URC

Fashion and Social Media

Daniesha Crews
Kortne Smith
Bridgett Clinton-Scott*
University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES)

Key Words: social media, fashion involvement, social networking, fashion interest, social interactions

Abstract

This study expands knowledge about female college students' social media usage by examining how fashion majors and non-fashion majors use social media to communicate. Participants were asked to respond to a questionnaire focusing on how they use social media. The questions related to level of interest in fashion upon social media, social media duration use, regular activities on social media, social networking preferences, and fashion involvement. The results revealed that the level of interest in fashion upon social networking sites for female fashion majors and female non-fashion majors is not drastically different; in fact both use social media for their fashion interest. Interests included exploring current fashion trends, interacting with fashion brands, and gaining information. This study suggests that college students use social media as a means of entertainment, information, and social connection.

Introduction

The topic of this research paper is fashion and social media. Specifically we plan to differentiate among female college students and what they are interested in communicating through social media. This topic is important because the 21st century has experienced a communication explosion, sparked by social media (Crittenden, Keo, McCarty, & Williams, 2012). Fashion is everywhere, mostly due to the Internet and blogs offering consumers an almost unlimited space for self-expression (Mohr, 2013). Also, there has been a significant growth in fashion applications (apps) in the past two years. These apps offer customers up-to-the-minute deals, information on the latest fashion trends, the convenience of shopping directly from their phones, and ease of social sharing (Mohr, 2013). Thus, this study will attempt to answer the following research question, "How do female fashion majors and female non-fashion majors use user-generated social media sites (Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook) to communicate?"

We believe this topic is important to understand the differences or similarities in female college student's interests regarding fashion and social media usage. Technology has always been part of the lives of millennials, and it greatly affects how this generation lives and works (Williams, et al., 2012). This research topic is very important because it is essential that a deeper understanding of the influence of social media is better understood in order to improve business models (Mohr, 2013). With new innovative business models fashion companies and other organizations can incorporate social media to build strong customer relationships, encourage loyalty, and interact with customers through new channels and formats (Mohr, 2013). The topic of this paper identifies how female college students, fashion, and social media are all beneficial for one another.

Literature Review

The way in which college students consume, generate, and receive information is transforming and is being driven by social media. Social networking websites offer a new way to understand, connect with, and learn information about other people (Turan, Tinmaz & Goktas, 2013). The importance of company presence and marketing on the Internet is changing as buying power and technological skills increase for the younger generation. In order to connect or relate to college students one must understand their use of social media. Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn are a few of many user-generated sites that are widely used by college students in the U.S. and other countries. These sites give users the freedom to actively express themselves through blogs, posts, and pictures. The literature discussed in this review will provide relevant support to validate the research question, "How do female fashion majors and female non-fashion majors use user-generated social media sites (Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook) to communicate?"

Ezumah's (2012) research focused on three questions. First, to what use do college students employ Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn? Second, are Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn still the most popular networking sites used among college students? Third, what factors influence college students' preference of one or some sites over others? The focus of the study was to investigate gratifications that college students seek in their use of four social networks. A selection of 289 college students ages 18-28 studying at a four-year institution in the Midwestern region of the U.S. participated in the study. The results indicated that there were many reasons that college students used social media network sites. In order of highest to lowest, college students use the sites for keeping in touch with friends (98.9%), sharing photos (81.7%), keeping in touch with family (79.3%), and entertainment (70.9%). There are many other reasons beyond these that resulted from the study. This research supported the hypothesis that college students use social media to express themselves. In this case, college students were using networking sites to express themselves through photos and to family and friends. This study would be more conclusive if there was more variety in the racial selection of participants; 79.5 percent of the student participants were white. Nonetheless, this research can be used to compare the finding in the current paper's study, conducted at an HBCU, to the results of the Ezumah study.

Next, the topic of fashion and social media was addressed by focus groups and observations conducted by Hutton & Fosdick (2011). This study explored the rapidly expanding role of social commerce. Additionally, authors examined how social media impacted the consumer purchasing process. This study observed that social networking had become a global movement. Managing a social networking profile stood at 61 percent across all 54 exposed countries. According to the authors, the top two reasons people give for using social networks were to stay in touch with friends and to meet new people. Blogs were becoming more specialized and expert (Hutton, et al., 2011). Consumers were constantly turning to blogs as sources for information on entertainment, product recommendations, and even news.

