May 3, 2018 Last updated on September 29th, 2020
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Fashion brands on Instagram. What do we know about them?

Well, many things!

Fact #1: We know that fashion is one of the biggest industries on Instagram, and fashion brands on Instagram receive approximately 16,616 likes and 102 comments per post!

Fact #2: We also know that a third of Instagram users have bought an item of clothing they saw on the social network. Now, that’s a lot. In fact, that’s around 265 million people. With more and more millennials getting hooked on Instagram (mostly to follow brands and celebrities), the platform is rapidly establishing itself as a ‘solid bet for fashion-led brands’  — which leads us to Fact #3:

Both the competition and the Instagram marketing opportunity for fashion retail are growing as we speak.

So the question is: as a smaller fashion brand that struggles to stand out from the crowd of huge retail beasts like Amazon, what can you do about it? How do you get noticed, promote your business on Instagram, increase brand awareness and, ultimately, drive sales?

I’m glad you asked.

Without any further ado, here are 8 tips that have proven to alleviate the struggle. Read on!

rules for small fashion brands on Instagram

Rule #1: Perfect your pics

This is Instagram, the realm of beautiful photos. Even if you aren’t a fashion brand, you’ll be expected to produce quality content in your Instagram feed — alas, that’s just the way things roll on Instagram. But then again, what is “quality content” on Instagram? At Iconosquare, we believe that quality pics always have the following 3 elements:

  • Your pictures must be high resolution

Yes, it’s ironic — Instagram actually means “ Instant Telegram” and yet nobody actually uploads photos using Instagram’s camera function. Why? Simple: it doesn’t have the same functions that your phone camera does. But then again, your phone cameras still aren’t as good as real cameras, where the quality of the shot is undeniable.

High resolution is everything — nobody will engage with blurry, low-quality pictures. So if you want your brand to stand out, get comfortable using a proper old-school camera.

  • Your pictures must tell a story

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” — we’ve all heard that expression before. At Iconosquare, we see that it’s those photos that are able to tell a story that get the most engagement on Instagram – photos that challenge people’s mind

Here’s what I mean:

A simple picture of shoes won’t say anything to anybody. But a picture of a woman wearing the shoes and tying her laces is already a little story. Why? Because it’s more relatable. We all tie our laces, after all. 

Storytelling for fashion brands on Instagram

Story premise: tying laces on your new sneakers. We’ve all been there. We can all relate to that.

Storytelling tip for fashion brands on Instagram: make your pictures relatable!

Story premise: So many shoes.. What do I choose? Again: We’ve all been there. We can all relate to that.

  • Your pictures must visually fit into your theme

Have you ever noticed how every offline, brick-and-mortar store has it’s own atmosphere, own style, own ambience? Every piece, albeit found on different hangers in different corners, can be combined in an outfit and somehow, everything kind of fits together.

Your Instagram feed should work exactly the same way. Your photos might be separate pieces, but your whole feed must look like one organic outfit.

In other words, this means that all your photos need to have a signature look and be edited (more or less) the same way.

For mobile photography, check out tools like VSCO, Snapseed or, our favorite, A Color Story. Or stick to Lightroom and Photoshop when you edit photos on your laptop.

Rule #2: Research your hashtags

Imagine 2007, life without the hashtag. Impossible, right?

Even though hashtags are just 11 years old, the hashtag is now the ultimate discovery tool used by millions — no! billions! — of people around the world. Take the hashtag #love, for instance — it’s the most popular hashtag on Instagram. As I’m writing this article, there’ve been 1,302,700,439 posts tagged with this hashtag, so you’ll need more than a lifetime to go through all of them. Does it make sense to promote your brand using such a hashtag then? Nope, not at all. It’s too broad and your photo will be nothing more than a drop in the ocean.

The trick is to use long-tail, narrow hashtags (that are also relevant to your brand) to promote your brand.

Let me give you an example. Say you’re a small luxury fashion brand. #luxuryfashion has over 1 million photos tagged on Instagram, but #luxuryfashionlove, for instance, only has 34,737 tags, which is enough to get noticed, but not too many to get lost in the crowd.

So, research hashtags the same way you’d research your keywords when you optimize your content for SEO: long-tail, low competition.

You can also search for alternative hashtags with Iconosquare’s Hashtag Suggestion feature (Advanced & Agency plans). All you have to do is type in the hashtag you want alternatives for and you’ll see new suggestions appear!

