The Influence of Influencers

  • Isabel Galvis

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    There is currently a need for academics and practitioners to understand the role of Social Media Influencers (SMIs) as they create ties with their audiences that lead to behavioural change, long-term relationships, brand loyalty and ultimately to customer advocacy. This understanding will help lay the foundations for brands to plan, and help to justify their decisions when selecting an SMI as part of a marketing strategy (Casaló, Flavián and Ibáñez Sánchez 2020; Delbaere, Michael and Phillips 2021; Hudson et al. 2016). Hence, the research questions proposed for this study address who an SMI is, how and under what circumstances they influence their audiences, and how a brand’s management of an SMI might be most effective. The topic of SMIs has gained significant relevance over the past five years, as the ties between SMIs and their audience grow stronger, and so does the SMI’s ability to influence and convince their followers to take actions (Borgonovi, Andrieu and Subramanian 2021; Shang, Wu and Sie 2017; Tiwari, Lane and Alam 2019). Given that guidelines and regulations for SMI promotional activities are being developed, it is a priority to conceptualise how a regular person attains the position of being an SMI, the steps that launch them into stardom and the mechanisms that they use to draw, engage and influence their audiences. In this research, Consumer Culture Theory (CCT) and Pierre Bourdieu’s sociological conceptualisations (social capital, influence, practices and reproduction) are used in conjunction to form a theoretical and methodological framework for the study of social bonds, group dynamics, practices and consumption in a digital context (Amiraslani et al. 2021; Clark 2020; MacArthur et al. 2017). Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Big Data techniques were used to collect more than nine million tweets dating back to 2008. The knowledge and insights gained from this research have successfully fulfilled its purpose at three levels. Firstly, by expanding the academic and business knowledge of the characteristics of SMIs, the mediation role that they play between brands and consumers, and the methods they use to shape the opinions of the masses, to popularise trends and promote consumption habits. Secondly, by advancing current SM analysis techniques to include a more precise approach to processing and analysing text and graphical (emoji) data. Thirdly, by proposing alternative social network visualisation and ranking parameters for examining the dialogues taking place between brands and consumers in a digital environment. Despite important positive outcomes derived from strong social capital between SMIs and their audience, such as the commercial success of the SMI’s own-labels and SMI−brand collaborations, this research also identified a series of problems related to the “negative” social capital that can be mobilised between the SMI and their audience. However, these results would not have been possible to achieve if the researcher had not employed novel and innovative approaches to solve the numerous technical and methodological problems faced when gathering large datasets and analysing complex patterns of relationships and sharing.
    Date of AwardJul 2022
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorSally Dibb (Supervisor) & Lyndon Simkin (Supervisor)


    • consumer behaviour
    • social media
    • influencers
    • social capital
    • habitus
    • online practices
    • reproduction
    • Twitter
    • consumption
    • Bourdieu
    • social media influencers

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