attention of the younger consumer and build brand loyalty.

Social networking accounts for more than a quarter of time spent online. Most importantly, it’s time spent in a decidedly active form of engagement. Whether coining a hashtag on Twitter, uploading a photo to Facebook or curating a media collection on Pinterest, social media is as much creative as it is consumptive and brands should remember this when looking at attracting the younger consumer. As a savvy user of these platforms they enjoy the involvement, rather than a hard sell interrupting their virtual worlds.  The luxury products that they do buy are products for self-expression, status, quality, aesthetics and exclusivity. In short, they buy items to be seen with or shop places to be seen if they are to purchase luxury commodities. A brand therefore needs to make sure that they are seen by the younger consumer in this way and the best arena to cultivate this image is via social media.

EW Burberry

The youth are focused on quality; luxury purchases are an investment in their future and therefore the storytelling and the brand image is of huge importance to this consumer. Their engagement with luxury brands is more hedonic and symbolic in expressions and they therefore have a greater interest in a brand that is creative and a leader in the digital world.

A younger consumer flaunts their use of luxury brands, most purchases are made to generate a sense of achievement or self-indulgence, or to increase self-satisfaction, boost confidence and social association plays a key role in their purchase behaviour. They discuss luxury brands with their friends through social media and trust their opinions. The peer and friend pressure commonly is so high that consumers often purchase luxury brands so that they can be accepted by their companions; their purchases justified by number of likes, retweets, responses, shares etc.

The younger consumer is also heavily influenced by celebrity culture and perceived style icons, with particular impact when accepting new luxury brands. If someone they deem to be impressive is a brand advocate, they in turn will look to the brand to imitate and aspire to these celebrity icons.
In short, use social media to:

  • Showcase what’s great about the brand, not just product sales. Deliver content that provides new perspective on the brand. Obscure historical facts and glimpses into a brand’s archives add to the lore of the luxury brand’s narrative. Tell a story, engage with consumers in language they understand and gain their interest with exciting content that will keep them returning to see more as Bergdorf Goodman’s social media manager has ensured – with presence on at least thirteen different social media channels, all firmly tied to its historical, local roots. The brand shows that a prolific presence doesn’t have to be divided when it comes to content.
  • Be creative. The youth are often ahead of the game, the brands must keep up. Pinterest now operates as much as a search engine as it does an image-based social media channel. Think outside the box and look at user-generated content campaigns such as Burberry’s The Art of The Trench or Mr Porter’s Global Style where fans and consumers essentially do the hard work, and enjoy the engagement with the brand.
  • Understand the importance of the younger customers’ friends and the influence they have on purchase decisions. Look at how to engage groups, rather than individuals – Starbucks Tweet a Coffee campaign or Chloé’s 60th anniversary contest.
  • Embrace the youth culture online language. The hashtag, for example is now a modern symbol in popular culture, present across offline media and advertising too, yet encouraging online interaction. When Bentley introduced the new Flying Spur at the Los Angeles Auto Show, they did so with a bang…and with the hashtag #NewFlyingSpur, front and centre on the car itself. This was post a microsite teaser campaign that stirred up excitement and allowed easy tracking of conversations from the brand perspective (from even before launch) and allows others to see what people are saying, creating an instant, mini-community for the brand.
  • Recognise the instant power of celebrities on social media and how quickly things can get picked up if aimed at this target market, through a celebrity vehicle. Rolex made its first video on YouTube in 2013. A link to the video was tweeted by brand ambassadors Roger Federer and Tiger Woods and this reached over five million people in less than a minute. At London Fashion Week February 2014, Burberry came out on top in the Twitter-sphere but it was brand Harry Styles in second place, with more share of voice than all other brands combined. Harry, it should be noted was front row for Burberry, a Burberry brand ambassador and a modern icon amongst the younger consumer.

When engaging with a younger market social media strategy needs to focus on brand stories, unique content, participation, possible reward, celebrity endorsements and unique and relevant customer experiences.

Indeed the ‘young digerati’ have very high expectations regarding online presence of their favourite brands and an absence of meaningful, engaging presence can kill all the interest towards the brand and essentially run the risk of the luxury brand disappearing in the digital world, too late to the online party. This target group are in the know, they’re the insiders here. They enjoy engagement, being part of something and sharing their favourite fashions, autos and destinations. As a luxury brand, you need to engage these potential, “one day” consumers. Invite them in, inspire them – and in-turn, convert them into brand-advocates.