Researchers from Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Lingnan University, Colorado State University, and University of Washington published a new paper in the Journal of Marketing that investigates how firms can enhance the effectiveness of influencer marketing efforts by managing factors related to the sender of a message (influencer), the receiver of the message (influencer’s followers), and the message itself (influencer’s posts).
The study, forthcoming in the the Journal of Marketing, is titled “Influencer Marketing Effectiveness” and is authored by Fine F. Leung, Flora F. Gu, Yiwei Li, Jonathan Z. Zhang, and Robert W. Palmatier.
Many marketers turn to online influencers to promote their brands and products on social media, propelling the growth of influencer marketing. However, little is known about the decision criteria that firms can use to enhance the effectiveness of their influencer marketing efforts. Influencer marketing initiatives require firms to select and incentivize online influencers to engage their followers on social media in an attempt to promote the firms’ offerings. As influencer marketing becomes increasingly competitive, firms’ ability to allocate their budgets optimally by selecting individual influencers and managing individual posts in ways that maximize engagement elasticity can establish their competitive advantages. This research team gathered influencer cost and engagement data and undertook a systematic assessment of influencer marketing effectiveness across varied conditions.
The conceptual framework reflects communication models and their component characteristics related to the sender of a message (the influencer), the receiver of the message (the influencer’s followers), and the message itself (the influencer’s marketing post). Specifically, we investigated whether: (1) selecting influencers who post more or fewer posts (influencer activity), provide original content (originality), or have more or fewer followers (follower size); (2) targeting follower networks with different levels of follower–brand fit; and (3) posting content with distinct degrees of post positivity and sponsor salience, or content that relates to new product launches, alter influencer marketing effectiveness.
Leung says that “We discover that increasing the influencer marketing budget can increase consumer engagement. In other words, all else equal, a 1% increase in influencer marketing spend increases engagement by .457%.” The estimation of engagement elasticity also sheds light on how firms actually allocate their budgets across influencers relative to how they should do so. “As our analysis indicates, on average, firms in our data set are allocating their budgets sub-optimally and have substantive upward potential with regards to generating engagement,” adds Gu.
Zhang adds, “We found that selecting influencers who transmit more original posts, relative to posts created by others, and those who have amassed a larger number of followers leads to greater effectiveness.” Sponsored posts that feature the sponsor brand more saliently by providing more clickable mentions and links also boost effectiveness. However, posts that announce new product launches diminish effectiveness.
Several tensions arise when firms select influencers and manage content: influencer activity, follower–brand fit, and post positivity all exert inverted U-shaped moderating effects on influencer marketing effectiveness, suggesting that firms that adopt a balanced approach along these dimensions can achieve greater effectiveness.
Palmatier concludes with “Our study offers a comprehensive assessment of how factors related to the sender, receiver, and message lead to varied influencer marketing effectiveness. These practical implications can help marketers strategically select influencers, target followers, and manage content to achieve stellar influencer marketing effectiveness.”
Full article and author contact information available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/00222429221102889
About the Journal of Marketing
The Journal of Marketing develops and disseminates knowledge about real-world marketing questions useful to scholars, educators, managers, policy makers, consumers, and other societal stakeholders around the world. Published by the American Marketing Association since its founding in 1936, JM has played a significant role in shaping the content and boundaries of the marketing discipline. Christine Moorman (T. Austin Finch, Sr. Professor of Business Administration at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University) serves as the current Editor in Chief.
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