What causes social media users to engage and mimic virtual influencers? The role of self-congruity

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Influencer marketing has been widely utilized in marketing communication. With the growing interest in virtual influencers, this study aims to investigate why social media users would interact with virtual influencers. The research model was developed based on the self-congruity theory. The data were obtained by questionnaires distributed to social media users using judgmental sampling (respondents were above 18 years old and actively used Instagram within the past six months). The questionnaire was posted on social media, and 230 responses were collected and analyzed using a covariance-based structural equation. Influencer-brand fit was found to have a weak direct effect on engagement (γ = 0.158, p < 0.05), but insignificant direct effect on mimicry desire (γ = 0.160, p > 0.05). Value homophily significantly affects both engagement and mimicry desire directly (β = 0.338 and β = 0.622, p < 0.01). Moreover, value homophily was found to fully mediate the virtual influencer-brand fit/mimicry desire relationship (B = 0.546, p < 0.01) and partially mediate the relationship of virtual influencer-brand fit/engagement (B = 0.229, p < 0.01). However, the mediating effect of mimicry desire on the virtual influencer-brand fit/engagement relationship was found to be non-significant (B = 0.065, p > 0.05). This study contributes to influencer marketing by highlighting value homophily as the most significant factor explaining why consumers respond to a virtual influencer when used as a message source in marketing communication.

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    • Figure 1. Model fit of path analysis
    • Table 1. Reliability and convergent validity of the constructs
    • Table 2. Discriminant validity
    • Table 3. Total, direct, and indirect effects
    • Conceptualization
      Lokweetpun Suprawan, Sasipa Pojanavatee
    • Data curation
      Lokweetpun Suprawan, Sasipa Pojanavatee
    • Formal Analysis
      Lokweetpun Suprawan
    • Funding acquisition
      Lokweetpun Suprawan, Sasipa Pojanavatee
    • Methodology
      Lokweetpun Suprawan, Sasipa Pojanavatee
    • Project administration
      Lokweetpun Suprawan
    • Resources
      Lokweetpun Suprawan
    • Writing – original draft
      Lokweetpun Suprawan
    • Writing – review & editing
      Lokweetpun Suprawan
    • Visualization
      Sasipa Pojanavatee