If media shapes society, social media does it better than most. We must not forget that social networks can not only influence election results but also lead to social movements like #MeToo. We are constantly connected, we spend more than five hours a day on our mobile phones, and the social impact of social networks is therefore crucial, as interactions rarely stop in the field of digital communication.
Luxury and fashion brands should also be aware of this societal impact and have a reinforced duty of responsibility for creating and disseminating trends. In social media, these influential and respected labels are also imitated by mass market brands, thus multiplying their power. Brands are increasingly using social media to increase their visibility, work on influence strategies and showcase their values: inclusivity, body positivity, transparency, diversity and solidarity. An example is French lingerie brand Chantelle, which was one of the pioneers in inclusivity in 2018, or shoe designer Christian Louboutin when it comes to diversity, or more recently, French skincare company Vichy, which is struggling with taboos. #Menopositivity campaign. Of course, Jean Paul Gaultier is also an all-encompassing brand.
Brands should not be late to take the steps of change, if they are really valuable, they should not be too humble because they are labeled with all kinds of washing, including green washing. To avoid this, it’s essential to be trustworthy and proactive with your community. Patagonia is a great example as the brand sees in their ideas. It’s also worth mentioning Karoline Vitto, a groundbreaking London-based designer who only showcased plus-size models at the spring-summer 2023 fashion show at London Fashion Week.
Some brands today are exemplary in guiding others to push their limits. Concrete actions have values that they align, which causes immediate reactions. Responsibility can thrive anywhere: on social media, in communication, in word choice, in products, and even in important financial decisions. At the same time, we need to be on the alert because manipulation is never too far away.
It is clear that the important thing today is to prove the story. We must prioritize evidence and bring it to the fore. Audiences are looking for evidence, commitment and collateral. Since appearance is no longer enough for authenticity, we need to match what we wear to who we are. The inside must also be aligned.
In terms of change, it is also necessary to mention the relations of brands with their target audiences, which are no longer “top-down”. Fortunately, there is more horizontality within their ecosystem as brands become increasingly challenged by their audiences, customers, prospects and competitors. Today’s brand and social media regions are made up of interactions, collaborations, and personalization. Entertainment may dazzle us, but it should never blind us to our responsibility. We are in a real world where there are real interests.
The communicator profession is not exempt from these questions. In fact, communication means raising awareness among tomorrow’s consumers, creating messages that will reach them, setting the tone in social networks and thinking about advocacy and influencing strategies, while being responsible to both brands and the younger generation. This is a critical moment for communicators, marketers and agencies working in influence and power fields like social media, as they have to arbitrate important questions to guide both brands and youth, and one can no longer give up on the other.
It’s a dual challenge: being a great professional without sacrificing your responsibility to be a good parent, especially when you’re “shaking” disciplines under constant surveillance. We can’t do anything and everything in the race for results and audiences. There is space to create that values agencies, communicators, and talent that does things well.
We talk a lot about responsible impact, but in fact, all our work should be as accountable as possible. It is also a very current issue at the political level, but it has a duty to set an example where we are concerned. These modern, animated and fast interfaces can have a very dark side. CTZAR has always wanted to stay on the positive side and adhere to demanding values regarding training and transmission. This is also why we are the first agency to subscribe to the French advertising self-regulatory body ARPP and integrate transparency labels into our platform and the way we work with influencers.
Social networks are currently writing a new chapter, partly because of their algorithms that favor divisive and superficial content. But the world is changing, and new models are already emerging: the rise of closer communities, companies publishing media like newsletters or podcasts, influencers advocating authenticity, TikTok, which prides itself on spontaneity and gives credit to niche creators. Nobody wants walking billboards anymore! Social media also reveals fashion trends. For example, luxury and fashion brands have entered the thrift market in large part, thanks in part to social networking personalities who have managed to “recool” secondhand clothing and accessories and make them look like something different from alt fashion.
Who are these people really? We published an article about the end of the word “influencer” in 2021, and that reflection is still relevant today. We believe that we should be extremely vigilant and not confuse ‘impressive’ with ‘impact’. The effect is just a kind of speaker, an amplifier, a result. It is a sign of legitimacy gained within communities. Second, he will have recognized himself in a personality with an original, fair and reliable character, a talent for imagination and creativity, and a voice that can convey ideas and values. Influencer hides under different profiles; they are never just an influencer in their life. Have you ever noticed that people don’t want to be called influencers? The term has been used so much that it has an almost negative connotation. That’s why at CTZAR we talk about social talent or creators instead. More relevant and closer to reality for everyone.
Camille Olivier and Thomas Silve are the founders of creative agency CTZAR and are experts in social media and influence.