Towards a world of influencers: Exploring the relationship building dimensions of Influencer Marketing
Abstract: Background The emergence of the Internet, and in particular social network sites, has led to the appearance of new powerful actors, i.e. Social Media Influencers, with the power to persuade their audience. This introduced a middleman in the company-consumer relationship and a new stakeholder to build relationships with. Small and medium-sized enterprises’ (SMEs) marketing activities differ from traditional practices. SMEs need to be more creative when engaging in Influencer Marketing given their resource constraints. The presence of a relationship can help SMEs to increase and improve their brand image, support the launch of new products and most essentially avoid large investments of Influencer Marketing. Purpose The purpose of this study is to explore the methods Swedish SMEs use in their relationship building activities with influencers, as well as the underlying dimensions related to those methods. Method An inductive research approach is utilized, with the aim to extend the current knowledge available about relationship building with influencers. The use of a qualitative approach with semi-structured interviews allowed the exploration of how SMEs build relationships with influencers from a management perspective. Conclusion This thesis indicates that Swedish SMEs’ relationship building activities are influenced by certain underlying dimensions. These are adherence to brand values, timeline of the collaboration, nature of the product, paid and earned forms of collaborations and the types of relationships SMEs establish: formal and informal. The means used by SMEs when building relationship with influencers were identified as communication, events, feedback and gifts. Further, resource constraints did not appear to influence how SMEs build relationships with influencers but instead the type and number of influencers they work with.
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