While consumers’ trust in social media influencers (SMIs) has spurred the growth of influencer marketing, consumers have come to distrust what these SMIs say recently. Despite this trend reversal that the industry is undergoing, academic efforts to investigate whether, and if so, why, consumers experience such attitudinal ambivalence in trust and distrust in the SMI landscape is notably lacking. Building upon the concept of attitudinal ambivalence between trust and distrust, this study addresses this gap in the literature. The study used a mixed-method approach. In Study 1, we conducted an exploratory, qualitative study using two focus group interviews. During the interviews, participants were asked to discuss the open-ended questions freely, which included such questions as “What do you think about your choice of SMI in terms of trustworthiness?” and “If you trust (or distrust, or feel ambivalent toward) SMIs, why?” Based upon the findings from Study 1, Study 2 developed and tested empirically the conceptual framework that describes the antecedents and consequences of consumers’ ambivalence within the SMI context: (1) whether SMIs’ personality traits (similarity and attractiveness) and content attributes (visual appeal and informativeness) promote consumers’ trust in the SMIs; (2) whether perceived ad clutter triggers their distrust of the SMIs’ branded content, and (3) whether the attitudinal ambivalence in trust and distrust affect their behavior (i.e., behavioral intention to imitate the SMIs’ product and brand choices) independently as well as interdependently. Except for attractiveness and visual appeal, the online survey consumer data supported the proposed relations strongly, and the results provide meaningful implications for both theory and practice.
|Journal||International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction|
|Publication status||Published - Jul 2022|