Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management

Major Professor

Youn-Kyung Kim

Committee Members

Heejin Lim, John G. Orme, Jeremy E. Whaley


Despite the growing trend of influencer marketing, little effort has been made to understanding the comprehensive mechanism as to how social media influencers (SMIs) influence their target audiences. Although previous SMI literature identified possible drivers and effects of SMIs, much of former research has focused on the peripheral traits of SMIs: identifying the effect of a SMI’s number of followers on a target’s influencer likability. Not much investigation has been undertaken to understand the principal traits of SMIs that allow them to amass audience in the first place and gain influence over their audiences. The dissertation filled this void in the literature. Drawing upon Influence Framework and Consumer’s Doppelganger Effect theory, the study developed an overarching, structural framework that explains the influence mechanism of a SMI over her target audience as a whole in which (i) a target’s perceptions toward a SMI’s influence attempts (attractiveness, prestige, expertise, information, and interaction) affect the target’s attitudes toward the SMI, believing that the SMI exercises taste leadership and opinion leadership (H1 to H6), (ii) the target’s positive attitudes toward the SMI trigger her conscious mimicry desire toward the SMI (H7 and H8), and (iii) the target’s mimicry desire directs her performance outcomes of social media WOM and purchase intention (H9 and H10). The study included both a qualitative method approach (focus group (n = 11)) and quantitative approaches (pre-test (n = 48), pilot test (n = 155), and main-test (n = 395) surveys via Mechanical Turk) to attest its conceptual model. The main-test results, using the Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) analysis via AMOS 23, confirmed that the conceptual model and all the hypothesized relationships were statistically significant. Further, the bootstrap results demonstrated that a target’s mimicry desire indeed served as a significant mediator linking the target’s attitudinal beliefs to behavioral decisions. The study’s findings provide insightful contributions to the SMI literature and practical implications for brand marketers in developing successful influencer marketing strategies.

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