Is Social Media Really Good For The Fashion Industry? Its Influence Explained

Jenn Beswick | @JennyBeswick

It’s no secret that social media influences just about every aspect of our daily lives. From sports to politics to news, our choice of online interactions defines who we are and what we do. Fashion is no exception.

We only have to look at how Topman’s recent leap into the digital world increased footfall into their store exponentially to recognize that the future of fashion is deeply wedded to the world of social media. So it should come as no surprise that top fashion brands are focusing more closely than ever on the online world – looking for a way to capture that swirling mass of opinions and half-formed truths in a bottle. Here we look at some recent efforts on the part of fashionistas to engage online, alongside a study of how social media affects all our shopping habits.

Who Does What – Brand Domination

The various methods used to engage with online audiences by fashion brands differ widely in approacTopshop's social media campaignsh and execution. In 2012, Topman launched CTRL, a kind of cross between Spotify and BBC Radio 1, in an attempt to nail down that elusive ‘young male’ audience. The campaign made use of social media for promotion, but importantly also allowed a degree of interaction among consumers that went beyond what Twitter or Facebook could offer. Starting in mid-2012, users were encouraged to upload their own gig reviews and other content that other users could then click and comment on. According to Topman press releases, the project was a success, increasing footfall in their stores and boosting their online presence. Clearly, this is a campaign that worked.

Other brands have been equally fortuitous. Burberry – once the punchline to an unfunny joke – has hefted itself into a whole new class over the past half-decade with a stream of constant innovation within the social media sphere. They were the first brand to embrace Instagram for video and have consistently been at the forefront of social media (even making SMD's Top 20 list of Instagrammers), without compromising their status as a luxury brand. Forever 21, meanwhile, have turned their Facebook page into a virtual playground that caters to their digital native audience; a social media revolution.

The Extent of Influence

It’s not hard to see why these campaigns may be having so much positive influence: now more than ever, young shoppers are making important decisions online and learning about fashion via blogs rather than via fashion magazines. What follows is a democratisation of opinion, as young fashionistas can connect with people who really matter to them (designers) rather than the traditional middlemen (journalists). The results have been profound. Previous surveys have repeatedly highlighted how nearly one hundred percent of fashion’s teenage target audience is on Facebook, with the ‘social shopper’ category saying Facebook influences their shopping more than any other medium. Even the smarter, clued-in fashionista-types remain heavily influenced by Facebook, with independent blogs only just providing a sliver more influence.

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The conclusion for brand advertisers, then, is to make sure they have a significant social media presence. Both Pinterest and Instagram are huge players, just behind the aforementioned Facebook and blogs. And while it may be challenging to convince the independent blogger to promote your brand, the other three can certainly bring customers into the shops and promote greater purchasing online.

As for consumers, for the first time in history, we are shaping how brands create and portray themselves. We think this can only be a good thing. Do you agree? Which brands are the most compelling for you in terms of social media? Do you engage? How does (or doesn't) this affect your shopping experience, your loyalty to the brand?

About the author: Jenn Beswick is a freelance writer and works alongside the fashion industry with Vouchercloud Next. With a passion for fashion, styling, engineering and creativity Jenn loves how brands are reaching out to their audience through new social ideas.