Influencer trends shift

The psychological predictors of influencer engagement on Instagram


  • Abby Hendricks The University of Texas at Austin
  • Laura Bright The University of Texas at Austin


Social media engagement, Influencer, Authenticity, Envy, Upward social comparison, Narcissism


As advancements in technology continue to rise, consumers are constantly distracted, leaving advertisers to find creative ways to break through this barrier. Partnering with popular influencers on social media platforms has proven successful in reaching consumers where they are. As trends in influencer marketing continue to shift, it is important to understand the antecedents to engagement with influencers. The current research examines the concept of influencer engagement on Instagram and its proposed psychological predictors: authenticity, envy, upward social comparison, and narcissism. Results indicate that influencer authenticity, envy towards the influencer, and the personality trait narcissism positively impact influencer engagement on Instagram, while upward social comparisons to the influencer negatively impact influencer engagement. Recent research on influencers has focused on outcomes such as attitudes, trust, and purchase intentions, while this study focuses on behavioral engagement, a more accurate measurement within the context of Instagram. Managerial and theoretical implications are discussed.


Instagram Statistics That Matter to Marketers in 2021. (2021). Retrieved 21 April 2021, from

Abidin, C. (2016). “Aren’t These Just Young, Rich Women Doing Vain Things Online?”: Influencer Selfies as Subversive Frivolity. Social Media + Society, 2(2), 205630511664134.

About Instagram's Official Site. (2021). Retrieved 21 April 2021, from

Algesheimer, R., Dholakia, U. M., & Herrmann, A. (2005). The social influence of brand community: Evidence from European car clubs. Journal of marketing, 69(3), 19-34.

Ames, D. R., Rose, P., & Anderson, C. P. (2006). The NPI-16 as a short measure of narcissism. Journal of Research in Personality, 40(4), 440–450.

Appel, H., Crusius, J., & Gerlach, A. L. (2015). Social Comparison, Envy, and Depression on Facebook: A Study Looking at the Effects of High Comparison Standards on Depressed Individuals. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 34(4), 277–289.

Arora, A., Bansal, S., Kandpal, C., Aswani, R., & Dwivedi, Y. (2019). Measuring social media influencer index-insights from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 49, 86-101.

Ashley, C., Noble, S. M., Donthu, N., & Lemon, K. N. (2011). Why customers won't relate: Obstacles to relationship marketing engagement. Journal of business research, 64(7), 749-756.

Audrezet, A., de Kerviler, G., & Moulard, J. G. (2018). Authenticity under threat: When social media influencers need to go beyond self-presentation. Journal of Business Research.

Balaban, D., & Mustățea, M. (2019). Users’ perspective on the credibility of social media influencers in Romania and Germany. Romanian Journal of Communication and Public Relations, 21(1), 31-46.

Barger, V., Peltier, J. W., & Schultz, D. E. (2016). Social media and consumer engagement: a review and research agenda. Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing.

Battan, Carrie. (2019). The Rise of the “Getting Real” Post on Instagram. Retrieved 29 October 2021, from

Beldad, A., De Jong, M., & Steehouder, M. (2010). How shall I trust the faceless and the intangible? A literature review on the antecedents of online trust. Computers in human behavior, 26(5), 857-869.

Belk, R. W. (2008). Marketing and envy.

Brown, R. P., Budzek, K., & Tamborski, M. (2009). On the meaning and measure of narcissism. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35(7), 951-964.

Calder, B. J., Malthouse, E. C., & Maslowska, E. (2016). Brand marketing, big data and social innovation as future research directions for engagement. Journal of Marketing Management, 32(5-6), 579-585.

Campbell, C., & Farrell, J. R. (2020). More than meets the eye: The functional components underlying influencer marketing. Business Horizons, 63(4), 469-479.

Campbell, W. K., Reeder, G. D., Sedikides, C., & Elliot, A. J. (2000). Narcissism and comparative self-enhancement strategies. Journal of Research in Personality, 34(3), 329-347.

Campbell, W. K., Rudich, E. A., & Sedikides, C. (2002). Narcissism, self-esteem, and the positivity of self-views: Two portraits of self-love. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28(3), 358-368.

