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08 Lifestyle Branding Glucksman

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08 Lifestyle Branding Glucksman
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  Rise of Social Media Inuencer Marketing on Lifestyle Branding by Morgan Glucksman — 77 Keywords:  inuencer marketing, social media, advertising, social media inuencers, lifestyle branding   Email: mglucksman@elon.edu   The Rise of Social Media Inuencer Marketing on Lifestyle Branding:   A Case Study of Lucie Fink   Morgan Glucksman Strategic Communications Elon University  Submitted in partial fulllment of the requirements in an undergraduate senior capstone course in communications Abstract Inuencer marketing, the process of identifying, engaging and supporting individuals who create conversations 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 brands to market through social media inuencers. To investigate this phenomenon, the author conducted pentadic analysis as well as qualitative content analyses of posts by social media inuencers. Findings revealed that the use of social media inuencer marketing in public relations initiatives has broken the wall between the consumer and the brand, changing the way the two interact. I. Introduction  According to Forbes, inuencer marketing can be dened as a form of marketing in which focus is placed on specic key individuals rather than the target market as a whole (Forbes.com). Traditionally, when people think of inuencer marketing, they think of a celebrity appearance in a TV commercial or a famous person posed on a billboard along a highway. Companies hope that by showcasing people of interest to their target 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 of options in outlets to market their products. These options have also led to the evolution of social media inuencer marketing. Now you can nd people representing companies through branded content on personal social media accounts, such as Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and YouTube. More than ever, consumers are looking 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 more directly and more organically. If a brand is not using social media inuencer 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 inuencers are on the rise, becoming one of the biggest marketing and public relations trends of 2017, especially those who promote lifestyle brands. Lifestyle inuencers focus on working with companies whose products non-celebrity individuals use in their everyday lives. By working alongside social media inuencers, public relations agencies can capture the attention of brand consumers and promote relevant and relatable content to clients. While inuencer marketing based on traditional media has been used  78 — Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, Vol. 8, No. 2 ã Fall 2017 in public relations for many years, the rise of social media has created the boom of social media inuencer marketing. Social media inuencer marketing has successfully changed the way that brands interact with consumers, especially in regard to lifestyle branding. This study examined what strategies have made inuencer marketing such a successful public relations tool and how the use of social media has allowed brands and consumers to connect on a more personal level. II. Literature Review Inuencer marketing incorporating social media is a new phenomenon within the industry. Due to the constantly evolving and changing market, this topic has been widely discussed by contemporary media, but not enough by scholarly researchers. The literature review covered the identication of social media inuencers, their importance and impact on brands, and the strategic planning they employed while communicating with consumers. To include an analysis of the latest techniques used by social media inuencers in their marketing, this study reviewed trade publications and news articles as well as traditional academic sources. Who Are Social Media Inuencers? Social media inuencers represent a new type of independent, third-party endorsers who shape an audience’s attitudes through blogs, tweets, and the use of other social media channels (Fredberg, 3). Through sites like Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, social media inuencers create content promoting certain brands with the goal of obtaining a following and brand recognition.  According to Fredberg, the success of social media inuencers is vitally important to brands; therefore, technology has been developed to identify and track inuencers’ relevance to a brand or organization. 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 inuencer’s success (Fredberg, 3). Inuencer marketing on social media opens up a new channel for brands to connect with consumers more directly, organically, and at scale to their everyday lives (Adweek). Social media inuencers promote brands through their personal lives, making them relatable to the average consumer. According to Ledbetter, “When a party attempts to inuence another to take specic actions, a dynamic ensues that can change the course and content of their relationship” (Ledbetter, 3). Inuencers truly serve as the ultimate connection between a brand and a consumer. Through their candidness and openness with consumers, inuencers have high social clout and credibility (Buyer, 2016), which is what makes the phenomenon so successful. Where traditional marketing targeted mostly mass audiences, inuencers have the unique ability to target niche audiences that have until now been unreachable (Ledbetter). Inuencers’ Impact on the Brand  Brands have always had a focus on targeting their consumers’ wants and needs. The image a brand gains from its social media inuencers helps build direct relationships with its key consumers and encourages brand loyalty. While a brand does not have total control over its online conversation, the direct voice of an inuencer and trust that consumers have for this individual is instilled in the brand through the two-way conversation 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 communication strategy in an average consumer’s life. According to Gillin, there are a wide range of factors that cause inuencer marketing to become increasingly popular. These factors range from difcult-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 for evaluating inuence include participation level, frequency of activity, and prominence in the market or community (Booth and Matic, 3). In terms of goals on the inuencer’s side, social media inuencers work to enhance relationships with key audiences by improving the reputation of the business/brand, driving customer awareness on their online activities, and soliciting customers’ comments and feedback (Booth and Matic, 3).  Rise of Social Media Inuencer Marketing on Lifestyle Branding by Morgan Glucksman — 79 Theories Behind Inuencer Communication Bandura, the social-science theorist responsible for much of our understanding of how people react in social situations, wrote, “In the social learning system, new patterns of behavior can be acquired through direct experience or by observing the behaviors of others (Bandura, 3). This explanation can help one understand why inuencers are so “inuential.” Bandura explained, “On the basis of informative feedback, they (consumers) develop thoughts or hypotheses about the types of behavior most likely to succeed. These hypotheses then serve as guides for future actions” (3). To put this into simpler terms, people learn from example, and inuencers lead by example for those who “follow” them. By observing examples through social media, people are more likely to adopt the behaviors exhibited by the inuencer (Forbes, 2016). Companies are using their resources via social media inuencers in hopes that the experience that a consumer has with an inuencer allows the behavior of the inuencer 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 better understand the strategies that make social media inuencers so successful.   