Marguerite Salon on nailing your social media in art and fashion

On Monday 9 September, we hosted our Marguerite Salon on nailing your social media in art and fashion at George Mayfair. Founder of @thegreatwomenartists, Katy Hessel chaired the discussion with Head of Social Strategy & Storytelling at Vogue, Hannah Ray and Head of Content at the Serpentine Gallery, Jesse Ringham. They shared their top tips on how to find the best social media platform for you, encouraged creativity and stressed the importance of engaging with the public! Read on for highlights of the conversation... 

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Hannah Ray on how she became Head of Social Strategy & Storytelling at VoguE…

“I trained as a journalist… and when I went to journalism school in Cardiff I started to realise that Twitter was a great way for me to get in touch with some of the esteemed journalists I had loved for many, many years. Twitter was just starting out at the time, around 2007 - 2008. It was also the time of the recession… It was really difficult for young journalists to get into the industry, it still is, but it was even more so. I remember getting my first work experience through tweeting my favourite tech journalist. I just found that social media was a fantastic way to get direct access to people.

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It was interesting as at the time many of my fellow journalist friends wanted to be war correspondents and work in print. I was just fascinated by online, and in particular social, and how you could connect with communities to help tell stories as a journalist in that way. That’s how I ended up working at The Guardian, I ran a hyper-local blog for them … which at the time allowed me to communicate local new stories in an online way. 

Then I was Community Manager for Instagram for about 3 years. I had an incredible time at the company and learnt a lot about building product, software and tech and how to be a journalist in that environment, which was really interesting. Eventually I wanted to come back to traditional media, I think journalism is really important so that’s where I am now at Condé Nast – trying to help traditional media organisations understand how to use platforms like Instagram to connect with readers and tell stories.” 

Jesse on his career in social media so far…

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“My background is very much in retail, working with Topshop and Topman and focusing on brand marketing… When I moved onto Marks & Spencer, their average age of customer was 65+, and I said we should get onto Facebook and Twitter. So I took an opportunity, it was their big anniversary so they said if we wanted to launch an account to do it at a big moment.  I delved into the Marks & Spencer Museum in the North of England and took all that content and pushed it out onto Social Media, which led to all these stories coming out. It was the products and objects that then caused discussion and debate and that 65+ community then started coming together and building.

Then I moved onto Tate. I started at Tate six years ago and the way people talked about art back then was really inaccessible and it was a steep wall to climb so social media played a role that opened it up to the public… and before you know it, you start trending because you are inviting the audience in. I’ve kind of gone with that approach everywhere I’ve worked. At the Serpentine it’s about making sure that everything you do has a question attached to it; the public is the most important thing when it comes to social media. They are the guys that power what you have to do.”

Hannah and Jesse on how to find out what platforms work best for you or your brand …

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Hannah: “Fashion links itself to Instagram very nicely. It’s very visual and industry workers were very early on the platform, from designers to photographers so it was kind of a match made in heaven. People who work in fashion understand the idea of brand development a little bit more than maybe other kinds of industries. Instagram is a great platform to convey who you are as a brand and raise awareness about what you are doing. Not all social platforms are like that. 

Generally it’s about who you want to engage with – think about the who and think about the why. You really need to dig deep into what kind of community you want to build around what you are doing – and that’s whether you’re an individual or a brand. Think about that community … who is your ideal person that is going to come and engage with you? How might you find them? What kind of platforms are they using? And the big question – what is your purpose? What are you doing and what separates you from the others? Once you can nail those aspects it’s going to be much more helpful for when you decide on which platform to go onto.”

Jesse: “They’ve all got different types of audience. Twitter, for me, has been something where it is the perfect platform for debate and discussion; it’s the perfect open social platform. Facebook with live moments and livestreams – where you could literally bring the public straight into an exhibition or space they may never visit. When live-streaming came out it was one of those things you had to run with straight away. For me, Instagram is one of those platforms where you’ve got to be as creative as you possibly can – you are trying out different things everyday – and if it becomes a success you can scale it up. Be really, really creative in as many ways as you can.”

