Insta(nt) credibility? : Exploring how Generation Z assigns credibility to influencers and their sponsored posts on Instagram
Abstract: Background: Today, 98% of all Swedish upper secondary school students have Internet access and the majority possess accounts on social media; allowing them to generate content and engage with brands in a new way. Amongst this, we find influencer marketing; a new form of endorsement strategy utilized by companies in the social media setting to promote products and brands. Problem: Companies rely to a greater extent on influencers, becoming one of their main marketing communication strategies. However, the scarcity of research within influencer marketing regarding credibility may cause marketers to fall into a trap of basing their marketing communication on guesswork; potentially affecting the efficiency of their advertising message. Purpose: This paper sought to create an understanding of how Generation Z assigns credibility to an influencer and their sponsored posts on Instagram, in the multilayered and complex social media environment, where the question of how may cover both the perceived positive and negative influences on credibility. Method: A qualitative approach with semi-structured focus groups with 29 participants from Generation Z were conducted. The data collected from the focus groups were later analyzed using the general analytical procedure and further compared with existing literature within the field. Results: This research indicated that expertise, trustworthiness, similarity, engagement, previous endorsements, influencer and product match, advertisement and feed match and follower count can positively influence the assigning of credibility. Furthermore, the following factors were indicated to negatively influence the assigning of credibility: entertainment value, social ties, mismatch between the influencer and the product, multiple endorsements and advertising and feed match.
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