TAS-ARE model: Building Follower Engagement on Instagram

Sonia Brugarola Valls & Eva Sánchez Marín

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

With Instagram gaining users by the minute, the Instagrammer market is exponentially growing and drawing public attention, both from marketers and ordinary users aiming to become Instagrammers. Despite the increasing number of Instagrammers gathering considerable amounts of followers, only a few of them are able to build engaged audiences over time. The proliferation of Instagrammers has also raised interest among researchers, especially around the brand endorsement sphere. However, little is known about the connections between Instagrammers and their followers, and what Instagrammers can actually do in order to build engaging relationships with followers. The aim of this thesis is to reveal how fashion Instagrammers’ content and their interaction on Instagram affect their self-presentation and follower engagement. Following Shimp’s TEARS model (2003), we draw on its five attributes, Trust, Expertise, Attractiveness, Respect and Similarity, intending to adapt the model to the online reality of Instagram, and to explore how fashion Instagrammers can achieve follower engagement. A qualitative study combining in-depth interviews, focus groups and netnography was conducted. Results indicated that the five attributes do not have the same relevance when it comes to generating follower engagement, and that the original TEARS model lacked Authenticity as an attribute. Further, our research also disclosed two different types of accounts, image and lifestyle accounts, depending on the amount of filler content shared. This filler content is constituted by snapshots of the Instagrammers’ everyday lives in an unfiltered and spontaneous way and was found to have an essential role in generating follower engagement. Unlike image accounts, lifestyle accounts strategically use Instagram Stories as means to share more filler content with followers. Taking our findings into account, a new theoretical framework is presented: the TAS-ARE model. This new model categorizes the attributes in two groups, Entry and Key attributes, based on their relevance in generating follower engagement. Entry attributes, Physical Attractiveness, Respect and Expertise (ARE), are found to be the initial requirements needed in order to compete in the Instagrammer market. Key Attributes, Trust, Authenticity and Similarity (TAS), when reflected through Instagram Stories, are found to be essential in generating follower engagement, and are possessed by lifestyle accounts. Further, this research also sheds light into a new “era” of Instagram, motivated by the introduction of Instagram Stories and by the proliferation of filler content. This new era, Instagram 3.0, constitutes an inflection point and opens new avenues for follower engagement. To this end, the model provides guidelines for Instagrammers, and can also provide support for managerial implications.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2018
Number of pages246
SupervisorsAnne Martensen