Between Peer and Promoter: Why Do We Care So Much About Influencers?

Suzanne Elizah Alley & Olivia Tamara Engelbach

Studenteropgave: Kandidatafhandlinger


With millions of influencers around the world finding success on social media, this sought-after occupation is not just a fleeting trend. Influencers amass followings by exposing their personalities and private lives on social media and building friendship-like bonds with their audiences. Simultaneously, influencers also monetize their following through integrating sponsorships into their content, leading them to take part in two conflicting worlds - friendship and business. Motivated by this paradoxical setup, this study’s objective is to explore why users are motivated to interact with influencers, even though interactions are one-sided and often heavily seasoned with advertisement. Therefore, this study sets out to answer the question “What motivates social media users to interact with influencers, whose attention might be diffused and commercially motivated?”. Approaching this phenomenon from two existing theories, the main assumption is that social media users interact with influencers out of (perceived or real) similarity and/or likability as argued by the similarity-likability theory. Contrarily, an aspirational motivation as captured in the self-expansion theory is considered, assuming that social media users are inclined to interact because of dissimilarities and luring personal growth opportunities. From these theories, three sets of hypotheses are derived and quantitatively analyzed by looking at a dataset of 25,000 recently collected posts from 250 fashion influencers on Instagram. Producing a variety of interesting, multi-layered findings, overall results contradict the study’s main assumption and show that social media users predominantly interact with influencers out of self-expansion motives. As one of the rare existing studies that examines the user-influencer relationship from the user perspective, this research fills a notable research gap, and also holds meaningful implications for influencers, businesses, social media platforms, and regulating authorities.

UddannelserMSc in Business Administration and E-business, (Kandidatuddannelse) Afsluttende afhandling
Antal sider128
VejledereRob Gleasure