Fashion Forward: Social Media Strategy from a Fashion Blogger
Note: Jena Gambaccini from ChiCityFashion joined Shirley Yang from StyleHaul and Riana Dadlani from Meltwater at Social Media Week in Chicago on November 18, 2015, on what B2B marketers can learn from fashion.
What do fashion and social media have in common?
- Social media is fashionable.
- Fashion world has pioneered brand-building on social media.
- Keeping up with either can feel like a full time job. The reality is that both fashion and social media are constantly changing, and just when you think you’ve landed on the next big thing, it’s moved on. So how has Jena Gambaccini from ChiCityFashion been so successful as a social media arbiter of what’s hot?
Jena started building her brand on Twitter. Today she has a successful blog and more than 18,000 followers on Instagram. As the title of her blog would suggest, she showcases Chicago fashion. But she does more than that. You could say she’s the city’s fashion ambassador, showing off what Chicago has to offer, but also travelling to NYC and Europe to bring home her latest finds.
While the blog still sparkles with the same enthusiasm that she started off with, Jena has turned her blog into a business and now partners with global brands. During a recent chat, I asked her to explain how she knows when it’s time to pick up a trend, whether in fashion or as a brand. As bold as her personal style can be, Jena uses her shopping habits to explain that she can be cautious: “I try not to adapt to trends too quickly, especially if it’s going to be an investment piece. For example, I loved the Celine luggage tote when it came out. I was so excited to get one, and I saved up for months. By the time I got mine, everyone had one. I hated it. If something seems overly trendy, like sneaker wedges, I usually don’t buy into it. I ask myself, ‘In five years from now will you think of it as being dated and embarrassing’?
Luckily, she was able to sell her Celine tote, and even made a profit. But when it comes to investing in a social media presence, her trust that the world of fashion is a pioneering force has helped guide her. As she explains, “When it comes to branding, the fashion industry is always ahead on social media. Instagram is a great example. When I started reading about Instagram on fashion blogs, my friends had no idea what it was. I joined at least a year or year and a half earlier than my friends. Fashion people are ahead of the trends in many ways.”
Even though Instagram doesn’t allow her to link back to her blog, it’s where the fashion folks are right now. Jena has focused on building a presence here in order to reach a new audience. She’s even been able to develop partnerships on Instagram that created opportunities she never considered. Here’s her take on the grid.
The world of fashion is known for not being afraid to try new things. This fall, Misha Nonoo was the first designer to debut her collection on Instagram. In fearless fashion world style, Jena offers a prediction, “I’m sure most brands will use Snapchat eventually.” Though, without missing a beat, she acknowledges, “For a company that’s been around for a long time, it’s difficult to have to change drastically because of social media.”
As a B2B PR specialist, I agree with her and wonder, is it just a matter of time before business software or services get their launch on Instagram, or even Snapchat? What would that look like? Pondering these questions, I steer the conversation to her partnerships. After all, collaboration between bloggers and global brands was completely uncharted territory not too long ago.
I ask how she works with her partners (including Burberry, Neiman’s, and Macy’s) and how she’s managed to keep them from taking over her site’s very personal, curated sensibility. She responds, “I appreciate that you can’t tell what’s sponsored on my blog. I try to organically incorporate my partnerships. I value my readers, and I don’t want to write about things that I don’t care about. The money isn’t worth it if it means not being myself.” She tells me about one of her favorite partnerships: “It was with Chambord. I loved working with them because they let me do whatever I wanted. I had a really fun photo shoot with my photographer. I was wearing a hot dog costume and jumping with the bottle. I took a picture talking on a banana phone with the bottle.” On the other hand, staying authentic isn’t always simple. She’s also worked with companies with strict guidelines, who didn’t seem to get that connecting with Jena’s audience means doing things the way Jena would do them.
Fashion fun with a favorite sponsor.
What lesson can Jena teach to brands trying to connect with their audience on social media?
Social media has made trend following, spotting, and making into a kind of sport. In the same way that Jena gets her readers excited about a new look, she has helped her partners understand that trying something new is a blend of personal brand building and purposeful investment. She gives brands an important lesson too: Know your style, and stick to it. It’s just as important to connect and engage with influencers like her, as it is to be authentic. Don’t just ride the wave; put your unique spin on it and don’t lose your voice. After all, the 70s might be back (and as Jena points out, the 90s too), but if you don’t give them “an updated twist,” you risk getting caught wearing low-rise culottes.
Jena’s take on the right way to wear culottes. As she recently reported in her blog, “I love my clothes big, so why wouldn’t I be into extra wide pants? So now that we’ve established I no longer hate culottes, let’s see how I like to wear them.”