Chae, J. (2018). Explaining Females’ Envy Toward Social Media Influencers. Media Psychology, 21(2), 246–262.

Chae, J. (2021). YouTube makeup tutorials reinforce postfeminist beliefs through social comparison. Media Psychology, 24(2), 167–189.

Dinh, T. C. T., & Lee, Y. (2021). “I want to be as trendy as influencers” – how “fear of missing out” leads to buying intention for products endorsed by social media influencers. Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing, ahead-of-print(ahead-of-print).

Djafarova, E., & Trofimenko, O. (2019). ‘Instafamous’ – credibility and self-presentation of micro-celebrities on social media. Information, Communication & Society, 22(10), 1432–1446.

Evans, N. J., Phua, J., Lim, J., & Jun, H. (2017). Disclosing Instagram influencer advertising: The effects of disclosure language on advertising recognition, attitudes, and behavioral intent. Journal of interactive advertising, 17(2), 138-149.

Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human relations, 7(2), 117-140.

Gaenssle, S., & Budzinski, O. (2020). Stars in social media: New light through old windows? Journal of Media Business Studies, 1–27.

Gosling, S. D., Augustine, A. A., Vazire, S., Holtzman, N., & Gaddis, S. (2011). Manifestations of personality in online social networks: Self-reported Facebook-related behaviors and observable profile information. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14(9), 483-488.

Hogue, J. V., & Mills, J. S. (2019). The effects of active social media engagement with peers on body image in young women. Body Image, 28, 1–5.

Horton, D., & Richard Wohl, R. (1956). Mass Communication and Para-Social Interaction: Observations on Intimacy at a Distance. Psychiatry, 19(3), 215–229.

Jin, S. V., Muqaddam, A., & Ryu, E. (2019). Instafamous and social media influencer marketing. Marketing Intelligence & Planning.

Jorge, A., Marôpo, L., & Nunes, T. (2018). ‘I am not being sponsored to say this’: a teen youtuber and her audience negotiate branded content. Observatorio (OBS*).

Kaindl, L. (2020). Ten Digital Trends for 2020. PDF. The Richards Group. Retrieved 27 October 2021, from

Ki, C. W. C., & Kim, Y. K. (2019). The mechanism by which social media influencers persuade consumers: The role of consumers’ desire to mimic. Psychology & Marketing, 36(10), 905-922.

Kim, H., Schlicht, R., Schardt, M., & Florack, A. (2021). The contributions of social comparison to social network site addiction. PLoS One, 16(10), e0257795.

Kowalczyk, C. M., & Pounders, K. R. (2016). Transforming celebrities through social media: the role of authenticity and emotional attachment. Journal of Product & Brand Management.

Lebow, S. (2021). Instagram contributes over half of Facebook's US ad revenues. Retrieved 4 November 2021, from

Lee, J. A., & Eastin, M. S. (2020). I like what she’s# endorsing: the impact of female social media influencers’ perceived sincerity, consumer envy, and product type. Journal of Interactive Advertising, 20(1), 76-91.

Lin, R. (2018). Silver lining of envy on social media? The relationships between post content, envy type, and purchase intentions. Internet Research.

Lou, C., Tan, S.-S., & Chen, X. (2019). Investigating Consumer Engagement with Influencer- vs. Brand-Promoted Ads: The Roles of Source and Disclosure. Journal of Interactive Advertising, 19(3), 169–186.

Marwick, A. (2013, July). They’re really profound women, they’re entrepreneurs’: Conceptions of authenticity in fashion blogging. In 7th international AIII conference on weblogs and social media (ICWSM), July (Vol. 8).

Marwick, A. E. (2015). Instafame: Luxury selfies in the attention economy. Public culture, 27(1 (75)), 137-160.

McCain, J. L., & Campbell, W. K. (2018). Narcissism and social media use: A meta-analytic review. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 7(3), 308.

Midgley, C., Thai, S., Lockwood, P., Kovacheff, C., & Page-Gould, E. (2021). When every day is a high school reunion: Social media comparisons and self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 121(2), 285–307.

