Instagram Likes and the Images Posted by Fashion Influencers: A Social Semiotic Analysis
MetadataShow full metadata
The social media site Instagram is a photo sharing application that is popular with fashion Influencers. Through the sharing of images on the application, Influencers are able to promote products, brands and services to their many followers. The success of their promotional work, and indeed their reputations as Influencers, is typically realised through the number of likes that the images posted to their Instagram accounts receive. However a question remains as to what types of fashion images are more likely to be well received, and therefore ‘liked’ by their followers. In order to evaluate which types of images the viewers of Instagram fashion Influencers are more inclined to ‘like’ and why, this study draws upon the social semiotic work of Kress and van Leeuwen (1999, 2006). The analysis primarily involved statistically examining the way that five different semiotic resources (i.e. participant distance, participant gaze, participant relationship, participant clothing and colour) were used in 1000 Influencer images, in relation to the number of likes the images received. This quantitative analysis was then followed up by a qualitative examination of those images which were statistically prominent, in order to consider, among other areas, the particular context of the image, the type of product being promoted, the identity portrayed by the Influencer, and the particular lived-moment that the image captured. While a number of more generalisable findings about the relationship between the semiotic choices made by the Influencers, and the reception of these choices by their followers, emerged from the study, it was found that a follower’s response to a particular semiotic choice (e.g. the portrayal of their gaze directed at the viewer) was largely related to the specific identity or lifestyle of the Influencers. The study also found that, in many instances, the type of semiotic choices most frequently made by the Influencers in their images, often received the fewest number of likes. Ultimately, it was also found that semiotic realisations that Kress and van Leeuwen conceive as creating greater ‘involvement’ or ‘contact’ with the viewer, when used in the Influencers images, did not, on average, receive the greatest number of likes. Importantly, the study provides an innovative approach to the study of social semiotics, which combines the quantitative use of descriptive statistics, with qualitative observations.