Crittenden, Keo, McCarty, and Williams (2012) investigated college student behaviors in the vast world of social media. Authors referred to college students as digital natives—technologically savvy and the most visually sophisticated of any generation. These digital natives were asked to identify social media platforms, providers, and behaviors, as well as an in-depth notion of consumer-generated content. The method used for data collection was qualitative. Content analysis was used to collect data from a large sample set within a short period of time. The results implied that social networking, text messaging, and streaming videos were used by over half of the sampled students, with Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter as the dominant providers. Students saw themselves as spectators in social media. The findings revealed that students used a variety of social media for interactive communication, word-of-mouth marketing. These findings also highlighted an area for future examination regarding whether or not the digital natives were also the market segment engaged in content creation within the purview of marketing communications via electronic word-of-mouth.

Although an increasingly large number of college students use social media, there are some that do not engage in social media. Turan, Tinmaz & Goktas (2013) conducted a study that explored the underlying reasons for high-tech university student's non-use of social networking websites. Although high-tech students can easily access and use technological devices, computers, and the Internet, these students preferred not to use social media. The primary reasons for not using social networking sites were that they were perceived to be a waste of time or an unnecessary tool; they might lead to an addiction; they might violate privacy concerns or share unnecessary information; and they might invoke family concerns. A qualitative method was used for data collection focusing on twenty university students, who were all deliberate non-users of Facebook. The data were collected by means of semi-structured interviews, and the students were asked which factors caused them to be nonusers of social media sites. The results of this study indicated that spending excessive time on Facebook was a waste of time. This may be because students are so busy with their academic/professional development that they don't find the time to engage in an online social media site. The second-most reported reason for their nonuse was lack of interest. Students thought that using Facebook was meaningless and unnecessary. Social networking may not be a priority for some students who find the use of these sites too distracting. The results further indicated that the students in the study preferred other communication tools such as phones, e-mails, and MSN messenger. The study concluded that students who would rather not use social media fear academic failure.

Mohr (2013) examined social media as a marketing tool for connecting brands with their target market, an approach for tackling market shrinkage in the luxury segment and as a "missing link" in existing business models. According to Mohr (2013) social media is now viewed as an opportunity to improve customer relationships and to ultimately capture a larger audience. Mercedes Benz Fashion Week was selected as the context of the study because of the concentration of fashion experts attending the event. Questionnaires were distributed and a sample t-test was performed to analyze the influence of media on fashion week attendees. The findings of the study revealed a positive significant effect of fashion related media, including social networks (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace). It was found that attendees' evaluation of media prior to the show was accurate in assessing the quality of the show. The information provided by all media was found to have strong influence and was important. Overall these attendees visited the media sites often, classified themselves as influential in fashion, and considered themselves a good source of fashion advice. This study relates to our research question in that we wanted to know if female non-fashion majors were just as effective at communicating with fashion brands as female fashion majors at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES).

It can be determined from the literature review presented here that it is important to understand consumers' interactions with social media and college students' activities with social media. This would offer insight into the mind of the modern day college student. This could also indicate behavior patterns in which the college students communicate on these user-generated sites, making it easier to attract them via social media. The literature reviewed in this paper provided valuable perspectives on college students, their use of social media, and how they communicated fashion through social media sites. The literature illustrated students' use of social media for communication and self-expression. The literature also indicated that attachment plays an important role in fashion and social media and how it related to consumer purchase decisions. This information is beneficial for both companies and researchers. In order to connect with younger consumers and tap into the influences of their purchasing decisions, businesses must understand how young adults communicate and participate in social media.

Methods

This study examined how college students at a Historically Black University (HBCU) use social media to communicate. A descriptive research design was chosen for this study because a good deal of research already exists on this topic, and the goal of this study was to provide a clear profile of the research question that will condense explanations and understandings about social media usage among college students.

Participants

This study used a nonrandom method of a convenience sample to gain information from the research participants. The target groups were college students attending Historically Black Colleges/Universities (HBCUs), more specifically HBCU students who are majoring in fashion merchandising and those who are studying a major other than fashion merchandising. The study compared and contrasted the responses from both groups.

Instrumentation

A self-report survey was used to obtain data from participants. The survey included three sections. The first section gathered demographic information, including the participants' gender, age, classification, field of study, and ethnicity. Sections two and three contained a series of questions regarding duration and frequency of social media usage, social media involvement, type of social network participation, interest in fashion on social media, and interest in social media for socializing. The independent variable examined in this study was social media usage. The dependent variables that this study predicted would have an impact on the independent variable included classification, major, interests, and purpose of communication.

