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Social Media Influencers Term Paper


The modern digitalized environment has significantly changed the way how people communicate with each other, socialize, spread and obtain information. Social media become more and more influential each year and replace conservative sources of information, including newspapers and magazines. It is not surprising, because social media are more interactive, and provide people the possibility to obtain highly personalized information. That is why; the appearance of social media influencers (SMI) was just a matter of time. Bloggers, business and fitness coaches, Hollywood celebrities, and professional sportsmen, obtained a huge power to influence and even manipulate their subscribers, and society as a whole. This power shouldn’t be underestimated, because SMIs have millions of followers, so they can easily influence people all over the world, just by posting a photo, video, or a blog post. While in the vast majority of cases SMIs use their social media accounts to earn money, in other cases their actions can lead to radical social changes, and even can be dangerous.

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Before discussing the impact of SMIs on society as a whole, and their relation to popular culture, it is needed to provide a clear definition of social media influencers. It is interesting that the definitions of SMIs can significantly vary. For instance, Saravanakumar & SuganthaLakshmi (2012) defines SMIs as “online celebrities who exhibit their personal lives to many followers via social media”. Fredberg et al., (2011) define social media influencers as “Social media influencers (SMIs) represent a new type of independent third party endorser who shape audience attitudes through blogs, tweets, and the use of other social media.”. Both these definitions emphasize the popularity of social media influencers. Apparently, it is impossible to influence other people without being popular. Additionally, the second definition also emphasizes the power to influence the attitudes of people. Fredberg et al., (2011) also note that SMIs can be considered as micro-celebrities. SMIs often have a good sense of humor, which attracts many followers. Additionally, SMIs exhibit what followers do not have, but wish to have (Fredberg et al., 2011). Many SMIs are quite rich, sexually attractive, and have a high position in the social hierarchy. That is why; it can be interesting for ordinary people to observe the daily life of SMIs. In other words, SMIs act like social exhibitionists by posting videos of their daily activities. Moreover, videos and posts shared by SMIs can be rather intimate. It results in a strong empathetic connection existing between followers and SMIs and explains why SMIs can manipulate their audiences so effectively.

There are several explanations of why people like to observe the lives of others. People as social beings have quite complex social interactions and a strict hierarchy. Since the very beginning of civilized human life, there was a social hierarchy. People who had higher positions in social hierarchy always had many followers, fans, and friends. In the past, position in the social hierarchy heavily depended on resources possessed by the individual, including money, power, and military power. Nowadays, all these resources matter as well, that is why social media influencers have so many followers. Most SMIs demonstrate their followers’ resources they have, including luxury cars, houses, and money. Of course, there are also many exceptions as well, when people are able to become SMIs without having all these resources. This is because some SMIs can offer their subscribers entertainment, education, and other services. Hence, there are two major ways of becoming a SMI. The first way is to have many resources in real life, and the other way is to become popular by satisfying the demand for entertainment.

While SMIs help people followers to experience positive emotions, they can also make people feel unhappy and depressed. The study by Chae (2018) showed that people often experience envy and other negative emotions to social media influencers. This is because of an upward social comparison. Followers have more similarities with SMIs compared to fans and celebrities. That is why; it is easier for followers to associate with SMIs and experience higher levels of empathy. Many SMIs are ordinary high school or college students, and gamers. Hence, the strong empathetic connection appears between follower and SMI. This also results in higher levels of envy, because followers see that there are almost no differences between them and SMIs, however, SMIs have many things their followers can’t afford. Hence, it often leads to envy, stress, and depression (Chae, 2018). While Hollywood celebrities are perceived by people as otherworldly, micro-celebrities and SMIs are perceived in a different way. In fact, strong connection existing between SMIs and followers may have quite weird manifestations. One of the recent examples is the bathwater that was sold for $30 per jar by SMI known as Belle Delphine. The 19-year-old girl gained popularity as a gamer, and quickly gained millions of followers on Instagram, Twitch, and other social media platforms (Aggeler, 2019). This proves that followers of SMIs are highly loyal and are ready to pay almost for everything sold by these micro-celebrities.

