How did social media influencers start?

Also known as ‘microcelebrities’, social media influencers are an increasingly important part of the digital marketing landscape – mostly on Instagram and YouTube, but across many other platforms too. Basically, they attract an audience by providing content based on their personal lives and/or interests – and when enough people start following them, they can make money from advertising. Either with placed advertisements, or the more lucrative ‘advertorials’ where they present a product or brand in a way that suggests that they spontaneously decided to share about it.

Starting in 2007, I started to track and participate in the change from personal blogging – where no money was involved – to lifestyle blogging, where a lot of content was paid for and oriented around consumerist practices. You can see more about that anthropological research on the blog I maintained as part of my participant observation.

If you want to know more, you can have a look at a handbook entry I wrote – it goes over some of the basics of the emergence of the lifestyle blog genre.