The Role of Paid and Earned Social Media on Consumer Behavior for Apparel Brands in China’s Market
Abstract: Social media marketing is gradually replacing traditional marketing and becoming the primary marketing strategy for businesses. Paid and earned media have emerged as two major social media marketing forms that are important in business development research. China has more social media users than any other country in the world and is housing platforms such as Weibo, WeChat or Xiaohongshu, thus with an ever-increasing demand for social interaction between a company and a customer, the search for the optimal marketing strategies in a hyper-competitive apparel market in China is in effect. With there being a lack of research in the field, the main purpose of this study is to examine how paid and earned social media channels impact apparel customer behavior in China. Firstly, the study aimed to see to what degree paid and earned media influences apparel consumption, and, secondly, it intended to see how social media marketing strategy impacts consumers' views on brand loyalty, brand awareness and purchasing behavior. In order to do this, a quantitative study has been conducted - nine hypotheses were formulated after an extensive literature review, from which a research model has been derived and a questionnaire used to gather the opinions of local Chinese social media users has been employed. Convenience with a non-probability sampling method was adopted to collect quantitative data. A total sample of 400 respondents participated in an online questionnaire, ranging from the age of 18 to 34 and having a relatively high education level. The SPSS program was applied to analyze the collected data with multiple statistical analysis methods: Cronbach alpha reliability test, factor analysis, and linear regression analysis to test internal consistency - Cronbach alpha, construct validity, and the relationship between dependent and independent variables. The study revealed that both social media marketing types have a positive effect on apparel consumer behaviors, however, paid media only mostly influences brand awareness of apparel brands, and earned media is very effective when it comes to influencing purchasing behavior and brand loyalty of apparel brands. Moreover, the utmost importance of Word-of-Mouth marketing has come to light, as the need for increased social value urges Chinese to promote products by sharing.
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