Background academic research:
Before beginning my own ethnographic research into Instagram influencers, I want to research some existing scholarly articles that relate to my media niche. I will mainly be looking at qualitative and ethnographic research and I will not only look at sources that are related to my niche, but also wider sources that will inform my thinking surrounding my niche.
Source 1 – ‘I like what she’s #endorsing’
‘I like what she’s #endorsing’ by Jung Lee and Matthew Eastin is a great article that examines influencer success, the current research draws from brand personality literature and identifies social media influencers as human brands.
Their findings suggested that the more ‘sincere’ an influencer is perceived to be, the more effective their ads are. “Portraying a sincere personality—one that is relatable, friendly, and down-to-earth—is underscored for successful relationship management with followers and effective brand endorsements” (Lee and Eastin, 2020).
This source also refers to influencers as ‘Human Brands’ which is defined by Thomson 2006, as individuals whose career, public appearance, and endorsements are carefully controlled not only to enhance their personal appeal but also to distinguish them from others.
They also write about the ‘brand personality construct’ proposed by Aaker in 1997 to examine how the brand personality of social media influencers impact various consumer behaviours. Brand personality is defined as “the set of human characteristics associated with a brand” (Aaker 1997).
This research was interesting because I can definitely tell when a influencer is promoting a brand and it seams in-genuine (I usually unfollow straight away). Connecting the two terms ‘human brands’ and ‘brand personality’ helped me better understand the behind the scenes side of Instagram influencers and how they make money.
Source 2 – ‘Explaining females’ envy toward social media influencers‘
This Article by Jiyoung Chae, 2018 examines the psychological process through which social media use and personality traits affect
females’ envy toward influencers through social comparison.
This source referenced the term ‘mirco-celebrity’ which is described as a new type of celebrity that involves self-presentation on social media, which is accomplished by the creation of one’s own online image and the use of that image to attract attention and a large number of followers.
Throughout the article they explain that influencers usually brag about their luxurious lifestyle and therefor, in responding to influencers’ postings, some people might get vicarious satisfaction, but it most cases negative emotions are evoked.
I found the link between influencers and envy, really interesting because I wonder if this is why I feel ‘motivated’ by them – because I want to live more like them?
Ethical issues that may arise:
Although I am not choosing to interview anyone as part of my research, I will still need to in still ethical practises and ensure I am remaining a participant observer recounting my own experience, rather than gathering information from someone else’s experience. This will come in especially when reading comments and forums about these influencers, I won’t be able to quote or comment on someone else’s experience.
When making observations from the audience of these influencers, I must not have any bias and be sure to include both negative and positive comments.
Lee, J.A. and Eastin, M.S., 2020. I like what she’s# endorsing: The impact of female social media influencers’ perceived sincerity, consumer envy, and product type. Journal of Interactive Advertising, 20(1), pp.76-91.
Thomson, M., 2006. Human brands: Investigating antecedents to consumers’ strong attachments to celebrities. Journal of marketing, 70(3), pp.104-119.
Aaker, J.L., 1997. Dimensions of brand personality. Journal of marketing research, 34(3), pp.347-356.
Chae, J., 2018. Explaining females’ envy toward social media influencers. Media Psychology, 21(2), pp.246-262.