Social networking sites have changed the way people communicate, interact socially and share information. Almost every system in each domain is being digitalized thus paving ways for electronic commerce which in turn give rise to social commerce. The growing presence of notable businesses on social media platforms has revolutionized social commerce thus helping them to generate revenues from the social media applications like Instagram. Social commerce will be the next big trend of this era if other businesses also join this platform for their global growth. Instagram is easy to use platform for both individual socializing and business activities. Instagram started as a picture sharing application but with the increased user base, the creators kept adding features which have now become an important source of marketing at global levels. Individuals can share their unbiased views through social platforms. This paper demonstrates how the social networking platforms have revolutionized social commerce. The consumer trust and the role of influencers are discussed in detail to understand their impact on social networks especially Instagram. Consumer purchase decisions are highly impacted by the reviews of the influencers and also consumers are those people who end up following the influencers depending on certain quantifiable characteristics. Some dominating characteristics of social platforms which build up consumer trust are also highlighted in this paper. Some counter arguments and darker sides of this Instagram and other social networks are also described. Future implications shed light on the possible advancements which are possible to occur in social networking sites and would enhance user experience.
#SocialNetworks, #SocialCommerce, #InstagramMarketing, #InstagramInfluencers, #ConsumerTrust
Social media has a remarkable impact on the ability of businesses to enhance business scope by communicating product’s benefits all over the world through internet. The communication and interaction of people has been revamped using social media platforms. Applications of social networking platforms commonly include computer mediated social interaction, politics, education, healthcare and business (Sadiku, Omotoso, & Musa, 2019). Social commerce is a sub part of E-commerce which facilitates E-commerce activities and transactions using various social media platforms and services. Economic growth will also increase by combining the shopping and social motives. (Ben, Al-neama, & Kerbache, 2018), (Rosa, Qomariah, & Tyas, 2018). Influencers and bloggers have now become an integral part of marketing domain. This happens because of the increasing advancements in technological era. Almost every system in each domain is being digitalized thus paving ways for electronic commerce. These digital advancements are also a great source of increasing social interactions. People from all over the globe are connected due to widely spread communication networks. As the social interactivity increases, businesses find it easy to spread their campaigns and marketing strategies through social media platforms thus achieving global coverage. However, not all businesses always get the desired results from social media marketing. They must be aware of the business tactics to influence the consumer purchase behavior. They must focus on the usage perception of different platforms. If platforms provide facilitating conditions and ease of use then they will have strongest impact on social commerce. Instagram is such a platform where one can use visualizations in form of pictures and videos to share information and it is the fastest growing social media platform which is widely used for marketing through culture of influencers (Singh & Islam, 2019). Social networking sites have made a remarkable place into daily practices of their users all over the world. Social networks help strangers connect to each other based on their shared interests in varying fields of life (Boyd, M., & Ellison, 2007). Social networks are not about analyzing individuals rather they provide useful insights on the interactions and connections of people based on different attributes. Accessing the nature of these online connections and the functions they serve provide ways for progress of social networking sites (Churchill & Halverson, 2005).
As stated in (Casaló, Flavián, & Ibáñez-Sánchez, 2017), Instagram is used to achieve different specific goals. These may include popularity, to get updated with the latest news and what others are doing, sharing pictures, to demonstrate the creativity by someone through posting various pictures and videos. Social commerce also have some darker sides which must be known and tackled efficiently by the users. One of the major concerns fake accounts which deceive customers thus reducing their trust in social networks. With sufficient knowledge of the account personality, these accounts can be easily identified. Personality of the vendor and their associated networks can be accessed to identify fake and trolling accounts (Shu, Kai, Wang, & Liu, 2018), (Cheng, Justin, Bernstein, Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, & Leskovec, 2017). With the increasing social interactions and technological advancements, the debate on social networks will never end. In fact, it will keep accelerating with the advent of time. The high adoption of social media platforms and their diverse functionalities is taking over almost every domain. Social networking sites have become part of many people’s daily life from fulfilling entertainment purposes to defining business strategies, the role of influencers and the consumer’s trust has become an integral component for Instagram business marketing or social commerce through the utilization of social networks.
There is frequent and easy interaction between Instagram influencers and the corresponding followers. Instagram bloggers have a tremendous effect on the buying and selling patterns of social media users. Consumer trust is usually gained or lost based on the Instagram reviews by the influencers on a specific product. A conceptual framework is presented in (Ben et al., 2018) which considers different dimensions of Instagram marketing and hence provided results categorizing the dimensions which increase or decrease consumer trust. These dimensions show the characteristics which are considered by customers in order to trust some vendor. These include Price Advantage; the products are reasonable and provide good value for money, Reputation; the degree of followers and likes of vendor and also the number of recommendations by different users, Product Differentiation; the vendor is offering unique and different products, Social Interaction; the vendor is very responsive to his followers questions and queries, Language; the vendor uses the language which is understandable by most of his followers, Hedonic Effects, the vendor or influencer usually assists followers with tips, giveaways and informative posts. A survey indicated that reputation has strongest impact on consumer trust followed by the price advantage (Rosa et al., 2018). Language and hedonic effects also have positive impacts but product differentiation and social interaction are not significant in positively impacting Instagram marketing. Communication has been globalized through social networks as indicated by the considered dimensions which are applicable to almost every social networking site on the internet.
