Heterophily or Homophily of Social Media Influencers: The Role of Dual Parasocial Relationships in Impulsive Buying

Qian Hu, Zhao Pan, Yaobin Lu, and Bin Wang
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 27, Number 4, 2023, pp. 558-589.


The proliferation of social media platforms has empowered social media influencers to trigger impulsive buying behavior among consumers. The effectiveness of social media influencers relies on their ability to establish parasocial relationships with their followers. By leveraging both heterophily and homophily, influencers can cultivate dual parasocial relationships that cater to their followers’ needs for information seeking or affection exchange, thereby influencing impulsive buying. However, little is known about the contribution of dual parasocial relationships to impulsive buying behavior and the competing roles of heterophily (vs. homophily) in fostering different types of parasocial relationships. In line with the two fundamental dimensions of social ties, this study distinguishes between instrumental and expressive parasocial relationships to investigate and compare their effects on impulsive buying behavior. Additionally, we dissect heterophily (vs. homophily) into visible, informational, and value dimensions to investigate their impacts on dual parasocial relationships. The findings reveal that dual parasocial relationships have varying effects on impulsive buying behavior. Furthermore, the three types of heterophily (vs. homophily) exhibit complex and nonlinear impacts on dual parasocial relationships. These insights advance our theoretical understanding of heterophily, homophily, and parasocial relationships in the context of impulsive buying. They also offer practical guidance for social media influencer marketers to develop effective strategies for maintaining relationships with followers, while harnessing the power of both heterophily and homophily.