Newhouse doctoral students Jeongwon Yang and Ploypin Chuenterawongco-authored the paper, “Speaking Up on Black Lives Matter: A Comparative Study of Consumer Reactions toward Brand and Influencer-Generated Corporate Social Responsibility Messages” with Krittaphat Pugdeethosapol, a doctoral student in electrical engineering and computer science. The paper was published in the Journal of Advertising.
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement ignited divergent social media reactions and conversations. Addressing the importance of message sources, this study aims to (1) compare audience reactions toward BLM content posted by brands and by influencers with brand sponsorship and (2) apply computational methods in influencer marketing to examine a large volume of social media texts qualitatively and quantitatively. A total of 32,702 comments on 110 Instagram posts on BLM were collected and analyzed through both human efforts and machine-learning algorithms. As a result, we found that black-influencer-created BLM attracted higher consumer engagement than posts by nonblack influencers and brands. Moreover, we generated seven different themes among which brands received the highest percentages of criticism, demands for more proactive actions, and purchase/boycott intentions. Influencers had more comments that reflected personal stories and emotion regarding BLM. Black influencers in particular received the highest percentage of praise and appreciation. Finally, comments on brands’ BLM posts embedded the highest proportion of negative sentiment, while those of black influencers’ posts were predominantly positive. Therefore, the comparisons of BLM sources elucidate the promising potential of influencers in communicating corporate social responsibility (CSR) messages of racial equality—a topic which engenders high relevance to every individual in our society.