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Essay: Social Media Influencers Impacting the Fashion Industry: Arielle Charnas and Jen Atkin

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  • Published: 1 April 2019*
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  • Tags: Fashion essays

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Kylie Jenner, Rihanna, and Ariana Grande are some of the biggest social media influencers in the 21st century who have a combined following of 318,900,000 just on Instagram. Social media influencers are people who influence and reach out to a large audience through social platforms such as blogs, websites, and social media. With the rise of technology, influencers have become more and more popular. Because of the impact that social media influencers have on millennials, influencers are more popular than ever and have a significant impact on the fashion industry due to their large following and passion for fashion.

According to a new Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults finds that some 88% of 18- to 29-year-olds indicate that they use any form of social media. That share falls to 78% among those ages 30 to 49, to 64% among those ages 50 to 64 and to 37% among Americans 65 and older (Smith & Anderson, 2018). Many social media users often follow popular social media accounts, also known as social media influencers. A social media influencer is someone who has the ability to reach out to a large audience through social media. Influencers are on almost all social media platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, etc. There are also many different types of influencers, for example there are fitness, fashion, beauty, celebrity influencers, and bloggers just to name a few.

One industry which is considered to be perfectly suited and naturally fit for social media is the fashion industry. When talking about social media for the fashion industry it refers to the social networking websites and other online platforms that enable the fashion industry to connect with their customers using the latest social networking technology. The fashion Industry is using social media to study trends and anticipate fashion behaviors (Ahmad, Salman, & Ashiq, 2015). More specifically, social media influencers impact the fashion industry by providing new markets, increasing brand involvement, and by launching their own product lines.

No longer do fashionistas rely on the latest issue of Vogue to tell them what the current trends are. It is all about social media. In the world of fashion, this means that magazines and advertising campaigns don’t have the influence that they once did. Instead, peer recommendations are more valuable and accessible than they once used to be. Of course, the power of word-of-mouth is still very valuable, but with social media and its ability to spread at a rapid speed across countries, it’s more important than ever before.

According to Wilberg, many people 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, aka social media influencers, who have experienced the product or service (Wilberg, 2018). With this in mind, it’s no surprise that so many fashion brands are centering much of their marketing strategy around Instagram. If fashion brands can make their way onto the news feeds of users, they become exposed to a demographic that has already expressed interest in them.

Similarly, social media influencers have a great impact on the fashion industry due to the fact that they have the ability to increase brand involvement. Social media allows companies to interact with customers on a level that has never been done before. Social media influencers can boost a company's internet presence incredibly and if a product is presented positively by the influencer, it is seen as more favorable and people are more willing to buy the product. Instagram specifically has become a platform for fashion brands to connect with their audience directly. Users can shop directly through the channel and brands are able to tag products in their posts which can then lead users to a point-of-sale. This gives a lot of exposure to these brands and according to Samuely, “Engaging social influencers is an important part of a mature brands’ strategy to reach and amplify audience engagement.” With that being said, by having an influencer promote a brand or a product, that influencer brings a new unique audience which will hopefully drive more traffic to the brand or product and increase engagement.

While influencers have been known to use their influence to boost the sales of third-party brands, they have started to pivot to a potentially much more lucrative space: One in which they use their selling-power for their own brands. Influencer commerce is likely to grow in the future, as influencers can leverage follower data to create products that already have built-in audiences. There are already numerous social media influencers launching their own product lines in the beauty and fashion categories.

As a case in point, there are various beauty influencers who have created their own product lines such as Arielle Charnas and Jen Atkin. Arielle Charnas is one of the most popular social media influencers who co-designed the Something Navy x Treasure & Bond line with Nordstrom. The collaboration reportedly generated over $1 million in sales in less than 24 hours on Nordstrom.com, where the collection was sold exclusively. Charnas has also co-created successful lines for Koral and Monrow that were sold exclusively at activewear retailer Bandier, and partners with Amazon and First Aid Beauty. Similarly, Jen Atkin, who is hairstylist to the celebrity Kardashian-Jenner family, launched Ouai, a haircare product line that is expected to generate sales of $15 million in 2017. The products are distributed in US Sephora stores. Social media continues to play an important role in the company’s strategy, with Instagram accounts used frequently to maintain a relationship with customers and obtain feedback regarding existing and future products. Atkin’s Instagram account has about 2 million followers and Ouai’s about 250,000 (“Deep Dive,” 2018). Both of these influencers have created successful lines of their own and got started by being a social media influencer and by having a large following.  

Fashion has been slower than the beauty space to embrace the use of influencers to promote products and to create product lines, however, that is rapidly changing. Jake Paul and Logan Paul, the prankster YouTubers, earned $11.5 million in the year to June 1st 2017 (Berg, 2017). They film a variety of pranks and stunts for their own YouTube channels. Part of their income came from their merchandise. Forbes estimates that both brothers sell millions of dollars of T-shirts, hoodies, and phone cases each month to their devoted fan base. Another example of an influencer creating their own product line is Julie Sarinana. The eternally popular blogger is one of the pioneers of side businesses, starting her clothing line Shop Sincerely Jules back in 2012. Originally launched with primarily graphic tees, the line now includes everything from denim to on-trend jackets, all in keeping with the blogger’s signature casual-cool style. The fashion industry is constantly changing while more and more influencers are creating their own lines.

Not only are social media influencers turning to fashion to create their own product lines, fashion is also embracing these influencers. Fashion embraces the use of influencers to promote products and some of the stores that are embracing influencers include but are not limited to Nordstrom, Adidas, and H&M. According to digital intelligence platform SimilarWeb, four out of every five mobile web visits to Nordstrom.com coming from referral traffic are driven by influencer network RewardStyle, which works with 20,000 influencers. SimilarWeb also states that RewardStyle’s influencers drive 34% of Revolve.com’s referral traffic, 31% at Net-a-porter, 22% at Sephora.com and 24% at Amazon-owned Shopbop.com. Likewise, according to SimilarWeb, Adidas has made a conscious decision to shift away from sponsoring big sporting events towards a digital marketing strategy that includes partnering with influencers and celebrities. Lastly, H&M is expanding into the Indian market through a social media and influencer-led marketing strategy. The retailer has worked with a variety of key influencers and asked online shoppers to post pictures of their personal fashion styles.

With the rise of social media, it can be assumed that influencer commerce is likely to grow in the future, as influencers can leverage follower data to create products that already have built-in audiences. It is evident that numerous social media influencers launching their own product lines in the beauty and fashion categories. Influencer marketing will likely only increase in the coming years, as social media becomes more closely integrated with e-commerce. More and more companies dedicated to optimizing strategies to work with social media influencers are being established. Social media influencers will try to continue to leverage their relationships with followers and increasingly launch their own product lines and grow their own brands while having a significant impact on the fashion industry.

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