Advertisers use influencers to drive brand awareness and purchases by leveraging everyday opinion leaders on social media. In turn, social-media influencers typically make money through brand partnerships, affiliate links and paid sponsorships across a variety of platforms. There’s a growing body of research on what makes influencers effective. Yet, few studies have explored empirically what drives consumers to engage with or follow them. So, researchers at the University of San Diego and Swinburne University of Technology in Australia asked two key questions:
- Does consumer heterogeneity exist in terms of motivations for following and behaviors related to, social-media influencers?
- If so, how do segments differ in their motivations for following influencers, and in their resultant spending behaviors?
People have different motivations for engaging with and purchasing from influencers, primarily entertainment, inspiration and deal seeking.
They explain their work in a Journal of Advertising Research article available now online. First, the researchers conducted focus groups with consumers to understand what motivates people to follow influencers. The upshot: people have different motivations for engaging with and purchasing from influencers; primarily, they seek entertainment, inspiration or a deal. This is in addition to three other previously identified benefits of engaging: an influencer’s attractiveness, power and trust source (a source that the influencer’s audience trusts).
Next, in a survey of nearly 1,000 consumers across five social-media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter), the researchers used latent class segmentation to uncover six consumer segments. These segments differ in why they follow and how they react to influencers: Idea Seeker (32% of survey participants), Silent Follower (20%), Entertainment-Driven Inspiration Seeker (17%), Spontaneous Entertainment Driven (13%), Influencer Unengaged—characterized by low levels of spend based on influencer recommendations (11%), and Super Fan (high level of spend)(7%).
Among the takeaways:
- “Influencers’ marketing campaigns would be well served by leveraging deal seeking, entertainment and inspiration as mechanisms for connecting with audiences.”
- “Rather than trying to find a set of influencers that service all consumers, there may be an advantage in purposefully searching for influencers who attract consumers with different motivations.”
- “If resources are limited and a company is seeking to increase sales, the findings enable more precise targeting of those consumers who most likely will spend in response to influencer advertisements.”
Read the full study here.