Human versus Virtual Influencer: The Effect of Humanness and Interactivity on Persuasive CSR Messaging

Jeongwon Yang, Ploypin Chuenterawong, Heejae Lee, Yu Tian, T. Makana Chock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Virtual influencers (VIs) are computer-generated avatars whose purpose is to exert influences on social media. The unique features of VIs have the potential to overcome several shortcomings that plague human influencers (HIs) while maintaining the advantages of HIs. Hence, this study (1) compares the persuasiveness of HIs and VIs with different humanlike visual cues; (2) examines how interactivity and visual humanness interplay in determining source credibility; and (3) investigates how credibility of endorsers can promote corporate social responsibility (CSR) engagement and brand reputation. Conducting an online experiment with 2 (humanness: VIs versus HIs) × 2 (interactivity: high versus low) between-subjects design (n = 219), the study found that social media influencers (SMIs) with higher humanness led to higher source credibility. Further, an interaction effect between humanness and interactivity has been found, as interactivity played more critical role in elevating credibility for VIs than HIs. Source credibility mediated the positive effect of humanness over CSR engagement and brand reputation. Moderated mediations have also been found, as the mediating effect of source credibility was more pronounced in the low-interactivity condition than in the high-interactivity condition. Overall, the study provides empirical evidence suggesting that VIs’ credibility and effectiveness can be greatly enhanced via active interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-292
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Interactive Advertising
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2023


  • Anthropomorphism
  • corporate social responsibility
  • expectancy violation
  • source credibility
  • virtual influencer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Marketing


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