Social Media Marketing Channels Influencing Buyer’s Behavior

Abstract

This study aims to understand the role of social media marketing channels in influencing buyer purchasing behavior in the US fashion industry, using Facebook as a case study. The objectives of the investigation are to assess the impact of Facebook on consumer interest, to determine the extent that which Facebook has contributed to current statistics on purchasing behaviors in the United States fashion industry, and to identify marketing strategies that can be employed using Facebook to exploit consumer-buying patterns. The boundaries of this investigation are centered on digital marketing techniques and the fashion industry, using Facebook as the case study.

Evidence was analyzed using a meta-analysis and the findings were examined using the content analysis method. The results demonstrated that Facebook has had a significant impact on consumer purchasing behaviors, especially through targeted ads. It was also established that the co-creation of fashion content has shifted the power away from fashion brands and given it to commentators and bloggers who shape trends today.

Additionally, it is proposed that celebrity endorsements and building strong online communities are some of the ways that companies can exploit consumer-buying patterns using Facebook advertisements in the future. Overall, the insights highlighted in this study describe the important role that social media plays in meeting the marketing goals of fashion brands around the world. Unique features associated with Facebook have made it a viable tool for brand promotion in the fashion industry. In this regard, the marketing platform has emerged as a useful tool for initiating engagements, interactions, and word-of-mouth communications among businesses and customers in the sector.

Introduction

Background of the Study

Today, much of the scholarly attention on advertising has been focused on digital marketing. This is because it commands the greatest share of media spend in the global advertising space and is the most adaptable to changing market dynamics (Lemon and Doll-Myers, 2018). Social media advertising is an offshoot of this sector and it involves the use of digital marketing communication channels to build a brand or increase consumer awareness regarding a company’s products or services. The role of social media in promoting the marketing objectives of various companies started from its mutating role as a publishing platform for both businesses and their clients.

Historically, companies have been relying on traditional channels of communication, such as television and print media, to reach their customers. However, the growth of social media has made it possible to think of new ways of advertising (Lemon and Doll-Myers, 2018). During its initial stages of inception and use, it allowed companies to share stories about their products or services to elicit a positive reaction from target audiences and generate traffic for websites. However, over time, social media has grown to be a place where companies do more than simply share content or publish their stories; today, they are using the platform to build and nurture brands and create loyal customer groups, which have morphed into online communities.

The process of creating loyal customers usually involves the publication of positive content about a company’s products on social media channels to encourage customers to develop an interest in a brand or company. By doing so, advertisers get important feedback about their products or services, after which they analyze the data to make improvements to a company’s overall sales and marketing plan (Kawaf and Istanbulluoglu, 2019). Companies then use such information to come up with products or services that exploit consumer needs and preferences. They use various social media marketing channels, such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter among other platforms to achieve the above-mentioned objectives.

In light of the various channels of utility associated with digital advertising, social media means more to companies than a simple marketing tool. For example, the use of new methods to support real-time communication has enhanced the grip that social media has on companies and their customers (Rein and Venturini, 2018). Those that embrace such approaches are harnessing social media innovations for better market control.

For example, some firms use social media marketing to monitor brand conversations to make improvements based on the feedback they get. Others use it to understand a company’s product or service outreach by analyzing sales data, brand engagement profiles, and other indicators of market performance using social media analytics. Similarly, businesses that plan to reach a specific group of customers use social media targeting tools to achieve this goal.

Subject to the aforementioned uses of social media, fashion industries have strategically used social media as a cornerstone of their overall business strategies. This development has been occasioned by the realization of the wide outreach that social media has to its clients. Recent estimates published in 2019 suggests that there are about 3.4 billion users of social media worldwide (Fashion Network, 2019).

Most of these people have about seven social media accounts and spend upwards of 140 minutes in a day browsing through various product categories (Fashion Network, 2019). These statistics mean that fashion brands have a potential wide pool of customers to reach and with adequate time allocated to market their products, they may get useful feedback about their products. In this regard, social media has emerged as a powerful force in the growth of the fashion industry. It is set to become an even stronger marketing tool as more users and brands join the platform to meet their marketing and service needs. In light of these developments, social media has affected consumer behaviors and purchasing patterns of consumers around the world. From this background, there is a need to understand the role of social media marketing channels in influencing purchasing behaviors. The present study explores this research issue by using Facebook as a case study.

Research Justification

As highlighted above, social media marketing refers to the broad use of digital marketing communication platforms to influence consumer-purchasing behaviors. Facebook is among the most popular social media sites used in the fashion industry. Its popularity is founded on the large number of users who interact with the application daily. In 2012, Facebook made history in the tech industry as the first social networking company to have more than 1 billion users (Statista, 2021). It now commands the biggest market share, in terms of active users because, according to Statista (2021) and Alzougool (2018), more than 2 billion people use the platform monthly. Facebook works by allowing users to register on the site and create a personal profile that will facilitate their interaction with other people.

Users have the freedom to post their statuses on walls, directly message other people and comment on products or services offered by companies via their postings on the platform. Most people who use Facebook access the application via their smartphones. This attribute makes it appealing to companies that have mobile-based application systems. Additionally, Facebook allows its users to join different virtual groups based on shared passions, experiences, and demographic characteristics (Robards and Lincoln, 2016).

Founded in 2004, by former Harvard student, Mark Zuckerberg, the company has grown from a small enterprise linking students from various Ivy League schools to one of the most popular social media marketing tools, used to influence the outcome of major global and national events, such as elections, sports events, and industries (Spry, 2018). The massive influence that Facebook has in reaching a wide range of people in an unfiltered manner justifies the researcher’s interest in understanding how it influences the marketing objectives of fashion brands worldwide. These influences underscore their power in influencing people’s thoughts and cognitive processes (Chen and Pain, 2019). Consequently, the current study strives to understand the role of social media marketing channels in influencing buyer purchasing behavior by using Facebook as a case study.

Aims and Objectives

The fashion industry is one of the most lucrative industries in the world. Characterized by consumer trends, sociopolitical discourses, the need for popularity, and the pursuit of profit, the sector has been traditionally reliant on robust marketing plans to remain relevant and lucrative. Social media growth and its impact on consumer behaviors have made it one of the most disruptive forces in the sector. This is occasioned by the increasing number of digital users on various platforms and the expansive outreach that social media has across various markets in the world. Subject to these developments, this study aims to understand the role of social media marketing channels in influencing buyer purchasing behavior, using Facebook as a case study. The objectives of the investigation are listed below

  1. To assess the impact of Facebook on consumer interest in the United States Fashion industry?
  2. To determine the extent that which Facebook has contributed to current statistics on purchasing behaviors in the United States fashion industry.
  3. To identify marketing strategies that can be employed using Facebook to exploit consumer-buying patterns in the US fashion industry.

Research Questions

  1. What are the positive and negative factors relating to Facebook that influence consumer interest in the US Fashion industry?
  2. To what extent has Facebook contributed to current statistics on purchasing behaviors in the United States fashion industry?
  3. What marketing strategies can be employed using Facebook to exploit consumer-buying patterns in the US fashion industry?

