If media shapes society, social media does it better than most. We must remember that social media can not only influence election results, but can also fuel social movements like #MeToo. We are constantly connected, we spend more than five hours a day on our mobile phones, and since interactions in the sphere of digital communications rarely stop, the social impact of social networks is therefore crucial.
Luxury and fashion brands must also be aware of this social impact and have an increased duty of responsibility as they create and spread trends. On social media, these influential and respected labels are also imitating mass-market brands, thus multiplying their power. Brands are increasingly using social media to increase their exposure, work on their influence strategy and demonstrate their values: inclusivity, body positivity, transparency, diversity and solidarity. One example is the French underwear brand Chantelle, which was one of the forerunners of the issue of inclusivity in 2018, or the shoe designer Christian Louboutin when it comes to diversity, or more recently, the French skin care company Vichy, which deals with taboos with its #Campaign for menopositivity. Of course, Jean Paul Gaultier is also an inclusive brand from start to finish.
Brands must not be late in taking steps towards change, nor be too modest if they truly carry values, because after that they are regularly marked by all kinds of washing, including greenwashing. To avoid this, being credible and proactive with your community is key. Patagonia is a great example, because the brand sees its ideas. It is also worth mentioning the London designer Karoline Vitto, whose spring-summer 2023 show during London Fashion Week was revolutionary in showing only plus-size models.
Today, some brands are exemplary in the way they guide others to push their boundaries. They have values with which they coordinate specific actions and this causes immediate reactions. Responsibility can flourish everywhere: in social networks, in communication, in the choice of words, in products, and even in big financial decisions. At the same time, we must remain vigilant because manipulation is never far away.
Today it is clear that proving the story is important. We must privilege the evidence and put it in the spotlight. The audience is looking for evidence, assurances and guarantees. We also have to match what we wear with who we are, because the outside is no longer enough in terms of authenticity. The interior must also be coordinated.
Regarding the changes, we should also mention the relationships of brands with their audience, which are no longer “top-down”. There is more horizontality, thankfully, as brands increasingly face challenges from audiences, customers, prospects and competitors within their ecosystems. Today’s brand and social media territories consist of interactions, collaborations and personalization. Fun can blind us, but it must never blind us to our responsibility. We are in the real world, a world with real stakes.
The profession of communicator is not spared from these questions. Indeed, communicating means raising awareness of tomorrow’s consumers, creating messages that will reach them, setting the tone on social media and thinking about advocacy and influence strategies, all while remaining accountable to both brands and younger generations. This is an extremely critical moment for communicators, marketers and agencies working in areas of influence and power such as social media, as they must decide on important issues to guide both brands and youth, and one can no longer do without the other.
It is a double challenge: to be an excellent professional without jeopardizing the responsibility of a good parent, especially when you “shake up” disciplines that are constantly under supervision. We can’t do everything and anything in the race for results and audiences. It is necessary to create a space that values agencies, communicators and talent that do things well.
We talk a lot about responsible influence, but in fact all our work must be as responsible as possible. It is also a very current topic at the political level, but as far as we are concerned, it is our duty to set an example. These modern, animated and fast interfaces can have a very dark side. CTZAR has always wanted to stay on the bright side and adhere to demanding values in terms of education and transmission. This is also the reason why we were the first agency to become a member of the French advertising self-regulatory organization ARPP and to integrate transparency labels into our platform and our way of working with influencers.
Social networks are currently writing a new chapter, partly because of their algorithms that favored divisive and superficial content. But the world is changing and new models are already emerging: the rise of communities with greater proximity, companies that launch media such as newsletters or podcasts, influencers who advocate authenticity, TikTok that gives pride to spontaneity and acknowledges niche creators. Nobody wants walking billboards anymore! Social media also brings fashion trends. For example, luxury and fashion brands have massively moved to the secondhand market, and this is partly due to people from social networks who managed to “cool” used clothes and fashion accessories and present them as something other than subfashion.
Who are these people? In 2021, we published an article about the end of the word “influencer”, and this thinking is still relevant today. We are convinced that we must be very careful and must not replace influence and “influencers”. Influence is just a kind of speaker, amplifier, consequence. It is a sign of legitimacy gained within communities. The latter will be recognized as a person with an authentic, just and credible character, a talent that is capable of showing imagination and creativity, and a voice that has the stature to carry ideas and values. The influencer hides under different profiles; they are never just influencers in their life. Have you ever noticed how people don’t want to be called influencers? The term is used so much that it almost has a negative connotation. This is also the reason why in CTZAR we talk about social talents or creators instead. It is more relevant to everyone and is closer to reality.
Camille Olivier and Thomas Silve are the founders of the creative agency CTZAR and specialize in social media and influence.