Communicative ❤ Intimacies: Influencers and Perceived Interconnectedness
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Around the world, many young people have taken to social media to monetise their personal lives as “influencers.” Although international news reports have variously described these commercial social media users as “bloggers,” “YouTubers,” and “Instagrammers,” I conceptualise these high-profile Internet microcelebrities (Senft 2008) as influencers regardless of their digital platform. Influencers are everyday, ordinary Internet users who accumulate a relatively large following on blogs and social media through the textual and visual narration of their personal lives and lifestyles, engage with their following in digital and physical spaces, and monetise their following by integrating “advertorials” into their blog or social media posts. A pastiche of “advertisement” and “editorial”, advertorials in the Influencer industry are highly personalised, opinion-laden promotions of products/services that influencers personally experience and endorse for a fee. Although influencers are now a worldwide phenomenon, this paper investigates a subset of them, namely women influencers of the “lifestyle” genre in Singapore. Based on my fieldwork and drawing from Horton & Wohl’s work on parasocial relations (1956), I observe how influencers appropriate and mobilise intimacies in different ways (commercial, interactive, reciprocal, disclosive), and describe a model of communication between influencers and followers I term “perceived interconnectedness”, in which influencers interact with followers to give the impression of intimacy. The practices investigated and analyses developed in this paper are not unique to Singapore and may be mapped onto larger Influencer ecologies. However, as a small nation of just over five million (YourSingapore 2013) with a high IT penetration rate (iDA 2015) and relatively developed Influencer industry, it is hoped that this study of influencers in Singapore can serve as a microcosm for future comparative studies of influencers globally.
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