Definition of Terms

Social Media

Social media refers to the use of web 2.0 interactive technologies to facilitate human interactions or engagements between businesses and their customers. These technologies allow users to share information and exchange files across various platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Photos, messages, “emojis,” texts, and the ability to send information in real-time are the lifeblood of social media (Tufts University, 2020).

Purchasing Behaviors

Buying behaviors refer to the cognitive processes that influence people’s decisions to buy goods and services. This concept is primarily focused on understanding why people make the buying decisions they do, an examination of factors influencing their decisions, and the role of societal influences in supporting linked outcomes (University of Delaware, 2020). Corporates are concerned about consumer purchasing behaviors because they highlight the efficacy of a firm’s marketing strategies, enable them to develop the right marketing mix strategy to employ in a specific market, and support them in making better predictions about how customers would respond to new marketing strategies.

Consumer Buying Patterns

Consumer buying patterns refer to the actions of individuals, groups, or organizations in selecting products, using and disposing of them. The success of marketing strategies is measured by evaluating how companies can influence the decisions of their customers to buy goods and services – a process that manifests in consumer buying patterns (BMI, 2020).

Chapter Summaries

This dissertation is segmented into five main chapters. The first one is the introductory section, which provides a background to the study and defines important terms and concepts that would be used in the investigation. A summary of the aim and objectives that will guide the study is also provided in this chapter, including the set of questions that the researcher plans to answer in the course of the study. The second chapter of the dissertation is the literature review section, which contains an analysis of what other scholars have written about the research topic. A discussion of key concepts, models, and theories relating to social media marketing is also addressed in this section of the study.

The review will help in revealing the main research gap that justifies the present study. The third chapter is the methodology section, which highlights techniques used by the researcher to meet the objectives of the study. In this part of the investigation, key elements of the research process, including the research philosophy, research design, data collection methods, data analysis techniques, and ethical implications of the study are discussed.

The findings of the study, which were developed after implementing the techniques highlighted in chapter three, will outline the contents of the fourth chapter of the study. In this section of the paper, the researcher will demonstrate how the investigation helped to meet the objectives of the study by drawing a link between the data obtained and the overall aim of the study. The last section of the dissertation will be the conclusion and recommendations chapter, which will summarize the key findings of the study and outline the link between all key sections of the study. In this part of the dissertation, recommendations will also be provided to explain how social media marketing strategies can be improved to maximize their effects on marketing fashion brands.

Literature Review

Introduction

This chapter is a review of existing studies that are relevant to current discussions on the study topic. Key sections of this analysis will highlight concepts, theories, and models used in social media marketing and explain the role that digital marketing plays in brand management in the fashion industry. At the end of this chapter, the gap in the literature, which justifies the present study, will be highlighted. Before delving into the details of this analysis, it is important to understand the key pillars of social media marketing highlighted below.

Core Pillars of Social Media Marketing

Marketing through social media often involves five key pillars, which include strategy, planning and publishing, listening and engagement, analytics and reporting, and advertising. These elements of digital marketing are described in figure 2.1 below.

The five core pillars of social media marketing
Figure 2.1 The five core pillars of social media marketing (Source: Buffer, 2021).

Strategy

The first building block of social media marketing is having a broad strategy for implementing all other marketing plans. This pillar involves defining the broad objectives that should be achieved at the end of the marketing process (Buffer, 2021). For example, some companies consider increasing brand awareness as their marketing objective, while others aim to increase web traffic and sales numbers. Regardless of the goal, they all need to increase user engagement to drive their overall marketing strategies and social media plays a role in helping them to do so. Those that have been successful in this regard have an active online community where ideas are exchanged and feedback about products or service experiences extracted. Ordinarily, these communities serve as a support platform for customers.

Part of the strategy development process also involves defining what social media marketing platform a company should use. Companies have a wide selection of social media platforms to choose from, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest. Typically, they are advised to choose a digital marketing platform that best suits their customer demographics and appeals to their unique marketing objectives (Chen and Pain, 2019).

More importantly, identifying the right social media channel to use should help companies to advance their marketing objectives with minimal obstruction. The last part of the strategy development process is determining the kind of content to share with customers. This process involves identifying content that would be useful and relevant to the target customers (Kawaf and Istanbulluoglu, 2019). For example, firms may need to define whether to convey educational or entertaining materials on their social media sites, based on the interests and preferences of their core customers. Based on the response they get from doing so, they may modify their strategic plans accordingly.

Planning

The implementation of robust social media plans also depends on the willingness of companies to carefully plan for the process. This is the second pillar of social media marketing and it is responsible for making sure there are adequate resources for implementing the marketing strategy. Researchers have pointed out that an effective plan will have a consistent social media message across different platforms but target the same audience (Lim et al., 2016; Liu et al., 2018)).

The process helps companies to know what to communicate to their customers ahead of time, thereby minimizing the risks associated with spontaneous publishing. Studies show that to optimize the results of the planning process, companies should maximize time and frequency advantages to come up with the right communication strategies that would help to meet the desired marketing goals (Escobar-Rodríguez and Bonsón-Fernández, 2017). Doing so allows companies to better reach target audiences when they are likely to be most engaged.

Listening and Engagement

Social media marketing is characterized by engagements from different players. At this stage of brand growth, companies may start to witness increased numbers of customers messaging them, tagging their products, and giving feedback about their brand experiences on their official social media pages. These experiences are often linked to the need for companies to develop strategies that actively engage their customers. Consistent with this view, Gruss, Kim, and Abrahams (2020) highlighted the need for increased engagement via social media. After analyzing how restaurants used feedback generated from 174,000 Facebook posts, the authors also established that feelings of belonging to an online community helped to increase engagement among parties involved (Gruss, Kim and Abrahams, 2020).

Therefore, companies are encouraged to interact with their clients as a core part of their overall marketing strategies. Lee et al. (2020) also affirm the above recommendations but observe that comments and posts published by destination marketing organizations play a significant role in increasing the rate of customer engagement on social media. They also suggest that destination-marketing organizations provide a rich pool of data that marketers can use to improve their overall sales strategies. These findings were developed after analyzing the Facebook pages of 72 destination-marketing organizations (Lee et al., 2020). They emphasize the need for listening and engaging customers, which is one of the key pillars of social media marketing.

Analytics

Many types of data are generated from online business-customer engagements. To make sense of such data, companies have to analyze information using various data analysis techniques. This is the fourth pillar of social media marketing highlighted in this review and it helps companies to discern the performance of their social media marketing strategies. The use of social media analytics in digital marketing is predicated on the expectation that refined data will increase the business value of social media engagements (Pääkkönen, Laaksonen and Jauho, 2020; Ertemel and Ammoura, 2016). These predictions are founded on the changing relationship between human beings and machines, which is based on the need to coordinate knowledge management and protect existing systems to realize the real value of social media data (Pääkkönen, Laaksonen and Jauho, 2020).

Among other developments, machine learning is a product of the growing relationship between computers and humans, which has a significant implication for the efficacy of digital marketing plans. Most social media platforms have built-in techniques to analyze data. For example, Instagram has a page showing statistics relating to user engagements, geographical locations of most active users, their gender, and similar demographic characteristics. Social media analytics help to discern this information through the integration of complex data collection and analysis techniques (Brooker, Barnett and Cribbin, 2016). In this regard, companies can make sense of the data through comparisons with past performance or with industry standards. Overall, the value of the analytical process plays a key role in influencing the kind of tools, practices, or expertise that are employed in digital marketing.

