Purpose: With the emergence of the internet and social media platforms, more citizens have gotten a voice in the public arena. For some, this possibility has led to the profession of a social media influencer, which many organizations apply in their marketing strategy in the form of influencer marketing. However, within the last few years there has been an increase in cases concerning influencers on Instagram being accused of lacking moral standards. Thus, this thesis aims to study why influencers and other actors are being held morally accountable for the content shared by influencers and what consequences this has for the ‘habermasian public sphere’ on Instagram.
Methodology: This thesis is not centred around one specific case but is rather built on different cases to exemplify the complexity of the problem area. The problem statement is examined on the basis of eight semi-structured qualitative interviews with different experts within the research area. Furthermore, a questionnaire survey seeks to investigate individuals’ attitude towards responsibility in the field of influencers and influencer marketing. The methodology of this thesis takes its point of departure in the social constructivist paradigm, meaning that the result of the thesis is a social-and context-dependent process. Consequently, this also limits the generalizability and usability of our findings to Denmark and Instagram and is therefore not applicable to other countries and social media platforms.
Theory: Based on our empirical findings we aim to explain and analyse the research area by the use of different theoretical perspectives. First, a PESTEL analysis is applied in order to explain the external factors surrounding the field. Second, a stakeholder analysis will help us determine the different actors within the field and their role in relation to the research area. Third, we wish to investigate the phenomenon ‘influencer’ by applying theories regarding self-branding, neoliberalistic entrepreneurship and emotional labour. Fourth, CSR theories are applied with the aim of understanding and explaining different actors' responsibility in relation to the problem area. Fifth and last, Habermas’ ideal of the public sphere is employed in order to discuss what consequences it may cause when different actors are being held morally accountable for content shared by influencers on Instagram.
Findings: This thesis finds that the field of influencers and influencer marketing is complex. Influencers as a phenomenon is difficult to define, especially since influencers are in a constant interplay between being professional and private individuals. Furthermore, the field is affected by several actors, who all play a central role in relation to influencer marketing. Therefore, they all, to some extent, have the ability to strengthen the moral standards of the content shared by influencers on Instagram and are consequently being held morally accountable. However, these differing attributions of responsibility convey different suggested recommendations, which may affect the democratic public sphere on Instagram in both a positive and negative manner.
|Educations||MSc in Business Administration and Organizational Communication, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis|
|Number of pages||105|