Honors College
 

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Major

Marketing

Advisor(s)

Stefano Tijerina

Committee Members

Dmitri Markovitch, Susan Myrden, Rusty Stough, Jennie Woodard

Graduation Year

May 2021

Publication Date

Spring 5-2021

Abstract

Media giants, among them Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, support verified accounts. Verification, denoted by a blue checkmark badge visible in search and on one’s profile, is ostensibly a way of confirming one’s identity, yet only accounts with large followings are awarded verification status by the platform. This research investigates the perception of verification in the context of paid partnerships with social media influencers, a topic relatively absent from the literature despite the billions of dollars spent on influencer partnerships. Verified influencers cost more, therefore, this research could allow brands to capitalize their ad return if they are made aware of the implications associated with verification. Specifically, I investigate if consumers perceive verification as more directly associated with credibility or celebrity and if this relationship yields discrepancies in consumer’s trust of the brand, advertisement, and endorser in paid partnerships on social media. Two questionnaires administered via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk tested two hypotheses. 342 respondents completed a pre-test that tested, and proved true, the assumption that verification is viewed as the same regardless of platform. In the primary study, 413 participants were randomly assigned to one artificial Instagram post in a 2 x 2 between-subject design: (beauty vs. fitness industry) x (verified vs. unverified). Surprisingly, results indicated that verification had no impact on user’s perceptions of credibility, celebrity or trust. Interestingly, verification did play a significant role in user’s perceptions of endorser attractiveness and beauty and verified endorsers were viewed as less attractive. Given the findings, supplemental, future research is discussed as well as implications for marketers since verified endorsers showed no statistically significant benefits, yet they are costlier to work with.

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