Do birds of a feather flock together? An exploration of why consumers follow beauty influencers on social media: An abstract

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Influencers offer marketers a compelling combination of a large audience, a personable story that consumers often perceive as authentic, and the ability to reach across geographical boundaries. Specifically in the beauty industry, where products are less tangible, influencers easily bring products to life. This research aims to explore the nature of why individuals choose to follow certain influencers by investigating the beauty influencer industry and the connection between the follower and influencer. The source credibility model may explain the phenomenal success of influencer marketing. The source credibility model relies on the source effect theory, with the influencer as the communication source (Erdogan 1999). In addition to the source credibility model and concept of normal attractiveness, social comparison theory may also explain why consumers follow specific beauty influencers. However, due to the lack of knowledge and limited literature about why consumers follow beauty influencers, an exploratory qualitative research design was deemed appropriate. Following a grounded theory approach (Glaser and Strauss 1967), the responses to open-ended questions were first read in an attempt to acquire a feel for the data. Next, researchers interpreted the qualitative information and focused on coding the responses based on consistencies across participants’ answers independently. Identified were verified and refined by checking the qualitative data and confirming the interpretations (Glaser and Strauss 1967). Analysis revealed four themes: authenticity, relatability, trustworthiness, and similarity. These concepts reflect the reasons why participants follow their favorite beauty influencers on social media. Defined as clear communication of the intent behind social media posts depicting influencers with branded products, authenticity is expected to impact trustworthiness as well. Relatability, defined as ease of establishing connection due to understanding, indicates the importance of sympathy in the social influencer-follower relationship. Trustworthiness refers to the belief that the influencers will be truthful and open. Similarity or perceived homophily between the influencer and his/her followers is the degree of resemblance (in beliefs, education, social status, etc.). Physical attractiveness was not an important factor for following beauty influencers. This finding provided indirect support for the importance of similarity with and relatability to the influencer, as most people do not meet the stringent, and often unrealistic, beauty standards depicted by media. Overall, the results contribute to the literature on source effectiveness and social media marketing by identifying factors that motivate social media users to follow others on social media.

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From Micro to Macro: Dealing with Uncertainties in the Global Marketplace

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authenticity, beauty influencers, relatability, social media