Advertising

The last pillar of social media marketing is advertising, which is preoccupied with the process of employing non-personal techniques to promote a product or service. Companies engage in advertising when they have additional funds to expand their marketing plans. Developments in social media applications have made it possible for companies to reach audiences using targeted advertisements, thereby improving the effectiveness of media campaigns.

Nonetheless, different companies use varied forms of advertising to reach different groups of clients. Besides traditional fan page advertisements, which are commonly seen on most social media platforms, new techniques have emerged. For example, Campbell and Grimm (2019) draw attention to subtle forms of advertisements like native commercials, which contain subtle communication cues that are meant to be less overbearing to customers compared to traditional media messages. It is claimed that this type of advertising will shape future marketing strategies, as it is not sales-focused and has few material outcomes.

The main premise of such market strategies is to challenge conventional forms in advertising, which have partly been marred by accusations of harboring deceptive practices (Campbell and Grimm, 2019). Nonetheless, advertising remains a core pillar of social media marketing because it outlines the frameworks that companies have to follow to implement their marketing campaigns.

Relevant Theories Relating to Social Media Marketing

It is important to understand the main theories underpinning social media marketing to understand how it helps companies to achieve their marketing objectives. The social exchange and social penetration theories are the most relevant to this study.

Social Exchange Theory

Given that social media has distorted the traditional balance of power between businesses and their customers, it is necessary to understand how value is exchanged between the two parties (Beckers, Van Doorn, and Verhoef, 2018). The social exchange theory provides such insight because it aids in understanding the motives of businesses and their customers when engaging with one another through social media.

Developed by sociologist George Homans, this theory is premised on the need to balance the cost and benefits of social relationships. It is also predicated on the belief that people tend to pursue relationships that add value to them and refrain from promoting those that have a high cost (Helfers, Reynolds and Maskály, 2019). Therefore, their perceived understanding of the cost and benefits of maintaining these relationships is constantly influencing their decisions on whether to maintain or abandon relationships.

The balance of cost and benefits in the social exchange theory yields a mutually reinforcing relationship between companies and their customers that thrives on the need to protect each other’s interests for mutual prosperity. Usually, when the risks of maintaining a relationship outweigh the rewards of the same, people are likely to abandon such unions. Relative to this assertion, Liu, Zhang and Keh (2019) say that expectation is a moderating variable in understanding the relationship that businesses and their customers have within a socially vibrant environment. They propose that, even as people choose to engage with one another amicably, they are often governed by a subconscious level of expectation of what they should get out of that relationship (Liu, Zhang and Keh, 2019; Doherty, 2019). Usually, these expectations are pegged on the experiences of others or on how other businesses treat their customers.

After highlighting the need to balance the costs and benefits of social relationships, the social exchange theory also highlights the need to pursue possible alternatives after undertaking a cost-benefit analysis (Evangelidis and Van Osselaer, 2018). For example, a client may be dissatisfied with the services offered by one company but due to the lack of possible alternatives for substituting the company’s services, they may choose to be loyal to it. Clark (2016) has explained the role of the social exchange theory in influencing the outcome of relationships between employers and their employees. Their insights show that the social exchange theory proposes a cost-benefit understanding of business-to-customer relationships with the sole aim of maximizing the benefits while minimizing costs.

Social Penetration Theory

The social penetration theory is relevant to this discussion because it helps to understand how relationships start and develop via social media. Similarly, this area of analysis is vital to the present investigation because of the need to understand how social media influences the relationship between businesses and their customers. The theory suggests that closeness between the two parties often develops when they have a non-intimate and detached conversation, which may develop into a deeper relationship as time goes by (BCS, 2020). The social penetration theory shares a close resemblance with the social exchange theory because it explains what happens before, during, and after businesses interact with their customers (Oregon State University, 2020).

The social exchanges can be verbal or nonverbal but they are largely dictated by the environment, which in this review refers to the social media marketing space. The “onion analogy” has been used to describe the social penetration theory because it defines human relationships as a multilayered concept that is characterized by four major processes: orientation phase exploratory phase, affective phase, and stable phase (Oregon State University, 2020). These different phases occur slowly and are completed over a long time. Nonetheless, they may help to explain how consumer engagement occurs on online platforms and describe how they can be nurtured to improve the overall stability of relationships between fashion brands and their clients.

Impact of Social Media on Brands

Brand management has evolved as a viable marketing communication tool in the era of social media use. Relative to this assertion, Beig and Khan (2020) say that social media has helped companies to harness their clients’ passions through “brand romance.” This development means that, contrary to past branding strategies that were heavily reliant on advertising to generate content, today, most companies use their customer’s passions to achieve the same goal. Consequently, most firms have been forced to develop products or services that align with the passions and needs of their core customers.

This marketing strategy stems from the works of researchers, such as Lemon and Verhoef (2016) who have pointed out that establishing an emotional connection with customers is one of the most effective ways of building strong brands. This connection ordinarily happens through a value exchange system where customers and companies see a real and tangible benefit of sustaining their relationship through social media. The emotional connection that they build through brand management may develop because the process is all-inclusive.

Several companies have different brand management strategies with varying levels of success. For example, Tesla has given its employees an option to buy some of the company’s stocks as part of a broader plan to increase employee commitment (Securities Exchange Commission, 2020). This plan has seen the company’s workers get significantly richer as the stocks increase in value. In line with this plan, the firm’s stock options have been developed and advanced, according to the 2003 Equity Incentive Plan, which allows employees to purchase stock based on a time or performance-based plan (Securities Exchange Commission, 2020). These strategies have helped in establishing an emotional connection between companies and their employees. Companies have used the same approach to establish a similar connection with their customers, thereby improving the efficacy of their brand management plans.

How Fashion Brands Have Used Social Media

The use of social media in the fashion industry has changed the relationship between companies and their customers because of increased access to one another. This relationship has evolved because social media has taken the power away from fashion companies to define brand campaigns, as was the case with traditional advertisement methods, such as television, radio, and magazines, and distributed it to other players like customers who now contribute to brand management (Gruss, Kim and Abrahams, 2020).

Although there is a general recognition that consumers have become powerful in the digital age, a growing body of studies challenges the notion that this power universally manifests across various cultural contexts. Researchers, such as Pashna, Esfidani, and Bagher (2019), and Tse and Tsang (2018), champion this cynicism because they caution that multifaceted relationships governing interactions between consumers and producers, as well as businesses and their suppliers, moderate the effect that social media has on the power dynamics between fashion companies and their customers.

Pashna, Esfidani, and Bagher (2019) support this argument by highlighting differences in the manner the Middle East and western people responded to social media campaigns. Collectively, their findings revealed that consumers interact differently with technology, based on their interaction with existing social structures influencing marketing processes. These interactions influence the power that consumers have on companies. Therefore, the influence that social media gives customers to influence the marketing process is limited.