Procedure

Participants were solicited from two separate locations: the Richard Henson building and the Student Services Center. These two locations were chosen because they were the most populated areas for female fashion majors and non-fashion majors. Participants were asked to complete the questionnaire on their own with no incentives offered for participation. Researchers approached individuals based on their gender and major (female fashion merchandising and non-fashion merchandising majors) and asked if they would like to participate in a study. They were not given any further information about the study's topic.

Results

This study examined two groups, fashion merchandising majors and non-fashion merchandising majors. The first sample consisted of 25 female college students studying fashion merchandising and enrolled at an HBCU. The participants were African American (100%). The majority of those who participated in the first sample were 21 or older (76%) and in the senior class (60%). They were selected based upon accessibility. Data were gathered during class hours as well as after class hours. The second sample was composed of 25 female college students not studying fashion merchandising, enrolled at the same HBCU. African Americans (88%) were the majority of the second sample. In contrast, sophomore students were the largest group of participants, 19 years old (36%), and chose "other" option as their major (48%) (see Table 1).

Table 1. Sample Characteristics

Participants: Fashion Majors   Participants: Non-fashion Majors
  N %   N %
Males 0 0% Males 0 0%
Females 25 100% Females 25 100%
                                   Total: 15 100%                        Total: 25 100%
Age   Age  
18 2 8% 18 4 16%
19 2 8% 19 9 36%
20 2 8% 20 5 20%
21 12 48% 21 4 16%
Other 7 28% Other 3 12%
                                  Total: 25 100%                         Total:2 5 100%
Classification   Classification  
Freshman 2 8% Freshman 5 20%
Sophomore 2 8% Sophomore 11 44%
Junior 6 24% Junior 5 20%
Senior 15 60% Senior 4 16%
Other 0 0% Other 0 0%
                                   Total: 25 100%                          Total: 25 100%
Race/Ethnicity   Race/Ethnicity  
Black/African American 25 100% Black/African American 22 88%
White/Caucasian 0 0% White/Caucasian 0 0%
Biracial 0 0% Biracial 1 4%
Spanish/Hispanic/Latino 0 0% Spanish/Hispanic/Latino 1 4%
Other 0 0% Other 1 4%
                                   Total: 25 100%                         Total: 25 100%
College Major   College Major  
Business 0 0% Business 4 16%
Criminal Justice 0 0% Criminal Justice 5 20%
Human Ecology-Fashion Merchandising 25 100% Human Ecology 0 0%
Sociology/Social Work 0 0% Sociology/Social Work 3 12%
Hotel Restaurant Management 0 0% Hotel Restaurant Management 1 4%
Other 0 0% Other ( Eng, Sci, Bio ) 12 48%
                                        Total: 25 100%                                     Total: 25 100%

Level of interest in fashion through social media was the first topic examined. None of the non-fashion merchandising participants had interest in posting fashion likes and dislikes on social media sites. Additionally, they all chose socializing with others over showcasing their style as preference. Seventy-two percent used social media to stay informed on current fashion trends, while 92 percent of fashion students do the same. The entertainment and discussions that fashion merchandising student participants seek the most on social media are news and entertainment (34%), not fashion (28%). Table 2 indicates that both groups showed highest level of interest in news and entertainment. Nonetheless, overall interest in fashion activities on social media was higher for the fashion participants.

Table 2. Level of Interest in fashion through social media

Level of interest in fashion through social media

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Level of interest in fashion through social media

Participants: Fashion majors

Participants: Non fashion majors

Survey Questions

Results

Survey Questions

Results

If you were only able to use the 3 social networks for one purpose only what would it be? Choose one.

Socialize w/friends and family

12

48%

If you were only able to use the 3 social networks for one purpose only what would it be? Choose one.

Socialize w/friends and family

19

70%

Post fashion/

clothing images

8

32%

Post fashion/

clothing images

4

15%

Share thoughts/feelings on events

2

8%

Share thoughts/feelings on events

4

15%

Fashion likes & dislikes

3

12%

Fashion likes & dislikes

0

0%

Which option do you use social media/ networks for the most?

Socialize with others

17

71%

Which option do you use social media/ networks for the most?

Socialize with others

 

25

100%

Showcase your style

7

29%

Showcase your style

0

0%

How often do you post things about fashion?

0-1 a week

11

11%

How often do you post things about fashion?

