While Instagram influencers may have started out as ordinary people documenting their everyday life through a stream of photographs, they are increasingly emerging as an intermediary between advertisers and consumers. This study examines the professionalization of Instagram influencers, combining data from 11 interviews with travel influencers with a visual and textual content analysis of their 12 most recent Instagram posts (N = 132). We show how the increasing professionalization of the influencer steers their relationship with their audience, the advertisers they work with, and the platform Instagram. We argue that, for the Instagram influencer to be perceived as successful, they need to negotiate a tension: they need to appear authentic, yet also approach their followers in a strategic way to remain appealing to advertisers. Although Instagram influencers are seen as more trustworthy than traditional forms of advertising, this tension ultimately leads to a standardization of the content shared by influencers.

Influencers, instagram, professionalization, self-branding, social media
dx.doi.org/10.1177/1354856520902136, hdl.handle.net/1765/125015
Erasmus University Rotterdam

van Driel, L. (Loes), & Dumitrica, D. (2020). Selling brands while staying “Authentic”: The professionalization of Instagram influencers. Convergence. doi:10.1177/1354856520902136