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Hannah: “The big question is always this tension between being a person and being a brand, especially on Instagram. If you run a brand account, you have a challenge as to how to be more personable. If you are a person and you want a personal account, you wonder how to act more as a brand and put myself out there to a single audience. I think that idea of content types and consistency works really well with content, for example a series that people can tap in on or have special access to, such as Vogue backstage. This is where we are trying to be more personable, and I think especially if you are an artist or individual trying to figure out how to narrow down what to put out there – think about piecing it down to 4/5 content types makes it more manageable.”

Hannah and Jesse on finding your tone of voice …

Jesse: “It’s all experimentation and testing. Why I do what I do is because you’ve got to have some kind of appetite for risk as you’ve just got to do it on social media to experiment and ask questions, and try different forms of content. With tone of voice, ejecting humour is an incredible tool, even within the arts, as social media is the tease as it shows a brand can have fun and humour is one of the difficult things to communicate so you have to keep going to experiment with it.”

Hannah: “Tone of voice is tricky as a brand, as you are speaking to people from all over the world from different backgrounds and different cultures. We have 25 Vogue accounts in different countries, and they all have very different international followings with different local flavours. Experimentation is 100% key. Trying to figure out how to bring the best of Vogue and that Vogue voice to a platform with a younger audience without dumbing down content. Speaking to people in a different way, but still speaking to people as Vogue was a challenge – but you have to constantly work it and try out different things.”

Hannah and Jesse on increasing engagement with your platform and the importance of looking at data…

Jesse: “One thing I’d say about engagement is to plan in advance as much as you can about what you want to say. It goes back to experimentation, try different times of day.”

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Hannah: “I think engagement breeds engagement, so even as a brand account we found that if you are engaging with them and speaking with them [the audience] that helps to seem like a real person who can respond. Planning is a huge preproduction that we focus on, alongside data, and data analysts. Even as a basic user you can see your peak engagement, through screenshotting and liking.”

Jesse “Data analysis is a great way of bringing people together – from the brand director to intern.  At Tate, for example, a lot of the teams work separately. But the social media team get everyone together to throw ideas in, which is a great bonder that brings teams together.”

Hannah: “One of my last points – which from The Guardian to Instagram – is one of the biggest pitfalls on social - is expecting that other people behave how you behave when you’re on social media accounts. So in every marketing meeting I’ve been in, it’s important to stress that not everyone uses Instagram the way you do. Just be curious, and look at how other people use it, from different ages, backgrounds and cultural groups. It’s just important to be interested in how other people are using the same social apps you are using.”

Hannah and Jesse on creating successful Instagram Stories…

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Hannah: “Instagram Stories was launched as a place to have more fun with content, as a lot of anxiety had built up about posting on the feed with pressure to be perfect and post highly produced content. Instagram Stories was a place where you could be more playful and it’s good to remember this now, as it is still a place where your content is going to live alongside friends etc. Therefore it still has that ‘in the moment’ feel and you can see brands with super highly produced content that feels like advertising which is going to be a real turn off for the viewer in stories. For me it is always about narrative, and telling stories with a beginning, middle and end.”

Jesse: “It’s almost like a story board that you would do for a film, it’s that opening 10 seconds when you’ve really got to be pulled in. It’s the narrative, it’s the introducing and zooming into the detail.”

Hannah and Jesse’s advice for those just starting out on a social media platform …

Jesse: “If you are starting from scratch, look at other people that you love, and then go with it. If you are launching a brand, look at the type of people that are liking and commenting on your content, and then look at what else they are liking and commenting on. Take risks and keep trying new bits of content.”

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Hannah: “Everything goes back to who are you trying to engage with and why. Who are you trying to reach? Instagram Stories is the more interesting space at the moment for me, and audio and visual technology is really interesting for the future space. Podcasting is rocketing back again, which has a huge community for audio search.”

Hannah on why she thinks social media should be regulated … 

“I was shocked about the lack of understanding and I feel like the government needs a massive injection of knowledge. There is a huge amount for us to uncover about in inner workings of social media companies.”

Photography by Kaye Ford.