October 13, 2014
Written by Masters Student at Lund University
DIFFERENT SOCIAL MEDIA FORUMS
In 2011, almost 83 % of 500 successful companies tried to reach out to their target customers through some kind of social media (Naylor et al., 2012). This, probably because customers today increasingly search for information about unknown brands in different social media channels with an increased reliance (Naylor et al., 2012). One of the most common channels used is Facebook and the Facebook fan page (Hutter et al., 2013). Using a Facebook fan page is a good tool to use in the quest to increase brand awareness, intensify the traffic of e-WOM and most importantly to increase purchase intentions. Even though the fan page initially seems like a good plan, a company needs to be aware of the negative consequences it might generate (Hutter et al., 2013). An overload of invitations and activities from the fan page can annoy the followers and consequently lead to negative effects such decreased participation, negatively changed commitment to the fan page and less or undesirable e-WOM (Hutter et al., 2013). An intense release of new posts can create a feeling that the customer is caught instead of feeling liberated and inspired, and thereby damage the perception of the product and the brand (Powers et al. 2012).
Blogs and online magazines
Blogs are another frequently used tool in the search for information on the internet about products one aims to purchase (Anant, 2011). Particularly in the fashion industry, blogs are playing a significant role when it comes to marketing (Colliander & Dahlen, 2011). This social media forum works as a marketing channel and have proven to be more efficient than online magazines when it comes to build good brand attitudes and purchase intentions (Collinder & Dahlen, 2011). To promote fashion brands and products through blogs is very effective. Since the blogger after a while often is portrayed as an idol to the consumer and a relation between them is created, the consumer will automatically like or buy many of the brands and products that the blogger promotes in the blog (Colliner & Dahlen, 2011. The blogs are therefore something that marketers in the fashion industry cannot ignore (Colliner & Dahlen, 2011). The more admired the blogger is, the more affected becomes the reader and it gets more attached to the brands that is exposed on the blog (Colliner & Dahlen, 2011). It is further important for fashion brands to notice that the relationship between the blogger and the brand must be transparent and genuine with no visible sponsorship involved. Hereby, the fashion brands should start target the bloggers in a genuine way, build trust and liking from scratch. Not until this moment is done consummately, the fashion brands can create a big loyal audience through the blogs (Colliner & Dahlen, 2011).
Using bloggers is also a great way to reach out to the right customers in a sincere way. During fashion shows many fashion brands places popular bloggers in good seats from where they can upload posts on their blogs and their other social media accounts. By doing this, the purchase intentions of the desired consumers are created the right way, with no obvious manipulation or impact from merchandisers or editors (Kim & Ko, 2012).
Instagram, Youtube and Pins
Pictures, videos and movie clips have been a common way in the fashion industry to promote fashion brands / products, activities and new collections (Caro et al., 2012). Often during a fashion show or events, fashion designers have a team working with taping and creating pictures and movies with backstage material to spread to “followers” in different social media forums (Coro et al., 2012). Other common activities using pictures related forums are by creating competitions where the customer is asked to take a picture of him/herself together with a certain brand specific product or tag (Caro et al., 2012). All of those marketing social media activities are created in the quest to interact and to attract new potential customers and it is to be considered as a powerful tool to spread messages and news in the fashion industry (Caro et al., 2012). Usually, the posts on Youtube, Pinterest or Instagram are often additionally shared on larger social media forums like Facebook, which generates a larger total spread which also can generate a better e-WOM (Caro et al., 2012). An additional good thing with the picture channels is that they tend to attract a like-minded audience. It is thereby easy for marketers to reach out to the desired audience and target groups (Caro et al., 2012). Using different kinds of picture-related social media activities is therefore to be considered to be a rather fast, cheap and easy way to market brands and increase purchase intentions within the fashion industry (Caro et al., 2012).
Recommendation #3: Reach out to the right customers in the right way
All of the chosen social media forums examined above have a proven effect on the purchase intention. Therefore, I would recommend fashion brands to investment in all of them, but having different strategies with each forum since they have different impact and effect. To start with Facebook, I would use it to create awareness, to spread messages and to create e-WOM. I believe that it is important to be present at Facebook, but when it comes to fashion brands, I rely more on other channels who I would recommend fashion businesses to invest more time and effort on because of their spread and establishment. Blogs is probably the forum I would choose to create personal bonds to consumers and to create that desired familiar feeling. It is a good way to create deep trust and liking from scratch, and could therefore be a good starting point and first step, since the liking of a brand has been proven to have a crucial effect on the purchase intention and the future of the brands success. I also experience myself, that different picture-related social media forums get a larger share when it comes to promoting new products in the fashion industry. I have seen that forums like Instagram are taking over from blogs and online magazines, probably due to Instagram’s easiness and convenience for customers who constantly wants to be updated. Many bloggers also have an official Instagram account where they are uploading their daily outfits and purchases. I think a product placement in those pictures, in complement with the blogs, will be an appreciated approach for fashion brands to use in the near future.
GENERAL IMPLICATIONS OF SOCIAL MEDIA INVESTMENTS
The usage of the social media is highly recommended to practice in order to be a successful marketer (Winer, 2009). Even though, it is irrational to believe that the movement from the old to the new era is easy. One crucial thing a marketer needs to remember is to use the right kind of measurements and metrics. As every other marketing activity, an investment needs to be able to track in order to see if the investment has been profitable or not (Winer, 2009). Managers need to investigate how their social media activities are being perceived by the customers since it is desirable that the investments generate a better brand opinion and/ or increase the purchase intentions with consumers. The directors must therefore be aware of their actions and not lose the control of the brand (Winer, 2009). Other valuable insights and recommendations to remember is that the social media activities must be a long term strategy, clear goals must be set up and the investments really have to be well thought through and processed before any actions are made (Phan, 2011).
Recommendation #4: Track and measure the investments
In order to see if the investments have been that successful and rewarding as you have imagined, it is crucial to be able to track and measure the investments (Winer, 2009). My advice would be to create a customer survey, where the brand managers measure different key indicators in order to see the long term development. It is helpful to compare the customer evaluations from the survey they did in the beginning ( See recommendation #1) with how the brand is being perceived after the social media investments. Indicators such as the image of the brand, if the sales have been improved and if they have managed to deliver that desired added value to the customer are all measures significant to consider. Another good advice would be to track different e-WOMs and to read customer reviews in order to make sure that the perception of the brand is constantly positive or if some adjustments needs to be considered.
After have gone through the impact of the different social media forums above, one could conclude that there is main consensus in the research field, that the use of social media has a positive impact on the consumer’s purchase intentions. Even though it seems easy and fast for fashion brands to create a blog, an account on Facebook or Instagram, they still need to rethink the actions as well as measure and track the investments in a cautious way. The usage of the different media channels have proven to simplify the decision in the purchase process for consumers, even if many other fundamental characteristics must be filled up before a brand can rely on a positive e-WOM and a spread of good reputations. By following the theoretical based recommendations stated above, I am convinced that fashion managers in the future will be successful in social media forums and that they will be pleased that they took the decision to invest in social media activities.
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