Catharina Cadwallader, Media Management MA student, Department of Culture and Media, Arcada UAS
Supervisor: Dr. Nathalie Hyde-Clarke Examiner: Dr. Jan Nåls
My MA thesis examines the reasons why millennials (people born between 1981 and 1996) choose to follow influencers, such as video bloggers, and to what extent those influencers impact their followers’ consumption choices. By doing this we can identify key components for an effective influencer marketing campaign whether in order to raise brand awareness and/or increase conversion. For my research I chose to focus on social media platforms YouTube and Instagram, as these are the two platforms most frequently visited by millennials.
The topic of influencer marketing is very close to my heart as I myself work part time as a social media influencer. I was also motivated to choose this particular subject once I discovered how little research has been conducted concerning influencer marketing. I therefore felt that this thesis could contribute to the field by filling in some of the gaps in the existing research. This research is also relevant to media management since social media influencers are media managers in their own right as they single-handedly plan, manage, execute and deliver tailor-made promotional content to their personal social media channels.
In the past few years, the employment of social media influencers has become an increasingly more popular form of online marketing, especially when targeting younger demographics. This is because previous research shows millennials spend more time on social media and watching content online than any other age group. Social media influencers are considered able to market products in a more personable way than traditional advertising thanks to the trust they have earned from their audiences. This makes the product promotion feel more like a word-of-mouth recommendation.
This research was conducted using a quantitative approach. I created an online survey consisting of 20 questions (multiple choice and single answer) distributed it through my YouTube channel and personal Facebook page. This particular method of distribution was chosen because it allowed access to a large network of potential participants, especially in the millennial age range since 80% of my followers are millennials. However, due to the channels chosen to distribute the survey it is reasonable to assume that the scope of the participants is largely limited to followers of my social media channels.
The survey was answered by a total of 974 participants, of which 580 (59.5%) were identified as falling within the millennial age group. The results showed that millennials watch video bloggers for entertainment and because they like the personality of the influencer. However the credibility of the influencer is a major factor when it comes to influencer marketing. If a product is being promoted, the credibility of both the influencer and the brand is of utmost importance for the recommendation to be considered by the millennial viewer. Having said that, there are several factors that make millennials more likely to trust a recommendation: not only do millennials prefer the brand being promoted to be one previously seen on the channel or feed of the influencer; but the brand also has to fit in with the content the influencer regularly produces. It is also vital that the influencer is both positive and critical of the product or service they are promoting as this makes the recommendation seem like a genuine product review. These are only a few of the factors identified that play a big part in whether a millennial will trust the recommendation being made by the influencer.
As a result of this research, our understanding of how millennials perceive and respond to influencer marketing has broadened. We have now established which key issues need to be considered when using this marketing strategy to target millennials. This MA study is relevant to media managers, marketers and influencers alike as it expands our knowledge of a very relevant, yet still somewhat unexplored, field of online marketing.
I found the process of writing this MA thesis at Arcada immensely valuable for my own professional development as an influencer. Every part of the six month process taught me a lot, not only about influencer marketing, but about conducting research and writing an academic paper. The results of the research widened my knowledge of the effects of influencer marketing more than I could have imagined, for which I am very grateful. I look forward to implementing everything that I have learned in my work.
Gerhards, C. 2017, Product placement on YouTube: An explorative study on YouTube creators’ experiences with advertisers, Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, pp.1-18
Husain, S., Ghufran, A. & Chaubey, D.S., 2016 Relevance of Social Media in Marketing and Advertising, Splint International Journal of Professionals Vol. 3 (7)
Kraljević, R., & Filipović, Z. 2017, Gender Differences and Consumer Behavior of Millennials, Acta Economica Et Turistica, Vol. 3 (1), pages 5-13
Schwemmer, C. and Ziewiecki, S. 2018, Social Media Sellout: The Increasing Role of Product Promotion on YouTube, Social Media + Society, Vol.1 (20)
The full thesis may be downloaded from Theseus.fi (External link) from June 2019.
Are you looking for tools to manage the rapidly changing media industry? Or do you find yourself in the media industry struggling to see the bigger picture? Learn more about our MA in Media Management here: https://www.arcada.fi/en/master/media-management (External link)