Social Influence through Social Media
The following report attempts to analyze social influence through Social Media, it aims primarily to understand the impact of Social Media Posts and information shared on it by specifically analyzing the activities of influencers of Social Media such as celebrities, actors/actresses, bloggers, pages promoting causes such as women empowerment, environment sustainability and so on… We shall understand social influence by particularly gauging insights on conformity compliance and obedience and their influence on cognition, affect and actions of the viewers and audience of respective influencers.
Name of Platform and Brief Description
The chosen social media platform for the given report is Instagram, which is available as a mobile application for all smartphone users. Instagram is quite popular as a social media platform among the younger generations of millennials and Gen Z. Its primary purpose is to share pictures and videos of important events in one’s life. The major emphasis while posting is laid on the aesthetic appearance of the pictures and videos, in terms of its appeal to the viewers, possibility of attracting more followers on the page, captions used to describe the image/video, schedule of posting content (daily, hourly, weekly, monthly) and the specific locations in which the posted content is captured. Depending upon the purpose of the page/account of the influencer, the content is deemed as appealing and meaningful by their viewers. If the page is created to share personal stories and life experiences, then there is more emphasis on the captions used than the image/video and generally such accounts post content on a daily basis to retain regularity and maintain their followers. Another feature on Instagram is of Stories, which is used by influencers to give major updates to their followers about what’s happening in their lives such as launch of new projects, travel destinations, glimpses of their daily routine, highlights of their day. Whatever content is posted is on Stories immediately disappears from the main page after 24 hours of posting and it can be specifically hidden from some people, this feature can be used by manually selecting accounts who the influencers wish to deny access to regarding their content, without their knowledge of it. Filters on Instagram is another feature to edit pictures in the application itself before posting content, in order to make it look more appealing in terms of attractiveness and color combinations.
Metrics employed to assess Social Influence through Social Media
A typical social influencer on a platform such as Instagram is a person who is either a public figure such as an artist (actors, dramatist, dancer, singer, fitness expert, athlete, gymnast, author, poet, painter, architect, journalist, etc.) or an individual who runs a page which is about creating awareness about a particular social/political issue such as women empowerment, cyber security, bullying, body shaming, racism, verbal abuse or it covers sensitive incidents such as sexual assault/abuse, violence, aggression, thefts and so on. Many pages on Instagram are about positive propaganda of environment sustainability, wildlife conservation, animal protection rights, human rights protection, book reading habits, film viewership, health and hygiene and lifestyle and exercise, etc. There are several metrics employed in terms of assessing social influence via the activities and content posted by social influencers. The primary metric used to assess social influence is the background of the person in terms of his/her profession, interests, career choices and/or remarkable work done by them in the past.
For instance, let us take an example of say, a popular journalist from the city of Mumbai. She has her own Instagram handle where she regularly posts updates related to different realms of business, healthcare, sports, education, entertainment, etc. in forms of brief posts detailing the primary details of each news update keeping it brief and concise for exact understanding on the part of viewers. She posts up to 3-4 posts on a daily basis on her account, all of these posts are genuine and credible, since her team engages in deep analysis and proofreading and therefore after multiple checks and verifications, the content is posted. She also covers the daily news updates each night in a short ten- minute video post, where all news from different industries is covered with latest guidelines and amendments. She has anchored several programs on news channels and has been the executive editor of a popular magazine for several years. She is currently working as an independent journalist with her own team of researchers and reporters. Therefore, she can be considered an influencer on social media since the public is well acquainted with her as a news show host and reporter and now an independent journalist. The varied activities in which she engages in such as working with several non-governmental organizations for the upliftment of the underprivileged, fundraising, endorsing and encouraging women empowerment through webinars and partnerships with renowned retail brands such as Levi’s makes her a public figure in the eyes of the common man and her opinions, views and decisions can be followed, imitated and replicated by her followers in different manners possible.
She possesses a certain authority to shape, guide and alter one’s beliefs and perspectives about specific subjects, topics and individuals. Those followers who might idolize or ‘look up to’ her might imitate and devotedly follow her ideas, opinions and beliefs and consider them as legitimate and appropriate since they consider her the ultimate expert in her respective professional realm and based on her success rate and notable work and achievements of hers, they might as well shape their opinions on certain strong and sensitive social issues such as feminism, racial discrimination, political debates and so on…
Her appeal to her followers to support a certain organization working for a specified purpose can easily attract her manifold followers on social media to propagate it further, similarly in cases of criticisms regarding events and acts, her dissent and disagreement might influence and instruct her followers to ridicule, reprimand and criticize those supporting the given event or occurrences. Her behavior in certain social settings and actions performed by her might influence her followers to perform similar actions while being present in any social setting. Her content on social media can alter and shape the basic conscience, belief system, thoughts, values and motivations of her followers to a considerable extent, without them realizing it consciously. Therefore, providing her a sense of authority to instruct and suggest her followers certain ideas, opinions and norms as necessarily to be followed, makes her induce obedience as a social influence to her followers.