0-1 a week

18

19%

2-4 a week

9

9%

2-4 a week

4

4%

5+ a week

5

5%

5+ a week

2

2%

How often do you repost someone else's post about fashion?

0-1 a week

17

17%

How often do you repost someone else's post about fashion?

0-1 a week

15

16%

2-4 a week

7

7%

2-4 a week

5

5%

5+ a week

1

1%

5+ a week

4

4%

How often do you socialize w/friends and family on social networks?

0-1 a week

2

2%

How often do you socialize w/friends and family on social networks?

0-1 a week

2

2%

2-4 a week

12

12%

2-4 a week

7

7%

5+ a week

11

11%

5+ a week

15

15%

I use social media to stay informed on current fashion trends

Yes

23

92%

I use social media to stay informed on current fashion trends

Yes

18

72%

Survey Questions

Results

Survey Questions

Results

I use social networks to showcase my style and fashion sense

Yes

22

88%

I use social networks to showcase my style and fashion sense

Yes

15

60%

No

3

12%

No

10

40%

I visit or participate in fashion blogs/pages when using social media

Yes

21

84%

I visit or participate in fashion blogs/pages when using social media

Yes

13

56%

 

No

4

16%

No

11

46%

When using social media I actively interact with various fashion brands that I like

Yes

20

80%

When using social media I actively interact with various fashion brands that I like

Yes

14

56%

No

5

20%

No

11

44%

Information you seek from social media relates mostly to which topic?

 

 

fashion

16

42%

Information you seek from social media relates mostly to which topic?

fashion

 

5

15%

Hair/

beauty

7

18%

Hair/

beauty

12

38%

News/entertainment

10

26%

News/entertainment

15

47%

Sports/ Rec Activities

3

7%

Sports/ Rec Activities

0

0%

Other

2

5%

Other

0

0%

Your sought entertainment on social media usually relates to which topic?

Fashion

8

28%

Your sought entertainment on social media usually relates to which topic?

Fashion

5

14%

Hair/

beauty

3

10%

Hair/

beauty

8

23%

News/entertainment

10

34%

News/entertainment

15

43%

Style of dress

6

21%

Style of dress

6

17%

Sports/ Rec Activities

0

0%

Sports/ Rec Activities

0

0%

Other

2

7%

Other

1

3%

Your discussions on social media are usually about which topic?

Fashion

 

7

23%

Your discussions on social media are usually about which topic?

Fashion

5

17%

Hair/

beauty

5

16%

Hair/

beauty

7

24%

News/entertainment

14

45%

News/entertainment

15

52%

Style dress

4

13%

Style dress

1

3%

Sports/ Rec Activities

1

3%

Sports/ Rec Activities

1

3%

The second topic explored the participants overall interest and activity on social media. These questions were not specific in uncovering participants' interest in fashion, only their interest in social media. Instagram was the most used social network (38%) by both groups, and Twitter came in second. Fashion participants spent more time on social networks per day (4-5 hrs) compared to the non-fashion participants (2-3 hrs). The majority of the participants reported using social media to be informed and entertained and to discuss and share with others. The survey results revealed that all college students regardless of major use social media as a means of communication (see Table 3).

Table 3. Use of Social Media

Use of Social Media

 

Use of Social Media

Participants: Fashion majors

 

Participants: Non fashion majors

Survey Questions

Results

Survey Questions

Results

Which social networks do you use?

Facebook

11

17%

Which social networks do you use?

Facebook

14

23%

Twitter

17

27%

Twitter

19

31%

Instagram

24

38%

Instagram

23

38%

Tumblr

5

8%

Tumblr

11

18%

Pinterest

4

6%

Pinterest

3

5%

Other

3

5%

Other (Vine)

2

3%

How much time each day do you spend on social media websites

Less than 1

4

17%

How much time each day do you spend on social media websites

Less than 1

1

4%

2-3 hrs

6

25%

2-3 hrs

9

36%

3-4 hrs

1

4%

3-4 hrs

5

20%

4-5 hrs

8

33%

4-5 hrs

3

12%

5-6hrs

2

8%

5-6 hrs

5

20%

7-8hrs

1

4%

7-8 hrs

0

0%

9-10hrs

1

4%

9-10 hrs

2

8%

other

1

1%

Other

0

0%

How often do you upload personal videos, images, or posts?

0-1 per week

11

11%

How often do you upload personal images, videos or posts?

