Mumbai: Earlier this month, a sting operation by an investigative journalism outlet claimed to have ‘exposed’ several Indian celebrities for accepting money to promote campaigns of political parties as their own personal views, inviting public backlash.

But how much do celebrity endorsements really influence public opinion? If a new research is anything to go by, plenty.

In a National Bureau of Economic Research study, authors Vivi Alatas of World Bank, and others, conducted a nationwide experiment in Indonesia, using Twitter accounts of 46 high-profile celebrities and organizations, with a total of 7.8 million followers, to post content promoting immunization.

They found that people were much more likely to pass on information if it originally came from a well-connected source or a celebrity. They also found that tweets are more likely to be shared or retweeted when they were directly posted by celebrities without quoting another source or government organization.

Interestingly, the study also demonstrated that online campaigns can lead to changes in beliefs and offline behaviour. The authors conducted a separate phone survey of people who followed at least one of the high-profile Twitter accounts and found that the followers knew more about the details of the provisions of immunization.

The authors also suggested that the Twitter campaign spurred offline discussion because they found higher reported immunization behaviour changes by respondents’ friends, relatives and neighbours.The results, thus, confirmed the importance of seeding information with influential people. The authors claimed that this was not only because influential agents, such as celebrities, were connected to more people on social media, but also because people were more likely to heed to the messages shared by more influential people.

Also read: When celebrities speak: a nationwide twitter experiment promoting vaccination in Indonesia

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