Social media marketing efforts comprise several approaches to creating and maintaining relationships with customers. These include approaches of positive electronic word-of-mouth, virtual tours and tutorials, social media campaigns, and live videos. The rise in popularity of these methods can be attributed to the significant and positive impact that they have on customers. Also, social media platforms act as a tool of validation and play a mediating role between the customers and businesses.
Furthermore, social media marketing techniques unlike traditional methods of advertisement are a two-way information exchange process. It aids businesses in gaining insights into customers’ needs, behaviors, and attitudes towards different product and service offerings (Dwivedi, Kapoor, and Chen, 2015).
Industries using social media marketing
Among the prominent industries making the most of social media marketing include:
- media and entertainment,
- retail, high tech,
- hospitality, and
- airlines utilities.
In addition, the list of prominent social media marketing user industries also include:
- health care services and products,
- banking and financial services,
- consumer packaged goods,
- telecom services and equipment, and
- fashion (Kim and Ko, 2010; TCS, 2020).
For companies, social media marketing helps in understanding how consumers view the brand and increases brand affinity. Also, the social media platforms contribute to increasing consumer awareness, tool of public relation management, and identify new service or product opportunity (Erdoğmuş and Çiçek, 2012; Markos-Kujbus and Gati, 2012; Papasolomou and Melanthiou, 2012).
Understanding the role of social media influencers
The rise of social media tools led to a shift in methods of information sharing, which also created certain difficulties for businesses to reach to their targeted consumers. Influencer marketing is viewed as a viable solution to influence consumer decisions (Jaakonmäki, Müller and vom Brocke, 2017).
Content generators with domain expertise, who can shape followers’ attitudes and purchase decisions…. Social media influencers are more like “grass-roots” celebrities who shot to fame via constantly producing valuable content and cultivating reciprocal relationships with their followers via social media.Lou and Kim, p. 2
The above definition suggests that social media influencers are online personalities who have a large number of followers across different social media platforms and fulfill various roles such as that of content creators, opinion leaders, and even entrepreneurs. This drives the effectiveness of marketing for businesses. In addition, influencers fulfill the role of trustworthy experts that add elements of source credibility to marketing messages of the firms. They enhance the perceived trust among customers (Freberg et al., 2011; Balaban and Mustătea, 2019).
Types of social media influencers
- Bloggers and vloggers operate on one or more social media platforms at once to publish content on a regular basis. These influencers engage audiences to maintain their loyalty, generate leads, and boost brand awareness (Abidin, 2016).
- Mainstream celebrities and social media sensations appear on behalf of a company to further drive their purchases through their reach to a large number of potential customers (Li, Lee, and Lien, 2012).
- Reality stars act as influencers as they normalize social practices by being more accessible to the audience. For example, companies that have products and services embedded into such programs as those of the body makeover series (Abidin, 2018).
- Micro-influencers have 500- 10000 followers and use their online communities to talk about any brand, product, or service (Rodprayoon, 2020).
- Nano influencers have a small number of followers with the highest engagement rates as they are closely related to their followers and are capable to form more authentic relations to promote different products and services (De Veirman, Hudders, and Nelson, 2019).
Influencers have a mediating effect on consumer attitude
Influencers act as opinion leaders on behalf of brands to mediate the transmission of information from firms to customers. They provide brand information to their online followers and play a moderating role in forming a positive consumer attitude towards a brand. Furthermore, as influencers are closely in contact with the final customers, they utilize their connections to provide the firms with valuable customer insights (Lim et al., 2017).
Influencers impact purchase intentions of customers
Influencers impact consumers’ consumption behavior as they act as independent third-party endorsers. They also guide customers through their decision-making process with the help of various social media platforms. Influencers use their credibility and attractiveness to build brand admiration among customers. This admiration towards a brand is then guided by influencers into their purchase intention and drive sales for the brand (Trivedi and Sama, 2020).
Influencers impact brand loyalty
Loyalty is a post-purchase behavior among customers and influencers can play an important role in guiding it. Influencers positively impact satisfaction among customers through blogs and videos of advices and recommendations of product usage. They provide customers with a platform to share their experiences and opinions on different social media platforms. Social media influencers can play an important role in enhancing satisfaction among consumers through their post-purchase decision processes (Yadav et al., 2013).
Influencers help brands in new product development
Influencers hold power over online communities with a high credibility, authority, and a large number of connections. This also empowers the influencers to develop collaborative engagement between brands and their customers. As influencers have the power to impact the level of satisfaction among customers, they are also armed with new tools to gauge dissatisfaction with the available product or services of a brand. Influencers act as a go between brand and their customers to interact with firms and “co-create” value. Influencers empower users to participate in product development processes. This starts with idea generation to commercialization of these products (Skute, 2014).
The case of ‘Saffola Fit Foodie’ campaign
One of the case studies that exemplify the immense benefit of social media influencers is that of the ‘Saffola Fit Foodie’ campaign. For this campaign, Saffola enrolled celebrity chefs like Kunal Kapoor, Saransh Goila, Shipra Khanna, and leading food bloggers such as Neha Mathur and Archana Doshi. The campaign addressed the dilemma of eating healthy and eating tasty. Some healthy recipes were curated by the influencers to be healthier than the normal recipe. The campaign also motivated consumers to send in their recipes through the platform of Whatsapp.
Consumers used their mobile phones to send recipes and pictures making it easier for the brand to make a connection with the consumers. The impact of the campaign can be estimated by its outreach which has received 2 million visits since its inception in April 2015. The brand was able to engage consumers as it was found that on an average visitor on the Saffola fit foodie website were logged on for a minimum of 3 minutes as compared to their competitors that had an average login time of 2.4 minutes. In only one year the company was able to interact with two hundred thousand followers through its Facebook page (Marico, 2016; Shah, 2017).
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