Friday, August 5, 2022

Sidestep Celebrity Endorser Certification

Fake accounts became the bane of social media influencing, in which people accumulate celebrity and persuasion power by recommending products. So media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube launched protocols to prune out the name imitators, certify the real accounts as genuine, and indicate the authenticity to account followers. However, a University of Maine study says the badge of certification could end up cutting consumer trust in the influencers’ recommendations rather than increasing it. This happened when the reputation of the influencer poorly matched the characteristics of the recommended item.
     Perhaps the explanation for the erosion had been provided by William Shakespeare far in advance of the study. “The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” a line from Hamlet, could be taken to mean, “I wasn’t even thinking about whether the account was real until you highlighted this issue of verification. Now I distrust the whole system.”
     The researchers posit another explanation: Since the verification is performed only on accounts large enough to be worth imitating, the verification confirms not only the identity of the influencer, but also that the influencer is recognized as a celebrity. And unless there is a close match between the image of the influencer and the image of the item being recommended, this makes it appear the recommendation is being issued to profit the influencer rather than benefit the follower. When there’s a poor match, the verification indication does strengthen followers’ trust that the influencer is a celebrity.
     This leads to another risk in using the verification indication absent a good match: Eclipsing, in the sense of emphasizing one thing at the expense of another. Researchers at University of Adelaide and Macquarie University saw how an audience of consumers can be so taken with the celebrity, they’ll forget about the details of the endorsement.
     These researchers found that when viewers of an ad knew the celebrity well and felt an attachment, there was little chance the celebrity would eclipse the brand. However, with lesser-known celebrities—such as those previously unknown social media influencers crowned by the certification of who they say they are—you might avoid eclipsing by keeping the major emphasis on your store brand.
     Social media influencers who have earned certification generally command higher fees. Further, a high-quality certification process consumes other resources. The research findings about the downsides of SMI certification should lead you to consider sidestepping this marketing technique.

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