The effects of social media on fashion brands have been highlighted through the works of fashion bloggers, which are often developed and maintained by individuals or businesses to initiate engagements between fashion enthusiasts and brands. Fashion blogging has gained prominence since 2011 when people started getting recognition and legitimacy for making commentaries about various fashion trends in the industry (Cheng and Tandoc, 2021). Most of their content has been focused on making reviews of clothing items, jewelry, and fashion styles, thereby making them more relatable to audiences because the information is shared from a personal perspective.

Over time, fashion bloggers have transitioned from being amateur commentators to powerful individuals who could kill or fuel a trend. Recent scholarly evidence on this area of research has focused on understanding how female fashion bloggers are changing consumer buying patterns via social media (Draper and McDonnell, 2018). Related discussions have tried to compare the communication styles of male and female bloggers and their effects on perceptions of masculine and feminine stereotypes in the fashion industry (Draper and McDonnell, 2018). Stemming from these discussions, concern has been raised on how bloggers embrace social media marketing because their styles have an impact on how consumers theorize fashion marketing. They also play a significant role in influencing discourses that are likely to emerge from the process.

Today, the role of influencers in brand positioning and management has grown as more people continue to model their lives on the personal styles of social media personalities. Researchers, such as Abidin (2016), have investigated this phenomenon further and noted that the rise of influencers has significantly created new forms of digital practices. Most of their investigations have been conducted from a gender perspective with much of the research focused on Instagram as the common social media platform used by influencers worldwide. For example, the study by Abidin (2016) examined the behaviors of Singaporean women who used social media to predict consumer purchasing behaviors.

The authors also showed that the process generates a lot of information, which is used by social media companies to develop adverts with little or no compensation to the people who created the data in the first place. Therefore, even though influencers largely affect consumer behaviors, the process that supports this interaction is insidiously exploitive; however, because it offers content developers a chance to be creative, little attention is paid to it.

The role of fashion bloggers and their use of social media to promote their products draws comparisons to how travelers have used social media to change consumer behavior. Stoldt et al. (2019) conducted a study to investigate the relationship between travel influencers and destination marketers. They found out that there is a role played by intermediaries in facilitating the relationship between the two parties and established that, by their input to this process, they have cemented their role in the industry (Stoldt et al., 2019).

These intermediaries exercise their role in promoting marketing campaigns through social media platforms because brands allow them some room to use their creative techniques to influence consumer behavior (Stoldt et al., 2019). Therefore, their contribution to the process is based on the adherence to structured flexibility guidelines that describe social media campaigns (Ding and Lu, 2017). Based on these findings, it is established that the tension between travel influencers and destination marketers is the driving force affecting consumer behavior.

Scholars have also mentioned self-branding as one of the ways through which agents in the fashion industry use social media. They point out that people in media and creative industries feel the pressure to self-brand due to widespread social media use (Duffy and Pooley, 2017).

The same feeling has been expressed among stakeholders in the education sector with academics being encouraged to self-brand due to the commercialization of education services (Duffy and Pooley, 2017). This process is associated with several positive outcomes but concerns have been raised about its ability to drive fashion brands into incessant self-monitoring due to a fixation on analytics. Additionally, concerns have been raised about the ability of Facebook and other social media sites to harness data from users in the name of “content sharing” (Duffy and Pooley, 2017).

In the fashion industry, brands have also used social media as a marketing tool with varying levels of success. These organizations have mostly benefitted from the ability to target specific groups of people, thereby allowing marketers to develop campaigns that only fit the needs of these markets. A journal article authored by Cotter et al. (2021) suggests that the “target ad” function has not only been used in the fashion industry but also in the political space where candidates have used Facebook to reach specific audiences.

Abid and Harrigan (2020) also conducted another study to analyze the relationship between politicians and their constituents via social media. After obtaining information from focus group interviews and applying the psychological contract theory to analyze findings, the researchers found out that the relationship between the two parties was being sustained by the entertainment value, informational advantages, and social integration benefits of social media (Abid and Harrigan, 2020). It was also established that developmental and ethical factors helped to strengthen the relationship between both parties. However, the lack of trust and the failure of the parties concerned to meet the expectations of their partners strained the relationship between politicians and their constituents via social media.

Overall, this study showed the power that social media has in influencing people’s perceptions of their favorite brands because it humanizes them through the development of educational and emotionally charged content. Regardless of the industry involved, corporates and politicians alike are using target marketing because Facebook has assured advertisers that it can connect them to “specific” audiences (Cotter et al., 2021). The company can make this guarantee because it uses an algorithm to match data generated from user engagement with specific advertisement campaigns.

Factors Influencing Purchasing Behavior via Facebook Advertising

As one of the most used social media tools in business, Facebook has specific features that influence purchasing behavior. For example, its fan pages have played a key role in influencing purchasing decisions by acting as a pool of information exchange where consumers draw experiences that define their behaviors. Fan pages are different from other Facebook features offered on the platform because groups of people who share common interests create them. This is why the opinions and experiences shared on the platform significantly influence consumer purchasing decisions. Facebook also acts as a one-stop information access point because social media advertisements shared on the platform contain different types of information concerning a product, such as a price, delivery modes, quantity, and standard of inspection among other factors.

Purchasing power is also a key determinant of consumer purchasing behaviors for firms, which engage companies through Facebook advertisements. This attribute of purchasing behavior stems from the economic potential of reaching a wider target market through Facebook. It informs the need for companies to undertake segmented marketing to identify demographics that would best appeal to their products. For example, a company selling high-end products, such as Gucci, may prefer to target its campaigns to high-income customers because they have the financial potential of purchasing their products.

Group behavior is also considered a catalyst of consumer purchasing decisions because it outlines external influences that social conditioning has on people’s behaviors. It works in contexts where consumers develop their purchasing behaviors based on the opinions they gather from family members, workmates, colleagues, and other groups of people. A closely related concept influencing consumer-purchasing behavior is cultural conditioning. Similar to the way family members influence one another to make similar purchases, people who share the same cultural inclination are also likely to be impacted in the same manner (Hong and Na, 2018). The power of culture mostly arises through the generation of consumer interest regarding a product or service, thereby creating awareness in a market that may not be knowledgeable about the existence of a product (De Mooij, 2019). Therefore, culture makes people aware of its existence, thereby creating a critical mass for employing appropriate sales strategies.

A journal article authored by Casadei and Lee (2020) highlights the role of culture in influencing marketing campaigns after analyzing more than 100,000 tweets that commented about different fashion events in Milan, London, Paris, and New York. The authors established that social media helps to harness the diversity that exists across different cities, given that they are fashion capitals but are dominated by products drawn from multiple settings.

Researchers, shave also analyzed the use of Twitter as a marketing tool and describe it as a new kind of marketing agency (Gong et al., 2017). Researchers have also pointed out that there are different consumer reactions to tweets from companies and influential personalities (Gong et al., 2017). Therefore, it is demonstrated that company tweets help to increase brand engagement but influential tweets are mostly informative and influence consumer behavior by driving website traffic (Gong et al., 2017). Therefore, companies need to pay attention to the type of social media messaging strategy they choose t use.

