Trust in influencer marketing A qualitative study on audience reception of Royal Design advertising
Abstract: The aim of this thesis is to investigate whether there is a trust between social media influencers and their followers, and if so, to what extent. The methodological approach consists of an analysis of interview material, expert interviews and selected comment boxes on social media. By conducting qualitative analysis, this thesis examines audience reception to promotional content produced by social media influencers in collaboration with the Swedish interior design brand Royal Design. Based on the theories of parasocial interaction, two-step flow and opinion leadership, and modes of reception, concepts such as audience advertising response, relationship to influencers and the level of trust are investigated and concluded in order to find common patterns around audience reception to influencer marketing. The analysis shows that there is indeed a certain amount of trust towards social media influencers among the sample group especially if they recognise the influencer, however, the trust is not full and unconditional. The audience reception of influencer marketing content both in the interviews and comment boxes was mostly positive, and some respondents seemed to have developed sympathy towards social media personas featured in the advertisements, praising them for being personal and authentic. The results of the study imply that while the credibility and motives of influencer content are questioned by some, it is generally perceived as a more enjoyable alternative to traditional advertising formats.
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