The following is an excerpt that was drawn from one of my latest contributions.
Suggested citation: Rios Marques, I., Casais, B., & Camilleri, M. A. (2021). The effect of macro celebrity and micro influencer endorsements on consumer-brand engagement on Instagram. In M. A. Camilleri (Ed.), Strategic corporate communication in the digital age. Bingley: Emerald, pp. 131-144. DOI: 10.1108/978-1-80071-264-520211008
Brands seek to improve their customer engagement in social networks. They may use different tools including the endorsements of digital influencers. Therefore, this chapter addresses a gap in the academic literature as it compares the outcomes of different types of digital endorsers including celebrity endorsers and micro-influencers, in the context of a luxury jewellery brand. The researchers delve into Instagram’s analytics to explore the differences between two types of digital influencers. This study examines the number of followers, the clicks, comments and likes on the brand’s page in Instagram. The results suggest that different types of digital influencers are generating various forms of engagement and interactions. The celebrity endorsements are boosting the number of followers, while the use of a micro-influencers is increasing the number of clicks, comments and likes on the brand’s pages. This contribution implies that luxury brands can optimize their online marketing strategies by using digital influencers. It proves that the use of social media influencers can enhance the customer-brand engagement.
Most brands today are committed to associate themselves with famous personalities. They may consider sport personalities, athletes and celebrities from the movie industry (Vaghela, 2012), because they are trusted by their followers when they promote products and services (Schimmelpfennig & Hollensen, 2013) and/or social causes (Casais & Proença, 2012). It is also important to understand that the use of celebrity endorsement enhances the consumers’ attitudes toward the brand, credibility in the brand, and can ultimately increase their purchase intention (Wang & Scheinbaum, 2018). The celebrity endorsement is recognised as a theoretically powerful communication tool for brand marketers (Carroll, 2009). The public are fascinated by famous people and celebrities. They may consider them as role models. Therefore, brands are using popular celebrities to advertise their products. The celebrity endorsements are improving the brands’ return on investment and the success rates of their marketing campaigns (Pringle & Binet, 2005). Several studies have concluded that the celebrity endorsements influence the consumer buying decisions (Bergkvist & Zhou, 2016). Those studies stress that the online users recall those products that are promoted by the celebrity endorsers. The credible endorsers can influence their followers’ perceptions about the quality of the brands’ products as they associate the endorsed products with the image of the celebrity image (Hollensen & Schimmelpfennig, 2013).
Macro-celebrities are reference people who attract the public. They are considered influential as they can entice the consumers’ buying attitudes and trigger behavioural changes (Chung & Cho, 2017). The credibility of the source depends on three factors: expertise, reliability and friendliness. Expertise is the communicator’s ability to support what is said in advertising, reliability is related to the communicator’s objectivity and honesty, and friendliness describes the attractiveness of that source (Vaghela, 2012). To gain a broad and loyal following, macro celebrities create interesting and engaging content, one type of content that has actually been very popular with the public is celebrities. Celebrities can also be branded because they can be professionally managed and they possess the attributes and particularities of a brand(Schimmelpfennig & Hollensen, 2013).
Individuals including young micro-influencers are increasingly using the social networking applications through their mobile devices. They are using them as their main platform to raise their profile among other social media users. Very often, these micro-influencers are considered more important in the digital environment than popular celebrities (Dunkley, 2017). These digital influencers are sources of inspiration and advice for other digital consumers. The originality and the uniqueness of their posts are key factors for effective content marketing. Their online opinion leadership can influence other consumer intentions and behaviours (Casaló, Flavián & Ibáñez-Sánchez, 2018). They use their online profile to connect with other social media users and to raise awareness about the brands’ products. These influencers are considered important in the online community (Khamis, Ang & Welling, 2017). Therefore, many companies approach those influential bloggers who are capable of marketing and promoting their products and services. Very often, they are expected to create new promotional content, including texts and images on behalf of their sponsor (Gustafsson & Khan, 2017).
