Much of the content that influencers share on social media, shows or mentions brands, often as a result of a paid partnership. Brands are willing to sponsor influencers because of consumers’ decreasing trust and interest in traditional advertising.(Illustration photo: Shutterstock / NTB)
How influencers pave the way for brands to reach potential customers
SHARE YOUR SCIENCE: Social media’s built-in functions of purchasing make it possible for influencers to give brands access to a loyal crowd of followers who trust them.
The number of social
media influencers have boomed over the past few years. With the rise of
influencer marketing, many have been wondering if this phenomenon is truly
novel or if it is a mere continuation of older practices such as celebrity
When examining closely the influencer phenomenon and the academic
literature on this topic, it becomes apparent that influencers exert a novel
form of opinion leadership, which can be described as a triadic relationship between influencers, their followers, and the brands they endorse. This triadic
relationship is characterized by a high degree of interaction—on social media—between all three agents.
feel like friends to their followers
their social media accounts to share their opinions, experiences, and glimpses
of their everyday lives. They do so at a relatively high frequency and using a
People who are following these influencers get a false
sense of intimacy: they have the impression of knowing them well, as if they
were real-world friends. This is called parasocial relationships. And these
parasocial relationships manifest by followers actively engaging with the
content shared by influencers on social media: they like, share, and comment
their social media posts.
well aware of the need to reciprocate this engagement. Their (high) number of
followers is what has helped them get the status of influencer. Thus, influencers
need to maintain their follower base and to this end, engage in interacting
with their followers.
ll in all, brands have the opportunity to play an active role in the influencer phenomenon, not only by sponsoring influencers but also by actively taking part in the brand-related conversations that influencers have with their followers.
Delphine Caruelle, associate professor at Kristiania
For example, they may reply to their followers’ comments,
regram an Instagram post shared by a follower (especially if this post mentions
the influencer him- or herself), or arrange a live Q&A session with their
followers on social media. All these interactions contribute to a two-way
communication between influencers and their followers.
promote brands in an authentic manner
In addition to
influencers and their followers, brands play a fundamental role in the
influencer phenomenon. Much of the content that influencers share on social
media, shows or mentions brands, often as a result of a paid partnership.
Brands are willing to sponsor influencers because of consumers’ decreasing
trust and interest in traditional advertising.
Unlike actors or celebrities in commercial
ads, influencers promote a product using their own communication style,
sometimes even showing how they use the product in their daily lives. Thus,
followers perceive that influencers promote brands in a relatively authentic
built-in functions facilitate purchases
promote brands and followers trust their recommendations, it is likely that followers
will consider purchasing products or brands promoted by the influencers they
follow. To facilitate purchases, social media platforms have implemented
interactive features that make the purchase journey simpler and faster.
example, Instagram’s Shoppable Posts allow influencers
to link their Instagram posts to an online store. Followers just need to click
on the product shown in the influencer’s Instagram post to then land on a
website that sells this product, without ever having to leave Instagram.
enable brands to interact with influencers and their followers
One of the
greatest strengths of social media is that it makes it possible for all agents
present on the platform to interact with one another. There are multiple ways
in which brands can seize this opportunity.
First, brands can share i.e.,
regram or retweet, on their own social media accounts the brand-related content
created by influencers (upon their consent). This type of content is likely to
be perceived as trustworthy and authentic, to a greater extent than content
created by the brand itself.
Second, brands can
monitor how followers respond to brand-related content posted by influencers. The
comments under a post in which the influencer features a brand, can reveal consumers’
opinions about the brand, which is a valuable insight.
Third, brands can reply
to these comments and thus start a conversation with potential customers. All
in all, brands have the opportunity to play an active role in the influencer
phenomenon, not only by sponsoring influencers but also by actively taking part
in the brand-related conversations that influencers have with their followers.
Caruelle, D. (2023). Influencer Marketing: A Triadically Interactive
Relationship Between Influencers, Followers, and Brands. In The
Palgrave Handbook of Interactive Marketing (pp. 623-640). Cham:
Springer International Publishing.