Research: Celeb-Sponsored Tweets Don't Always Pay

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

PHILADELPHIA (July 10, 2012) – Reality stars like Kim Kardashian and Lauren Conrad are using their star power to promote consumer brands and products on Twitter. The concept is simple: With thousands, sometimes millions, of followers, celebrities are compensated by companies to tweet on their behalf. But do these celebrity-sponsored tweets really help to market a product?

New research from Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia explores this trend and its effectiveness in marketing to young adults between the ages of 18 and 27. Through the study, marketing researchers Janée Burkhalter, Ph.D., and Natalie Wood, Ph.D., learned celebrity-sponsored tweets have minimal influence on the opinions of young people when it comes to familiar brands. Conversely, the researchers discovered celebrity tweets are an effective tool for lesser-known brands looking to capture the attention of a large audience quickly.

"It appears that celebrity tweets do little beyond communicating product information or encouraging consumers to search online," says Burkhalter. "Our results also suggest that companies with established and familiar brands should not use Twitter's 'Promoted By' option, because this was perceived by respondents as 'lowering their opinion of the brand.'"

So what's the most effective strategy for major brands on Twitter?

The authors recommend these companies aim their marketing efforts toward increasing their number of followers, which will allow for more direct interaction with their target audience.

For example, Whole Foods Market (with 2.5 million followers) uses Twitter to find out what their customers like to read and watch. The company also uses the tool to introduce food podcasts and invite followers to upcoming events. Best Buy (261,000 followers) uses Twitter to provide customers with real-time customer service. Other companies use the tool to offer followers exclusive deals and discounts.

According to a new eMarketer report, U.S. marketers will spend $2.74 billion on social media ads this year. With celebrities like Kardashian commanding a price tag of $10,000 per tweet, this research suggests marketers would be smart to direct their budget for social media to efforts with a better ROI.

Burkhalter, an assistant professor of marketing, and Wood, an associate professor of marketing, recently presented their research at the International Advertising & Integrated Marketing Communications Conference. The pair is currently researching the clarity and transparency of promotional tweets around the FTC's disclosure guidelines for social media. They will present their early findings at the American Marketing Association's Summer Marketing Educator's Conference in August.


Media Contact

Contact: Carolyn Steigleman, Director of Communications for the Haub School of Business, 610-660-1355,


Founded in 1851 in the Jesuit tradition of academic excellence, Saint Joseph’s University is a top-ranked Catholic University that provides a rigorous, student-centered education. With a total enrollment of 8,500 undergraduate and graduate students, SJU offers a wide-array of academic programs designed so that each graduate enters the world with a competitive resume and global perspective. This is achieved through intense academic study led by thought-leading faculty scholars, a comprehensive campus experience and robust study abroad, service-learning, internship and co-op programs. Upon graduation, nearly 100 percent of students are employed, pursuing advanced degrees or volunteering in prestigious service programs. A member of the Atlantic 10 Conference, SJU offers 20 Division I intercollegiate men’s and women’s sports. SJU alumni – over 60,000 strong - provide a powerful network that spans the globe.

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