Social networks have provided a platform for ordinary online users as it enabled them to share their personal stories and content. Hence, their social media posts may become visible and popular (Casaló et al., 2018), particularly if they share interesting content that appeals to their followers. The strategic and targeted development of social media content can improve the micro-celebrities’ (or micro-influencers’) public visibility and attention (Khamis et al., 2017). The advantage of micro-influencers is that they have created real relationships with their audience and expressed themselves more personally than most conventional celebrities (Djafarova & Rushworth, 2017). Micro-celebrities have become very popular through Instagram, but these days they can also be found on YouTube, Twitter and other social platforms. They are benefiting of several lucrative opportunities that were made available through the social media (Djafarova & Rushworth, 2017). As a result, more individuals are becoming micro-celebrities as they gain popularity among other users through social networks. Micro-celebrities would not raise their profile and be famous, if the social networks did not exist. The more followers a person has, the more noticeable is their social influence (Jin & Phua, 2014). These influencers are very powerful because consumers rely on their referrals and word-of-mouth publicity. They maintain interactive, personal relationships with their audience by engaging with them through social media (Camilleri, 2018; Djafarova & Rushworth, 2017).
To use this marketing strategy, companies need to identify the most appropriate digital influencer to represent their brand. There are influencers who may have different traits and characteristics that can appeal to specific brands (Bernazzani, 2017), in terms of identification, credibility and product-endorser fit (Schouten, Janssen & Verspaget, 2020). For example, micro-influencers may have fewer followers, but they are usually committed to engage with them. They tend to interact with their audience and to produce relevant content that appeals to their followers (Barker, 2016). Cautious, thoughtful and the effective use of endorsements in social media can leverage the brand in the marketplace. They contribute to create brand awareness and improve the brand equity. All of this is only possible if the marketing managers choose the most appropriate celebrity to represent their brands (Anagnostopoulos, Parganas, Chadwick & Liu, 2016). The brands’ partnerships with the influencers may be based on their individual characteristics, for example, consumers identify more closely with micro-influencers, and tend to aspire or admire celebrities (Bernazzani, 2017). Bergkvist, Hjalmarson & Mägi (2016) state that the effect of celebrity endorsement is most significant in the consumers’ buying decision when the they realise that the celebrity is not motivated by the money they receive but by the quality of the products that they endorse.
Celebrities, who have a large follower base are more news-oriented and are usually less social than micro-influencers (Kay, Mulcahy & Parkinson, 2020). Celebrities may have a team of collaborators who help them create the advertisements. The bloggers, for example, attract fewer followers than celebrities but they usually focus on more specific topics and niches (Khamis et al., 2017). Hence, the bloggers may be considered as micro-influencers as they attract those followers who are searching for more candid and detailed product content, and/or who may be willing to interact with them (Goodman et al., 2011). In short, partnering with respected digital influencers can help the businesses to gain consumer trust. At the same time, they will help them sell their products and services. (Hsu, Lin & Chiang, 2013).
This research posits that there is scope for the brands to use digital influencers to help them increase their consumer engagement through Instagram. The celebrities and the micro-influencers can support them in reaching wider audiences. The brands will benefit if they increase their number of followers, visits, comments and likes, as this improves the consumer-brand engagement. The findings of this study have clearly indicated that the macro or micro influencers posts have resulted in more Instagram users who have engaged with the luxury jewellery brand. The results have shown that the users’ involvement and interactions depended on the type of influencer that was used.
This study revealed that the celebrity attracted more followers, whereas the micro-influencer attracted more visits to the page. The latter has registered a higher increase than the celebrity, in terms of the number of comments and likes on brand’s publications. In sum, this contribution proves that the digital influencers can increase the consumer engagement with brands. However, different types of influencers may result in different interactions and engagement levels.
A pre-publication version of the full chapter can be downloaded through Researchgate.