0-1 per week

9

9%

2-4 per week

9

9%

2-4 per week

10

10%

5+ per week

5

5%

5+ per week

5

5%

Food Posts

Never

8

6%

Food Posts

Never

4

3%

Seldom

5

4%

Seldom

12

10%

Sometimes

9

7%

Sometimes

5

4%

Usually

2

2%

Usually

4

3%

Always

0

0%

Always

0

0%

Selfies

Never

0

0%

Selfies

Never

0

0%

Seldom

4

3%

Seldom

4

3%

Sometimes

3

2%

Sometimes

6

5%

Usually

9

7%

Usually

6

4%

Always

8

6%

Always

8

6%

Outfit of the Day

Never

5

4%

Outfit of the Day

Never

7

5%

Seldom

5

4%

Seldom

9

7%

Sometimes

8

6%

Sometimes

5

4%

Usually

7

6%

Usually

3

2%

Always

0

0%

Always

0

0%

Discussion

The purpose of this study was to investigate how female fashion merchandising majors used social media to communicate (e.g., via user-generated sites) compared to female non-fashion merchandising majors. Based upon this premise, we proposed that the female sample of fashion merchandising majors would exhibit a greater interest and use of social media to communicate their interest in fashion and express fashion style. Additionally, this study proposed that the female non-fashion merchandising majors would have little to no interest in fashion related activities on social media. However, this was not supported. Our assumptions, regarding the influence of college major on social media usage, were not supported.

A majority of the fashion merchandising majors (34%) chose news and entertainment as their greatest use for social media, which was also chosen by the majority of non-fashion merchandising majors (28%). This study revealed that ultimately fashion merchandising majors would prefer to use social media for news and entertainment just as much, in this case more than, the non-fashion merchandising majors. Both fashion and non-fashion participants showed interest in fashion. Fashion merchandising majors' interest proved to be greater. Non-fashion merchandising majors disproved our theory that they had little to no interest in fashion on social media. In actuality, the least of their interest was posting or commenting on fashion likes and dislikes as well as showcasing their style. Personal fashion taste was not of interest to these participants, but seeking information about fashion was of relatively significant interest. Our study showed that 72 percent of the non-fashion major participants use social media to stay informed on current fashion trends. Although this study did not confirm our full expectations of either participant group, it did partially validate that there is a difference in the two groups' social media usage in relation to fashion interest.

The findings of this study revealed that the vast majority of participants used social media for entertainment, social, and informational purposes. This result is supported by Heinonen's (2011) study that showed that information, entertainment, and social connections were the three basic motivators for user's activities in social media. Although the current study is based upon a small sample of participants, the findings suggest that understanding college students' use of social media is important, especially for fashion brands and marketers. Our study validates that female college students are daily and active participants on social networks/media. Additionally, they are using these sites as ways to gather information and interact with fashion brands. In our study of participants, 80 percent of the fashion merchandising majors and 56 percent of the non-fashion merchandising majors revealed that they use social media to interact with fashion brands.

Limitations

The findings of this research paper are limited in that the sample included only female students attending one institution. A broader sample would further assess college student's usage of social media in order to communicate. Additional research should continue to examine these variables, utilizing samples representing males and females as well as diverse disciplines and institutions.

Future Research

Based upon the results of this research, the question arises regarding how fashion brands can better utilize social media to attract and gain the interest of college students. The information in our study serves as a basis for this question. In the future it can be explored on a larger scale. A greater depth of information and statistics could be obtained by conducting focus groups comprised of diverse college students. Future research can focus on specific ways in which college students interact with fashion brands on social media (blogs, company pages, social conversation).

References

Ezumah, B. (2013). College Student's Use of Social Media: Sites, Preferences, Uses and Gratifications Theory Revisited. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 4(5), 27-34.

Mohr, I. (2013). The impact of Social Media on the Fashion Industry. Journal of Applied Business and Economics Vol. 15 PP 17-22.

Heinonen, K. (2011). Consumer activity in social media: Managerial approaches to consumers' social media behavior. Journal of Consumer Behaviour,10, 356-364.

Hutton, G., & Fosdick, M. (2011). The globalization of social media: consumer relationships with brands evolve in the digital space. Journal of Advertising Research. December. 564-570.

Crittenden, V., Keo, T., McCarty, P., & Williams, D. (2012). The use of social media: an exploratory study of usage among digital natives. Journal of Public Affairs,12(2), 127      136.

Turan, Z., Tinmaz, H., & Goktas, Y. (2013). The reasons for non-use of social networking websites by university students. Scientific Journal of Media Education 21(41), 137-145.


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