Privacy is one concern associated with social media advertising that influences purchasing behaviors. Advanced by researchers, such as Isaak and Hanna (2018), the lack of privacy safeguards in sharing information across various social media platforms has made some customers fearful of their privacy rights being infringed upon. These fears have made a section of customers to be wary of acting on information about social media advertisements and made them hesitant to give their views about products and services, thereby influencing their purchasing behaviors. Therefore, there are both positive and negative factors influencing purchasing behaviors via Facebook advertising.

Summary

This chapter has highlighted key concepts, theories, and models associated with social media marketing. Most of the extant literature has helped to understand the impact of digital marketing on brands and the effects that fashion companies have on the growth and sustainability of the digital marketing concept. Most of the evidence presented in this analysis has generalized social media marketing plans and effects without understanding the specific and unique characteristics of each social media platform in the fashion industry. Consequently, the current study aims to fill this research gap by providing a focused understanding of the research issue via Facebook advertisements.

Methodology

Introduction

This chapter highlights strategies used by the researcher to meet the objectives of the study. As highlighted in chapter one, this investigation is guided by three main objectives. They are predicated on assessing the impact of Facebook on consumer interest in the US Fashion industry, determining the extent that which Facebook has contributed to current statistics on purchasing behaviors in the US fashion industry, and identifying marketing strategies that can be employed using Facebook to exploit consumer-buying patterns in the industry. Key sections of this chapter highlight the overall research philosophy underpinning the investigation, techniques adopted in collecting information, methods used to analyze data, and ethical implications of the study. The limitations of the study will also be discussed at the end of the chapter before a summary is provided, which merges the key sections outlined above.

Research Philosophy

The processes undertaken by a researcher to meet the objectives of a study may be conceived in terms of the research philosophy used, which refers to the belief in the manner data should be collected, analyzed, and interpreted. According to Stacey (2019), two main research philosophies underlie academic research: positivism and interpretivism. The positivist view describes reality as a stable outcome that can be interpreted from an objective viewpoint (Stacey, 2019).

In this philosophical framework, the social reality could be analyzed based on experiences or a predetermined benchmark of performance. Comparatively the interpretivism philosophy argues that social reality can only be understood through subjective means. In other words, it recognizes the existence of multiple perspectives regarding a research phenomenon and, at the same time, acknowledges that these perspectives form the bedrock of the desired scientific knowledge. This characteristic made it appealing for the current investigation because social media marketing is largely a perceptive issue as is the case with many other marketing outcomes. Therefore, it was appropriate to use the interpretivism philosophy because it recognizes the multiplicity of perspectives that may influence a research phenomenon.

Research Methods

Primary vs. Secondary Research

Most researchers want to publish original data because of the need to make new contributions to current discourses on various areas of academic development. This desire explains the proliferation of primary research articles in academic research. Investigations that use primary data often involve the collection of original data using experiments, surveys, interviews, or other techniques (Kingsley and Robertson, 2020).

There are many advantages associated with the collection of primary data, including the authenticity of the information collected, the ability to customize the research investigation into meeting the unique needs of the study, and the development of updated data (Waring, 2021). However, this study did not employ the primary research method because of the expansive scope of the research investigation, which covers the US fashion industry. In other words, it would have been impractical to carry out a nationwide study on the use of Facebook in the US fashion industry. Therefore, secondary research was more appropriate for the present study. Some of its key benefits include its minimal resource requirements and its timesaving nature.

The secondary research approach was employed in the present study by allowing the researcher to collate, analyze and summarize existing research data. In other words, primary research data obtained from other authors were analyzed and reinterpreted in this investigation to give meaning to the research issues currently being investigated. This technique was adopted because scholars have highlighted the relevance of secondary research in providing a different perspective or insights from current literature (Morin, Olsson and Atikcan, 2021; Waring, 2021). Key materials obtained from the secondary investigation included books and journals.

These sources of data were selected because of their high levels of academic integrity. Websites were also included as part of the data sources because of the focus on digital marketing, which is a relatively new area of marketing. For example, different applications are being invented frequently, thereby rendering old ones obsolete or changing the manner of conducting marketing operations.

Therefore, it is difficult to obtain such information from books or journals, which often takes a long time to be published. Therefore, they may fail to capture real-time developments happening in the social media industry as websites would. For example, after the introduction of Facebook as the preferred social media company, other applications, such as Instagram and Twitter, emerged to offer similar services. Such new applications are developed frequently, thereby making it difficult to rely exclusively on books and journals to capture developments in the industry.

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research Methods

Qualitative and quantitative methods are two major techniques used in research studies. The latter is commonly associated with investigations that have measurable values or can be quantified. Therefore, the use of numerical measures of assessment is commonly cited in quantitative research studies. Comparatively, the qualitative research method is often used in investigations that have subjective variables (Conway, 2020).

According to Brannen (2017), such discussions may involve the need to understand research phenomenon that is open to interpretation or that do not subscribe to one benchmark of assessment. While the two methods are commonly used in research investigations, they can be combined in one study and within a broader framework of mixed methods analysis (Lise and Elisabeth, 2019). It emerges as a third technique that can be used in research investigations.

The mixed methods research approach was used in this investigation because of the dynamic nature of the research topic. Stated differently, the research topic included aspects of qualitative and quantitative learning, which needed to be integrated into one study. For example, the use of social media analytics highlights a quantitative area of investigation that justified the use of the mixed methods approach. Additionally, the subjective nature of marketing communications is an area of qualitative inquiry that similarly explains the use of the mixed methods approach. Therefore, this technique emerged as the most appropriate one to use in this study because it aligned with the nature of the study topic.

Data Collection Technique

As highlighted in this chapter, the current investigation is based on a secondary review of research data. According to Stokes (2017), there are three types of secondary research studies: narrative reviews, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses. The present investigation is a meta-analysis, which compares previously published materials with current developments in social media marketing in the fashion industry to derive new interpretations or meanings from existing data.

Allen (2020), Sekaran, and Bougie (2016) say that this type of analysis helps people to understand the global effects of a specific research phenomenon as opposed to relying on data generated from one area or an isolated region. Some scholars even argue that a meta-analysis could be more rigorous than a primary research investigation because it reviews a collection of several primary research materials and explains their differences or rationalities (Goh, Hall and Rosenthal, 2016; Esterhuizen and Thabane, 2016). Therefore, it was employed as the main technique for reviewing the data gathered.

Consequently, the data collection technique was designed to allow the researcher to obtain the most updated, credible, and relevant research materials. In line with this goal, books, journals, and credible websites were used as the main sources of information. The books and journals were obtained from three reputable databases: Emerald Insight, Sage Publications, and Google Scholar. Emphasis was made to include the most updated information by omitting sources of data whose publication date was more than five years old. Again, information from websites was integrated into the study because they contained updated data relating to government and institutional reports that were relevant to the research investigation.

Data Analysis Technique

The content analysis method was used as the main data analysis technique. It works by looking directly at existing texts and identifying their central concept of review (Victor, 2017). The use of the content analysis method as the main data analysis technique is informed by its ability to provide a historical context of a research phenomenon (Li, 2017). This feature is particularly important in the present study because social media marketing has evolved, stemming from the days of using email marketing to the more vibrant social networking features available in Facebook and similar social media networking sites.

