Streetwear has long been a reflection of individuality and the cultural zeitgeist, and the Instagram accounts of the publications that cover it are no different.
For major streetwear publishers, Instagram serves as less of a promotional tool for editorial content and more of an extension of brand voice and personality. Sites like Hypebeast, Highsnobiety and Complex not only post more frequently, but don’t hold back on wit, eschewing some of the rigidity of other publications in the style space. These accounts are laden with memes and nods to celebrity pop culture, the latter of which has long fueled streetwear culture.
“Streetwear sites’ content strategies place brand and lifestyle above all else,” said Kyle Wong, CEO and founder of visual marketing platform Pixlee. “Companies such as Complex and Highsnobiety put out Instagram content consistent with their target audience’s lifestyle. These are aspirational brands that understand the importance of fresh and deliberate digital content.”
Their strategy is leading to large followings: Hypebeast has 3.5 million followers, Complex has 1.8 million and Highsnobiety has 1.5 million. These vast follower bases can then be translated to monetizing opportunities and a foundation from which to experiment with the platform’s newer offerings, like Stories and Live.
When more is more
A key distinction of streetwear accounts is the sheer quantity of posts. Complex — which also operates standalone accounts for its Sneakers and Style verticals — posts an average of 20-30 posts each day from its main account, according to Dan Ghosh-Roy, svp of audience development at Complex Networks. Comparatively, GQ posts an average of five photos a day, and Nylon shares four.
“On our main account, we try to cover so many different things and verticals,” Ghosh-Roy said. “The Complex user loves a little bit of a lot of different cultures.”
A recent post from Complex, featuring one of its go-to hashtags that it pairs with a celebrity or television couple.
Highsnobiety recently started testing a higher cadence in response to Instagram’s algorithm shift (which nixes chronology and instead features photos of interest to a user), increasing its average posts per day from eight to 15 leading into the month of April. The ability to churn out such a high quantity of content is bolstered by a global team of contributors across time zones, according to Pete Williams, Highsnobiety’s editor-in-chief.
Williams said his team is trained in photography and challenged to think visually, particularly when traveling on assignment or for trades hows. Cityscapes and travel photos tend to perform best, even over sneaker and swag shots, he said. Highsnobiety’s posts receive 27 million impressions per week, with a weekly follower growth rate of 2.5 percent.
“We look at the key facets of Highsnobiety’s world that translate best on the platform: sneakers, street style, luxury cars, music. Images that combine more than one of these categories, while also hitting the high quality Instagram aesthetic, work best. As the Instagram audience also skews slightly younger than Facebook, we are mindful of which brands and artists make for the most relevant subject matter,” he said.
A post shared by HIGHSNOBIETY (@highsnobiety) on
A recent travel post by a Highsnobiety staffer.
At Complex, Patterson said the highest performing posts are images of celebrities like Will Smith, Drake and Kanye West. Much of the content from Complex, as well as its peer sites, are reposts from these respective actors and artists, as well as smaller-scale influencers. “By using micro-influencers and celebrities, streetwear brands blend content, commerce and community in order to stay relevant,” Wong said.
In addition to its own posts, Highsnobiety shares advertorial content on Instagram 2-12 times a week, but limits sponsored posts to two a day, maximum. Williams said his team works closely with brand teams to ensure the content falls in line with Highsnobiety’s aesthetics and sensibilities. (Complex also uses Instagram to monetize, but declined to discuss specifics.)
“We are just as selective about the look and feel of the content we monetize as we are with any other post on our Instagram feed, and as such, we strive to produce the imagery in-house for as many of paid posts as possible.”
Instagram as ‘mood board’
At both Complex and Highsnobiety, most of the content on Instagram is exclusive to the platform. Williams said the only time Highsnobiety uses it to tease content is when it is releasing its print magazine or launching an apparel or footwear product.
The goal for publishers like Complex is for Instagram to be less of a purveyor of editorial pieces and more a pulse on the cultural events of the moment. Ghosh-Roy said his team keeps a close eye on content related to major events like the presidential inauguration, March Madness and the Grammys.
“On Instagram, we’ve developed a voice where we want Complex to feel like it’s your homie,” said Julian Patterson, director of social media at Complex. “On Instagram, you probably have a friend you’re tagging in memes all day. We want you to feel that level of comfort with Complex. We use Instagram as a mood board.”
This extends to how they use Instagram Stories and Live, as well. Patterson said that, as an office often frequently visited by celebrity guests, Complex lends itself to off-the-cuff ephemeral content. In addition, he has increasingly started to receive requests from the agents of musical performers to host Instagram Live concerts. Since Live disappears immediately with no archiving, both publicists and Complex can avoid red tape and licensing issues.
“There’s value in going to a location and shooting something, and having it be very raw, and having a very real feel,” Patterson said.