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The effect of macro celebrity and micro influencer endorsements on consumer-brand engagement on Instagram

Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

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.

Celebrity endorsements

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).

Micro-influencers

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).

Conclusion

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.

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Top social media platforms

Image by Sara Kurfeß

Many online users have subscribed to different social media, including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, among others for different reasons. Individuals and groups use them to publish their ideas in writing, images or videos. They also enable them to share hyperlinks to articles, pictures and videos. There are social media users who like to follow the updates of their friends, colleagues, acquaintances or individuals who share their interests. Very often, the news is broadcast through social networks and is disseminated in a viral manner through the social media users’ likes or shares before it is covered by the traditional media like television and newspapers. Online users may be intrigued to use the social media create their social network, or to join virtual communities. They may do so to connect with other individuals who shared their interests and values. Many online users have subscribed to different social media, including Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter and Linkedin, among others for different reasons.

Currently, Facebook has 2.45 billion users. Other popular social media networks include Instagram (1 billion users), Reddit (430 million users), Snapchat (360 million users), Twitter (330 million users), Pinterest (322 million users) and Linkedin (310 million users).

Individuals and groups use these social media to publish their ideas in writing, images or videos. They also enable them to share hyperlinks to articles, pictures and videos. There are social media users who like to follow the updates of their friends, colleagues, acquaintances or individuals who share their interests. Very often, the news is broadcast through social networks and is disseminated in a viral manner through the social media users’ likes or shares before it is covered by the traditional media like television and newspapers. Online users may be intrigued to use the social media create their social network, or to join virtual communities. They may do so to connect with other individuals who shared their interests or values.

Facebook is used by various organisations, including businesses to engage with its users. For example, different businesses are creating interactive pages and groups to disseminate information about their products and services. They utilise Facebook Messenger, or live videos to enhance their communications. Facebook is also used by academics to enhance the visibility of their publications and to raise awareness about the findings from their research. However, individuals use this medium to keep in touch with friends, colleagues, classmates, former classmates, former co-workers, and with other individuals who may share similar interests.

Like Facebook, other social media, including Twitter can be used to target large audiences and communities. Twitter is a platform that is based on topical content. Generally, its users are encouraged to use keywords and hashtags on particular topics, in particular locations. Twitter is restricted with a 280-character limit. Therefore, its subscribers have to post short, focused messages with relevant content that appeals to their followers. Moreover, they are expected to dedicate time to look after their account as they need to respond to their followers to avoid negative criticism. However, it allows direct, two-way communications among subscribers. Hence, it can be used to engage in interactive conversations with other users. Other digital networks include Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest.  Instagram and Pinterest are focused on the dissemination of images and visual content. Like Instagram, Snapchat also features videos and user-generated content and may include influencer marketing material. On the other hand, Reddit appeals to more than 150,000 communities and niches, who share similar interests on various topics.

The usage of social media has radically influenced the style of communication and the dissemination of knowledge and information. Platforms can be personalised, self-managed and interconnected as they can blend written content with images, videos and hyperlinks. This disruptive innovation has led individuals from different demographic segments in society, to refine their digital and communication skills. It is obvious that social media has impacted our way of thinking, talking and even our social lives.

This is an excerpt from one of my latest working papers entitled; “The impact of social media and fake news on socio-political contexts”.

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Corporate Social Responsibility Communications through Digital Media

 reporting

Companies are increasingly focusing their attention on integrated marketing approaches toward different stakeholders24. Many of them are becoming knowledgeable in using social media channels to protect their reputation from bad publicity and misinformation. Their content strategists and inbound marketers who care about customers are realising that they have to continuously come up with fresh, engaging content with a growing number of quality links.

Businesses need to make sure that their corporate websites offer relevant content for different search engines. Consistent high quality content ought to be meaningful and purposeful for target audiences25. Consumers and other stakeholders expect informative yet interesting content through digital channels, including blogs, podcasts, social media networking and e-newsletters. Such content marketing approaches bring customer loyalty26, particularly if the businesses deliver ongoing value propositions to promising prospects on their website27. Very often, they offer insightful stories to customers28 or inspire them with sustainable ideas and innovations29. Corporate web sites could even contain the latest news, elements of the marketing-mix endeavours as well as digital marketing fads.

