When it comes to fashion Instagram, retailers have often bent over backwards to cater to women. That’s slowly changing, as some retailers create specialized feeds for the most sartorial of men.
Asos, a U.K. e-commerce powerhouse, launched the Instagram handle @asos_menswear last week, joining Nordstrom (which runs @nordstrommen in addition to its main handle) and Bergdorf Goodman (@goodmans is its men’s store on Instagram; @bergdorfs its account for women) in the small group of retailers that have dedicated a new Instagram handle to male customers.
Maeve Duggan, an analyst at Pew Research, said that recent studies show that while men and women are equally likely to be on social media, online women are slightly more likely to be Instagram users. However, the gap is not as wide as on other social media platforms, like Facebook or Pinterest — 22 percent of online men use Instagram, compared to 29 percent of online women.
“The industry has knee-jerk reactions,” said Larry Vincent, head of branding at United Talent Agency. “It’s the same as when we talk about millennials, and we think 81 million of them have the same characteristics. Women are sharing fashion images, but men are too. It’s not uniquely female.”
In a week, @asos_menswear gained almost 4,000 Instagram followers and posted about three times a day since its launch. (Asos’s main handle has 2.7 million followers and posts slightly less frequently.) @NordstromMen, an older account, has 65,000 followers (Nordstrom has 887,000 followers), and @goodmans has 19,000 followers, compared to @bergdorfs, which has 577,000 followers.
Menswear accounts may lag behind, but they’ll grow in size and number as retailers recognize the audience exists, said Vincent.
A Business Insider Intelligence survey from December examined why Instagram, despite its lack of seamless shoppability, is an attractive platform for brands. The reason is simple: It’s where the young people are. This notion is reinforced by a Pew study that said more than half of 18-29-year-olds who are online are on Instagram.
Still, major unisex brands like TopShop, H&M and Old Navy are filling their photo feeds with their women’s clothing, styling images in the same carefully curated manner that popular fashion bloggers have mastered. Men who want to check TopShop’s latest stock on its Instagram feed are not just largely but entirely out of luck.
These retailers, who entirely ignore their male consumers or infrequently sprinkle a few menswear images on a sea of womenswear like Gap, are missing out, said Vincent. But it shouldn’t be a “blanket approach” — men and women should be approached differently on Instagram, just like they are in fashion magazines.
And, indeed, brands are approaching men and women differently on the platform. Asos chose to separate accounts entirely. But Nike launched a Nike Women Instagram, which has a 1.9 million follower count, without ridding its main handle of womenswear.
“You just don’t want to gender-type it,” said Vincent, who pointed to the Bic branding fail that packaged “For Her” pens: smaller, pink and purple versions made with women’s dainty hands in mind.
“Marketers think for females, it has to be pink and frilly; for men, it has to be rugged. That doesn’t work.”
Regardless of the approach, retailers can’t ignore men on Instagram any longer. According to Pew’s Duggan, men who use Instagram are equally likely to engage on the platform at the same daily and weekly rates as women.
“Campaigns are meant to engage the whole community, and this is poorly executed when targeting men,” said Vincent. “There’s a bias that they only work with women, but campaigns can and will engage men.”