The content analysis technique provides a framework for positioning this historical context of marketing developments in the present study (Neuendorf, 2017). Part of its merits lies in its ability to closely align texts and alternate between several specific categories of analysis to provide a robust and more comprehensive understanding of the research issue (Drisko and Maschi, 2016). Based on the psychological aspects of marketing communications, the content analysis technique also helped to provide insight into complex factors of human cognitions that affect purchasing and consumer behaviors. Overall, the content analysis technique was aligned with the nature of the study topic and aided the researcher to identify and understand the central ideas of social interaction that influence social media marketing in the fashion industry.

Limitations of the Study

Study limitations refer to aspects of a research methodology that may affect how consumers of data interpret the findings. In light of this description, it is important to understand the restrictions and constraints of the research process that may affect how its findings are evaluated. The first limitation of this study is the focus on Facebook as the preferred social media platform for market analysis. Therefore, while social media marketing strategies are conceptualized as a broader form of marketing tools, the findings generated from this study solely focus on Facebook marketing. Therefore, it does not cover other aspects of consumer behavior that may stem from other social media platforms, such as Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat

The second limitation of this study is the industry involved – fashion. The consumer behaviors and purchasing patterns highlighted in this document relate to consumers in the US fashion world. As alluded to by Huseynov and Yıldırım (2016), different customer groups may have varied attitudes and reactions towards social media marketing compared to other customer segments hailing from other industries. Therefore, it is important to view the findings of this study within the context of consumer behaviors in the fashion industry. Overall, the two limitations highlighted in this chapter affect the ability to generalize the findings of the study across a greater pool of social media tools and market categories.

Ethical Implications of the Study

Unlike primary research studies, secondary research has few ethical implications because there is no use of human subjects. Some scholars point out that secondary research studies are in themselves ethical by nature because they maximize data productivity and ensure the replicability of research studies (Saxena, 2019; Brothers, 2020). By reducing the burden on respondents and maximizing the value of investments made in data generation, there is increased transparency in data analysis associated with secondary research studies, thereby explaining why many scholars support the view that secondary studies are ethical (Woodfield, 2017).

Subject to these considerations, the main ethical issues explored in the present study relate to the treatment of data and the process of attributing information to their original authors. To address these ethical concerns, all materials used in the study were sourced from materials, which were publicly available and reproducible online. Adhering to these ethical guidelines helped to avoid using data from articles, which have restricted permission for use. Similarly, all information from source materials was attributed to their original authors, thereby avoiding plagiarism.

Summary

Overall, this chapter has shown that the interpretivism research philosophy inspired the choice of the selection of all data collection and analysis tools highlighted in this study. It is supported by the use of the mixed methods research approach that integrates aspects of qualitative and quantitative investigations. The use of this technique in the present study helped to provide a holistic understanding of the research phenomenon and highlighted the justification for the integration of different types of secondary data in the investigation. The content analysis method was used to analyze the information generated from this research process and forms the backdrop of the findings that are reported in chapter 4.

Findings and Discussions

Introduction

This chapter highlights the results derived from implementing the research techniques highlighted in chapter three above. The data is segmented into several thematic areas that underline the importance of understanding the positive and negative attributes of Facebook that impact consumer interest, the extent that which Facebook has contributed to current statistics on purchasing behaviors in the fashion industry, and the type of marketing strategies that can be employed using the social media platform to enhance consumer-buying patterns. Thereafter, the discussion section will be used to analyze how these findings compare with existing literature to identify areas of disparities or similarities between both sets of data.

Positive and Negative Attributes of Facebook That Impact Consumer Interest

Similar to other social media platforms, Facebook has unique features that impact consumer interest. Potential benefits that US fashion companies have realized from using Facebook include:

Positive Attributes

Increased Brand Awareness

Being one of the largest and most used social media platforms in business, Facebook has helped fashion companies to increase brand awareness. Indeed, having a presence in the social media marketing space has potentially exposed brands to millions of potential users, thereby allowing them to expand their market outreach. Relevant to this contribution is the concept of co-creation, which has been highlighted in multiple studies as a social media feature that has promoted marketing strategies in the fashion industry.

For example, in one of the articles authored by Lorenzo-Romero et al. (2021) to investigate the views of the chief executive officers (CEOS) of four Spanish fashion companies, it was established that social media helped in co-creating new product designs. It was also demonstrated that co-creation, through increased brand awareness, helped fashion companies to improve their efficiency and effectiveness. Consequently, it was proposed that fashion companies should embrace social media marketing to harness their creative abilities and those of their customers.

Driving Website Traffic

Facebook has helped fashion brands to increase their website traffic by redirecting them to visit websites to seek more information about products or services. This process is partly founded on Facebook’s ability to generate credible leads through targeted ads (Cheng and Tandoc, 2021). According to social media pundits, this capability has allowed the online application to streamline the lead generation process (Uhuru Network, 2020). Facebook optimizes the opportunity to generate leads because it allows companies to extract the sales value of direct and indirect communications occurring online (Cheng and Tandoc, 2021).

These gains are realized because Facebook allows customers to share content directly as a path to converting their participation into increased sales numbers. This process expands the capability that advertisers have in generating qualified leads because they would be spending fewer resources prospecting for new customers. Indeed, Facebook outreach programs provide them with results that would have been produced from field prospecting activities (Uhuru Network, 2020). The time and resources saved are converted into resources allocated to focusing on creating marketing strategies for the target audience.

Targeted advertising

The ability of fashion companies to create advertisement campaigns that fit the needs and preferences of their core customer base requires an efficient market targeting campaign. This process involves creating a communication channel for a specific audience through targeted advertising. Facebook has access to data relating to its users and through its statistical analysis capabilities; fashion brands have leveraged this information to improve their marketing campaigns. Facebook offers fashion companies an opportunity to create targeted advertising campaigns that fit the needs and requirements of their core customer base.

The process works by allowing only users of specific demographic or behavioral characteristics to see particular advertisements. Relative to this discussion, Matsakis (2018) suggests that most Facebook advertisement campaigns are focused on targeting people who have a specific personality type or are commonly associated with a particular emotional state that would support a purchasing decision. Some brands also use targeted advertisements to market specific products to vulnerable populations.

The use of targeted advertising to improve fashion sales has brought attention to the need to develop robust marketing plans that appeal to various market characteristics. This is why Facebook uses multiple data points to target consumers. Doing so allows it to merge people’s interest with action because it is not enough for them to only show interest in a product; they need to demonstrate to advertisers that they can positively influence purchasing behaviors to improve sales.

Therefore, it may be necessary for marketers to combine data that indicates a customer’s interest in a product with another category of information, such as their age or gender, to develop a robust and effective targeted marketing campaign. Sophisticated data analysis methods employed on Facebook also allow companies to predict what their customers would do in the future. For example, Facebook has been used to help brands understand when customers are likely to switch from one product to another, thereby providing data for improving the timing for new product launches (Lemon and Verhoef, 2016).

