The purpose of the study is to research how young adults evaluate the credibility of beauty influencers on Instagram, which has been conducted within the framework of the Master thesis programme at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Thus far, there have been no studies that have examined the way young adults evaluate the credibility of beauty influencers (BIs) on Instagram. Understanding this process is highly relevant for marketeers since collaborating with a credible BI would likely be fruitful for them. For BIs it is also important to understand how young adults evaluate their credibility in order to make adaptions to become more credible. There is a research gap on what the elements within source credibility entail, namely expertise, trustworthiness, and attractiveness, and whether this is applicable to BIs on Instagram. The role of parasocial interactions within source credibility is also unresearched. The main question the present research aims to answer is: “How do young adults evaluate the credibility of beauty influencers on Instagram?” To do so, and focussing on young adults, in-depth interviewing was chosen as the most suited data collection method in order to understand their experiences, opinions, and attitudes. Twelve interview transcripts have been analysed with thematic analysis as this is the most appropriate method of data analysis since it is focused on discovering themes, enabling to construct reality (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Six themes emerged from the interview transcripts, namely: expertise, trustworthiness, critical awareness, attractiveness, similarity, and distant connection. The theme expertise arose from the sub-categories: expert, experience, knowledge, and skilled. The second theme, trustworthiness, through the sub-categories: trust, honesty, reliability, sincerity. Critical awareness is based on the following sub-categories: awareness of dishonesty, extra research, mindfulness, and doubtfulness of influencer. Attractiveness is derived from three sub-categories, namely: physically attracted, visually attracted, and appealing content. The fifth theme is similarity, which surfaced from the following sub-categories: community feeling, relatable, and relevant content. Distant connection appeared from general on one-sided interaction and disconnection, which are the sub-categories of the theme. This led to the conclusion that expertise (e.g., experience, knowledge, and skills) and trustworthiness (e.g., honesty and sincerity) are the most important elements that determine BIs’ credibility on Instagram. Critical awareness is a strong element that came forward which indicates a general sense of scepticism towards BIs on Instagram. Another element was that the female interviewees needed to be attracted physically, visually and through the BI’s content. Whenever these young adults sensed similarities in relatability and community feelings with the BI this formed a bonus for a BI’s credibility. Nevertheless, the young females did feel a certain degree of detachment towards BIs through the one-sided interaction and the feeling of disconnection. Interestingly, this does not decrease a BI’s credibility, but interviewees are simply aware of this and do take it into consideration.

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Emily Tang, MA
Media & Business
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Heleen de Jong. (2022, June 27). What makes beauty influencers credible? A qualitative study on how young adults evaluate beauty influencers’ credibility on Instagram. Media & Business. Retrieved from