Does Social Media Use Affect Brand Loyalty?    

By Hannah Copeland 

Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) is a considerable part of Communication Studies. Communication is a great thing to study for individuals looking for a job in marketing, social media, entrepreneurship, and more. IMC is a concertation of communication that focuses on marketing by coordinating communication efforts. It is an essential part of marketing because it helps reach a target audience and promote a brand image, awareness, and loyalty. 

Social Media and IMC

IMC includes the process of using communication skills to market and create a brand that is consistent and appealing. An effective way to do this today is through social media. Social media reaches a whole new audience and creates an easy way for brands to build relationships with their consumers. Most individuals have some form of social media, and the use of technology is only increasing. 

A great way to use social media for IMC is through Social Media Marketing Activities (SMMA). These activities reach consumers and increase their interest and loyalty to the brand. According to an article in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, “The results suggest an essential role of SMMA in driving brand experience, purchase intention, and attitude towards the brand” (Khan, 2022). 

Brand Experience 

Brand experience has become increasingly affected because of social media. If a consumer only “experiences” the brand when buying a product, they are not as likely to return with an intent to purchase or develop a loyalty to the brand. How can a brand change this? Through social media, of course! That answer seems to be more prevalent every day, but why is that? 

“SMMA, such as entertainment, trendy marketing content, attractive product pictures, brand endorsers’, sharing of brand-originated content, among others, stimulate brand experience” (Hanna et al., 2011Kim and Ko, 201020122012Zollo et al., 2020). These examples of Social Media Marketing Activities are ways to create a positive brand experience for consumers. When the brand experience is positive, consumers are more likely to purchase from the brand and have a positive attitude towards the brand (Khan, 2022). Not only does increasing brand experience increase products bought by that one person, but it can also cause consumers to share their experiences with others. When a brand is shared, there is another opportunity to create a positive brand experience and repeat the cycle.

Brand Loyalty

Being loyal to a brand does not just happen because you bought and liked one of its products. Individuals must feel connected, heard, and informed to develop loyalty to a particular brand. What exactly is brand loyalty, and how is it created? Brand loyalty is defined as “the emotionally-charged decision of a consumer for purchasing a particular brand again and again. The consumer perceives that the particular brand has the qualities that will meet their expectations and identifies with the consumer at a personal level” (Shaw, 2020). 

Brand loyalty means commitment, but why would a consumer commit to a brand that isn’t committed to them? This is where the role of social media comes in. Social Media Marketing Activities appeal to consumers by pleasing their senses through their experiences with SMMA. “These experiences affect the way an individual uses and acts toward the brands and media; hence, an understanding of brand experience relates to SMMA is crucial (Gao and Feng, 2016; Tafesse, 2016). Existing studies found SMMA can improve customer intimacy, customer trust (Han and Kim, 2020; Kim and Ko, 2010), relationship equity, brand equity, and value equity (Kim and Ko, 2012), brand preference, willingness to pay a premium price, loyalty, and brand awareness (Kim and Lee, 2019)” (Khan, 2022). 

Target Audience

Another important aspect of integrated marketing communication is catering to your target audience, especially with such heavy use of social media for marketing. A target audience is a group of consumers that companies cater to or “target.” It is crucial that companies know what audience they need to target. Given its somewhat “newer” entrance to our society, social media does not appeal to all age groups. Millennials are the largest audience on social media platforms, known to interact and desire a relationship with a brand (Khan, 2022).   

Knowing that millennials are more technologically savvy and have more interest in brand experience, they seem to be the target audience for SMMA. When a target audience is known, creating content with a more specified approach is easier. Knowing how to reach a target audience and use social media to market have overwhelming importance in IMC. Our world is increasingly relying on technology, so marketing and target audiences will continue to change.

Happy Customer, Happy Brand

In conclusion, a brand’s relationship with its consumers is crucial. A brand is more likely to succeed if a consumer feels seen, heard, and connected. Using IMC techniques, like SMMA, allow for a positive increase in brand experience, loyalty, intent to purchase, and attitude towards a brand (Khan, 2022). So, take all this information and remember that the marketing world is changing, and we must change with it.