Instagram influencer marketing is one of the fastest growing trends in advertising. Part of what makes influencers so powerful is their ability to foster parasocial relationships with their followers. But does this relationship change when an influencer becomes affiliated with brands? This study assessed how brand promotions affect follower engagement with influencer posts through the lens of source credibility theory. A quantitative content analysis was performed on 100 fitness influencer posts and their comments (N = 7,716) to determine if followers interact differently with sponsored and organic posts. Significant differences in follower engagement and sentiments were found between sponsored and organic content. The researcher also conducted interviews with ten Instagram fitness influencers and found that influencers notice these effects and take steps to mediate them. These findings can benefit influencers and brand managers by providing them with some best practices for keeping engagement up during influencer campaigns. It also provides us with a greater understanding of the power of online communities and their influence on consumer opinion.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Instagram (Firm); Internet personalities--Public opinion; Corporate sponsorship; Online social networks--Management; Internet marketing; Physical fitness--Social aspects

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Communication and Media Technologies (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

School of Communication (CLA)


Ammina Kothari

Advisor/Committee Member

Jonathan Schroeder

Advisor/Committee Member

Andrea Hickerson


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes