University of Twente Student Theses


Can I trust you @influencer? : Reasons why followers build a trusted relationship with influencers

Heming, Lina (2020) Can I trust you @influencer? : Reasons why followers build a trusted relationship with influencers.

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Abstract:In recent years, the social media platform Instagram has become one of the most important marketing and communication tools. Online opinion leaders, also called influencers have built large networks on this platform. Through their large reach, influencers can rent out their communication channel as an advertisement platform and thus bring the latest trends to their network. Figures show that this new way of marketing is highly effective. This successful existence appears to be based on the relationship and trust-building between influencers and followers. Through a qualitative approach, this study wants to broaden the knowledge of factors that influence trust in an influencer-follower relationship on the social media platform Instagram. To reach this goal, 29 digital natives were interviewed using the critical incident technique to ensure a rich data set. To gain more insights, the wording used by the participants was analyzed and discussed during the interviews. Further, the causes for unfollowing were investigated and if that decision emerges from mistrust. The results of this study show that the interviewed digital natives are all heavy users of the Instagram platform and have all a closer relationship with one or more influencers. Trust does not always seem to be a primary consideration when deciding whether to follow an influencer. However, the results of the interviews indicate that trust is necessary for influencing buying behavior and building a loyal relationship with the influencer. This study suggests that authenticity and similarity are most important to develop trust in an influencer. This helps to predict an influencer’s intention and behavior which eventually leads to uncertainty reduction in the relationship. Besides, trust is significant for creating in- and out-groups to differentiate between influencers. Lastly, the interviews showed that repetition and very commercial content frequently led to unfollowing. Based on the study findings, a model explaining the process of building a trusted relationship with an opinion leader on social media is proposed. This model can serve as a starting point for further studies on this topic.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:05 communication studies
Programme:Communication Studies MSc (60713)
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