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by Rice Business professors Jaeyeon (Jae) Chung and Ajay Kalra, as well as Stanford professor Yu Ding

How Can Influencers Boost Consumer Engagement?

Influencer marketing is booming, with companies allocating 10-25% of their advertising budgets to influencer-led strategies. Between 2016 and 2020, the number of sponsored posts rose from 1.26 million to 6.12 million, and overall spending in the past few years has grown by billions. But brands face a problem: Consumers tend to disengage from sponsored content. Can social media influencers do anything to mitigate this effect?

According to new research by Rice Business professors Jaeyeon Chung and Ajay Kalra, as well as Stanford professor Yu Ding, there are several “strategic levers” influencers can use to boost engagement. The team analyzed over 55,000 Instagram posts from the top 1,000 influencers. What they found provides data-driven insights for brands that run influencer marketing campaigns.

Influencers can do the following to boost engagement:

  1. Include close friends and family in photos. Three faces are ideal for creating a sense of intimacy and warmth.
  2. Use first-person language. Phrases like “my bestie” invite the audience into the influencer’s inner circle.
  3. Express emotions. In terms of engagement, negative feelings are surprisingly more impactful than positive ones.

When it comes to sponsored content, these tactics can boost engagement and strengthen an influencer’s connection with their audience. Of course, the researchers warn against oversharing and exploiting loved ones for commercial gain. However, the study quantifies tactics for achieving greater perceptions of influencer authenticity. Brands can use this research to carefully leverage personal context to cut through the noise that typically short-circuits engagement with sponsored content.


Rice Business Wisdom

Marketing | Peer-Reviewed Research

New research offers actionable insights for boosting "likes" on sponsored posts.

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January 08

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