Design by Cara Jhang Buy this photo.

With the influencer marketing industry on the rise, University of Michigan researchers studied the effects of certain video elements used in influencer marketing videos. The study found that mentioning a brand in the first 30 seconds of an influencer video is associated with more attention to the brand, but a decrease in sentiment (in the comments) below the video. 

Influencer marketing is when companies use high-profile online figures to endorse their products, typically as part of the influencer’s own regular content rather than as a standalone advertisement. In 2020, the influencer industry was worth $9.7 billion and is expected to grow to more than $15 billion by 2022. Many attribute the rise of influencer marketing to celebrities like Paris Hilton and the Kardashians in the early 2000s. 

Influencer culture has also taken off on TikTok since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, with some influencers facing criticism for traveling during the pandemic or promoting lifestyles that are out-of-touch with the struggles many people are facing.

The study, conducted by Prashant Rajaram, a Ph.D student in the Business School, and marketing professor Puneet Manchanda is currently a working paper. It used an “interpretable deep learning approach” to analyze the audio, images and text in the first 30 seconds of 1,620 YouTube influencer videos. 

The researchers used the number of views, likes, dislikes and comments a video received to track interactions with the video and user’s impressions of it.

In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Rajaram said despite how lucrative the influencer marketing industry is, there is little research currently being done about it.

“It’s an emerging field,” Rajaram said. “Video is composed of a lot of different kinds of information — it has text, audio and images, so it’s difficult to analyze and understand it.”

Manchanda told The Daily the study also showed that the success of a video is often dependent upon the textual elements included in it, like the caption or words attached to the video.

“Text actually has the most impact,” Manchanda said. “It turns out the caption, the title, those actually have a much bigger impact on engagement and stickiness and sentiment.”

U-M alum Eli Rallo, who has more than 235,000 followers on her TikTok account @thejarr, told The Daily she noticed her videos get fewer likes and interactions when she mentions the brand name in the video.

“It works better (for the video) when you’re just lowkey using their hot sauce in your video, and you put it in the caption,” Rallo said. “And then people think ‘that hot sauce looks so good, I need to buy it.’ As opposed to me being like ‘unboxing my hot sauce’ and it’s very clear that they’re paying me.”

Rajaram said overtly mentioning a brand in a video could make consumers feel as though the influencer is just trying to sell something to them, making the video feel impersonal. Manchanda agreed, noting that influencers should take their viewers’ interests into account when promoting a product.

“(The) perfect video is not always just about the brand, you also have to keep the viewers perspective in mind,” Manchanda said. “Because if the viewer doesn’t like the video, then the whole exercise is meaningless.”

Moving forward, Manchanda said he would like to learn more about how the findings from their study affect influencers with smaller followings as compared to larger influencers. The study focused on influencers with more than 1,000 followers. 

Rallo said to maintain authenticity and connect with her viewers, she only accepts offers from products she actually uses and likes. 

“I’m not going to post it on my Instagram story if it doesn’t look like something I want to have,” Rallo said. “If my whole thing is ‘oh my god, I’m so authentic’ and then all of a sudden I’m like ‘here’s something that I don’t even like,’ that just completely erases what I’m trying to do.”

Correction: This story has been updated to more accurately reflect the study’s findings. A previous version of this article also said the study was published in December 2020 — it is still a working paper. A previous version also said the study focused on influencers with more than 10,000 followers. The correct number is 1,000 or more followers.

Daily News Contributor Justin O’Beirne can be reached at

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.

For a weekly roundup of the best stories from The Michigan Daily, sign up for our newsletter here.