How to Win Fans and Influence People: The Dynamic Between Social Media Influencers and Those They Influence

Whitston-Lee, Emily
Gordon, Averill
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Master of Communication Studies
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Auckland University of Technology

With the rise of social media in the past decade there has been very little documentation or research that considers the advent of social media opinion leaders, or influencers, and their relationship with their followers (those influenced) on social media channels. This research analyses the relationship between social media influencers and those they influence through their interactions in the comment sections of YouTube videos. A qualitative analysis measures the interactions between the influencer and the influenced, using open coding (Thomas, 2006) and thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006).

This analysis draws on the comment sections in three YouTube videos from each of the four influencers in the beauty industry: Shaaanxo, Kandee Johnson, MannyMUA and Jeffree Star, and looks at the top hundred comments from these videos.

The research has a key focus on the role of the influenced, as this is largely absent from current research. The interactions between the influencer and influenced allow for clarity as to how the influenced view the influencer. This also helps to demonstrate a collective attitude by those influenced towards the influencer, and provides a view of how the influenced interact about the influencer, as opposed to with the influencer.

This thesis finds that the dynamic between the influencer and the influenced can be summarised as a one-sided friendship, on the side of the influenced, with the influencer rarely acknowledging their following. Additionally, the influenced see themselves in a community led by the influencer. This finding is unique in that it focuses primarily on the influenced. I find that more research is needed in order to understand how the influencer operates, specifically considering the role of the influenced

Social media , Influencers , YouTube , Influence , Relationships , Public relations
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