Moon, J. H., Lee, E., Lee, J.-A., Choi, T. R., & Sung, Y. (2016). The role of narcissism in self-promotion on Instagram. Personality and Individual Differences, 101, 22–25.

Moulard, J. G., Garrity, C. P., & Rice, D. H. (2015). What makes a human brand authentic? Identifying the antecedents of celebrity authenticity. Psychology & Marketing, 32(2), 173-186.

O’Meara, V. (2019). Weapons of the chic: Instagram influencer engagement pods as practices of resistance to Instagram platform labor. Social Media+ Society, 5(4), 2056305119879671.

Ohanian, R. (1991). The impact of celebrity spokespersons' perceived image on consumers' intention to purchase. Journal of Advertising Research.

Pang, H. (2021). Unraveling the influence of passive and active WeChat interactions on upward social comparison and negative psychological consequences among university students. Telematics and Informatics, 57, 101510.

Parrott, W. G., & Smith, R. H. (1993). Distinguishing the experiences of envy and jealousy. Journal of personality and social psychology, 64(6), 906.

Pedalino, F., & Camerini, A.-L. (2022). Instagram Use and Body Dissatisfaction: The Mediating Role of Upward Social Comparison with Peers and Influencers among Young Females. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(3), 1543.

Pittman, M., & Reich, B. (2016). Social media and loneliness: Why an Instagram picture may be worth more than a thousand Twitter words. Computers in Human Behavior, 62, 155-167.

Pöyry, E., Pelkonen, M., Naumanen, E., & Laaksonen, S. M. (2019). A Call for authenticity: Audience responses to social media influencer endorsements in strategic communication. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 13(4), 336-351.

Reer, F., Tang, W. Y., & Quandt, T. (2019). Psychosocial well-being and social media engagement: The mediating roles of social comparison orientation and fear of missing out. New Media & Society, 21(7), 1486–1505.

Schivinski, B., Christodoulides, G., & Dabrowski, D. (2016). Measuring consumers' engagement with brand-related social-media content: Development and validation of a scale that identifies levels of social-media engagement with brands. Journal of Advertising Research, 56(1), 64-80.

Schultz, D. E., & Peltier, J. J. (2013). Social media's slippery slope: challenges, opportunities and future research directions. Journal of research in interactive marketing.

The State of Influencer Marketing 2020: Benchmark Report. (2020). Retrieved 17 April 2021, from,relatively%20similar%20to%20last%20year.

Van de Ven, N., Zeelenberg, M., & Pieters, R. (2009). Leveling up and down: the experiences of benign and malicious envy. Emotion, 9(3), 419.

Van Noort, G., Voorveld, H. A., & Van Reijmersdal, E. A. (2012). Interactivity in brand web sites: cognitive, affective, and behavioral responses explained by consumers' online flow experience. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 26(4), 223-234.

Vogel, E. A., Rose, J. P., Okdie, B. M., Eckles, K., & Franz, B. (2015). Who compares and despairs? The effect of social comparison orientation on social media use and its outcomes. Personality and Individual Differences, 86, 249–256.

Wells, G. J., Horwitz, J., Seetharaman, D. (2021). Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show. Retrieved 25 October 2021, from

Woo, Erin (2021). Teenage girls say Instagram’s mental health impacts are no surprise. Retrieved 27 October 2021, from

Wu, J., & Srite, M. (2021). Envy on social media: The good, the bad and the ugly. International Journal of Information Management, 56, 102255.

Xiang, L., Zheng, X., Lee, M. K., & Zhao, D. (2016). Exploring consumers’ impulse buying behavior on social commerce platform: The role of parasocial interaction. International journal of information management, 36(3), 333-347.

Xiao, M., Wang, R., & Chan-Olmsted, S. (2018). Factors affecting YouTube influencer marketing credibility: A heuristic-systematic model. Journal of Media Business Studies, 15(3), 188–213.

Yang, C. (2016). Instagram Use, Loneliness, and Social Comparison Orientation: Interact and Browse on Social Media, But Don’t Compare. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 19(12), 703–708.