Video Influencers: Unboxing the Mystique

73 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2021 Last revised: 31 Jan 2023

See all articles by Prashant Rajaram

Prashant Rajaram

Ivey Business School, Western University

Puneet Manchanda

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Date Written: January 28, 2023


Influencer marketing has become a very popular tool to reach customers. Despite the rapid growth in influencer videos, there has been little research on the effectiveness of their constituent elements in explaining video engagement. We study YouTube influencers and analyze their unstructured video data across text, audio and images using a novel “interpretable deep learning” framework that accomplishes both goals of prediction and interpretation. Our prediction-based approach analyzes unstructured data and finds that “what is said” in words (text) is more influential than “how it is said” in imagery (images) followed by acoustics (audio). Our interpretation-based approach is implemented after completion of model prediction by analyzing the same source of unstructured data to measure importance attributed to the video elements. We eliminate several spurious and confounded relationships, and identify a smaller subset of theory-based relationships. We uncover novel findings that establish distinct effects for measures of shallow and deep engagement which are based on the dual-system framework of human thinking. Our approach is validated using simulated data, and we discuss the learnings from our findings for influencers and brands.

Keywords: Influencer Marketing, Video Advertising, Social Media, Interpretable Deep Learning, Transfer Learning

JEL Classification: M31, M37

Suggested Citation

Rajaram, Prashant and Manchanda, Puneet, Video Influencers: Unboxing the Mystique (January 28, 2023). Available at SSRN: or

Prashant Rajaram (Contact Author)

Ivey Business School, Western University ( email )

1255 Western Road
London, Ontario N6G0N1

Puneet Manchanda

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business ( email )

701 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI MI 48109
United States
734-936-2445 (Phone)
734-936-8716 (Fax)

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