Social media networks are effective monitoring tools as they could feature early warning signals of trending topics30. These networks may help business communicators and marketers identify and follow the latest sustainability issues. Notwithstanding, CSR influencers are easily identified on particular subject matters or expertise. For example, businesses and customers alike have also learned how to use the hashtag (#) to enhance the visibility of their shareable content  (Some of the most popular hashtags on the subject, comprise: #CSR #StrategicCSR, #sustainability, #susty, #CSRTalk, #Davos2016, #KyotoProtocol, #SharedValue et cetera). Hashtags could be used to raise awareness on charities, philanthropic institutions and green non-governmental organisations. They may also help during fund raising events. Hence, there are numerous opportunities for businesses to leverage themselves through social networks as they engage with influencers and media.

The ubiquity of Facebook and Google Plus over the past years has made them familiar channels for many individuals around the globe. These networks have become very popular communication outlets for brands, companies and activists alike. These social media channels empower their users to engage with business on a myriad of issues. They also enable individual professionals or groups to promote themselves and their CSR credentials in different markets and segments.

Moreover, LinkedIn is yet another effective tool, particularly for personal branding. However, this social network helps users identify and engage with influencers. Companies can use this site to create or join their favourite groups on LinkedIn (e.g. GRI, FSG, Shared Value Initiative among others). They may also use this channel for CSR communication as they promote key initiatives and share sustainability ideas. Therefore, LinkedIn connects individuals and groups as they engage in conversations with both academia and CSR practitioners.

In addition, Pinterest and Instagram enable their users to share images, ideas with their networks. These social media could also be relevant in the context of the sustainability agenda. Businesses could illustrate their CSR communication to stakeholders through visual and graphic content. Evidently, these innovative avenues provide sharable imagery, infographics or videos to groups who may be passionate on certain issues, including CSR.

Moreover, digital marketers are increasingly uploading short, fun videos which often turn viral on internet31. YouTube, Vimeo and Vine seem to have positioned themselves as important social media channels for many consumers, particularly among millennials. These sites offer an excellent way to humanise or animate CSR communication through video content. These digital media also allow their users to share their video content across multiple networks. For instance, videos featuring university resources may comprise lectures, documentaries, case studies and the like.

This is an excerpt from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/299349607_Unlocking_Corporate_Social_Responsibility_Communication_through_Digital_Media

References

24. Camilleri, M.A. “Unleashing Shared Value Through Content Marketing.” Triple Pundit, 10th February 2014. http://www.triplepundit.com/2014/02/unleashing-shared-value-content-marketing/
25. Camilleri, M.A. “A Search Engine Optimization Strategy for Content Marketing Success.” Social Media Today 28th May, 2014. http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/search-engine-optimization-strategy-content-marketing-success
26. Lindgreen, Adam. “The design, implementation and monitoring of a CRM programme: a case study.” Marketing Intelligence & Planning 22, no. 2 (2004): 160-186.
27. Andersen, Poul Houman. “Relationship marketing and brand involvement of professionals through web-enhanced brand communities: The case of Coloplast.” Industrial marketing management 34, no. 1 (2005): 39-51.
28. Pulizzi, Joe. “The rise of storytelling as the new marketing.” Publishing research quarterly 28, no. 2 (2012): 116-123.
29. Lozano, Rodrigo, Francisco J. Lozano, Karel Mulder, Donald Huisingh, and Tom Waas. “Advancing higher education for sustainable development: international insights and critical reflections.” Journal of Cleaner Production 48 (2013): 3-9.
30. Small, Tamara A. “What the hashtag? A content analysis of Canadian politics on Twitter.” Information, Communication & Society 14, no. 6 (2011): 872-895.

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