The f word in followers

In today’s digital era the word ‘followers’ is a universal term used on a wide range of platforms. In real life, a follower is a person who imitates, copies, or takes as a model or ideal, however on social media Webopedia defines a follower as ‘someone who subscribes to receives your updates.’ In this post, I’ll talk about what it means to have followers, online AND offline. Can our society function without status? To begin, think about the platform you use most regularly and ask yourself whether or not you can imagine it without followers. I’m analyzing the importance of followers on Instagram, especially in regard to using status as a tool for social media marketing. I found that the digital era, along with its continual growth of social media platforms has encouraged an addiction to social approval and image distortion. So how important are followers in today’s society?


To put into perspective how valued followers can be on social media here is an equation:

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 8.18.37 PM.pngImage source:

I want to further build on this concept by looking at Instagram as a status symbol. Alice E. Marwick, an academic observer of American online culture argues the fluidity of status, in that a person can have it in one area and lose it in another just as easily. She says with Twitter for example that ‘not only does follower number literally measure popularity, it also implies a level of influence, viability and attention (Marwick 2013, pg 96).’ She’s right you know; as shown above, ratio plays a big part in society’s value of followers. Sadly, enough, if you’d like to witness this pitiful notion there’s an article by  The Business Insider from last year talking about the ‘cool ratio’ equation. This equation may have similar results in real life. For example, in 2001 Anderson et al (2001) of the American Psychology Association found that ‘one of the most important goals and outcomes of social life is to attain status in the groups to which we belong.’ We see this just by looking at our own social hierarchies that formed in high school. The ‘popular’ group was popular regardless of their online status. So does this mean the line is drawn between social status in real life and social status online?

Focusing back on Instagram, last year social media users got this notification…


It was Instagram cleaning up the spam accounts in a form of ‘spam purge’ and essentially taking away what looked like thousands of real followers from ‘popular’ accounts.
So what happens when we come across a popular Instagramer with a damn right ‘cool ratio’ number? Essentially, following almost no one but having thousands of followers. I’m cringing just addressing this concept but we have a perceived legitimacy based on the numbers. Sometimes we will think ‘how can YOU have these followers?’ But do we take into account the hashtagging, regularity of posts, other linked platforms, paid posts, collaborations OR worst of all ‘BOTNETTING’ (buying followers). As a regular Instagram user I’d like to think we do, but looking at the broader and even worse spectrum it’s hard to believe. Tindenberg and Gomez Cruz (2015) of the Digital Ethnography Research Centre state ‘images play an important role in how we experience being in the world and increasingly, due to the ubiquity of online interaction how we ‘shape’ our world’. This one sentence along with the thought of the contemporary quantified self can be a scary thought.

Overall, status applies to both the online and offline world. It is extremely valuable in today’s society. Having followers means you have status. There may not always be a connection between the status of an individual online vs the status they have offline. However, people interact so regularly online that a status highly regarded as one of the most important aspects of our world. Our society can not function without status as it has become more than just a number or a ratio, it’s a tool.

In previous research here is what I found to be the conclusion to getting rid of status online.

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.. just to make matters even worse, I suggest you give up your attempt to claim the ‘coolest ration number’ because Beyonce already won that award 6.1 mil times over.

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Anderson, C., John, O., Keltner, D. and Kring, A. (2001). Who attains social status? Effects of personality and physical attractiveness in social groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(1), pp.116-132.

Katrin Tiidenberg and Edgar Gómez Cruz (2015) Selfies, Image and the Re-Making of the Body

Marwick, A. E.. (2013). Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age. Yale University Press.




In the digital era, audience studies are important in terms of space. This is because, along with seeing your audience as a market you are able to measure the dimensions of place between media and reality. I wished to further research this concept through the eyes of the Instagram square, I called this ‘Instagram Interaction’. Whereby I researched social marketing and construction whilst using my own experience with this platform as an example.

Instagram is a platform that keeps a portfolio of photo memories along with users’ tagged locations and a feed of continually streamed photos, thus being a perfect content analysis for research narratives and space over time. As mentioned in my first post, exploring the distortions and limitations of reality that images in the 612 x 612 pixels square can achieve would further my understanding of the relationship place has on audiences.

Essentially, these photographs sum up my project.

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To begin my research, I wanted to understand how the audience as a market, effects the space between reality and most Instagram posts. Instagram is said by Villegas (2015) to be a ‘social movement that will increase your customer base and your social media engagement.’ However, one of the main ideas addressed in Villegas’s blog post is that sponsored posts are a powerful tool for marketing. She states ‘sponsored posts on Instagram come across as organic and relevant’. The ‘comes across’ space between audience and reality or truth is what I explored in my research.

This idea allowed me to want to further understand the realistic aspect of place addressed in deGuzman and Crawford (2013) ‘I forgot my phone’.

In order to achieve this, I went a week without Instagram. As addressed in my second post, this was more difficult than expected. An attachment to instant gratification and social approval is something that was evident the more I limited myself. Exploring this place allowed me to understand the reality that Instagram is able to distort.

