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. A new Journal of Marketing study investigates how firms can enhance this effectiveness, or the percentage change in consumer engagement due to a 1% increase in influencer marketing spend, 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).
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. Our research team gathered influencer cost and engagement data and undertook a systematic assessment of influencer marketing effectiveness across varied conditions.
Our conceptual framework reflects communication models and their component characteristics related to the sender of a message, the receiver of the message, and the message itself. 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.
We discover that increasing the influencer marketing budget can increase consumer engagement: Ceteris paribus, a 1% increase in influencer marketing spend increases engagement by .457%. In establishing a positive effect of influencer marketing spend on consumer engagement, our findings confirm the effectiveness of this communication practice. 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, the average firms in our data set are allocating their budgets sub-optimally and have substantive upward potential with regards to generating engagement.
Moreover, 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.
Our study offers a comprehensive assessment of how factors related to the sender (influencer), receiver (followers), and message (influencer marketing post) 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.
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