Development of Digital Influencers in 21st Century Media Platforms Case Studies specific to YouTube and the role of Influencers
In the early 2000s, there was an increase of websites, such as Facebook, that facilitated sharing information and connecting with users. This led to the creation of ‘social media’ (Kaplan and Haenlein 2010, p.60). In 2017, the Office for National Statistics claim that 96% of 16 -24 year olds are using social media (Office For National Statistics 2017). This highlights the relevance and importance of studying the topic of social media. The second most popular social media website in 2018 is the video sharing website (Statista 2018), YouTube which includes elements of social networking (Rotman and Preece 2010). It launched in 2005 has claimed to change the way media is consumed (Manovich, cited in Lovink and Niederer 2008). The first YouTube1 video was uploaded in April 2005 called, ‘Me at the Zoo’ (YouTube 2005). It is of a man explaining he is at the Zoo, while standing in front of the elephant sanctuary, explaining to the camera about the elephants’ body. Since then, there is over a billion registered users uploading innumerable different types of content (Strangelove 2010) for viewing consumption (YouTube Press 2018). The popularity of the site is due to the opportunity to upload moving pictures for others to see (Winograd and Hais 2008) and to provide a different form of communication for users and creators. This is different to traditional media (Van Dijick 2013). This has led to particular individuals, generating large followings of viewers due to their content and personality, who appear to be labelled, Influencers. According to The Wall Street Journal (2013), Influencers are “people with a voice and loyal following” specifically in relation to social media. The label continues to generate increased interest both with audience size and mainstream media attention. This also queries who Influencers are. To analyse the development of Influencers. Using case studies to focus on key Influencers and explore how their careers have developed using this media platform. This will mean understanding their approach to creating content, distributing their brand effectively and communicating with their audience. In doing so, this will provide an insight into how an individual becomes an Influencer and how their career is shaped by the technology on which it is based. The conclusions of research is relevant as social media and other digital platforms continue to be an ever increasing influence on society and culture. Understanding some of its key figures and their career paths will help to demonstrate how this has come to be. The topic will be addressed by creating case studies of Influencers and studying the common features and areas of difference. The dissertation will take the structure of studying fourteen Influencers. First studying a landscape of Influencers and by cross-case analysing, it will present characteristics that can be suggested to indicate who Influences are. Then by focusing on three Influencers, it will provide a more in-depth perspective of their careers. Through discussing the coverage of mass media, this will highlight how Influencers have been perceived since their rise in popularity and enable discussion surrounding the connection of previous media Influencers. In order to address the topic of Influencers, the following research questions will be addressed: RQ 1 – Who are Influencers? RQ 2 – How are their careers formed? RQ 3 – At what point does an individual become an Influencer? RQ 4 – How has the popularity of Influencers accompanied the mass media coverage? RQ 5 – What are the connections to these digital Influencers and media Influencers in the past? By using qualitative analysis and multiple-case studies on YouTube Influencers, the study aims to provide a landscape that will shape understanding of Influencers. By specifically analysing a three in more depth, the research will present understandings of how they have formed a career, contributing towards understanding what has led to the individuals popularity within YouTube and to be labelled, Influencer. Findings will provide insight into connections between previous Influencers compared to the new digital Influencers. Burgess and Green (2013) claim, due to the limited research carried out on YouTube, each new study presents a different aspect of YouTube and contributes towards a fuller understanding of the medium.