Michael Kirkwood

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PhD Scholar

Email: michael.kirkwood@aut.ac.nz


  • Bachelor of Business in Marketing and Design 2013
  • Bachelor of Business (Honours) First-Class 2014
  • Master of Business (Marketing) with Honours, First-class 2016

Research Supervisor

  • Crystal Yap


Michael Kirkwood currently holds a Master of Business in Marketing with First-class honours and recently received the award for Top Maori Graduate in the Master of Business 2016. Michael has also presented a conference paper adapted from his Master’s thesis at ANZMAC 2016, where his research was well received. Michael is looking towards a career in research and teaching, and has worked in the MARS department as a teaching assistant for three years. Michael has also worked and as a contract lecturer during summer school 2016 / 2017 and is looking to develop further in this capacity. Michael has published a conference paper and has another paper under review.

Thesis title:
Micro-celebrity pathways to influence: An exploration of micro-celebrity social exchanges and the relevancy of social currency

A brief introduction to the PhD research

In the digital world of streaming services, social networks, and new media, brands are finding there is less payoff in television and print media advertising. Today’s digitally mediated consumer values the opinions of others within their social media group, including friends, bloggers, and those they follow, more than the messages they are getting directly from brands (CNBC, 2016). A recently released case study by Nielsen Catalina Solutions, suggests social media influence marketing delivers 11 times the return on investment for brands than all other digital marketing channels (Nielsen Catalina Solutions, 2017). Furthermore, a recent poll of marketing professionals undertaken by influencer management company Tomoson found that businesses are making $6.50 for every $1.00 spent on influencer marketing, making it the fastest-growing online customer-acquisition channel, outpacing both organic search and email marketing (Tomoson, 2015). As a result, brands are increasingly trying to reach plugged-in consumers (CNBC, 2016), through the influencers they incessantly follow. These individuals have come to be known as social media influencers, micro-celebrities, and micro-influencers, all of whom cultivate their own personal brands in the search for popularity, financial gain, or in the pursuit of more meaningful ideals such as social activism. As such, the emergence and popularity of micro-celebrity signals a shift in media consumption preferences, celebrity culture and online consumer behaviour. Bringing into question, how these so-called influentials have become so pervasive in today’s cluttered attention economy and the key considerations in understanding their impact. What can we learn from micro-celebrities and what mechanisms underpin their popularity and influence?

Research Areas:

  • Micro-celebrities, Social-media influence marketing