Rise of Social Media Influencer Marketing on Lifestyle Branding by Morgan Glucksman — 77The Rise of Social Media Influencer Marketing on Lifestyle Branding:A Case Study of Lucie FinkMorgan GlucksmanStrategic CommunicationsElon UniversitySubmitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements inan undergraduate senior capstone course in communicationsAbstractInfluencer marketing, the process of identifying, engaging and supporting individuals who createconversations with a brand’s customers, is a growing trend used in public relations initiatives. In recent years,this strategy has become predominantly centered around social media, creating an opportunity for brandsto market through social media influencers. To investigate this phenomenon, the author conducted pentadicanalysis as well as qualitative content analyses of posts by social media influencers. Findings revealed thatthe use of social media influencer marketing in public relations initiatives has broken the wall between theconsumer and the brand, changing the way the two interact.I. IntroductionAccording to Forbes, influencer marketing can be defined as a form of marketing in which focus isplaced on specific key individuals rather than the target market as a whole (Forbes.com). Traditionally, whenpeople think of influencer marketing, they think of a celebrity appearance in a TV commercial or a famousperson posed on a billboard along a highway. Companies hope that by showcasing people of interest to theirtarget markets, consumers will be more inclined to try the product or service that the company offers.As media and technology have become more advanced, companies can choose from a range ofoptions in outlets to market their products. These options have also led to the evolution of social mediainfluencer marketing. Now you can find people representing companies through branded content on personalsocial media accounts, such as Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and YouTube. More than ever, consumers arelooking to fellow consumers to inform their purchasing decisions.The rise of social media has opened up a new channel for brands to connect with consumers moredirectly and more organically. If a brand is not using social media influencer marketing as a strategy to betterattract its target audience, now may be the time for the company to start evaluating their advertising strategy.Social media brand influencers are on the rise, becoming one of the biggest marketing and public relationstrends of 2017, especially those who promote lifestyle brands. Lifestyle influencers focus on working withcompanies whose products non-celebrity individuals use in their everyday lives. By working alongside socialmedia influencers, public relations agencies can capture the attention of brand consumers and promoterelevant and relatable content to clients. While influencer marketing based on traditional media has been usedKeywords: influencer marketing, social media, advertising, social media influencers, lifestyle brandingEmail: [email protected]
78 — Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, Vol. 8, No. 2 Fall 2017in public relations for many years, the rise of social media has created the boom of social media influencermarketing. Social media influencer marketing has successfully changed the way that brands interact withconsumers, especially in regard to lifestyle branding.This study examined what strategies have made influencer marketing such a successful publicrelations tool and how the use of social media has allowed brands and consumers to connect on a morepersonal level.II. Literature ReviewInfluencer marketing incorporating social media is a new phenomenon within the industry. Dueto the constantly evolving and changing market, this topic has been widely discussed by contemporarymedia, but not enough by scholarly researchers. The literature review covered the identification of socialmedia influencers, their importance and impact on brands, and the strategic planning they employed whilecommunicating with consumers. To include an analysis of the latest techniques used by social mediainfluencers in their marketing, this study reviewed trade publications and news articles as well as traditionalacademic sources.Who Are Social Media Influencers?Social media influencers represent a new type of independent, third-party endorsers who shape anaudience’s attitudes through blogs, tweets, and the use of other social media channels (Fredberg, 3). Throughsites like Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, social media influencers create content promotingcertain brands with the goal of obtaining a following and brand recognition.According to Fredberg, the success of social media influencers is vitally important to brands;therefore, technology has been developed to identify and track influencers’ relevance to a brand ororganization. This technology tracks the number of hits on a blog, times a blog is shared, likes and comments,and followers. All of these points are pivotal aspects of a social media influencer’s success (Fredberg, 3).Influencer marketing on social media opens up a new channel for brands to connect with consumersmore directly, organically, and at scale to their everyday lives (Adweek). Social media influencers promotebrands through their personal lives, making them relatable to the average consumer. According to Ledbetter,“When a party attempts to influence another to take specific actions, a dynamic ensues that can change thecourse and content of their relationship” (Ledbetter, 3). Influencers truly serve as the ultimate connectionbetween a brand and a consumer. Through their candidness and openness with consumers, influencers havehigh social clout and credibility (Buyer, 2016), which is what makes the phenomenon so successful. Wheretraditional marketing targeted mostly mass audiences, influencers have the unique ability to target nicheaudiences that have until now been unreachable (Ledbetter).Influencers’ Impact on the BrandBrands have always had a focus on targeting their consumers’ wants and needs. The image a brandgains from its social media influencers helps build direct relationships with its key consumers and encouragesbrand loyalty. While a brand does not have total control over its online conversation, the direct voice of aninfluencer and trust that consumers have for this individual is instilled in the brand through the two-wayconversation that is established for the product via social media outlets (Booth and Matic, 3).Social media tools are becoming more valuable and one of the core elements of a communicationstrategy in an average consumer’s life. According to Gillin, there are a wide range of factors that causeinfluencer marketing to become increasingly popular. These factors range from difficult-to-measure criteria,such as “quality of content,” to highly measureable factors including page views and search engine rank.With media platforms rapidly improving, these criteria are bound to change. In addition, other criteria forevaluating influence include participation level, frequency of activity, and prominence in the market orcommunity (Booth and Matic, 3). In terms of goals on the influencer’s side, social media influencers work toenhance relationships with key audiences by improving the reputation of the business/brand, driving customerawareness on their online activities, and soliciting customers’ comments and feedback (Booth and Matic, 3).
