Social media influencers and politics – new research avenues

Organizers: Influpol research group

As societal discussion has stabilized its position in social media (Kannasto, 2021), those who are influential in different platforms have gotten a powerful position in public communication. In a hybrid media environment, different ways of influencing intertwine, creating so-called third spaces. These are principally non-political arenas where discussion may nevertheless turn political (Wright & Graham, 2016). For example, a lifestyle Instagram profile where suddenly a divisive socio-political issue is discussed.

Influencers, who are often attached with commercial content (Munnukka et al., 2019; Pöyry et al., 2019), now also participate in political discussion online by taking a stance and introducing political topics to their platforms (Larsson, 2021; Medina Serrano et al. 2020; Suuronen et al., 2021). In addition, ethics and values have become a significant part of the viability of the influencer business model. Influencers have also participated in politics as political candidates and benefited from their already established large follower bases. Thus, influencers as personas have become a lot more than just people creating entertaining lifestyle content. However, their significance and their profession still remains a topic of debate in the media and several influencers have expressed being undervalued as entrepreneurs or as civic actors.

Our workshop calls for contributions that discuss the role and significance of social media influencers in the society and in societal or political discussion. We welcome presentations and research proposals that connect with influencer research and, but not limited to, politics, ethics, values, social responsibility, audience engagement, platformization and mediatization, intimization and other social media influencer related work. We also encourage submissions related to the question of defining “influencers” in the field of political campaigning, agenda setting, and lobbying.

This workshop is hosted by the Influpol (https://blogs.helsinki.fi/influpolproject/) research group:

  • Elisa Kannasto, PhD, Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences, Seinäjoki, Finland, elisa.kannasto@seamk.fi @emppuliittus
  • Salla-Maaria Laaksonen, Docent, Center for Consumer Society Research, Helsinki University, Helsinki, Finland, salla.laaksonen@helsinki.fi @jahapaula
  • Essi Pöyry, Docent, Center for Consumer Society Research, Helsinki University, Helsinki, Finland, essi.poyry@helsinki.fi @essipoyry
  • Hanna Reinikainen, PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher, School of Business and Economics, Jyväskylä University, Jyväskylä, Finland, hanna.reinikainen@jyu.fi @hreinikainen

References

Kannasto, E. (2021). “I am horrified by all kinds of persona worship!” Constructing Personal Brands of Politicians on Facebook. Acta Wasaensia 468. Väitöskirja. Vaasan yliopisto.

Larsson, A. O. (2021). The rise of Instagram as a tool for political communication: A longitudinal study of European political parties and their followers. New Media & Society, 14614448211034158.

Medina Serrano, J. C., Papakyriakopoulos, O., & Hegelich, S. (2020). Dancing to the partisan beat: a first analysis of political communication on TikTok. In 12th ACM Conference on Web Science (pp. 257-266).

Munnukka, J., Maity, D., Reinikainen, H., & Luoma-aho, V. (2019). “Thanks for watching”. The effectiveness of YouTube vlogendorsements. Computers in Human Behavior, 93, 226-234.

Pöyry, E., Pelkonen, M., Naumanen, E., & Laaksonen, S. M. (2019). A call for authenticity: Audience responses to social media influencer endorsements in strategic communication. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 13(4), 3365351

Suuronen, A., Reinikainen, H., Borchers, N. S., & Strandberg, K. (2021). When social media influencers go political: An exploratory analysis on the emergence of political topics among Finnish influencers. Javnost – the Public. https://doi.org/10.1080/13183222.2021.1983367

Wright, S. & Graham, T. (2016). Third space, social media and everyday political talk. In Bruns, A., Enli, G., Skogerbø, E. Larsson, AO. & Christensen, C. (eds.) The Routledge Companion to Social Media and Politics (pp. 74–88). Routledge.