How has social media influenced consumers? Part 1

September 8, 2014

 Written by Peiw en Jiang


With the popularization of the Internet, social media has been accepted by more and more online users. People are able to utilize social media to share their opinions, attitudes, and feelings over the Internet. Meanwhile, marketers are also attracted by social media platforms and begin to utilize them to reach its target consumers. In this article, the author will not analyze the nature and essence of social media and the function and importance of social media marketing conducted by marketers from the academic perspective. The author will also introduce a successful business example of Levi’s to discover how the fashion company has influenced its consumers with the help of social media platforms.



Key words

Social media, social media platforms, social media marketing, eWOM, Levi’s.




According to the statistics (Sandes and Urdan, 2013), the Internet was accessible to 2.3 billion people in 2011, which indicates the popularization of the Internet technology in the globe. The Internet has also greatly influenced how people live, work and communicate since it has created an online social environment (Akar and Topsu, 2013). Papasolomou and Melanthiou (2013) even point out that social media has developed beyond traditional media to become an important part of online users’ lives.

With social media on a rise, more and more researchers attempt to understand the use of social media especially when marketers make practical strategies in the marketplace. In this article, the authors will study how social media has influenced consumers from academic and practical perspectives. Specifically, the author will explain the essence and nature of social media and the function and importance of social media marketing. The author will also combine the case of Levi’s to discuss how the fashion company has influenced its consumers by using social media.



The essence of social media

Social media, as the extension in the communications world (Papasolomou and Melanthiou, 2013), can be defined as the online applications with which consumers are able to share information, knowledge, experiences, opinions and perspectives in the virtual world (Di Petro, Crews, Gustafson and Stick, 2013). This means that social media establishes the bridge for consumers to interact with each other and this is the fundamental reason why social media is so popular.

According to Kaplan and Haenlein (2009), there are a number of forms of social media including social networking sites and blogs such as Facebook and Twitter which attract 845 and 100 million active users respectively every day (Hoffman and Novak, 2012), content communities like YouTube which drives 800 million unique users for engagement every month (Hoffman and Novak, 2012), and collaborative projects like Wikipedia which allows anyone to edit the articles. However, in spite of the forms of social media, each platform can exert influences upon consumers and marketing performance (Akar and Topsu, 2013). Therefore, marketers generally conduct marketing strategies and campaigns on several platforms to reach their consumers (Hanna, Rohm and Crittenden, 2011).

Since social media provides consumers with opportunities to engage in expressing views and editing and sharing information, consumers can be perceived as marketers and advertisers as well. In fact, consumers can search for information regarding the company and its products from different channels. Akar and Topsu (2013) point out that the information is acquired by consumers primarily through reviewing online comments and consulting other consumers on social networking sites especially when they plan to make a purchase. The reason is that consumers tend to regard peer opinions as more objective and reliable compared with the information provided by the company (Blackshaw and Nazzaro, 2006). This is consistent with the data provided by Akar and Topsu (2013) that approximate 80% of consumers hold a positive attitude toward the information that they gain from social media platforms.

However, the function of social media cannot be restricted by searching information. The platforms also allow the company to interact with its consumers and even invite them to collaborate such as co-designing products and promotional content (Hanna, Rohm and Crittenden, 2011). It should also be pointed out that consumers will generate positive or negative attitudes toward the company, its products and services, which is determined by the satisfaction degree that the company presents itself on social media platforms (Roberts and Kraynak, 2008).



The function of social media marketing

In terms of social media marketing, Akar and Topsu (2013) define it as an interactive and engaging process during which the company is able to present itself, its products, and services to its target consumers by means of online social platforms. Social media marketing becomes increasingly popular since it can exert influences on the company to make marketing strategies. In fact, social media marketing can not only increase the company’s visibility but also help the company build long-term relationships with its consumers (Papasolomou and Melanthiou, 2013). Besides, social media marketing not only allows the company to interact with its consumers but also enables consumers to communicate with each other over the Internet (Akar and Topsu, 2013). This means that consumers’ participation is one of the most important factors of social media marketing. Besides, the majority of the online content is created by the consumers rather than the company itself in the social media marketing (Akar and Topsu, 2013), which means that the company takes the role to stimulate its target consumers to talk.

To conduct social media marketing successfully, it is necessary for the company to utilize two techniques including targeting and eWOM. On the one hand, Aljukhadar and Senecal (2011) divide online users into three segments according to their motivations, including online communicators, lurking shoppers and social consumers. However, there is no need for the company to reach all the user segments. It is significant for the company to reach their target segments, which depends on its own marketing objective (Eisenbeiss, Blechschmidt, Backhaus and Freund, 2012). Social media provides the company with the opportunity to gather and disseminate market information over the Internet (Eisenbeiss, Blechschmidt, Backhaus and Freund, 2012) and this need the participation of target segments. For instance, social consumers can be encouraged to assist the company to spread information.

On the other hand, eWOM, which is the abbreviation of electronic word-of-mouth, is also universally used in the social media marketing. According to Sandes and Urdan (2013), eWOM can be interpreted as the phases or comments about the company or its products that are left on the online platforms by former, current and potential consumers. Akar and Topsu (2013) point out that eWOM has become the most significant online channel to influence consumers’ willingness for purchasing, which will further influence the company’s sales performance (Sandes and Urdan, 2013). Specifically, consumers can easily access the positive or negative online comments which are generally regarded as the references. This means that online consumer reviews can be perceived as an important form of eWOM. Besides, the research demonstrates that even though consumers prefer to disseminate satisfaction comments to others, they will also utilize online platforms to express their dissatisfaction and complaints (Sandes and Urdan, 2013).



You can read the detailed analysis combined with the case of Levi’s in the next post.