2023 journal article
When non-CSR-themed social media influencers endorse corporate CSR initiatives: Effects of publics? perceived influencer characteristics and leadership
PUBLIC RELATIONS REVIEW, 49(1).
Over the most recent decade, non-CSR-themed social media influencers (SMIs) have played an important role in driving positive outcomes of corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaigns on social media, a practice primarily contributed by public relations. Responding to the call to fully exploit SMIs for achieving public relations objectives, the research aimed to search for systematically identifying the most suitable SMIs with whom to collaborate for CSR endorsements. Grounded in social learning theory and the influence framework, this study examined the effects of characteristics and leadership of an SMI who endorses CSR initiatives on generating the supportive behavior towards the initiatives among the corporation’s most influential public on social media, its consumers. Results from a survey of 967 U.S. consumers showed that non-CSR-themed SMI endorsers trigger target consumers’ supportive behavior towards the CSR initiative which they have endorsed when the consumers perceive them as opinion and taste leaders. The SMI endorsers’ trustworthiness, expertise, uniqueness, and (consumer-SMI) congruity constituted their opinion leadership perceived by the consumers while expertise, uniqueness and congruity formed their taste leadership. Opinion and taste leadership fully mediated the effects of trustworthiness, expertise, and uniqueness on consumers’ CSR supportive behavior while partially mediating the impact of congruity on the CSR supportive behavior. The findings shed light on how to select effective SMIs in non-CSR domains to generate consumers’ behavior to support the CSR initiatives.