How Citizen Influencers Persuade Their Followers

Anne Martensen, Sofia Brockenhuus-Schack, Anastasia Lauritsen Zahid

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate how today’s new type of opinion leaders, “Citizen Influencers” (CIs), persuade their followers by exploring which characteristics contribute to their persuasiveness.

Design/methodology/approach: Combining theories within opinion leadership, celebrity endorsement, product placement and user-generated content (UGC) five source characteristics – namely, expertise, trustworthiness, likeability, similarity and familiarity – are investigated using fashion as an example. A longitudinal netnographic study of ten CIs and their UGC and six focus groups with followers of specific CIs on Instagram are conducted.

Findings: All five characteristics contribute to the persuasiveness of CIs with trustworthiness as the main contributor. CIs persuasiveness lies in their unique ability to encompass two opposing qualities simultaneously: being attainable and relatable like ordinary consumers; being taste leaders with superior, celebrity-like status.

Research limitations/implications: Only qualitative studies within the fashion category have been conducted, wherefore the relative weight between the two qualities cannot be quantified.

Practical implications: When choosing a CI, managers may consider: the amount of followers per CI as an indicator of influence; similarity between follower and CI as it provides the basis for trust; and the CIs personal universe on their Instagram profile as it leverage the meanings associated with the brand.

Originality/value: The key driver of CIs persuasiveness is their trustworthiness which mediates and amplifies the effect of the other four characteristics. CIs’ persuasive power rests upon the balancing act of being relatable and aspirational.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Fashion Marketing and Management
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)335-353
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Instagram
  • Persuasion
  • Opinion leaders
  • Source credibility
  • Citizen influencers
  • Source attractiveness

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