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USC study puts focus on beauty Instagrammers

15 Nov 2018

A USC study has found that consumers are more likely to distrust a brand on social media if they know an influencer has been paid to promote it.

Influencer marketing in the cosmetic industry was the focus of research by USC Fraser Coast Honours student Samantha Kay and supervisor USC Lecturer in Marketing Dr Rory Mulcahy.

“Recently we have seen a rapid rise in micro-celebrities who can shape the attitudes and buying behaviours of their many followers simply by using and posting about a product they have been paid to promote,” Dr Mulcahy said.

With brands required by law to disclose if posts were sponsored, he said the research provided some important insights to the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of Instagram marketing.

Testing the responses of 18-29-year-old female Instagram users – the largest market for social media advertising by the cosmetics industry – the study measured the impact on the credibility of the brand and influencer, and on buying intentions, if a post was sponsored.

“We found that consumers want authenticity from the micro-celebrities they follow on Instagram and are more likely to distrust a brand if they know the blogger has received an incentive to use or talk about the product on their post,” Miss Kay said.

“This shows brands should use caution when engaging in sponsorships, depending on their goal. If it to increase product knowledge, they should avoid it altogether.”

It seems the more popular the micro-celebrity, the more followers are likely to trust a sponsored post and find the product attractive.

“We found the higher the number of followers, the fewer negative effects from sponsorship,” Miss Kay said.

“This suggests that the best way for advertisers to increase the willingness of a consumer to buy their product is to find ways to develop non-sponsored content with influencers who have a large following.”

The 25-year-old Hervey Bay resident, who graduated earlier this year with a Bachelor of Business from USC, said she developed a keen interest in social media and digital marketing during her studies.

“While completing my degree, I was surprised by the lack of research into brand attitude and sponsored Instagram posts,” she said.

“As a millennial who spends a lot of time on social media – as does almost everyone I know – I also have a personal interest in this area,” said Miss Kay, who is the first student to undertake Business Honours at the Fraser Coast campus.

“Continuing with USC’s Honours program allows me to follow a research path to expand my expertise and knowledge, with the aim of completing a doctorate.”

— Clare McKay

USC Fraser Coast Honours student Samantha Kay

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Terry Walsh Manager, Media and Messaging +61 7 5430 1160
Janelle Kirkland Media Relations Coordinator +61 7 5459 4553
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