Glossy fashion magazines reigned for many years as the arbiters of style, with the trends editors predicted quickly worn by the masses. But as the media landscape has shifted in recent years, there is a new influencer in chief: TikTok.
The social media platform has surged in popularity among Millennials and Gen Z over the past couple of years, quickly becoming their go-to source of new fashion and beauty trends despite the uncertain political backdrop surrounding the ByteDance-owned app, which was the first non-Facebook mobile app to reach 3 billion downloads globally, according to mobile app data provider Sensor Tower.
Among the fashion trends to take off (or make a comeback) on TikTok are North Face puffers, Ugg boots, Acne Studio oversize scarves and “Bridgerton” corsets. In the beauty space, products such as Tom Ford’s Soleil Balm Frost Lip Balm sold out due to popularity on the app.
It will come as no surprise then that fashion magazines, which have been plagued with dwindling advertising revenues, a trend only exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, have been getting in on the action with the aim of reaching new audiences.
“Social media has become increasingly important as a form of brand marketing to increase audience reach, especially to reach younger demographics,” Alice Pickthall, a senior analyst at Enders Analysis, said. “The aim is ultimately to drive users to owned and operated, where they can be better monetized.”
Of the 10 magazines WWD looked at, only two — WSJ., The Wall Street Journal’s luxury fashion insert, and Marie Claire — don’t have TikTok accounts, although it’s understood that Marie Claire, which was recently sold to Future plc. and is now mainly digital, will launch one soon.
As for the ones that are on it, perhaps unsurprisingly given its younger audience, Teen Vogue has the biggest following at 1.4 million, while its big sister Vogue has garnered the most likes at 17.9 million. Like many of the magazines, the latter became active on the app in 2020 when a lot of the conversation socially was switching to TikTok during the pandemic and has continued to see success as the world has opened up again.
“We’ve seen great success,” said Samantha Sussman, director of creative development of social media at Vogue. “We’ve taken our TikTok on the road. We’ve been live at fashion week in every country where it takes place. We do street style, assets of the photography, we have our editors and what they’re wearing. Just on the back of a magazine shoot we had Bella Hadid and Adut Akech doing this great little video that’s getting over 100,000 views so that’s something that’s a print story and we’re translating it to TikTok.”
As well as creating new content, it has been making cutdowns of series from other platforms to make it TikTok-friendly. “On TikTok we recognize that some of these people may have never been on Vogue.com so we’re trying to monopolize on this new audience so we’re doing cutdowns. We’re doing so much original content, but we’re also re-serving them ’73 questions,’ we’re re-serving them ‘beauty secrets’ in new snackable ways that feels like an easy entry way. So ‘beauty secrets’ can become one beauty secret.”
In February Vogue’s relationship with TikTok became more formal when its owner Condé Nast inked a deal with the platform for Vogue and GQ to make content exclusively for TikTok, both for their own respective brand channels and in print.
For Teen Vogue, which is not part of the aforementioned deal, its content covers an array of topics, from the current political landscape to celebrity couple style.
“We want to provide followers with relevant and topical content that pushes culture forward,” Chantal Waldholz, global director of audience development for social media and analytics, told WWD. “On any given day, users will see everything from a behind-the-scenes original interview with ‘Bridgerton’s’ Charithra Chandran to facts about Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to Sydney Sweeney reacting to her celebrity parents.”
Over at Hearst-owned Harper’s Bazaar, digital director Nikki Ogunnaike came up with a game plan to create two content buckets on TikTok that has been working well for the brand.
“The first content bucket is things around inspiration, so fashion and beauty inspiration. We have a bunch of different types of videos, but one we found really great success that has pretty much gone viral is that every Monday we do a franchise called ‘Fittok’ and it’s basically what Bazaar editors wore to the office that week. We put a video up earlier this week and it already has over 900,000 views which is huge,” she explained. “The other content bucket we’re finding success with is service videos. Beauty reviews from our digital director about various types of products she’s liking, what to buy at the Sephora sale. We have another franchise called What’s In This Bag.”
The approach has also worked with content creators like Chriselle Lim, who launched the magazine’s “Five Things I Can’t Live Without” franchise.
At W, the oversize fashion glossy that is now part of Bustle Digital Group, the focus is on short videos of celebrity interviews, which has helped the magazine enjoy a 56 percent increase in followers on TikTok from 2020 to 2021.
“Our strategy there is to get the biggest bang for our buck, especially when we’re filming with talent, which most of W’s content is,” noted Wesley Bonner, senior vice president of marketing & audience development at BDG. “If we’re interviewing them for the magazine or for a YouTube series we’ll almost always capture secondary content for short-form vertical video like TikTok. Those videos are very popular.”
Instagram vs. TikTok
As for whether TikTok is becoming more important than Instagram for magazines, Bonner said that the company has a close relationship with both platforms so he doesn’t want to pick favorites, but rather they serve different purposes. “Being able to share images from photo shoots, static images from the archives — that’s always going to be rooted in Instagram,” he explained. “Then I think what TikTok has been really good for is introducing the brands to new audiences who are probably not familiar with the legacy of print. A much younger audience who is definitely interested in things that are new and cool and fun, but are probably not impressed by the same the types of content that our Instagram followers would be.”
Harper’s Bazaar’s Ogunnaike agrees. “I wouldn’t say one is more important than the other, but I would say TikTok is definitely a place to find a new audience. I think Instagram is always going to have a place in our hearts. It’s definitely a place where we get a lot of eyeballs and we are still growing there. We have 5.3 million followers on Instagram, but I think TikTok is definitely a place where we can experiment.”
But Enders Analysis’ Pickthall, who doesn’t need to be so diplomatic when it comes to a favorite platform, believes that for many fashion magazines, Instagram is arguably their most important social media marketing platform.
“TikTok remains nascent, with smaller reach, and few publishers have actually struck meaningful partnerships with the platform,” she told WWD.
TikTok By Numbers
Allure – 54.4k followers, 791.2k likes
Elle – 31.4k followers, 212.7k likes
Glamour – 2,100 followers, 10.4k likes
Harper’s Bazaar – 114.5k followers, 3m
InStyle – 231.7k followers, 11.4m likes
Marie Claire – no TikTok account
Teen Vogue – 1.4 million followers, 6.3m likes
Vogue – 808.9k followers, 17.9m likes
W – 441.3k followers, 6.1m likes
WSJ. – no TikTok account
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