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Social media influencer (SMI) as a human brand – a need fulfillment perspective

Aaminah Zaman Malik (Department of Marketing, G. Brint Ryan College of Business, University of North Texas, Denton, TX, USA)
Sajani Thapa (Department of Marketing and Business Analytics, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA, USA)
Audhesh K. Paswan (Department of Marketing, G. Brint Ryan College of Business, University of North Texas, Denton, TX, USA)

Journal of Product & Brand Management

ISSN: 1061-0421

Article publication date: 19 August 2022

Issue publication date: 31 January 2023

612

Abstract

Purpose

Social media influencers (SMIs) are becoming a powerful force within the marketing and branding landscape, with several leading brands opting to use SMI endorsements for their products and brands. Extant SMI literature has primarily focused on the influence mechanism exerted by SMIs on their followers. Less is known about how followers view their favorite SMIs. This study aims to explore the SMI–follower relationship from the follower’s perspective and examine the underlying attachment mechanism.

Design/methodology/approach

First, a qualitative study was conducted to explore the attributes that individuals consider following an SMI and ensure that it is consistent with the literature review. This was followed by a survey-based quantitative study where a structural equation modeling technique was used to test the hypotheses using 508 SMI followers.

Findings

Followers find the SMI as a source to fulfill their intrinsic needs, that is, need to escape or self- improvement. The findings of this study suggest that followers attribute glamor, fun and connectedness to the SMIs driven by their need for self-improvement and fun with their need to escape. Finally, these attributions influence the overall perceived image of the SMI in followers' minds.

Originality/value

This study uses qualitative and quantitative approaches to picture SMIs as human brands from a follower's need fulfillment perspective.

Keywords

Citation

Malik, A.Z., Thapa, S. and Paswan, A.K. (2023), "Social media influencer (SMI) as a human brand – a need fulfillment perspective", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 173-190. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPBM-07-2021-3546

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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