Activities conducted on the platform and their Objectives
There are several activities conducted on the platform such as live interactions with celebrities and other public figures, arranged by influencers especially for their followers and help them interact with those celebrities by posting their questions on the chat of the live session and they might get answered by the celebrity. Occasionally, many influencers themselves come live and personally interact with their fans and followers by taking them in the live session for one-on-one chat purposes. It’s like talking to your favorite influencer/celebrity on a video call in front of millions of people. At times, these influencers inform their followers beforehand of their decision of coming live on a given day at a particular time by posting stories about it, so that interested and eager followers plan their schedule accordingly. They also post challenges on their stories such as sharing pictures in specific outfits, in specific expressions, and those which might be the best ones and close to the instructions might get featured in the stories of the influencer’s account itself. It is a manner of politely and humbly instructing the followers to imitate them and their choices in terms of clothing, footwear, accessories and health supplements and those who follow these instructions get honored by the influencers by either getting featured on their accounts or winning some attractive merchandise by participating in contests organized by them.
Other activities include endorsing specific brands of clothing, apparel, footwear, health supplements, food items, confectionery products, through paid partnerships with popular brands and posting videos/images with strong and impactful captions in order to attract large audiences to view them and possibly also convince them to buy the endorsed product by sharing its benefits with them. Many influencers also make it a point to provide the desired benefits while purchasing the product they are endorsing by announcing discount coupons or promotional codes to be used in order to avail discounts ranging from 15-30% while purchasing it through the provided website link or application. The code usually involves the name of the influencer followed by a numeral digit, which aids in them receiving some ransom amount or free products from the brand in order to help them receive multiple purchase orders for their products through the influencer endorsing the product and brand and thereby referring it to multiple consumers across the world. This a method conventionally used by new retail brands and start-ups in order to gain popularity as trusted brands and create brand value in a short span of time by utilizing names and faces of influencers of social media as their brand face and identity. The specific brands endorsed by influencers and their commitment towards posting regular content which is appealing, interesting, entertaining, aesthetically attractive and impactful, they too get benefitted by increasing their followers and building their profiles on respective social media platforms. In a manner both the influencers and retail brands using influencers as brand ambassadors are instrumentally convincing the people to follow certain norms, display appropriate behavior and actions in social settings, perform certain actions because they are instructing them to do so, be rewarding to them for following them in a certain manner. This reflects varied attempts of utilizing obedience, conformity and compliance as tools to convince the audience to remain in awe and display loyalty towards them. Most followers blindly purchase endorsed products and imitate their behavior in public settings without realizing portrayal of obedience, conformity and compliance to rules and norms.
Instagram also has a manner of justifying and depicting specific accounts and profiles as genuinely belonging or being run by influencers and public figures themselves by using methods of verification in which depending upon a specified number of likes, comments, shares and views on the content posted on the account and the number of followers being attracted to the profile in a specified period of time justifies it as being a real or false account. If the profile fulfills all perks of being a public figure or influencer known by millions of people across the world, then it is verified by Instagram by placing a blue tick beside the username of the account in order to differentiate it with similar fan made or false accounts running under the name of the influencer/celebrity. Instagram as a platform subjects the audience to trust its judgements in identifying true influencer accounts and thereby convincing them to follow those accounts in particular. Again, a classic example of attempts to induce compliance and obedience.
Groups/sub-groups on the platform
Instagram is an application which is developed by the founders and managing directors of the social media platform called Facebook. Therefore, it has sub-groups of applications which are developed by Facebook, such as WhatsApp Messenger, Beluga. Therefore, we can state that Facebook is a group which either develops or acquires social media platforms in partnership and manages them globally. Therefore, Instagram, WhatsApp Messenger, Beluga, Messenger for Facebook are sub-groups as applications running under supervision and coordination of the Facebook corporation.