Rule #3: Engage, engage, and engage again

Now that you’ve mastered the art of photography and utilized hashtags to the max, the next step is to engage with people that use the same hashtags. Like their stuff. Comment on their pics. Ask for permission to repost (thus harnessing the power of UGC on Instagram) if they featured your product in a nice way, or if a photo nicely matches the mood of your feed. Give them a public shoutout by tagging them and show your love, gratitude and appreciation — in other words, build a community by engaging with your potential customers. This is a really good way of bonding with your followers on Instagram and creating a kind of mutual trust which will encourage loyalty to your new brand.

Rule #4: Use influence to promote your brand

Influencer marketing is huge on Instagram and is set to continue to get bigger and bigger in the upcoming years. Even top brands on Instagram use influencers to promote themselves — so why shouldn’t you?

We’ve previously written a massive guide on how to run a successful influencer marketing campaign on Instagram, so if you have time, check it out. If not, here’s a condensed recap:

    • Just like with hashtags, make sure that the influencer of your choice and his/her audience are relevant to your brand. That is, if you’re a vegan yoga fashion store, don’t reach out to a food influencer whose favorite dish is beef burgers.
  • Don’t go after followers — go after engagement. In times of bought likes and followers, the only way to see if the influencer really is an influencer is to look at his or her engagement rate. But then again, be careful with that too, because now engagement is easy to fake as well. Try to identify if the engagement the influencer receives is authentic by going through the comment he gets from his followers.

Rule #5: Promote your IG everywhere

As a new fashion brand on Instagram, you might need a little push in the beginning to generate some visibility and awareness. Instagram Ads are one of the best ways to do it. There are currently over 2 million advertisers on Instagram, and it makes sense. Marketers love Instagram ads as they:

    • Are non-intrusive for the user (as they appear organically in the feed)
    • Promise decent ROI (up to 373% return on Ad Spend, according to Nanigans report)
  • Offer VERY specific targeting (in fact, SO specific it’s almost creepy. You can read about it here.)

Spending money on ads isn’t the only way to promote your growing account though.

Give your IG profile a shoutout on all the other networks you use: Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc; ask your friends and your network to follow your insta-journey; and repost your Instagram content to your Facebook page (be it private or business). In other words, do your best to point to your new Instagram profile as much as possible.

Rule #6: Make your feed shoppable

Let’s imagine the following situation.

You have this beautiful brick-and-mortar store, with a beautiful display window looking out on a busy street on, say, Madison Avenue. All the products are arranged in a beautiful composition and you did a great job highlighting their best angles in the most creative way.

But here’s the thing.

While your display window admittedly attracts a lot of eyeballs, people still pass by without making a stop to shop. Bummer, isn’t it?

Instagram works the exact same way: unless you provide a direct opportunity for people to shop, they won’t. That’s why it’s important to make your Instagram shoppable from an early stage.

You can either create a CTA (Call-To-Action) for your potential customers by adding a clickable link to your bio, which will take your followers straight to your website. Or, use apps like Like2Buy or LikeItWantIt to make products on your photos buyable. Or, make it possible for followers to purchase from your feed with Instagram’s latest shoppable function, Instagram Shopping.

Be careful, though, and don’t oversell.

Rule #7: Go behind the scenes on Instagram Stories

While your Instagram feed should strive for perfection, you shouldn’t be afraid to show the real you. Tell your story on Stories (pun intended), the Snapchat version of Instagram. The benefit is that they only last for 24 hours, so you don’t need to obsess about the visual aspect of your stories too much, and can rather focus on sharing different moments and experiences from ‘behind the scenes’.

As a fashion retailer, you’re here on Instagram to market yourself — and there’s no better way to do it than by showing the real you.

Bershka, a women’s fashion retailer, does a great job at providing sneak peeks behind their brand, posting stories and short videos that would otherwise never visually fit in the feed, but are a great engagement tactic.

Bershka Instagram Stories

Rule #8: Have a ready-to-execute Instagram marketing strategy BEFORE you begin

Do you have sufficient content to last for at least a month? Do you also have a broad variety of content in order to experiment with what works best? Have you decided upon the frequency of your future postings? Have you set Instagram KPIs to measure your success? In other words, do you have a proper Instagram marketing strategy BEFORE you start posting?

Having no strategy could be one of the reasons why your Instagram efforts aren’t paying off, so it’s important to enter the game prepared, knowing how the rules work and understanding what it takes to win.

So voila! These are the 8 rules to follow for smaller fashion brands on Instagram!
Is there something we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below!

About the author
Olga Rabo

Olga Rabo

Olga is a LeadGen manager at Iconosquare, based in Berlin. She’s all about creating strategies, increasing clickthrough rates, and sharing her in-depth knowledge of content and social media marketing. She’s a big travel addict, a huge Katherine Ryan fan, and her favorite time of the day is brunch.

More posts by Olga Rabo

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