Facebook uses various techniques for coming up with client data that could be used by fashion companies. In a research report published by Matsakis (2018), it was indicated that its data categorization process goes beyond mere demographics to include patterns of interaction between customers and their family members, the URLs they click on and the various pages their customers visit. A deeper understanding of Facebook analytics and its data analysis process shows that advertisers use three sets of information to target clients. The first one comprises data provided on the social networking site, such as age and gender. The second one is the basic identifiable information the social media company already has about a person, such as their email address, while the third is their online activities, such as the pages or websites they visit.

Negative Attributes

Negative Criticism

As alluded to in this report, social media marketing allows for two-way communication between buyers and sellers because they all contribute to the brand development process. This dual mode of communication means that disgruntled customers can publicly voice their disapproval, thereby denting the image of a brand. Most companies are encouraged to manage these complaints well and should refrain from deleting genuine criticisms (Wu and Fitzgerald, 2020; Teurlings, 2018). Research studies have also highlighted the negative effects of using Facebook advertising on people’s mental health because there are allegations that most fashion companies use doctored images when developing products (McBride et al., 2019).

Some of these images create unrealistic standards in the minds of consumers who often purchase fashion products to meet their emotional needs. Additionally, setting unrealistic standards using doctored images on Facebook has the potential to negatively influence mental health. McBride et al. (2019) support this statement after finding out that doctored Facebook messages are associated with poor moods, eating disorders, and low self-esteem among people who feel the need to match these standards. Consequently, policymakers are encouraged to review measures for regulating marketing ads on social media.

Reinforcement of Negative Stereotypes

Some studies have linked Facebook advertisements with the reinforcement of negative social, gender, and racial stereotypes through fashion. They have also noted that extensive Facebook use could lead to negative health outcomes for users (Ditrich and Sassenberg, 2017). Researchers, such as Bol et al. (2020), Siapera and Viejo-Otero (2021) have similarly suggested that unfair marketing based on the use of Facebook algorithms and formulas promotes inequities in society because they exploit people’s self-esteem issues and insecurities by marketing the new products that are supposed to make them feel better.

Siapera and Viejo-Otero (2021) analyze the issue from a racial perspective by observing that Facebook adopts a race-blind approach to marketing, which is mostly focused on improving efficiency and productivity through effective data management. Therefore, the historical contexts and subtexts of marketing and societal integration are ignored in this post-racial matrix of consumer engagement. The socialization of users into a race-blind world also means that they are likely to ignore racism concerns or ethical issues that may emerge from social engagements and interactions on social media. Siapera and Viejo-Otero (2021) describe this phenomenon as “flexible racism” because it lacks the historical context for analyzing people’s actions and behaviors.

Skills Requirements

Social media marketing is a relatively new area of corporate brand management in the fashion industry. Being that it is heavily reliant on information communication technology (ICT) tools; companies have been forced to set up a competent team of professionals to manage their social media pages. These groups are often tasked with the responsibility of planning a company’s overall social media strategy and seeking support from partners to achieve desired goals. Getting quality and skilled personnel at a reasonable cost is also a challenge for companies that are in their infancy stages of development.

Extent That Facebook Has Contributed To Current Statistics on Purchasing Behaviors

The use of Facebook to market fashion brands has resulted in four key progressive areas impacting consumer purchasing decisions. First, there has been a shift in trust between customers and fashion brands through the replacement of advertisement campaigns with word-of-mouth communication. This move has been exemplified in research studies that have demonstrated the impact of social media on consumer purchasing behaviors in the fashion industry (Rein and Venturini, 2018; Kawaf and Istanbulluoglu, 2019).

The second progressive area impacting purchasing behaviors through Facebook advertising is a change in consumer perceptions, which has been primarily driven by a “what you see is what you get” philosophy in digital marketing, which has created a demand for real-time updated information on company products. This change has been largely informed by the democratization of processes for generating information on Facebook because consumers and fashion brands are both at liberty to comment on different brand profiles.

The result has been a shift in the role of consumers from being passive actors to active participants in the development and use of corporate products (Kelm, Dohle, and Bernhard, 2019). Research studies that have investigated the evolving role of consumers in brand development have paid special attention to the information generated from the Facebook communities of several fashion brands. For example, European-based studies have highlighted the concept of “netnography” as a viable way for companies to obtain information from online fashion communities. Proposed by researchers, such as Xharavina, Kapoulas, and Miaoulis (2020), the technique has been mentioned as a reliable way of obtaining qualitative market intelligence for brand development. Its success has been pegged on the ability of marketers to better understand consumer perceptions about products. However, it is assumed that most fashion marketers are unaware of the concept and consequently avoid using it due to their limited understanding.

Several research papers sampled in this analysis also highlighted the importance of generating appropriate content in digital marketing. This is because persuasive content generates the highest number of engagements from customers while informative ones yield the highest number of comments and questions (Wang and McCarthy, 2020). The involvement of third parties in moderating the relationship between fashion brands and their customers has also been seen to have a significant impact on consumer engagement levels. Therefore, depending on the desired target market, there are situations where persuasive content could be preferred over informative content. The guiding principle is the marketing objectives to be achieved. Relative to this statement, the use of integrative content is desired in formulating social media marketing campaigns.

Thirdly, social media has significantly changed the role of the traditional fashion journalist from being the source of information to that of a commentator (Yilmaz, 2017). Instead, fashion bloggers have taken up the space to influence consumer purchasing decisions. In a journal article authored by Brydges and Sjöholm (2019), the role and impact of fashion bloggers in influencing purchasing behaviors were highlighted as an emerging trend influencing fashion trends today. The researchers pointed out how these groups of professionals have managed to transform their styles into online businesses and drive consumer trends in the process.

They also showed how over 9 years, a fashion blogger was able to influence consumer behavior by transforming a social media page from an outfit-of-the-day style blog to one that highlights different aspects of their lives, including their diet, décor, and pregnancy journey (Brydges and Sjöholm, 2019). By transforming such online platforms from hobbies into spaces of personal expression, fashion bloggers have influenced consumer-purchasing decisions by recommending products and giving their honest views about them, thereby influencing perceptions about quality.

Lastly, the use of social media marketing channels in the fashion industry has caused a change in the manner brands to communicate from being reliant on traditional models of communication, such as television, radio, and newspapers to digital platforms. At the same time, an increased number of cable channels not only mention fashion brands but also exclusively concentrate on the industry and the developments that occur in it. Consequently, there has been increased fragmentation of audiences, which has led to a greater sense of specialization of marketing strategies to meet different and unique needs (Tsarenko and Lo, 2017).

The change has happened because of the shifting attitudes and behaviors of consumers, brought by changing interests, hobbies, and preferences about fashion. In this regard, social media use has changed the power dynamics between fashion brands and their customers. The latter now has greater power in this relationship because their inputs are more relevant to discussions involving product design and development processes.

Marketing Strategies That Can Be Employed Using Facebook to Enhance Consumer-Buying Patterns

Building an online community emerged as the most commonly cited method for developing future Facebook advertisements. For example, in a journal article authored by Gutiérrez-Cillán, Camarero-Izquierdo, and José-Cabezudo (2017), it was established that these brand communities are part of a wider relationship marketing strategy that allows advertisers to form relationships with their customers through effective brand management.

