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This paper extends research on persuasion and social media communication by reporting the results of a content analysis of 10 leading social media influencers, an untapped empirical issue in the field. Findings, offering insights into the particular communicator attributes influencers emphasize, were based on coding 121 videos of female beauty and lifestyle influencers. Influencers deploy a variety of communication strategies to engage followers, harnessing everyday behaviors, using colloquial terms, expressing emotions, showing vulnerabilities (in socially skilled ways), and strategically promoting products. Interestingly, when influencers mentioned the coronavirus, they did so as to emphasize its relevance to their personal life, rather than suggesting broader implications, such as to public health or its racial disparities. Followers’ many comments demonstrated their positive regard for, and parasocial relationships with, influencers. An appendix offers qualitative insights into influencers’ appeal.


The first four authors are undergraduate students in the School of Communication, Cleveland State University, where Richard M. Perloff is a professor.



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