Note pads at the ready, folks. Our recent panel—”What’s Next? Social media experts share what’s ahead in the world of Instagram, TikTok, and the Metaverse”—at COTERIE brought no shortage of priceless tidbits of knowledge to the fore. Whether you’re an aspiring content creator, an editor looking to diversify your skillset, or an executive-level leader seeking to immerse yourself in the ever-evolving digital realm, we’ve got some insider wisdom to share.
The Daily Front Row’s panel brought together Harper’s Bazaar’s fashion news director Rachel Tashjian, content creator and influencer Olivia Caputo, Instagram’s Michaela O’Shaughnessy who is the editorial lead of @creators, and Macy’s vice president, fashion office, Durand Guion. With their varied backgrounds, experience, and points of view, we could have kept them there all day.
Here’s what we’ve been thinking about ever since….
What is the metaverse, and when will it be fully realized?
Rachel Tashjian: “The easiest way to understand what the metaverse is, is if you think about the Web 1.0. The idea behind that was sharing information with other people. So being able to type something into Google and a page of information appears before you. Web 2.0 was connecting people with other people. So, it was sharing information. And it was dominated by platforms like Facebook and Spotify. As we are moving into Web 3.0, and we should emphasize that we are moving into this; it’s not something that we are into yet, the metaverse will bring us the connection between people, things, and places. The most popular way that we think about that is what we call virtual reality. Metaverse experts don’t like virtual reality, they prefer ‘the synthetic world.’ But it is that kind of idea of putting on a headset and stepping into a space that is completely different from where you might physically be. And you’re presented with a multitude of data and information. It can be anything from a Balenciaga couture outfit to information about your temperature, mood, and what you’re feeling right now. This is something that is at the very least 10 years away—the technologies are not in place to fully realize this. I think it’s a question of both the innovation from the brands’ side, but also the technological pieces that need to be in place and some legal considerations that need to happen before we are putting on these headsets and looking at each other in these synthetic environments.”
I wrote about why so many people think the future of fashion involves you being a giant banana wearing a tuxedo: https://t.co/W5uR7V148F
— Rachel Seville Tashjian (@theprophetpizza) December 2, 2021
What does it actually mean for a fashion brand to ‘show’ in the metaverse?
Rachel Tashjian: “When most brands talk about doing a project in the Metaverse, primarily it means they’re making video game skins. They’ve translated their designs from however it is in their workshop into something that can be worn in the video game. And it’s sold for something like $10, $20. And a lot of times they create a piece that is a replica of the piece you can buy in real life. That’s something Balenciaga has done. There are few fashion brands that are metaverse exclusive. One of which is RTFKT, which was acquired a few months ago by Nike. They create digital sneakers. They want to completely get rid of the idea of the genius creative director, and usher in an era where any of us can be the genius creative director and sell our sneakers for $1,000…”
Influencers will benefit from growing their TikTok and Instagram simultaneously
Olivia Caputo: “I’ve built an audience on TikTok that actually feels quite different from the audience that I’ve built over the years on Instagram. What I’ve noticed when I’m scrolling on my ‘For You Page’ is that what I’m seeing is very raw and unfiltered content. It’s very much not curated, and I love that. You’re seeing story times and you’re getting to know creators very very quickly. I’ve found is that I’m reaching different audiences on both platforms, but they also migrate to each other. So, it’s very important to be active and consistent on both. And each one is an extension of another. So, I really think of my Instagram as my portfolio, and then I have all the other ones that I do.”
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Why is it appealing for established retailers to work with influencers?
Durand Guion: “Working with influencers is certainly not new—I think as it continues to evolve, what’s important is how you do it for yourself. We have had tremendous success with influencers. Last year we launched a program called icons of style where we celebrated Black creatives. And what I learned in that process was, ‘Wow if we spent a gazillion dollars marketing it ourselves, there was nothing more powerful than the followers and the fans of the Black creatives we work with.” And we had 100% sell through. It’s important to us that it’s the right influencer—for us to work with an influencer, it is a full 100% commitment. We expect to sit with the influencer, look at every piece of fabric, every print, every fit. For us, if it’s not that engaged it’s not authentic.”
Why do consumers relate to influencers?