Rise of Social Media Influencer Marketing on Lifestyle Branding by Morgan Glucksman — 79Theories Behind Influencer CommunicationBandura, the social-science theorist responsible for much of our understanding of how people reactin social situations, wrote, “In the social learning system, new patterns of behavior can be acquired throughdirect experience or by observing the behaviors of others (Bandura, 3). This explanation can help oneunderstand why influencers are so “influential.” Bandura explained, “On the basis of informative feedback,they (consumers) develop thoughts or hypotheses about the types of behavior most likely to succeed. Thesehypotheses then serve as guides for future actions” (3). To put this into simpler terms, people learn fromexample, and influencers lead by example for those who “follow” them. By observing examples through socialmedia, people are more likely to adopt the behaviors exhibited by the influencer (Forbes, 2016). Companiesare using their resources via social media influencers in hopes that the experience that a consumer has withan influencer allows the behavior of the influencer to be adopted, that is, copied by the consumer (Forbes).In addition to Bandura’s social learning theory, Electronic Word of Mouth (eWOM) can help one betterunderstand the strategies that make social media influencers so successful. eWOM refers to any positiveor negative statement made by potential, actual, and former customers about a product or company via theinternet. eWOM encourages consumers to share their opinions with other consumers. Word of mouth isknown to be one of the most credible and trusted sources of marketing. Social media influencers are mastersat eWOM. Social media influencers take on the role of forming consumers’ opinions on products and services.That said, it is in the interest of the company as well as the influencer to keep online conversations positiveand persuade other consumers to try products in a way that makes it feel as if the decision to make thepurchase was in the interest of the consumer as opposed to the persuasion of the influencer (Lee and Youn,473-475).Researchers have studied who social media influencers are, their impact on the brand, and thestrategic planning behind their communication with consumers, but not much on how influential these peoplemight be. This study conducted qualitative analyses to discover how these social media influencers havebecome so successful and why influencer marketing is the fastest growing and most popular tactic in publicrelations today.This research addressed the following two research questions and set up one hypothesis:RQ1: What makes a social media influencer successful?RQ2: Do companies view social media influencers as positive or negative to their companies?H1: Social media influencer marketing has successfully changed the way that brands interact withconsumers.III. MethodsTo answer the two research questions and test this hypothesis, the author gathered examples ofinfluencer marketing from Instagram and YouTube and examined these media forms. Two types of analysiswere performed.The first was a pentadic analysis, which looked at Instagram to examine the strategies thatinfluencers appear to use when posting content. A pentadic analysis considers the act, agent, agency, scene,and purpose of a media artifact. The act tells what happened; the agent performed the act, the tools/meansan agent used to perform the act; the scene provides context for the act; and the purpose explains why theevent occurred. This provides an opportunity for the researcher to begin to understand what goes throughsocial media influencers’ minds when they create an Instagram post. The analysis can also reveal whatappears to be the motives behind the posts of influencer marketers.The second method employed was a content analysis of YouTube videos to examine how socialmedia influencers engage with their audience members as well as the techniques that they appear to useto advertise via YouTube. In order to conduct this qualitative content analysis, the author analyzed videosbased on three characteristics that were determined to be important based on previous research: confidence,interactivity, and authenticity (Bandura, 4). In terms of social media influencers, these characteristics mean:
80 — Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, Vol. 8, No. 2 Fall 2017 Confidence: When influencers trust their own-self and assures not only themselves but also theirviewers of their abilities. Authenticity: The influencer is genuine and relatable with their followers. Interactivity: The influencer works together with the viewer to solicit feedback.Overall, social media influencers post content on some form of social media and use similarstrategies to distribute their messages. There are hundreds of social media influencers within the lifestyleindustry, and YouTube and Instagram appear to be the two most popular platforms. These influencers haveindividual personalities but seem to operate in the same way. Therefore, if we understand how one lifestyleinfluencer operates, we can understand how many of them operate. To conduct research, a case studyfocused on one influencer, Lucie Fink, a continually growing and successful influencer, and it will combine thepentadic and content analyses to draw conclusions.Background on Lucie FinkLucie Fink is a social media influencer and a lifestyle host at Refinery29, leading digital-mediacompany focused on women. Refinery29 provides its audience with the inspiration and tools to discoverand pursue a more independent, stylish, and informed life (Refinery29 Corporate). Fink has a following ofmore than 65,000 people on Instagram and two YouTube shows, “Try Living with Lucie” and “Lucie for Hire.”Her “Try Living with Lucie” video series currently has 46 videos, which have more than one million viewscombined.In a personal interview with Fink, she described her personal brand in two ways. First, she describedherself as a lifestyle personality, noting “I’m not trying to be a beauty blogger or a fashion blogger or afitness blogger. I am kind of every piece of the puzzle. I can try out almost anything and it would feel naturalto my feed. I feel like the audience is really there for me and my personal life, which includes fitness, food,fashion, beauty. Almost everything” (Personal interview). Fink then shared that curiosity was a part of herpersonal brand: “I like my personal brand to be all about being exploratory and trying new things and i
If a brand is not using social media influencer marketing as a strategy to better attract its target audience, now may be the time for the company to start evaluating their advertising strategy. Social media brand influencers are on the rise, becoming one of the biggest marketing and public relations