Dec 2019 (Vol. 59, Issue 4): SOCIAL-MEDIA MARKETING
The Perceived Fit between Instagram Influencers and the Endorsed Brand: How Influencer–Brand Fit Affects Source Credibility and Persuasive Effectiveness
As the use of social-media influencers to promote brands has gained traction in recent years, brand managers face a daunting task of choosing the best-suited and most effective influencer. In a two-part study, researchers at the University of Wuerzburg in Germany analyzed the impact of the fit between Instagram influencers and the endorsed brand.
Specifically, authors Priska Linda Breves, Nicole Liebers, Marina Abt and Annika Kunze studied the “consequences for the influencer concerning his/her trustworthiness and expertise,” and they wanted to determine if “higher levels of perceived source credibility…led to higher indications of positive behavioral intentions.”
They found that experience—in terms of parasocial relationships between influencers and their followers—matters. Parasocial relationships typically are one-sided relationships, most commonly between fans and the celebrities—in this case influencers— they follow. Or, there may be a single instance of interaction. “Participants who reported a strong relationship with the influencer [or high levels of parasocial relationship] were not influenced as strongly by perceived fit, likely because they based their assessment of the influencer at least partially on past experiences and the existing parasocial relationship.”
The authors added, however, that “the influence of perceived fit on credibility was still significant. Parasocial relationship consequently could not diminish completely the impact of perceived fit.”
As a result, “influencers should advertise brands that seem to fit their area of expertise and interest, especially if they have started their career recently and have not established strong parasocial relationship with their followers yet, or if they have a considerable and continuous increase of new followers.”
Among the practical takeaways:
- The fit of influencer and brand product is important for the perceived expertise and trustworthiness of the endorser. To avoid damaging their credibility, influencers should avoid endorsing obviously incongruent brands.
- If social-media influencers wish to promote a brand that might be slightly incongruent, they should create a particularly personal post (e.g., incorporating a personal story or addressing their followers very directly) to generate high levels of parasocial interaction and to strengthen parasocial relationships.
- Advertising specialists should select social-media influencers that match the brand. A strong influencer–brand fit increases consumers’ brand attitudes and behavioral intentions, both directly and indirectly through the influencer’s perceived credibility.
- If brand managers want to use an influencer who is not a perfect match to target new potential consumers explicitly or to change their brand image, they should use someone who has a very strong connection with their audience, because followers who report strong parasocial relationships are less skeptical.