People tend to trust E-commerce where online payments are automatically checked and one can withdraw the payment if order is cancelled by consumer or vendor. But, in social commerce people are more prone to fraud because of manual methods of payment. This trust must be ensured by the vendors by introducing some trustworthy payment method for social networking sites. However, if vendor or influencers have good reputation then consumer trust is automatically gained to some extent. If any complaint arises then vendors must be quickly responsive to avoid any future trust issues (Rosa et al., 2018). As there is no face to face communication of consumers and online business vendors in social networks, security of money transactions must be ensured to gain positive consumer confidence. Discounts attract more customers providing the same best quality. If the brand’s image is good then consumers will definitely trust its online shop without any queries. Consumer confidence is boosted up by providing complete, reliable, relevant, timely and quality information. Instagram is currently providing user friendly and attractive features to engage users. The “Shop Now” feature has improved perceived usage. Posted photos can be tagged. Hashtag feature plays an important role in Instagram marketing. Hashtags facilitate users to filter desired information in the search bar. Instagram is also providing live videos where vendors can display even minor details of their products by engaging a large audience. People can get more insight into products while looking at them in live session instead of trusting the pictures. Pictures can be filtered but live videos usually show the original product quality. This feature with the sponsorship ads can be utilized by many advertisers to convey their posts to large domain of users (Rosa et al., 2018) and eventually build consumer trust on the brand or product.
Influencers are those people who post content on social media platforms and have significant number of followers who make them celebrities (Lou, Chen, & Yuan, 2019). The influencers form the basis for social networking sites. Their personality traits and appearances have long lasting and quick impacts on the followers. A strong influence means reaching maximum people and engaging them actively in posted content. Another term used for influencer is endorser; a person who gets public attention, advertises products on behalf of brands and appears in their advertisements (Lou, Chen, & Yuan, 2019). Influencers use different types of campaigns in collaboration with the brands or vendors to attract consumers. These include influencers sharing the brand’s products on their profiles, or they can co-work with brands to come up with effective marketing ideas. Brands and influencers both gain advantage in the context of promotion when brands share content produced by the bloggers. The brand’s reputation is promoted using hashtags and various giveaways by the influencers, and events are promoted and advertised by inviting Instagram influencers who in turn spread information to followers. Many brands provide discount codes to their corresponding influencers and their followers can use these codes on official brand websites. Finally, brands can handover their social media advertisement channels to bloggers or influencers who use their own strategies to market businesses (Singh & Islam, 2019).
The influencer profiles are of many types including the adventurers who share information and photographs about traveling sites and advertise travelling agencies, whereas another type is related to the beauty, fitness and fashion. Different instructors are also available who are experts of some field and instruct their followers about different life hacks. This category mostly include food bloggers. Some influencers may have multiple skills and they can act as both instructors and advertisers (Evans, J., Phua, Lim, & Jun, 2017). There are also some traditional marketing strategies used by different companies which mainly include print advertisements. A study (Riedl & Luckwald, 2019) compared both strategies and concluded that classic methods of printed advertisements have more marketing impact rather than the Instagram posts. However, there is the exception where influencers have such a large base of followers that have even great marketing impacts than traditional methods. The reputation of brands or influencers is built up or lost depending on how they engage their followers. The online activities designed by them are measures of their image in public. The reputation has both emotional and cognitive elements. Brands or vendors must consider different characteristics and experimental results to determine the best suited influencer for their marketing (Lim, Radzol, (Jacky), & Wong, 2017). It is indicated that engagement, outreach, growth and sentiments are most important factors for an influencer (Arora, Bansal, Kandpal, Aswani, & Dwivedi, 2019). Businesses must select influencers according to their product type and monitor content created by influencers which must be relevant and informative (Lou et al., 2019).
Internet has evolved from being just an information sharing platform to social networking platform. Social networks serve as both the consumers and vendors. Social networking sites provide the users with the choice of who can view their profile and contact them. User’s privacy is thus ensured increasing user’s satisfaction of using social networks (Sadiku et al., 2019).
The long term implications of social networking platforms can be accessed by large scale ethnographic research on both users and non-users. It will be fun to see real time happenings of this world on Instagram. The features of data history, hashtag tracking and the analysis of best performing posts would be the future of this application. The buffering of the IGTV videos would be another technological advancement for the platform. With the immense business tactics being used on Instagram, this application has been shifted from merely a photo sharing platform to promoting businesses and exchanging opinions (Leaver et al., 2020).
The future of technological advancements will somehow impact the future of social media platforms. Social internetworking of machines is a new trend creating Internet of Things (IoT) and social networks among machines (Sadiku et al., 2019).
Social networks are the biggest global information platform on the Internet today. As these sites are affordable and easily reachable, they have attracted a lot of researchers from both academic and industrial fields. Besides being used for business purposes, social networking sites ease the daily lives of users through their global connections with other people of common and varying interests. Marketing through social networks has proved to be very cost effective as it operates by just adding attractive pictures of a product with hashtags and filters to engage people from all over the world. There is not any operational cost. Influencers play an important role in spreading information to large user base thus having an impact on consumer trust. Consumer purchase decisions and consumer trust are highly impacted by the online reviews of influencers instead of mass communication channels like newspapers and TV channels. Good reputation increases your chance to act as potential supplier of services for consumers. Consumers are even willing to pay more for a product advertised by a strong influencer. The application started with the photo sharing feature and became so much popular because many people have become obsessed with capturing and sharing pictures with their community. Social networks has also revolutionized travelling connecting travel companies from all over the world. All the social and noble causes become rapidly viral due to outreach of social networking platforms to almost every corner of the world. There are brand sponsorships but these are not a depiction of some controlled activity. Although influencers post sponsored ads with prompting content, consumers nowadays are well aware of the tactics being used on social networks and can decide and distinguish accordingly.
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