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Social media influencers – why we cannot ignore them

An exploratory study about how consumers perceive the influence of social media influencers during the different stages of the purchase decision process

Written by L. Gashi

Paper category

Bachelor Thesis


Business Administration>Marketing & Sales




Bachelor Thesis: Social media Social media consists of multiple online-based platforms that allow consumers to search, interact and share information about anything with other users on a daily basis (Alves, Fernandes and Raposo, 2016). According to Abidin (2016), the most popular social media platforms today are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and blogs. The rise of social media not only enables consumers to interact with other users online, but also enables individuals to democratize all information shared on social media platforms by allowing each user to freely express their opinions (Heinonen, 2011). Thanks to the development of social media, consumers can now access a large amount of information online at any time (Abidin, 2016). Previous research has shown that these large amounts of content shared on social media have a significant impact on consumer behavior and purchasing decisions (Alves, Fernandes, and Raposo, 2016). Interactions with other online users have indeed had a huge impact, because consumers can now directly contact the users behind the created content (Alves, Fernandes, and Raposo, 2016). In social media platforms, the influence of other groups is the main reason that affects consumers' purchasing decisions (Kembau & Mekel, 2014). Consumers can now access other people’s information, previous experiences, and other related content online, which helps consumers make purchasing decisions faster and more easily (Kembau & Mekel, 2014). However, in social media platforms, certain groups of people are considered more influential than others and are now called social media influencers (Kembau & Mekel, 2014; Uzunoǧlu & Kip, 2014; Burgess, 2017). 3.2 Social media influencers Although social media claims that everything is related to conversation (Wright, Khanfar, Harrington, and Kizer, 2010), social media influencers (SMI) claim that everything is related to interaction (Uzunoǧlu & Kip, 2014). SMI is often referred to as a third-party individual with high social status (Lu, Li, & Liao, 2010) and strong social influence (Li, Lee, & Lien, 2014). Social influence means that individuals can adjust or change their decisions, thoughts, and actions by interacting with people they believe have the same interests as themselves (such as SMI) (Li et al., 2014). Abidin (2016) believes that with the popularity of social media, the number of SMIs is also increasing. Over time, SMI has developed into an important marketing tool for companies to promote their products to consumers (Jaakonmäki et al., 2017). There are different types of SMIs, such as celebrities or bloggers, usually running on one or more social media platforms at the same time. 3.2.1 The influence of social media influencers Forbes (2016) claimed that social media influencers (SMI) can influence the attitudes, opinions, actions, and purchasing decisions of their followers. The author explained that this is due to their influence and ability to participate in dialogue and interaction with followers. As we all know, SMI can also master e-WoM, which has a great impact on consumers' purchasing decisions (Freberg et al., 2010; Li, Lee, and Lien, 2014; Nejad, Sherrell, & Babacus, 2014). The reason behind this is that e-WoM from SMI is considered more powerful and convincing than e-WoM from the company itself (Uzunoǧlu & Kip, 2014). Although SMI has the ability to master e-WoM, the researchers have acknowledged several factors resulting from this. These factors are also considered to be the reason why consumers regard SMI as a very influential individual. These factors are content, expertise, attractiveness, social recognition and trust, and their importance will be explained in more depth in the following sections. Content In addition to traditional media, SMI can also customize their content to make their online followers like it more, and they will read it later (Song & Yoo, 2016). According to Li et al. (2014), it is well known that social media influencers (SMI) create and disseminate high-quality content on their social media platforms. This is to encourage consumers to buy a certain product by providing recommendations, images and other content (Forbes, 2016). Compared with content generated by marketers from the company itself, user-generated content from SMI has long been considered more popular, trustworthy, and personalized (Valck et al., 2013). Walker et al. (2013) further claims that the content provided by SMI is considered more useful because it reduces the work of searching for other information about the product, but increases the possibility of making better product choices (Valck et al., 2013). SMI can add value to its content by making it more personalized (Li, Lee, and Lien, 2014), a fact that allows followers to gain insight into SMI's personal life (Forbes, 2016). In turn, personalized content is considered to be the persuader of consumers, and consumers will adopt the information behind the content because consumers think their interests, attitudes and opinions are similar to SMI (Kapitan & Silvera, 2015). However, Neja De et al. (2014) indicates that how consumers pay attention to and explain the information behind the content may depend on consumers' current interests, attitudes and motivations. Read Less