Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2022

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis


Integrated Marketing Communication

First Advisor

William Berry III

Second Advisor

Charles Mitchell

Third Advisor

Jason Cain

Relational Format



In the age of social media influencers turning social media platforms into jobs– monetizing pictures of their cats, dancing for dollars, or even making a mockery of themselves for fame and money, the question of whom to trust or distrust has become increasingly important among consumers. As more brands are starting to collaborate with influencers, it is essential to acknowledge the current relationship among all parties involved, including the Federal Trade Commission. There is currently a blurred line among trust, distrust, authenticity, and reliability during sponsorships. The common question among consumers is whether social media influencers believe in the brand or whether they just want the benefit of the sponsorship. This thesis aims to explore the current relationship that consumers have with social media influencers regarding trust and, more specifically, what factors influence trust versus distrust. Another area of research for this thesis involves investigating the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations. Findings challenge the current FTC protocols because regulations were found to be hard to enforce and leave a gap for interpretation. In addition, the purpose is to introduce a new method of tracking sponsorships through an Authenticity Clause that can be added to influencer contracts to stimulate a stronger relationship among consumers and influencers, penetrate market purchases for the brands, and allow advertisers to regain their title of “attention merchants.”

Accessibility Status

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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