U.K.-based activewear online retailer and manufacturer Gymshark Ltd. built its brand by marketing to shoppers on social media, says Dan Parkin, the retailer’s head of customer support. “Gymshark’s foundation is built on social media,” he says.

Since the brand launched in 2012, the retailer has engaged with shoppers on social media—and Instagram, in particular—by posting vivid, provocative images of well-toned, well-known social media influencers wearing Gymshark athletic apparel. And shoppers have responded in kind. The retailer has attracted more than 3 million social media followers who regularly respond to images shared on Facebook and Instagram by well-known social media figures such as U.K. fitness influencers Lex Griffin and Meggan Grubb. The influencers’ posts, which also are posted to Gymshark accounts, typically receive thousands of likes and hundreds of comments and questions.

Once Gymshark’s customers grew accustomed to interacting with the brand’s posts, they naturally began posing customer service-related questions to the brand on social networks—mainly Facebook Messenger and Twitter—says Parkin…

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