Date of Award

Winter 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)


Marketing and Analysis

First Advisor

Julie Guidy Moulard


Marketers’ use of social media influencers (SMIs)—individuals who use various social media channels to discuss a particular topic (e.g., fashion, health) or offer entertainment (e.g., comedy) and, in doing so, attract followers—to promote products, known as “influencer marketing,” is a widely employed and effective strategic tool (Linqia 2018). In fact, SMIs, who can be conceptualized as human brands (Thompson 2006), have a greater audience reach and dialogue generation compared to that of celebrities (Crimson Hexagon 2015). Further, consumers perceive SMIs’ content as trustworthy (Scott 2015), which is likely due to them being perceived as highly authentic. According to Audrezet, de Kerviler and Moulard (2018) SMIs use strategies to remain passionately authentic and transparently authentic.

Despite their popularity and perceived trustworthiness, SMIs face a challenge when they mention, recommend, or endorse brands within their digital content. Doing so may lead to perceptions that the influencer is passionately inauthentic, as consumers may presume these acts to be commercially driven. Thus, by incorporating influencer marketing, SMIs may compromise their perceived passionate authenticity.

When SMIs mention brands within their digital content, they sometimes choose to infer whether or not they have a business relationship with the brand via a disclosure. SMIs’ means of, or choice of wording for disclosures varies. Therefore, consumers will likely perceive SMIs as more transparently authentic when SMIs disclose unambiguously, since doing so implies complete forthrightness.

SMIs are now required to disclose, or explicitly mention when they were paid to promote a brand (Johnson 2017). However, the FTC’s rules are somewhat ambiguous and perhaps unfair. Therefore, SMIs may or may not be explicitly disclosing their true relationship with brands they post about due to the sheer uncertainty and/or unfairness inherent in the FTC’s endorsement guidance (FTC 2015).

SMIs who explicitly disclose are presumably perceived as possessing high transparent authenticity; however, such explicit disclosures presumably result in consumer perceptions of low passionate authenticity. This brings about a challenge to SMIs who partner with brands. This dissertation will answer the following question: How can social media influencers manage consumers’ perceptions of their human brand authenticity while engaging in influencer marketing?

Included in

Marketing Commons