Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3359-4741

Year of Publication

2021

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Master's Thesis

College

Communication and Information

Department/School/Program

Communication

First Advisor

Dr. Laura Fischer

Second Advisor

Dr. Mengtian Jiang

Abstract

Since 2019, Instagram has been testing the removal of a visible like count on posts. This change particularly pertains to social media influencers whose popularity is visibly displayed through the number of likes and comments their posts receive. Therefore, the present study experimentally investigated how varying levels of the like (i.e. hidden, approximate, and exact) and comment (hidden and exact) display on Instagram’s Explore page affect user’s credibility evaluations of unknown influencers. Guided by the Heuristic Systematic Model, MAIN Model and Warranting Principle, this study conducted a 3 (like display: hidden likes, approximated number of likes, and exact number of likes) x 2 (comments display: hidden comment count and visible comment count) x 2 (influencer type: travel and food) mixed-design online experiment. Three hundred twenty-eight participants were randomly assigned to one of six conditions in which they viewed two posts in a random order, one from a fictional travel influencer and one from a fictional food influencer, and then responded to questions regarding their perceived source credibility of the influencers. The results show that the visibility of likes and comments does not significantly affect source credibility perceptions of influencers. Thus, this study offers practical implications for influencers that Instagram’s removal of a visible like count will not harm their credibility. Also, this study provides suggestions for future studies to uncover what factors affect an influencer’s perceived source credibility on the Explore page of Instagram.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/etd.2021.285

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