eWOM refers to any positive or negative statement made by potential, actual, and former customers about a product or company via the internet. eWOM encourages consumers to share their opinions with other consumers. Word of mouth is known to be one of the most credible and trusted sources of marketing. Social media inuencers are masters at eWOM. Social media inuencers 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 inuencer to keep online conversations positive and persuade other consumers to try products in a way that makes it feel as if the decision to make the purchase was in the interest of the consumer as opposed to the persuasion of the inuencer (Lee and Youn, 473-475). Researchers have studied who social media inuencers are, their impact on the brand, and the strategic planning behind their communication with consumers, but not much on how inuential these people might be. This study conducted qualitative analyses to discover how these social media inuencers have become so successful and why inuencer marketing is the fastest growing and most popular tactic in public relations today. This research addressed the following two research questions and set up one hypothesis:   RQ1: What makes a social media inuencer successful? RQ2: Do companies view social media inuencers as positive or negative to their companies?H1: Social media inuencer marketing has successfully changed the way that brands interact with consumers. III. Methods To answer the two research questions and test this hypothesis, the author gathered examples of inuencer marketing from Instagram and YouTube and examined these media forms. Two types of analysis were performed.The rst was a pentadic analysis, which looked at Instagram to examine the strategies that inuencers 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/means an agent used to perform the act; the scene provides context for the act; and the purpose explains why the event occurred. This provides an opportunity for the researcher to begin to understand what goes through social media inuencers’ minds when they create an Instagram post. The analysis can also reveal what appears to be the motives behind the posts of inuencer marketers. The second method employed was a content analysis of YouTube videos to examine how social media inuencers engage with their audience members as well as the techniques that they appear to use to advertise via YouTube. In order to conduct this qualitative content analysis, the author analyzed videos based on three characteristics that were determined to be important based on previous research: condence, interactivity, and authenticity (Bandura, 4). In terms of social media inuencers, these characteristics mean:  80 — Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, Vol. 8, No. 2 ã Fall 2017 ã Confdence : When inuencers trust their own-self and assures not only themselves but also their viewers of their abilities. ã Authenticity : The inuencer is genuine and relatable with their followers. ã Interactivity : The inuencer works together with the viewer to solicit feedback. Overall, social media inuencers post content on some form of social media and use similar strategies to distribute their messages. There are hundreds of social media inuencers within the lifestyle industry, and YouTube and Instagram appear to be the two most popular platforms. These inuencers have individual personalities but seem to operate in the same way. Therefore, if we understand how one lifestyle inuencer operates, we can understand how many of them operate. To conduct research, a case study focused on one inuencer, Lucie Fink, a continually growing and successful inuencer, and it will combine the pentadic and content analyses to draw conclusions. Background on Lucie Fink  Lucie Fink is a social media inuencer and a lifestyle host at Renery29, leading digital-media company focused on women. Renery29 provides its audience with the inspiration and tools to discover and pursue a more independent, stylish, and informed life (Renery29 Corporate). Fink has a following of more 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 views combined.In a personal interview with Fink, she described her personal brand in two ways. First, she described herself as a lifestyle personality, noting “I’m not trying to be a beauty blogger or a fashion blogger or a tness blogger. I am kind of every piece of the puzzle. I can try out almost anything and it would feel natural to my feed. I feel like the audience is really there for me and my personal life, which includes tness, food, fashion, beauty. Almost everything” (Personal interview). Fink then shared that curiosity was a part of her personal brand: “I like my personal brand to be all about being exploratory and trying new things and it really is closely aligned with both my Renery29 video content and also just my personal persona of who I really am” (Personal interview). While already a respected lifestyle social media inuencer, Fink’s exploratory and versatile personal brand has resulted in an increase by hundreds of followers on a daily basis. Fink’s personal brand has caused many companies to seek her out to promote their products through advertisements on both Instagram and YouTube, attempting to connect the brand and the consumer on a more personal level. While Fink’s inuencer marketing tactics appear more traditional on Instagram, when she utilizes YouTube, a more unique storytelling inuencer marketing approach is used, which could be the secret to her success. IV. Findings and Discussion This qualitative study found that social media inuencers’ success does not rely solely on their follower count, but their ability to inuence followers through authenticity, condence, and interactivity to create a connection between the follow and the brand. Social Media Inuencers on Instagram This research found factors that make a social media inuencer successful using a pentadic analysis. Many inuencers, like Fink, take to Instagram because it is a quick and easy way to post authentic content and streamline brands directly into posts by tagging them. Tagging brands makes it easier for an interested consumer to go directly to the source of the product. In order to examine Fink’s posts further, a pentadic analysis was performed. A pentadic analysis studied the act, agent, agency, and purpose of the images posted by Lucie. In many social media inuencers’ posts, including Fink, the act, agent, and purpose are all generally the same. Based on primary research, the author found that the act is the advertisement being posted to Instagram; the agent, is the inuencer. In this analysis, Fink is the agent. The purpose is to promote a product and gain follower interest, follow the inuencer’s lead, and purchase the said product. What changes in every inuencer’s post and makes
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