Another bright example of how SMIs can motivate people to do weird and even dangerous things is The Area 51 Raid. Recently, many SMIs including the well-known YouTuber PewDiePie started to promote the idea of a Facebook group that called people to storm the military base located in Area 51. Currently, people all over the U.S. and other parts of the world support this idea. While many people don’t take it seriously, others are quite determined. Everything started to look even more serious when the U.S. military forces officially stated that they discourage anyone from coming to Area 51 (Smithers, 2019). This example also proves that SMIs can easily make their followers become obsessed with a certain idea, even if this idea is weird, dangerous, and doesn’t make any sense.

The strong empathetic connection existing between SMIs and their followers is highly used by advertisers. SMIs are more effective for advertising products and services compared to conventional media. This is because followers trust social media influencers and believe everything they say. That is why, more and more companies prefer to spend money on advertising made by SMIs rather than paying directly to Facebook, Instagram, or Google. Furthermore, customers are more likely to believe claims made by SMIs rather than claims made by celebrities or brand itself. (Hearn & Schoenhoff, 2016). Due to the high credibility of SMIs, followers are more likely to buy expensive or luxury products advertised by SMIs. Moreover, many SMIs use a strategy of self-branding and create their own products, which helps them to achieve huge financial success. In fact, Kylie Jenner, the youngest billionaire in the history of humankind, became rich because of self-branding on Instagram. Kylie Cosmetics became one of the most well-known brands in the world.

It is needed to mention that SMIs have a huge influence on political agenda and political life in general. More and more SMIs decide to become politicians themselves, and many politicians are trying to become SMIs, by actively using accounts on social networks. Numerous elections were won with the help of Instagram and Facebook, including past presidential elections in the U.S. SMIs are often used for propaganda, or to fight social issues and social injustice. For instance, social media influencers heavily support #MeToo and the Black Lives Matter movement. Additionally, SMIs promote ideas of modern feminism and leftist political agenda, including issues related to diversity, equality, LGBTQ+ community issues, and others. It can be claimed that SMIs impact on political agenda is rather strong, and it seems that the influence of some SMIs can be stronger than the influence of politicians.

Apparently, the impact of social media influencers on society is rather complex and diverse. It continues to grow with each year, because more and more people start using social networks, even in poor and developing countries. Additionally, technologies and social networks are constantly evolving and become more addictive. People constantly check images, photos, news, and posts published by social media influencers. Though there are certain threats and negative aspects associated with social media influencers, there are also many positive ones as well. There is a huge demand for SMIs among people belonging to different generations, cultures, and social classes. Hence, it is likely that in the nearest future the power of SMIs and their impact on society will grow.

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Works Cited:
Aggeler, Madeleine. “Who Is Belle Delphine, the Gamer Girl Selling Her Bathwater?” The Cut, 19 July 2019, www.thecut.com/2019/07/belle-delphine-bath-water.html.
Chae, Jiyoung. “Explaining females’ envy toward social media influencers.” Media Psychology 21.2 (2018): 246-262.
Freberg, Karen, et al. “Who are the social media influencers? A study of public perceptions of personality.” Public Relations Review37.1 (2011): 90-92.
Hearn, Alison, and Stephanie Schoenhoff. “From celebrity to influencer.” A companion to celebrity. Wiley: London (2016): 194-212.
Saravanakumar, M., and T. SuganthaLakshmi. “Social media marketing.” Life Science Journal 9.4 (2012): 4444-4451.
Smithers, Dominic. “YouTube Star PewDiePie Says The Area 51 Raid ‘Makes Sense’.” LADbible – Redefining Entertainment & News For a Social Generation, 16 2019, www.ladbible.com/news/news-youtube-star-pewdiepie-says-the-area-51-raid-makes-sense-20190716.

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