A well-planned Instagram strategy is one of the most effective ways of getting you exposure for your business. We chatted to Sam Morgan of Paria – creators of disruptive, fashion-forward cycling apparel – and got his take on building an Instagram following by putting the cycling community at the heart of their brand.
Shape your brand identity
When most people think of cycling and the clothing people wear on two wheels, the usual stereotypes of a rotund MAMIL (middle-aged man in lycra) spring to mind – squeezed into lycra which is bursting at the seams. Or even worse, the geography teacher in his faded brown tweed jacket with Lumo clips to keep his trousers off his chain.
Having ridden for more years than we cared to remember, we were frustrated with the pedestrian, vanilla designs that were endemic in the sport. Something needed to be done to upset the regime.
Paria (pronounced Paa-rye-ahh, i.e. social outcast) was born.
Paria thrust itself onto the market with a disruptive approach to casual and technical cycling apparel, producing both branded and bespoke team kit. Designed to make you feel as strong off the bike as you do on it.
Our aim is to bring fashion-forward designs to cycling, with a leftfield approach to graphics and imagery. A genuine two-fingers-up attitude to the norms of kit design.
Searching for customers
We launched in 2014, selling via our website with a collection of designs for men and women. The clothing was designed to perform as well as it looked, with high-quality Italian technical fabrics and bulletproof construction. Investment was made into a talented photographer who produced high-quality shots, as well as a lifestyle shoot to really deliver the premium cues from the brand.
After the initial friends and family sales, revenue gradually dripped through and our performance could only be described as OK. People understood what we were trying to do (plenty of “positive vibes” were sent), but didn’t seem to want to part with their money in our shop. There were plenty of hours sat around, scratching our heads and stroking our (bearded) chins to work out why the cycling community wasn’t falling over themselves to buy our wears.
Key to our challenge was working out who really would buy and wear our kit. We knew we loved it. We knew how we felt when we were designing and wearing it. There must have been other guys and girls out there who were the same?
And the answer to this question was – of course there was! After all, there’s a whole world, indeed a global community of cyclists out there – pedalling on two wheels day in, day out.
Embracing your community
The community just didn’t know we existed yet. We needed to find them, bring them to Paria and tell them why they needed our cycling brand in their lives.
Our product and brand is a very visual offering. Our designs are impactful and eye-catching, so from this angle we identified Instagram as a natural home for our brand. It’s also a great place to find people and the communities they identify with, which allowed us to research the who, what, where and why of this gang of riders. This meant following people and interacting with them to get a real overview of who could and would be natural Parias.
We began to identify common themes regarding the kind of riders who would wear our kit and live the type of lifestyle linked with the brand – usually tattooed extroverts. So we connected with them with a down-to-earth, non-corporate approach and just started to build links with the community. Taking feedback from these conversations, we began to shape our strategy and ultimately the direction of the brand.
For our second summer kit collection, we recruited 10 brand ambassadors via Instagram and put aside a marketing budget to cover the cost of kit for these guys. Our guidelines were fairly loose. We wanted people out, enjoying themselves and doing what they do best – riding and having a good time. This content was then posted on social media with people showcasing their new kit, how they felt about it, how it looked, felt, etc.
We used this as the basis of our social media posts, in addition to filling the product pages of our website to offer “real” lifestyle imagery. The ambassadors began to produce more and more of our content, allowing us to gradually build a pipeline of images and video of people wearing our kit in their daily lives. This replaced our staged images from the first year’s shoot with guys who were loyal to Paria.
With the social presence came more people who fitted with our brand profile, as well as teams who bought into the ethos of the brand and the look and feel of our designs. Gradually, our network increased. Given the success of our ambassador programme, we really put this at the heart of what we were doing – looking further afield internationally as our profile grew.
If you fast forward to today, we have a combined social presence of over 20 thousand engaged followers. They stretch from Russia to Australia, Israel to Canada, Leeds to London; and we now have teams in Holland, New York, Melbourne, Spain and Italy wearing our kit.
Socially, we have the #Pariapack and the #pariafam showcasing everyday riders repping our gear, as well as a core ambassador group of 20 and a larger ambassador network of about 40 people. The photo shoot for our 2018 summer collection recruited 12 ambassadors and took them to train in an altitude chamber, before unleashing them on the mean streets of Leeds in their new kit.
We have taken the decision to put our community at the heart of what we do.
People buy people, so who better to put at the centre of your brand than the guys who have actually spent their hard-earned cash to buy your products. It gives people a reason to buy into the brand and stay with you on the journey, creating a strong loyalty and a passionate advocacy for what you do.
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