'Urrgh.. will they stop going on about their relationships': an examination of self-disclosure by travel influencers on consumer outcomes
This thesis examines the impact of self-disclosure by Social Media Influencers (SMIs) on consumer outcomes with particular reference to travel influencers. It is until now unknown whether intimate self-disclosure by SMIs is beneficial or detrimental to the influencer-consumer relationship. Adopting a pragmatic stance, this thesis employs a mixed methods explanatory design—two experimental studies and one interview study—to provide a nuanced understanding of the impact of influencers’ self-disclosures. Study 1 found that high depth and breadth of self-disclosure negatively impact consumer purchase intention and WOM intention. This relationship was mediated by the perceived appropriateness of the disclosure, trust, and product attitude, supporting the (ISDM) Influencer Self-disclosure Model. Study 2 confirmed the critical role that appropriateness played in the relationship between social self-disclosure and consumer outcomes. Study 3 found that followers consider travel influencers’ social self-disclosures less desirable than travel self-disclosure or travel content; but not all social self-disclosure negatively impacts consumers’ perceptions. In fact, within specific bounds (i.e., no more than 20% of content being social self-disclosure, separation of social self-disclosure from promotional content, appropriateness of delivery and content, and authenticity), social self-disclosure can provoke positive reactions from followers. Theoretical contributions to the areas of digital marketing, social media communicative norms, and travel literature; and practical implications for influencers, marketing firms, and salespeople are provided.