Social Media’s Influence on Fashion

Gone are the days when our only source of fashion inspiration was catwalk shows and glossy magazines. With these two restrictive mediums, fashion was determined by a select few editors and designers.

But now, with the popularity and connectivity of social media, everyone can publish their own style to inspire the world. Fashion is now an interactive industry, rather than one to be just presented.

People actively turn to social media for fashion, but just how powerful is social media for fashion?

A new platform

Fashion is made to be talked about, so where better than online? It’s all about social media — what products are online retailers pushing this season? What 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?

Millennials are seen to be suspicious of traditional marketing and advertising, often viewing it as having an underlying agenda. 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.

The emphasis on 'likes' and 'followers' as a social media success has likely caused the need for peer validation. 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. Of all social media platforms, Instagram is a perfect combination for the fashion industry - active, visual, and interactive, it's easy to see why many brands are focusing more on marketing through Instagram and other digital spaces. 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.

Finding a way onto the newsfeeds and dashboards of an audience already interested in their style is a big benefit to fashion brands.

Increased interaction

Fashion companies can now actively engage with their customers through social media. 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 one 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, Twitter and Facebook dominated the scene. 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. Instagram offers brands a much more direct connection to their customers than catwalks or magazines can. 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.

Instagram users can even head straight to an online shop through from the channel. 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. Another way brands can develop a sense of community and generate online presence is through encouraging users to photograph themselves in their brand’s clothing. 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.

The use of influencers

Many fashion brands have turned to social media influencers as a catalyst for online presence. The influencer economy of Instagram alone is valued at $1 billion and 94% of businesses said influencer marketing was an effective campaign strategy. Working alongside celebrity and blogger 'influencers', fashion brands are tapping into the route of influencer marketing to get wider audiences talking about their products. For example, Adidas recently unveiled supermodel Kendall Jenner as its new Adidas Ambassador. 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. The power of influencer marketing is grounded in confidence – a consumer sees their use of the product an impartial recommendation. 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.

With high levels of exposure, celebrities make an ideal influencer for a brand, but not all influencer marketing needs a celebrity’s profile. It can involve any profile that can add value to a brand but generally, this value is measured in terms of volume of followers.

To keep the brand geared towards it target audience, brands need to pick an influencer who has a following linked to the brand’s target demographic. 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. Although it may be difficult to measure the exact success of influencer marketing, their use does benefit the brand through sales and wider exposure. Research found that 5% of the influencers that were offering product recommendations were driving 45% of social influence.

Social media has certainly changed fashion into a more interactive experience. 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?