Social media was the theme of the inaugural Aspire Luxury Business Breakfast, held in association with and hosted by iProspect and supported by Seabourn. The panellists were:
Nishma Robb, chief client and marketing officer, iProspect; Neil Dulake, industry head of luxury retail, Google; Lauren Stevenson, head of PR and communications, Harrods; and Ana Silva O’Reilly, writer behind the influential Mrs O Around the World blog.





 


Content, platforms, conversations, imagery and customers – these were among the topics discussed by aspire’s panel of social media experts. Hollie-Rae Merrick reports


LEARN: GO SOCIAL TO UNDERSTAND CLIENTS
Travel brands were encouraged to use social media to help understand their customer base better.
Nishma Robb of iProspect said brands should use the information available on sites such as Twitter to their advantage.
“Social media has grown up and it has changed a lot – it’s more about customer service,” she said.
“It’s an incredible focus-group opportunity for brands because you can now understand more about your customer base. It’s information which has never been available to marketers.
“It’s a lot more scientific and you can put something into the market and see immediate reaction.”
Robb said brands were able to overlay credit card details and financial data on top of social media communication to find the right luxury consumer and target them.


PICK: CHOOSE YOUR CHANNELS CAREFULLY
Smaller businesses with limited resources should find the social media platforms that work best for them and stick to it.
Nishma Robb of iProspect said luxury brands are present across up to 15 online platforms, with some simply hedging their bets by covering as many as possible.
However, Robb said for smaller brands in particular it was important to understand which platforms suit them best.
Lauren Stevenson of Harrods added: “It’s about picking the right one for your brand and your consumer. It doesn’t need to be slick content: it can be raw and be more powerful and real.”
She said it was important to work across different platforms but to create one social media community.
“At Harrods, we work to integrate that community, and to reward those communicating with us,” she said. “That could be by seeing products ahead of release, a Q&A with a designer, invitations to things or competitions.”
At Harrods, all 5,000 members of staff are encouraged to take pictures around the store and share the images.
She added: “It is brave, but they aren’t doing it through the official Harrods channel, they are talking to their own peer group.”
Neil Dulake of Google said it was important for all members
of a team to embrace social media, adding: “It has to be on everyone’s agenda – it’s not just a marketing thing.”


CONTENT: POST ITEMS OF INTEREST TO STIMULATE INTERACTION WITH CUSTOMERS
The panellists agreed that the strength of the content on social media was vital. According to Stevenson, the content put out on platforms needs to be engaging to be a success.
“It’s creating a conversation through engaging content that gives us a huge opportunity,” she said. “For us [at Harrods] it’s about making that customer in Notting Hill or Canary Wharf want to get up and come to Knightsbridge and visit the store.”
Dulake encouraged travel brands to be competitive and to take up opportunities presented through social media. He said: “A lot of online usage starts with a search, so there are opportunities as soon as that person is searching for something for you to win that moment with content. You need to win those moments, because plenty of other brands will also be trying to do so.”


VISUALUSE: UPLOAD PHOTOS AND VIDEOS
Visual platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest have been a catalyst for changing the way luxury brands approach social networks.
Robb claimed luxury businesses had taken longer to get onboard with social media due to a perception that it was only for a young audience.
“The power to the consumer has really changed luxury brands’ relationship with platforms,” she said. “Visual social media has been a catalyst to change how luxury businesses approach social media.
 “For a luxury brand that really wants to be able to best share their story and the key attributes of their products, visual social media really helps bring that alive.”
Dulake said the visual element of social media had grown massively in the past two years with increased internet speeds and smartphones.
“This is great news for advertising companies because you can create diverse brand messages for different formats. It’s a creative canvas that we can all adopt and embrace.”
But Dulake encouraged brands not to be transactional in its communication with customers but to think about “conversation not content”.
“There are some amazing videos and images in the travel industry, and it’s all about emotions. There is so much great content that can be quickly put together.”


SPARKLE: SHOW OFF YOUR PERSONALITY
Blogger Ana Silva O’Reilly encouraged the teams running social media accounts to ensure their interactions and profiles demonstrated their personality, stating her preference for brands “who are real”.
She said hotels had trailed other travel sectors in their usage of social media to some extent, but believes 2014 will be the year hotels change that as those that didn’t rate it are realising its growing influence.
Citing Four Seasons as an example, she claimed the hotel chain had transformed its reputation through social media, with each hotel having developed its own personality and presence online.
“It’s about having a real conversation,” she said. “It’s not all about putting content out there and then liking or favouriting it. There has to be more. You have to respond back and social media has given brands the chance to have real personalities.”
As well as providing a 24/7 customer service tool, the service provided by social media platforms had to match the actual experience provided by the brand, Silva O’Reilly added.