The rise of social media has paved the way for digital opinion leaders, so called influencers, to become key elements of modern marketing strategies. Influencer marketing strategies are today used by many companies and the relationship between influencers and their followers has become a vital instrument for marketers. Therefore, the aim of this thesis is to explore the relationship between followers and influencers and describe the characteristics that shape the relationship. For this purpose, a multiple case study was conducted, consisting of three cases: Bianca Ingrosso, Isabella Löwengrip and Matilda Djerf. These are among the top influencers in Sweden and are active across several social media platforms. In order to study the relationship between followers and influencers, a theoretical framework based on theory regarding relationships between brands and consumers was used. These theories and concepts include parasocial interaction, engagement, trust, sponsored content and brand loyalty. To explore how these variables affect the followers’ relationship with the influencer and ultimately how brand loyalty toward the influencer is mediated, 12 semi-structured interviews were conducted with four followers of each influencer. All three cases share similar results and the findings show that engagement is the main mediator toward brand loyalty across all three cases since little evidence of feelings of PSI is found. For all three follower groups, the engagement level was generally low and in general the respondents express rather weak brand loyalty. Their motivations for engaging with the influencers are mainly inspiration, information and entertainment. Further, sponsored content is found to have an influence on trust toward the influencer depending on the fit between the sponsored content and the influencer. Sponsorships that are not accepted by the respondents are shown to have a negative effect on engagement. Additionally, avenues for managerial implications and future research pertains to how influencers should be aware of the followers’ motivations for engagement and their perceptions of sponsorships and trust as well as researching how the commercial nature of influencers could have an effect on the establishment of parasocial interaction through illusionary experiences.
|Uddannelser||Cand.merc.bcm Brand and Communications Management, (Kandidatuddannelse) Afsluttende afhandling|