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Understanding the relationships between social media influencers and their followers: the moderating role of closeness

Brian J. Taillon (Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, College of Business, East Carolina University , Greenville, North Carolina, USA)
Steven M. Mueller (Department of Managerial Sciences, University of Nevada Reno , Reno, Nevada, USA)
Christine M. Kowalczyk (Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, College of Business, East Carolina University , Greenville, North Carolina, USA)
Daniel N. Jones (Department of Managerial Sciences, University of Nevada Reno , Reno, Nevada, USA)

Journal of Product & Brand Management

ISSN: 1061-0421

Article publication date: 29 June 2020

Issue publication date: 5 September 2020

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to better understand the role of closeness and the relationships between social media influencers and their followers, and, more specifically, how social media influencers can effectively manage their human brands.

Design/methodology/approach

Two studies were conducted to explore social media influencers. Qualitative content analysis and modeling with path analysis were used to analyze the data.

Findings

Results found attractiveness and likeability to positively predict attitudes toward the influencer, word-of-mouth and purchase intentions, whereas similarity only predicted word-of-mouth from the follower. Closeness served as a moderator but had different effects. Closeness positively moderated the effect of attractiveness on purchase intentions; however, it had a negative effect with similarity on purchase intentions. Moreover, closeness moderated the effect of likeability on attitude toward the influencer.

Research limitations/implications

This study was limited by the student sample as well as the students’ self-identification of a social media influencer. Future research should include experimental design manipulating well-known/followed or fictional social media influencers on different social media.

Practical implications

This paper explores the characteristics of social media influencers as well as the potential outcomes associated with influencers on social media. The implications for marketers and advertisers include a better understanding of how consumers engage with influencers on social media.

Originality/value

The role of closeness is identified as a moderator of consumers’ behaviors toward social media influencers.

Keywords

Citation

Taillon, B.J., Mueller, S.M., Kowalczyk, C.M. and Jones, D.N. (2020), "Understanding the relationships between social media influencers and their followers: the moderating role of closeness", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 29 No. 6, pp. 767-782. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPBM-03-2019-2292

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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