An influencer is someone with an online social media presence and with a large enough following to market or ‘influence’ their audience to buy products, services and goods.
The truth is that anyone can be an influencer, and some are famous solely for being an influencer. Popular influencers often create and sustain a close following from their fans, who might aspire to be more like them or see them as an ideal friend.
Understanding Parasocial Relationships
Parasocial Relationships are the type of one-sided relationship between an audience member and a performer. It is when a person spends time, emotional energy and interest on performers in the mass media. This is often seen with celebrities or influencers and is considered normal.
- A young person might show interest in a celebrity, influencer or group because they find them entertaining and like to discuss them with friends.
- Sometimes these relationships can become more intense, where a person pays attention to attitudes, dress sense, food or the interests or products the influencer or celebrity sells.
- Although these interactions are not usually seen as relationships, they can and do have both positive and negative effects.
They may encourage positive behaviour and engagement with school and friendship groups or provide inspiration in an area of interest including fitness, fashion and gaming.
But they may also show harmful behaviours such as smoking, drinking, bad language and unattainable body standards.
Social media influencers are popular with young people who spend lots of time watching, commenting and sharing their content. These influencers are a source of entertainment for young people, but they can also provide information, advice and guidance.
Influencers exist on many platforms, but the main platforms are Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube.
A social media influencer can be:
- Gamers, musicians, toy unboxers, reality TV actors and other celebrities.
- YouTube Vloggers, Instagram celebrities and fashion/beauty bloggers.
- Pranksters, funny vloggers or ‘dare’ type channel presenters.
Influencer Fan Base
Influencers often appear to have an attractive, flashy lifestyle and form loyal fan bases or ‘fandoms’. Some of these fan bases have a strong sense of community and even have names either created by celebrities or by the fan groups themselves.
These names are often used by influencers and celebrities to address and talk directly to their fans.
Membership of these communities can be a significant marker of a young person’s identity.
Popular Fandom Names Include:
What you should know about influencers
Younger children may not be able to tell the difference between normal content and obvious advertising from people they admire and respect.
Products may also not be suitable, appropriate or in some cases safe for young people, like diet pills or slimming teas. Young people may be encouraged (influenced) to pay, subscribe or join other communities. They may also be more sensitive to ‘asks’ from influencers to help them financially to continue producing content.
What you can do:
- Make sure young people know that influencers may promote products for money.
- Set responsible parental controls, so inappropriate content is limited for young people.
- Set screen time limits when possible and encourage young people to socialise offline with their friends.
- Keep up to date with what content/vloggers young people spend time interacting with.
- Talk and listen to young people about their favourite influencers, this will give you the opportunity to reframe any negative opinions or messages.