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The Power of Social Media in the Fashion Industry

Social media has become a massive part of our daily lives, and the influencers we follow now have the power to inform our decisions on a scale like no other — and one core area they do this in is fashion.

Before the phenomenon of social media, fashion was mostly discovered through magazines and catwalks. Through these controlled channels, fashion was kept exclusive, determined by designers and magazine editors. Fast-forward to 2018 and it’s a very different story.

Social platforms like Instagram have allowed us to become our own fashion editors and project our personal style with millions of people on a global scale at no cost whatsoever. While catwalks and glossies still remain a part of today’s fashion sphere, fashion is more fluid and interactive than ever before — changing the way fashion brands connect with their core audience.

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Capturing the market

Unlike before, those interested in fashion do not have to wait for the next issue of ELLE to tell them what’s hot. It’s all about social media — what products are online retailers pushing this season? What going out dresses are all your friends wearing in their latest tagged photos? And, what’re the bloggers and influencers on your news feed into this month?

Research has shown that more millennials are losing trust in traditional media. In the world of fashion, this means that magazines and advertising campaigns don’t have the influence that they once did — they’re now seen as quite distant from the reader as many are aware of the editing that goes on behind one shot. Instead, peer recommendations are more valuable and accessible than they once used to be. Of course, we’ve all heard of the power of word-of-mouth, but with social media and its ability to spread at a rapid speed across countries, it’s more important than ever before. Of Instagram’s total audience, 200 million users follow at least one fashion account. 45% of Instagram users in Britain say they follow these fashion accounts to gain inspiration for looks they can buy or create themselves. Sharing their own looks is a part of this process too, with #fashion mentioned a huge 13 million times a month and #ootd (outfit of the day) featuring in 140 million posts to date.

Social media users are obsessed with engagement rates, and the number of likes and comments they get on each post.

Many of us are used to reading user-generated reviews about an experience or product before making a purchase now. In fact, research found that 71% of people are more likely to make an online purchase if the product or service has been recommended by others. In addition to this, 84% of millennials are likely to be influenced into making a purchase based on the user-generated content by strangers who have experienced the product or service.

As a result, more brands than ever before are focusing their marketing budget on Instagram and similar digital entities. Even luxury brands — that once shunned social media for fear of it cheapening their image — are jumping on the digital bandwagon. While 72% of luxury fashion brands’ marketing spend is still attributed to print marketing, digital is quickly gaining pace — reaching a total digital ad spend of $100 billion in 2016.

By occupying space on social media, fashion brands will be able to present themselves to users who are interested in them.

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Becoming a better brand

Unlike before, brands can now connect with their audience on a personal level. Founder and editor in chief of independent publication, the Business of Fashion, Imran Amed, says: “The one thing that has changed dramatically in recent years is the direct relationship brands now have with their consumers. In this new hierarchy, the consumer has the ability to amplify or negatively impact on business, through sharing positive or negative responses.”

Fashion shows are a prime example of this. Once an exclusive event for the elite and top names in fashion, many shows on the catwalk can now be viewed live by millions. Access to the designers’ latest fashion lines was often something that we could only hear about through magazines and the press. Now however, we can keep up with the latest through monitoring the content attached to a hashtag.

In the early days of social media, Facebook and Twitter were leaders in the field.

But, now there’s a new player on the scene — and it’s taking over. Instagram reached 800 million monthly active users in September 2017 and these users have the highest level of engagement (time spent using the app) compared to other social media sites.

However, Instagram has become the go-to place for all things fashion. This encourages brands to think more about ‘real’ people, with different bodies, skin tones and fashion preferences — it’s opened a whole new world for fashion marketers.

Recent updates have allowed Instagram users to shop products on the platform. Brands are able to tag products in their posts which can then lead users to a point-of-sale. Early adopters of this, such as Natori and Magnolia Boutique, have already found that traffic and sales from Instagram have increased after implementing the shopping service.

As well as this, brands want their customers to show off their outfits on the platform too. This is another form of user-generated content and it allows others to see what the outfit looks like on real people. In some cases, users are given the chance to feature on the main social media page.

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Social influencers

As communicating your brand with your audience is essential, more companies are beginning to use influencer marketing. The influencer economy of Instagram alone is valued at $1 billion and 94% of businesses said influencer marketing was an effective campaign strategy.

The role of influencer marketing takes someone with a large following, and paying them to raise awareness through their accounts to their own audience who could be interested in the brand itself.

As an example, supermodel and reality TV star Kendall Jenner has become an ambassador for Adidas. With a total Instagram following of 89.2 million compared to Adidas’ 19.2 million, the partnership will significantly increase Adidas’ social reach and position the brand in front of Jenner’s younger fashion following.

Content delivered by influencers is almost like being recommended a product or service from a friend.

Seeing the people we admire or look up to wearing a particular outfit or using a certain product is a vote of confidence in a brand that makes us more likely to purchase the particular product or interact with the brand in the future. This sense of community is something that brand accounts struggle to deliver; a third-party is needed to validate the products for consumers.

However, not all influencers will be celebrities. It can involve any profile that can add value to a brand but generally, this value is measured in terms of volume of followers.

When choosing an influencer, their following should align with the brands target audience. Influencer relationships can be expensive, so the associated spend needs to be justifiable — yet doing so can be problematic for fashion brands, when you consider the difficulty surrounding success measurement.

Did you know that 5% of the influencers who offered product recommendations were generating 45% of social influence for the brand?

Evidently, the game has changed for fashion because of social media. We’re now more connected with our brands than ever before and are proud to publicly post about the names we love. With the implementation of Instagram shopping already changing the process of fashion retailing, who knows what the future holds?

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About the Author

Louise Richardson has been a copywriter at digital marketing agency, Mediaworks, since September 2017. After graduating with a degree in Media Production from University of Sunderland, Louise completed a post-graduate course in Magazine Journalism at PMA Media Training in London before becoming a freelance writer, where she wrote articles for multiple industries. Prior to her position at Mediaworks, Louise was a content writer at travel agency, Hays Travel, and digital marketing company, Visualsoft.

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