In this study, Gutiérrez-Cillán, Camarero-Izquierdo, and José-Cabezudo (2017) developed a model for evaluating relational efficiency between fashion companies and their customers through a review of patterns of engagements visible on their Facebook pages. It was established that these interactions influenced consumer behavior through the manifestation of utilitarian and hedonic values. In the same analysis, it was established that Facebook posts helped to stimulate consumer engagement through a utilitarian experiential preserve. Interactive posts were observed to have the highest influence on consumer behavior but posts that contained imageries had a strong impact on perception utility. However, they were found to have a minimal effect on consumer engagement.

Facebook’s ability to generate large volumes of data has made it an ideal software for undertaking fashion informatics. Researchers have alluded to the need for fashion companies to exploit large volumes of data generated from their social media marketing strategies to optimize their marketing strategies. For example, Zhao and Min (2019) have supported these views by arguing that large-scale data generated from the use of Facebook in the fashion industry is likely to cause significant shits in marketing operations. In this regard, data mining has been highlighted as a new promising area of fashion informatics that is set to change the industry (Zhao and Min, 2019).

It is useful to this analysis because it can regulate information flow between different departments in a fashion company and explain the relevance of their associations as well. The Paris fashion week has been organized in this format using network visualization techniques.

Some researchers have also highlighted the use of celebrities to market fashion brands using Facebook as one of the possible marketing strategies that companies can adopt to influence customer-buying patterns. These proposals have been made based on the recognition of the need to develop appropriate content that would appeal to specific target markets. Researchers, such as Rees-Roberts (2020), have proposed the need to understand the concept of “fashion film,” which is predicated on the need to develop marketing campaigns that have moving pictures, as opposed to those dominated by everyday imagery. These scholars also suggest that fashion film can be embraced as a new concept of Facebook marketing by developing moving images to increase customer engagement (Rees-Roberts, 2020).

This proposal is described as the intersection between fashion branding and digital innovation. Additional views have been made to include celebrity influence as part of the content development plan to further heighten engagement and influence consumer-buying patterns (Pradhan, Duraipandian and Sethi, 2016). These strategies have been adopted with mixed outcomes, depending on the brand in question.

Facebook could also be used to undertake market research to understand current and future market trends in the fashion industry. Doing so would help to prepare companies to manage competition and develop products that meet future demand. Researchers have pointed out that Facebook is vital in helping companies to reach niche populations and hard-to-reach groups of people (Iannelli et al., 2020). Facebook surveys make it possible to do so because anyone with a smartphone and can access the application automatically becomes a potential client. Due to this possibility, companies can better design surveys that extract quality data from these groups of people.

Discussions

The insights shared in this paper suggest that Facebook shares many characteristics with traditional marketing forms, such as television and radio. However, the social media platform differs from these outdated forms of advertisements because it offers companies multiple sets of data points to draw data for developing their marketing strategies. Furthermore, Facebook offers companies a broader set of information for segmenting markets into smaller groups. The application also offers users multiple ways for merging various data points to create a more sophisticated marketing plan that appeals to the unique needs of the target market.

The popularity and relevance of Facebook to the fashion industry can be explained by the social penetration theory highlighted in chapter 2. To recap it suggested that the relationship between businesses and their customers are elevated when it is non-personal and detached. Social media offers an opportunity for fashion companies and their customers to interact with one another in a detached manner because both parties are not physically at the same place but can communicate in real-time with one another. The social exchange theory, which was also highlighted in the second chapter helped to explain how this relationship progresses online through the need to balance the costs and benefits of sustaining existing relationships. Facebook’s relatively inexpensive mode of interaction explains why businesses and customers have found it convenient to communicate with one another over the platform.

The design of future Facebook ads should be closely aligned with the creative nature of the fashion industry. In other words, marketers should be allowed to be innovative in coming up with marketing campaigns for Facebook advertising because fashion is a form of art. Future Facebook messages should preserve the cultural heritage of the fashion industry because, unlike other art forms, it stems from a rich history of human evolution (Crane, 2019). Due to the intrinsic value of art to the fashion industry, it would be safe to assume that digital marketing is likely to exhibit this value as advertisers become more innovative in targeting their customers.

Summary

The findings highlighted in this chapter have helped to address the three main objectives of this study. The first one was to assess the impact of Facebook on consumer interest in the US Fashion industry and it was established that the social media platform has a significant impact on purchasing behaviors, especially through targeted ads. This chapter also helped to determine the extent that which Facebook contributed to current statistics on purchasing behaviors in the US fashion industry and it was demonstrated that the co-creation of fashion content has shifted the power away from fashion brands and given it to commentators and bloggers who shape trends today. Additionally, this chapter has shown that celebrity endorsements and building strong online communities are some of the ways that companies can exploit consumer-buying patterns.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Conclusion

The insights highlighted in this study describe the important role that social media plays in meeting the marketing goals of fashion brands around the world. Unique features associated with Facebook have made it a viable tool for brand promotion in the fashion industry. In this regard, the marketing platform has emerged as a viable tool for initiating engagements, interactions, and word-of-mouth communications among businesses and customers. The low costs associated with Facebook advertisements and its time-saving nature have made it increasingly attractive to fashion brands that make profits on thin margins and the need to make timely delivery of its products. Additionally, the ability to customize advertisements and develop product specification requirements has made it more appropriate for businesses and customers alike because they promote individualism, which is a key factor in influencing consumer purchasing behaviors.

The findings of this study show that the use of Facebook as a social media marketing strategy for US fashion companies has its fair share of challenges, including security risks, legal uncertainties, and vulnerability to negative publicity. These issues may significantly dent the reputation of a company, thereby undermining its overall marketing and corporate strategy. Overall, the use of Facebook as a pivotal social media marketing tool in the fashion industry has been highlighted as a significant instrument for changing consumer purchasing behaviors The insights provided in this paper support this statement by showing how it changes consumer decisions and purchasing patterns. To improve the efficacy and role of social media in further catalyzing the change, fashion brands need to consider adopting the following recommendations.

Recommendations

Be real and transparent

Today’s consumers are savvy and prefer to interact with brands that present their true value. Therefore, fashion brands need to uphold this virtue by being real and transparent in their Facebook messages. The first step to doing so involves putting a logo that represents the company as the Facebook profile picture. Doing so would help to create a sense of safety and surety that consumers are interacting with the authentic company because fraudsters and competitors may create fake company profiles to deceive the public. Therefore, there is a need for fashion brands to be authentic and transparent in their Facebook messaging and brand development plans to distinguish themselves from the dummies.

Employ Data Analytics

Given that there is increased use of social media platforms in the fashion industry coupled with the rising number of brands using social media, advertisers must employ data effective statistical techniques to analyze large volumes of data that are generated daily. This recommendation stems from the work of Getman et al. (2020) which highlights the need for fashion brands to consider using new methods of data interpretation. Today, advancements in artificial intelligence have created progress in machine learning, which allows computers to read images and make sense of complex information (Han, Kim and Ahn, 2021).

Employing these techniques may enable fashion companies to map out trends that could be exploited for financial gain. These analytical methods could also help companies to predict cultural shifts within the target demographic and predict how they would influence a company’s overall marketing strategy. Therefore, employing data analytical techniques will allow fashion companies to better utilize the information they get from Facebook data.

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