When a person’s Instagram account is private, you have to wonder who they’re hiding their photos from. When a retailer’s Instagram account is private, you wonder if the company made a crucial settings error.
Everlane, the online brand for premium apparel, knows how to operate Instagram. Still, on January 25 when it launches its new account, @EverlaneStudio (secondary to the main @Everlane page, where it has 204,000 followers), it will be private. Visitors will have to send a request in order to follow it, and Everlane will accept requests (anyone, as long as it’s not a spambot) at a cap of 100 per day.
“This is kind of an experiment,” said Red Gaskell, head of social media at Everlane. “We wanted a controlled experience — something that could exist between a physical store and our online store. It creates an area of focus for us.”
The idea is that @EverlaneStudio’s followers will be the brand’s most dedicated customers, and the company can introduce new products to them first and keep close track of their feedback on Instagram. Think of it as a modern version of the private sale, with the added benefits of a focus group.
On Everlane’s main account, Gaskell said the team is already posting a lot (product shots and behind the scenes photos make up the most of the feed), and doesn’t want new launches to get lost in the mix. He added that there’s a lot of unrelated “noise” in the comments, as well as spammers.
“We got inspiration from Nike, which has its own account, Nike Lab, for shoe launches,” said Gaskell. “We’re putting out a lot of new shoes this year, and we felt we needed a new space to talk about it.”
When @EverlaneStudio launches, Gaskell said it will sell new products through special links to those followers before they’re widely available. Everlane’s product launches tend to be well-received — many new items sell out, resulting in wait lists of about 6,000. For example, one of its most high-profile recently was for the wool trench, which had a waitlist in the thousands in the fall.
Those who closely follow the Studio on Instagram will be able to order items before launch.
From there, the Instagram team — comprised of Gaskell and a few customer service representatives — will look to the Studio’s comments for feedback, and they plan to respond to each one. Spam accounts won’t have access to the private Instagram.
“It’s like an Instagram incubator,” said Gaskell. “We want to gauge criticisms, and we’re making it private in order to have a curated, high value experience. People will feel like they’re in on something.”
Most other brands like Urban Decay have used Snapchat, not Instagram for exclusive “sneak-peeks” and the like. Everlane does have a Snapchat account, but Gaskell said that it was Instagram that felt like the right fit for the more exclusive account. On Snapchat, posts don’t have the staying power or ability to collect comments swapped back and forth. But, he added, if customer attention or behavior shifts, they’ll reconsider Snapchat too. (On Tuesday, for the launch, Everlane will promote the new account on its Snapchat.)
“It’s a micro-community that we’re hoping to build,” Gaskell said. “We want to know these followers, and we want them to be able to get to know each other.”