Life without Instagram? How Fashion Companies Can Protect Themselves from another #InstagramDown

Yesterday (March 13) was WEIRD. I showed up to my coworking space (cough Starbucks cough) with a pretty lengthy to-do list. I’m self-employed with anywhere between 5–8 longterm clients, for both product design and marketing services.

I charge clients by project (not hour), and my to-do list looked like this:

  1. Create 7 test Facebook ad campaigns for “page likes” on a plus size women’s brand ($5 each), with new audiences
  2. Schedule content on Facebook pages for 3 clients
  3. Determine top performing content on Instagram and Facebook for a jewelry company, to create a content marketing plan for Q2
  4. Research new influencer partnerships on Instagram through popular hashtags for a client in the luggage space

And you know how much of that I was able to accomplish yesterday?

NADA. Nothing. ZILCH.

Now, if you’ve seen my social media channels — you know that I’ve gone on various posting sprees (ie rants) about the dangers of relying too heavily on social media for sales and traffic.

It’s kind of become a joke with clients:

But, you know what isn’t funny? The MILLIONS of dollars in lost revenue yesterday, because ads and organic posts were reaching a fraction of who they normally reach.

And here’s the thing: This could happen again.

There is ZERO guarantee that Facebook and Instagram will exist a year from now. And while Instagram outages are likely temporary, there’s nothing to keep Zuck & Friends from totally changing the algorithm and content delivery again. Business have closed due to a decrease in organic reach.

It’s time to start diversifying your marketing efforts, and focus on moving your audience where you have complete control over what they see — and when they see it:

Issue #1: Creating Content with a “Social First” Mindset

Because of the ROI of social media, many brands take a “social first” standpoint when it comes to engaging with their customers. Instagram is a lead driver of traffic, so it makes sense to prioritize creating high-impact content for the platform. Content creation like photoshoots (including ecommerce, editorial and lifestyle) and video production are done with the focus on creating content that goes directly from your CMS to social media.

This is a mistake.

While it’s important to create content for social media (duh), it is is a mistake to focus all of your content creation on social media.

By creating content for social media first, you’re training your fans and customers to count on social media for brand updates – some of which they’ll never see.

Solution: *WEBSITE* First

If Instagram shut down tomorrow, would your buyers know where to go to find the content? Would it occur to them to look elsewhere?

I didn’t think so.

To mitigate this issue, it’s important to have some sort of content repository on your website. This could be as simple as blog posts to a whole content/video section on your website that functions as its own pseudo-social feed.

Train your followers that the NEWEST content goes up on your site first. You can do this in a myriad of ways, including using the “Swipe up” feature on your Instagram story to show more photos from a photoshoot.

Treat social media as a place to leave a breadcrumb of photos, that eventually lead to your website –where the bulk of the high impact and volume of content is. This may require some website redesign, especially if your website is a static online catalogue.

If your website is no different than a Moda Operandi shopping experience, you’ve got a problem.

Your website should be dynamic (and optimized for mobile) so that people enjoy the experience of visiting.

Issue #2: Diversify Your Social Media Through Cross Posting

Many brands focus on Instagram, with Facebook as a close second. YouTube is a guilty to-do list item, ignored because video production is more costly. And Pinterest, Tumblr and Twitter? Eh.

Have you ever noticed that Twitter can be a sort of… fashion graveyard? From experience, Twitter just doesn’t lead to a full cart the way that Instagram or Facebook does.

But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the platform. Twitter users are engaged, and they’re equipped to more fully share your content than an a user on Instagram (shoutout to retweets).

Solution: Automate Cross Posting

Using simple schedulers, you should be able to take high impact content from other platforms and share to less popular social media websites.

Twitter: Avoid using the “Push to Twitter” option on Instagram, as that just populates a tweet with a link to the post. You want the actual PHOTOGRAPH on Twitter.

YouTube: You know those handy Instagram Live or video posts on your Instagram Story? Congrats! Those can be uploaded to various websites, including YouTube. This is something that needs to happen manually (womp), but has high impact. (You can also turn a series of Instagram stories into a permanent offering on IGTV!)

Tumblr: You can easily push content from Instagram to Tumbr, without the pesky link issue that Twitter has.

Pinterest: Fashion thrives on Pinterest. As soon as you have runway or new ecommerce photos, be sure that YOU, the brand put them on Pinterest with a link to your website. Nothing is more annoying than a customer trying to use Google Image search to find a product, only to find hundreds of unlinked pins, am I right? Tailwind is my go-to for automated Pinterest posting.

Issue #3: Failure to Use Audio

Various fashion companies are trying (and many are failing) to use podcasts for their brand. Successful podcasting for a brand typically only works if you already have a solid social media and content presence.

Increasingly, fashion consumers want to see “behind the scenes” of a brand. They want interviews. They want to learn more about the vision behind a collection. Recording a podcast episode doesn’t require the same *visual* story planning and execution that video does.

The creative director/team or founder can literally sit in yoga pants while recording an episode.

Solution: Start a Podcast — IF IT MAKES SENSE

While podcasting does come with its own issues (sound engineering, anyone?) there are pretty straightforward ways to work through it. It can be a powerful tool to bring the literal voice of the designer/design team to customers.

You can also get creative. There’s no rule saying a podcast HAS to be about the brand. It can be about a topic that matters to customers, interviews with brand models/muses, or about a specific aspect of the brand.

A podcast is quite a bit of work that takes planning, but forward thinking brands are figuring out NOW how to engage with their fans and customers through this medium.

Issue #4: Only Working with Influencers on Instagram

Okay, so we know that Instagram sends quite a bit of traffic for fashion brands, so it makes sense to partner with creators on the platform to grow that traffic.

And while I love influencer marketing (really, it’s one of the main services I offer!) there is a small problem here.

Instagram doesn’t really move the needle on SEO. You may be shelling out god knows how much money, but when a potential customer Googles “(product name) review” or “(product name) styling ideas” that Instagram post isn’t gonna show up.

Solution: Branded Hashtag & Harnessing Influence on Other Platforms

Okay, so the EASIEST fix for this is to push a hashtag that your influencer partners use. No, I don’t mean something like #AmazonPartner. That’s generic and not very aspirational. Create a hashtag for people to scroll through to see how people use/style your products outside of your HQ.

Other people will use the hashtag, but that’s fine.

Besides that, remember that other content platforms exist:

  • YouTube and video marketing can be powerful (an influencer can vlog what it’s like to be BTS at your show!)
  • An influencer can take content created for Instagram and write a blog post (woo SEO!) on styling or caring for the pieces
  • Is there a place for you to curate and feature customer photos from social media on your website (through a “Fan Reel,” perhaps?). This helps engage website visitors AND incentivizes people to create content featuring your products, with the goal that they’ll be on your site

Issue #5: (Fill in the blank)

I’m not going to share all my insights (that would be a longggg post), so if you’re looking for more ways to end your codependent relationship with Instagram — or you want help implementing these strategies, drop me a line.

About Brianne Huntsman

Brianne is an engineer turned fashion designer, who consults with fashion and ecommerce companies on their product design, user acquisition and marketing strategies.

Currently, she’s working on a luxury collection, featuring sizes 6 to 30.

Website | Twitter | Instagram




Queer feminist and activist. Designer via @Stanford. Freelance creative & consultant. Here to raise a little hell.

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Brianne Huntsman

Brianne Huntsman

Queer feminist and activist. Designer via @Stanford. Freelance creative & consultant. Here to raise a little hell.

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