Specific pathways of Social Influence through Social Media utilised by the users to influence cognition, affect and action of the groups
Influencers on social media platforms such as Instagram can be immensely helpful in order to gauge their attempts to influence, diminish, alter, transform and modify one’s cognition, affect and actions of their followers. The primary method used by influencers to influence (alter, modify, change, transform, modify, strengthen, weaken) one’s cognition is by displaying their opinions, judgements, ideas and suggestions regarding strong topics such as gender discrimination, poverty, racial discrimination, political events, religious discrimination, body shaming, sexual assault/abuse, thefts and murders openly via posts and stories on their profiles. These can either strengthen or weaken one’s stand and involvement in such topics by either favoring or criticizing specific events, individuals, groups and rules proposed related to the concerned issue. They voice out their opinions either directly through impressive captions and impactful images and videos or join organizations and groups promoting those views, thereby indirectly portraying their position in reference to specific issues. Many influencers themselves begin such organizations supporting issues of social injustice and run campaigns to attract their followers to support their cause.
Similarly, in terms of influencing emotions of followers, influencers alter, transform and invoke specific emotions such as love, hatred, sympathy, empathy, pride, excitement, disgust, sadness, regrets and perseverance. Such emotional influences can be easily studied by observing the followers reactions and body language after viewing beautiful images/videos of influencers being posted on their account, or after learning of their sudden demise or of someone from their family or close friends or by looking at images posted by influencers of their childhood, adolescence, infancy stages with their family and parents. Similar reactions are also observed when these influencers announce important events in their lives such as birthdays, wedding, wedding anniversaries, success/failure of their projects, announcement of new projects, etc. Those followers who would be in awe or idolizing the influencer would even wish or congratulate them in regard to a positive event and mourn and pray for them in cases of negative events. Many followers even reach to the extent of contacting and tracing down the influencers’ public relations team, managers, secretaries in order to send them gifts and heartfelt write-ups on special occasions either through couriers or on emails. These devoted followers even display hate, disrespect and disgust towards people disliking the influencer. By considering them as ‘potential threats’ to the well-being and morale of their idols, they express frustration, anger, harsh language, hatred by urging other followers to unfollow or report their profiles on Instagram or even by posting harsh and hurtful comments on their posts and disliking their content.
Disliking and expressing disapproval towards certain influencers can also take massive forms such as running campaigns with catchy hashtags regarding reporting their accounts, unfollowing them, disliking their content, banning their content and so on. Many people even run entire accounts on social media to express their disapproval towards certain influencers such as by writing convincing captions on posts with nasty and edited pictures of these influencers and justifying their dislike towards them. Similarly, many ardent followers run fan accounts or fan pages appreciating the work done by their idolized influencer and promote it further by using the repost feature on Instagram to post the content posted by their influencer again on their fan accounts, they constantly post different images and videos of the influencers and share latest updates regarding the influencer on these accounts. They tag the influencer’s username frequently on these accounts to catch their attention somehow and get a share of their affection and appreciation. The tag feature lets the influencer or the authority managing the profile to learn about developments related to them happening on the given platform and they can even learn about what their fans feel and think of them through such accounts.
Advantages and Limitations of Specific Pathways
There are advantages as well as drawbacks of influencers posting specific content on their profiles and propagating or criticizing certain groups, individuals and movements. The specific set of advantages include developing positive attitudes and beliefs regarding certain movements and causes of concern such as environmental sustainability, wildlife conservation, mental health, health and hygiene, importance of diet and exercise in daily routine, optimism and being constantly motivated to work and explore new hobbies. It can also help one explore their true Self in a more deep sense and help discover aspects about oneself which were undiscovered or unknown earlier.
At the same time drawbacks include being preoccupied with thoughts involving the influencer and his/her posts and content and it might include thoughts and aspirations to imitate them in all possible aspects of life, whether it be in terms of clothing, hairstyle, pronunciations, accents, body language, body posture and opinions regarding any given topic. More of one’s time is utilized in surfing through social media to get a glimpse of what is happening in the influencer’s life and to persistently be on electronic gadgets. One’s thoughts and actions become limited to what the influencer does and suggests others to do. They become so important in one’s life that not being able to get access of their image/video or to see any updates shared by them can lead to disappointment, anxiety, stress, feeling of separation and losing control. It can also lead to one displaying specific biases, stereotypes and prejudices related to specific communities and groups of individuals who do not support the influencer or are against him/her.
Therefore, individuality of thought and distinctiveness in displaying emotions and performing actions gradually disappears as the individual succumbs to limited information provided by the influencer to follow upon and focus on, discarding all other relevant and significant details of any event or circumstances.