Date of Award

2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Business Administration

Committee Chair

Victoria L. Crittenden

Abstract

Social media influencers (SMI) expanded exponentially in both numbers and credibility shortly after the widespread emergence of social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Firms have noticed this increase and as a result, diverted billions of dollars in their marketing budgets toward SMI endorsements and campaigns, and away from traditional media. As often happens with quickly occurring phenomena, academic research is subsequently racing to understand the integral roles SMIs now command in social media marketing, and in marketing in general. Much of the latest research designed to understand and measure the effects of SMIs relies on previous research into traditional celebrity endorsers. SMI attributes and approaches have been researched like previous traditional celebrity studies. Another emerging and relevant topic is para-social relationships – in which followers feel as if they know the influencer like a friend though the SMI likely does not feel the same way. While there are similarities, major differences exist between traditional celebrities and SMIs. Examples include the delivery via social media platforms, increased engagement through the platforms, and uploadable user-generated content (UGC). Unlike musicians, athletes, and actresses, SMIs are generating their stardom and followings on social media platforms with their UGC. Though the traditional xiii celebrity concept is still quite relevant regarding endorsements, younger consumers have been opting for less traditional media for entertainment purposes. Businesses have realized reaching Generation Z is effective and efficient through SMIs. This study advances the SMI literature in understanding the differences in para-social relationships formed with SMIs and their role throughout selected components of the customer journey rather than individual parts of it.

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