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Towards a world of influencers

Exploring the relationship building dimensions of Influencer Marketing

Written by A.-S. Gustavsson, A. Suleman Nasir & S. Ishonova

Paper category

Bachelor Thesis


Business Administration>Marketing & Sales




Thesis: Conceptualization of the term influencer Many scholars refer to individuals who have the ability to influence brand and product perception as influencers (Booth & Matic, 2011; Freberg et al., 2011; Sudha & Sheena, 2017). However, because many authors call these influencers differently, especially their characteristics and behaviors, there are differences in the interpretation of the phenomenon of influencers in academia. Most authors refer to these influencers as opinion leaders, bloggers, SMIs and micro celebrities (Sahelices-Pinto & Rodríguez-Santos, 2014; Uzunoğlu & Misci Kip, 2014; Freberg, Palenchar & Veil, 2013; Khamis, Ang & Welling , 2017; Marvick and Boyd, 2010; Djafarova and Trofimenko, 2018; Lin et al., 2018). In this study, the term influencer will refer to online opinion leaders, bloggers, SMIs, and micro-influencers. 2.1.1 Opinion Leaders The research conducted by Katz and Lazarsfeld in 1955 was one of the first studies to discover the existence of opinion leaders. They are defined as “individuals who exert a disproportionately large influence on the voting intentions of their peers” (Katz & Lazarsfeld, 2006, p. 32). The basic principle of why opinion leaders can influence others can be explained by social learning theory. It explains that by observing certain behaviors of others, people tend to show and imitate similar behaviors. However, role models should have interesting and pleasant characteristics so that people can pay attention to and follow this behavior (Bandura, 1977). Similarly, Sahelices-Pinto and Rodríguez-Santos (2014) pointed out that not all online individuals have the same influence as opinion leaders. Before expressing opinions on social media platforms, ordinary people rely heavily on opinion leaders to post. Opinion leaders are seen as reference models and new sources of information because of their ability to disseminate information innovatively (Nip & Fu, 2016), because of their prestigious and well-known status in the community (Sahelices-Pinto & Rodríguez-Santos, 2014 ). Opinion leaders can also play an important role in providing innovative ideas during the company's product creation process (Sahelices-Pinto and Rodríguez-Santos, 2014). Therefore, opinion leaders can act as intermediaries in social interactions. Intermediaries are considered to be the most suitable participants to meet customer needs because they collect clear knowledge about consumers, which makes it possible to customize products (Anderson & Anderson, 2002). The role of intermediaries is to provide value to consumers, thereby creating profits for sellers. Managers are more inclined to hire influential people as intermediaries to reach and interact with target audiences. 2.1.3 Social media influencers SMIs are individuals with their own brands operating in online environments such as blogs and social networks. They have a strong and credible presence online, and can convey information very convincingly when communicating with followers or readers (Freberg et al., 2013). SMI is described as an online micro celebrity. In essence, micro celebrities refer to individuals who can strategically maintain their audience through communication and interaction, thereby creating a strong brand (Khamis et al., 2017; Marvick & Boyd, 2010). In order to carry out effective publicity campaigns, Djafarova and Trofimenko (2018) suggested that micro celebrities should have an attractive and inspiring attitude, ability to product, and respond to comments and posts. They said that instead of selling "ads" to the audience, these influencers should give "recommendations." 2.1.4 Micro-influencers Digital influencers with a significantly smaller follower base are called micro-influencers. Like any other SMI, they are active on platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The main difference between celebrities and micro-influencers is that the former have greater geographic or social distance from their followers. At the same time, micro-influencers can interact with their followers more frequently because they have a small follower base and a close relationship with them. (Lin et al., 2018). 2.2 Influencer marketing Marketers look for ways to interact with customers in rich and meaningful conversations (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden, 2011). They invest a lot of resources and time to identify and locate influencers who can act as intermediaries in social media interactions (Nejad et al., 2014). These influencers can facilitate communication with consumers while collecting information about insufficient consumer demand in the market (Sahelices-Pinto and Rodríguez-Santos, 2014). Academically, the mechanism of IM is similar to that of celebrity endorsements. The symbolic attributes that endorsement ads bring celebrities from their cultural world (such as lifestyle and personality) to consumers’ lives have been considered the most popular marketing tool for a long time (McCracken, 1989; Hassan & Mohammed) , 2016). Consumers initially tend to consider the popularity and attractiveness of celebrities rather than their credibility and expertise (Hassan & Mohammed, 2016). However, recent literature shows that consumers no longer trust traditional celebrities, but are looking for trustworthy people similar to themselves (Sudha & Sheena, 2017). Read Less