Influencer marketing

The effect of high-arousal language used by social media influencers

By our African Marketing Confederation News Team | 2024

Research underscores the importance of aligning social media posts and emotive language strategies with the type of influencer being used.

Photo by Ron Lach from Pexels

By our African Marketing Confederation News Team.

Researchers from Luiss Guido Carli University in Italy have published a new study that examines whether, and how, subtle shifts in emotive language might shape consumer engagement and the way it affects perceptions of influencers’ trustworthiness.


The study is published in the American Marketing Association’s peer-reviewed Journal of Marketing and is titled ‘How High-Arousal Language Shapes Micro Versus Macro Influencers’ Impact’.


Social media influencers have the potential to spread marketing messages widely and drive consumer actions, but it is unclear why some posts generate strong engagement while others do not.


The research team says one possibility is that consumers are increasingly aware that influencers get paid to promote products, raising questions about their motives. Additionally, anecdotal evidence suggests that when influencers use high-arousal language (e.g., “it’s totally amazing!”), it leads to questions about their trustworthiness. This, in turn, leads consumers to engage less with the social media content.


Consumers typically see micro-influencers as ‘ordinary’ people, so if they say something like “this shake is amazing!” consumers believe they are excited and want to share this discovery with their friends and followers. This belief in their sincerity increases consumers’ trust in micro-influencers.


However, macro-influencers do not seem like regular people. Consumers know these influencers receive substantial sums to say positive things about products, so they judge their posts as an attempt to persuade, just like any other form of advertising.

Manipulative intentions tend to decrease trust


Believing that someone has manipulative intentions tends to decrease trust. Yet the negative effect of highly emotive posts by macro-influencers could be mitigated if their posts offer more informative (vs. commercial) content, or if the messages are more balanced.


For this study, the researchers collaborated with an influencer marketing agency to analyse a sample of almost 21,000 sponsored Instagram post created by 1,300 social media influencers.


“For micro-influencers, we find that a 10% increase in [arousal wording] is associated with a 5.4% increase in engagement, on average,” the researchers say. “Recommending a product by saying, ‘It’s superb’ rather than ‘It’s great’, for example, would attract 49 additional likes or comments.”


“However, our findings raise concerns for macro-influencers. If macro-influencers increase arousal in their posts by 10%, it reduces consumer engagement by 8.4%, on average,” they point out.


Social media macro-influencers are not completely forbidden from expressing excitement, though. Since being informative is associated with a 1.8% increase in engagement, they can share informative, rather than commercial, posts.


Also, admitting some concerns, or noting some negative aspects of the promoted product, can help macro-influencers seem more genuine, which also increases engagement.


Finally, macro influencers can use high-arousal language if they also include words that signal trustworthiness (e.g., “learn,” “help”). Thus, brands and macro-influencers should collaborate to make sure their posts include phrases like “that’s what I learned about this incredible product” rather than “that’s how to use this incredible product.”


You can find out more about the study here.




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    Dr Kin Kariisa

    Group CEO - Next Media

    Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
    With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
    Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

    Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

    Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

    • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
    • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
    • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
    • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.