Durand Guion: “Certainly, brands and designers will always have a place, but now people are much more engaged with making decisions themselves. We have had to learn, especially being in a fashion office, it isn’t like, ‘Well we’re going to tell everybody what to wear, and they’re going to do that.’ People are making decisions for themselves. They’re so much more aware and confident. What I think is happening now, is you’ve got someone close to them. Someone who looks like them, thinks like them, eats like them. For the consumer it’s like, ‘Wow I can live through this.’ It’s a way of amplifying what’s personal and then you can personalize it. I think that’s why the influencer thing is so big.”
Why are Reels so important on Instagram?
Michaela O’Shaughnessy: “It really is a whole new opportunity to expand your reach and gain new followers on Instagram. And being truthful, I think organic reach and growth on Instagram can be difficult for creators and brands at times. And if you’re a brand or creator out there that’s really looking to grow your Instagram following, the number one thing I would say is to start producing Reels content regularly and consistently. I think we mentioned earlier, dipping your toe into video for brands or creators can sometimes be intimidating. But it really doesn’t need to be a high-level production. It can literally be the editor using the green screen feature to say, ‘Hey these are my five favorite looks from Milan this week.’ And it’s something that everyone can tap into and do a little testing and learning with it.”
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What makes an influencer effective?
Olivia Caputo: “It’s about building trust and feeling like you know somebody. When you watch a commercial on TV or read something in a magazine, it’s someone that you don’t know. You’re probably less compelled to buy something or be influenced by something. But if it’s someone that you know and trust already, there is going to be a much higher return there. I think it’s about relating to your audience, and really feeling like you’re building a community of people rather than just spewing out a message or advertisement.”
What’s the future of Instagram?
Michaela O’Shaugnessy: “I think we will see a huge shift this year with Instagram. A couple months ago our CEO Adam Mosseri said, ‘Instagram is no longer a photo sharing app.’ Everyone was very mad of course, knowing the Instagram we all know and love! Photos will always still be there, but we are going to see a big shift towards video on Instagram in the next twelve months. It’s really pivoting towards becoming an entertainment platform, as well as a sharing platform. I’m excited to see where it goes. And I think we know there is a lot of competition with TikTok. As we all know, there is no elephant in the room about that. It’s definitely a pivotal point for the brand. But I’m excited to see what comes.”
Can the metaverse replace the physical fashion experience?
Rachel Tashjian: “I think it has to be a compliment. As a fashion writer, I can’t help but think that there’s going to be a reaction to all of this. And the idea of having highly customized, handmade clothing that emphasizes a tactile experience in a one-on-one interaction is going to remain extremely popular, or at least very competitive to that experience. But yeah, it does seem like something that will compliment [other social platforms]. There are very often interviews where Silicon Valley CEOs say, ‘All of our meetings are going to take place in the Metaverse in five years.’ Which is funny because the other day I couldn’t figure out how to turn on my new computer at work. So, I’m not sure how that’s going to go!”
What apps can help aspiring content creators?
Olivia Caputo: “Most people probably have the Tezza app. If you don’t, I highly recommend her app. She has plenty of filters that are so easy to throw on any photo or video. She also has the ability to edit videos like adding effects and things like that, which is cool. There is also a feature where you can plan your Instagram feed. It’s like an all-in-one amazing app, I love that one. I think beyond that, getting inspiration and learning what to do from creators who create tutorials is a great place to learn how to create certain kinds of content. I think a lot of people can get overwhelmed by video content that they see on TikTok or Reels, where there is some kind of transition that makes it look impossible to create. If you go look at some of these creators that share tutorials, a lot of it is not as hard as it looks. It can be very very simple to make something look cool and compelling, and engaging to your audience.”
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Brands can pursue legal action if you fake your Instagram follow count
Michaela O’Shaughnessy: “Brands can pursue legal action if they do a brand deal with you, and they later learn that a % of your following is bought. They can actually sue you, so don’t do that! I also know that every couple of months Instagram cleans out fake accounts. A couple years ago Justin Bieber—I’m not saying that he purchased the followers!—but he did have quite a significant percentage of bots. So, his following literally went down by two million overnight.”
The benefits of video for creators
Olivia Caputo: “It’s a lot easier to show your personality in a video than a photo. Sometimes I’ll just be like, ‘OK I’m going to take off my makeup now, and I’m not doing anything else so I might as well film it.’ So, it’s just very personal, it can be chit chatty. You’re just saying whatever you want to your audience, so they really see a different side of your personality. Rather than what shows through in photos. I think it’s just another way to build that trust and connection with your audience and build it into a community rather than just followers.”