Traditionally, men’s fashion has been a neglected topic, with the consensus being that men don’t care about fashion in the same way as women. However, sales projections say otherwise: the menswear market in the UK is set to grow by 0.7%, while womenswear will shrink by 0.2%, according to Euromonitor data.
Social media is mirroring this sea change, and the rise in popularity of men’s fashion online paints a clear picture of a style-conscious male population.
Over the past few years, interest in menswear on social media has exploded, with #mensfashion now the eighth most popular fashion hashtag on Instagram. This follows a 49% increase in popularity between November 2016 – April 2017 compared to the previous six month period. Social media is one of the best places for product discovery and spotting new fashion trends.
This exponential growth has seen Instagram emerge as the social media epicentre for men’s fashion, making it a key place for brands to engage with trend-conscious consumers. Our latest research explores the topic of menswear on Instagram in the UK, investigating the question – what do men want from fashion brands and how can they deliver this? We identified three areas of insight that we explore in this article:
Hashtags are the gateway to Instagram, providing a way to tap into trends, styles and communities. They’re also a vital element in increasing brand awareness, ensuring that content reaches the right audiences.
While general menswear hashtags like #mensfashion and #ootmen are useful for brands looking to grow their reach, particularly those just beginning their Instagram journey, more specific product, moment or audience-based hashtags will help build an engaged follower base.
For example, our research identified ‘Dapper Gents’ as one of the fastest growing menswear communities on Instagram, a group sharing smart styles, tailoring and heritage-inspired fashion with a contemporary edge. Conversations around the community’s core hashtags, such as #dapper and #gentleman, have grown 24% in the year ending May 2017 compared with the equivalent 2015 – 2016 period.
This community’s content also attracted greater engagement than any other niche segment we identified in our research. Yet surprisingly, no major UK menswear brand has appropriated this language to date, a missed opportunity.
One strategy menswear brands are leveraging successfully is influencer outreach. A poll by influencer marketplace Tomoson found that US businesses, for example, are making $6.50 from every $1 spent on influencer marketing. As a result, collaborating with these individuals is essential, not only for attracting new audiences and growing reach but for boosting the ROI of social media marketing.
In response, brands are becoming increasingly savvy at nurturing their relationships with influencers. They harness their reach and social media influence in many ways, from recruiting ambassadors to collaborating with bloggers on products themselves.
HUGO BOSS scored some of its greatest engagement on Instagram by working with blogger Adam Gallagher (@iamgalla), who boasts more than two million followers on the platform. Gallagher regularly collaborates with companies, including Longines and Schwarzkopf, looking to leverage his stylish, cosmopolitan personal brand.
Instagram moved away from serving content chronologically to an algorithm-based approach in 2016. However, the platform highlighted that timeliness remains an important factor in content’s ranking in the feed (i.e. more recent content appears higher up). As a result, brands still need to consider the timing of their posts if they want a captive audience.
By analysing user behaviour around the key men’s fashion hashtags on Instagram, it is possible to identify these golden windows that fashion brands need to prioritise if they want to increase their reach and engagement with consumers.
Men’s fashion is discussed mostly in the evenings, typically between 5pm – 7pm and on weekends, with Sundays generating most conversation.
When we examine the different phases of the week – working hours, the weekday lunch hour and free time – and identify who is talking, all audiences post most frequently outside of working hours (i.e. during weekends and after 5pm). 62% of all conversation occurred during these periods.
However, brands are most active during weekday lunchtimes, illustrating how many are actively seeking to appeal to Instagram users browsing the app during downtime and prompt them to indulge in some retail therapy.
As such, brands should consider the timing and delivery of their content. They could take a cue from influencers: 72% of their content, the highest proportion among the three segments, is published outside of working hours.
As online communication becomes more visual, the style and format of content become particularly important. Humans are, after all, visual creatures: research from biologist John Medina (Brain Rules, 2014) indicates that information shown visually has 65% greater recall compared to simply hearing it.
So how can menswear brands ensure their content is memorable? High-quality content aligned to target audiences is a given, but men’s fashion brands need to speak the same language as their consumers when it comes to the specifics of how they present their products.
Our Instagram fashion trends research discovered that as much as 56% of consumer generated posts were focused on whole outfits. This illustrates how stylish men are keen to show off their curation skills, selecting products by different brands or items by a single label to create a holistic look.
By contrast, 32% of brand content showcased full outfits, with this segment opting to spotlight individual items rather than demonstrating how they work together.
Consumers were also the biggest selfie fans: 82% of those posting in this format were regular Instagram users. Just 1% of influencer content was in the form of selfies and only a handful of brand posts, reflecting the need to showcase their products in a professional way.
Top line content formats should also be a consideration. Looking across the entire spectrum of menswear conversation on Instagram, just over a third of content was made up of videos. While some forward-thinking brands such as @nikelab and @converse are prioritising video, static photography does seem to be the method most menswear fans are expressing themselves in. This could be down to the growing popularity of Instagram Stories, with users sharing unscripted moments rather than more stylised content.
Menswear enthusiasts want to share content at key times, with specific trend-led communities and in particular formats. Taking this consumer behaviour into account can help brands shape their Instagram content strategy.
Men’s fashion audiences value curation – sharing full outfit photos that show off their style and creativity – and largely channel this in the form of static imagery. They’re active in tribes, with the #dapper community championing formal wear and tailoring producing most conversation overall.
Timing also remains critical: scheduling owned Instagram content so that it reaches UK menswear consumers between the key 5 – 7pm window, as well as on Sundays, can deliver results.
Like fashion, social media is fast moving. Brands that want to harness the power of Instagram need to monitor and analyse the latest online trends to ensure they stay ahead of the curve and continue to meet consumer needs.
Social listening is one of the most valuable tools for any menswear brand. From identifying the most relevant and popular hashtags to engaging with niche communities and micro-influencers, this insight can optimise and drive a brand’s Instagram activity forward.