Across social media platforms, there are a growing number of users who have the communication prowess to garner large audiences of fans and followers. These users are known as social influencers and are often highly skilled at understanding the operating mechanisms of the platforms on which they operate, how to communicate with their followers and fans, and media production broadly. Popular social influencers can earn large incomes through product endorsements and advertising revenue from the platforms on which they host their content. Typically, these users are endorsing brands and services and do so through a ‘lifestyle’ presentation approach to embed these products on our everyday social media lives.
As social influencers develop large audiences, they are creating social networks and have the potential to distort how news and information flows between media users. Their highly popular media content is then compounded by the effects of algorithmically calculated recommender systems, for example the ‘Up Next’ mechanism on YouTube or the ‘For You’ listings on Spotify. Social influencers are focussed on creating popular and commercially viable content, which of course aligns with hyper-commercial social media platforms. In this environment, populism rules and matters of general public concern and informed citizenry are less important.