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,


As Philadelphia's Jesuit, Catholic University, founded by the Society of Jesus in 1851, Saint Joseph's University provides a rigorous, student-centered education rooted in the liberal arts. SJU ranks as a top university in the Northeast, with a Phi Beta Kappa chapter in the College of Arts and Sciences and AACSB accreditation of the  Erivan K. Haub School of Business. The University is also deeply committed to the Jesuit tradition of scholarship and service, earning a place on the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll and the community engagement classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. With courses offered on campus and online, SJU prepares its more than 8,000 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students to lead lives of personal excellence, professional success and engaged citizenship.


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