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Let virtual creatures stay virtual: tactics to increase trust in virtual influencers

Ying Qu (School of Fashion and Textiles, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR)
Eunsoo Baek (Department of Clothing and Textiles, Hanyang University, Seoul, South Korea)

Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing

ISSN: 2040-7122

Article publication date: 24 July 2023

Issue publication date: 30 January 2024




Advances in technology and the popularity of social media influencers have sparked a rise of “virtual influencers (VIs).” This study examines consumer attitudes toward VIs in social networking services and explores factors that enhance or dampen these attitudes. In three experiments, it was explored how contextual factors (background and companion) interact with human (HIs) and VIs, influencing attitudes through trustworthiness.


Three experiments were conducted using an online panel (N = 894). All experiments were based on the comparison between HIs and VI with mediating role of trustworthiness. In Studies 2 and 3, moderated mediation analyses were conducted to test hypotheses.


The results revealed that human-like VI was less trusted than animi-like VI or HIs. However, the perceived trustworthiness toward VI was enhanced when the VI was in a virtual (vs. real) environment (Study 2) or accompanied by a virtual (vs. human) companion (Study 3), leading to positive attitudes.


This research not only enriches relevant literature (avatars and SMIs) but also provides actionable insight for practitioners who design and utilize VIs. This paper proposes novel and handy tactics to enhance consumers' trustworthiness in and attitudes toward VIs.



Funding: This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Korea government (MSIT) (No. RS-2022-00166652).


Qu, Y. and Baek, E. (2024), "Let virtual creatures stay virtual: tactics to increase trust in virtual influencers", Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 91-108.



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