Consumer Behavior

My virtual influencer friend: The role of self-disclosure in consumer’s trust and relationship outcomes

Authors
  • Terry Haekyung Kim (University of Minnesota)
  • Hyunjoo Im (University of Minnesota)

Abstract

Virtual influencers (VIs), digitally created non-human characters, have garnered a significant following on social media in recent years. Based on social penetration theory, this study investigates how the humanlike VI’s self-disclosure affects viewers’ trust perceptions and behaviors. A between-subjects online experiment was conducted with female consumers aged 18-39 (n=236). Results indicate that the VI’s high self-disclosure increased perceived mind experience and humanness of the VI. Then, perceived humanness positively influenced closeness while reducing eeriness. Closeness strengthened trust, while eeriness negatively impacted trust. Trust, in turn, positively affected intentions to follow the VI, engage in self-disclosure, and friendship with the VI. The findings indicate that the self-disclosure of humanlike VIs plays a crucial role in establishing trust and building relationships with users. Furthermore, the study challenges the uncanny valley hypothesis within the context of VIs, suggesting that heightened humanness of VIs does not necessarily evoke eerie feelings. 

Keywords: Virtual influencerself-disclosure, anthropomorphism, mind experience, trust, Virtual influencer, self-disclosure

How to Cite:

Kim, T. H. & Im, H., (2024) “My virtual influencer friend: The role of self-disclosure in consumer’s trust and relationship outcomes”, International Textile and Apparel Association Annual Conference Proceedings 80(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.31274/itaa.17151

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Published on
20 Jan 2024
Peer Reviewed