Coinciding with this, to explore the ‘comes across’ dimension I used content analysis on my own Instagram account. Using five of my previously posted photos, I critically analysed them in terms of ‘what Instagram sees’ (the distorted space) and ‘what Instagram doesn’t see’ (the reality). Exploring these photos in depth allowed me to understand the lies, edits and practical truths behind them.  In terms of the photo itself, researching the way we can distort the image gave me an understanding that the audience can see something entirely different. From a photography perspective Caruana and Fox (2012) explore dynamic bodies of work that bring new dimensions to images. Similarly, Instagram provides tools that contribute to the act of distortion, Hochman and Manovich (2013) call these ‘manipulation tools’. For example, cropping, straightening, captioning, filtering and adding a location all change the message communicated to your audience in which Instagram stores as a memory. Hochman and Manovich (2013) argue that ‘each filter evokes a different “feel’’ and that ‘while taking a photo of a specific time and place, we apply a filter to it to suggest a different time or atmosphere’. This is shown in the analysis of my own Instagram account, whereby certain atmospheres and times of day weren’t truthfully conveyed through the photoScreen Shot 2015-11-02 at 1.40.03 PMScreen Shot 2015-11-02 at 1.40.18 PM Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 1.40.29 PM

With the emergence of the ‘attention based economy’ people have become more distracted than ever before. Therefore, we are living in a world where instant gratification defines our use of social media. Not being completely understanding of our distractedness in relation to the truth of an image could have negative effects on individuals. In terms of the distorted space versus reality, how does this affect the audience? Sunstrum (2015) argues that ‘because of this strict control of the way we are viewed, we are often fooled into believing other people’s lives are much better than our own.’ Overall, this can be seen as a problem in for the future of the structure of Instagram due to the negative implications for the audience arising when a dimension of an image is distorted.

Information about the research behind this project:

The form of research in which I carried out myself was a content analysis of my Instagram account. A qualitative form of research that allowed me to understand in greater detail the secondary research I had formed.  In order to convince media industries or stakeholder groups further research into the area of image distortion would help create an understanding of the truth about misrepresentation involved in the Instagram square.

How can these stories be used effectively?

From the research I have gathered above and the issues which have evolved from our addiction to social approval and image distortion I believe there needs to be a platform in which social media has no social status component, no likes and no editing tools. One of which people are able to express their own true lives with an inevitably raw feature. I believe this would be a great approach to assisting people in the natural aspect of social media. This is because we wouldn’t be able to see those with the most Instagram followers and base our opinions on the products they are promoting purely off their status. We would have to use our OWN minds, how scary.


Caruana, N. and Fox, A. (2012). Basics Creative Photography. 1000 Lausanne: Ava Publishing SA.

deGuzman, C. and Crawford, M. (2013). I forgot my phone. Available at: [Accessed 2 Nov. 2015].

Hochman, N. and Manovich, L. (2013). Zooming into an Instagram City: Reading the local through social media. First Monday, 18(7).

Sunstrum, K. (2015). How Social Media Affects Our Self-Perception. [Blog] The world of Psychology. Available at: [Accessed 2 Nov. 2015].

Villegas, F. (2015). Ten Reasons to Adopt Instagram as a Marketing Tool. [online] LevelTen Dallas, TX. Available at: [Accessed 1 Nov. 2015].


Picture this, an overseas event happens and within minutes of it occurring there are thousands of blogs, videos, photos and a hashtag stemming from this same event all with different points of views.  This is all before a Newspaper can even come close to a day before printing. These are the effects of distributed long tail content that are threatening legacy journalism and media because they simply can not cater for the space and time involved in the physical scalability.

As Teodor (2015) states that in a free content environment curators and aggregators are the valued product. WE are ordinary people with our devices filming, starting the conversation and hashtags and utilizing the platforms. In relation to citizen journalism in the new distributed media network the flow of information is far more disperse compared to traditional media. Bruns (2009) argues ‘the conventional models of media production, distribution, and consumption are no longer relevant’. This is evident in the way citizens curate content in the form of a ‘public record’ on platforms such as Twitter (Johnson S, 2009). Citizen journalism and the flow of information is distributed. We are embracing a technologically advanced information distribution that allows us to explore the evolving nature of the internet. This limitless nature is shown in the article ‘how can journalists use virtual reality to tell stories?’ Which explains new ways for journalists to utilise head mounted displays to communicate information.

This distributed media network has never been seen before in the whole of humanity. It is a new way of consuming media that conventional forms of media have no way of competing with. Not only in terms of scaling up but in the way it opposes the gatekeeping model; whereby industrial media filters ‘all news that is fit to print’ (NYT). Johnson (2009) states the new model achieves ‘news diversity and polarization at the same time: your networked front page will be more eclectic than any traditional-newspaper front page, but political partisans looking to enhance their own private echo chamber will be able to tune out opposing viewpoints more easily’. This is evident in the success of the 2015 hashtag #lovewins that started with this simple Tweet by Obama.

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Following this one Tweet there were 35,000 tweets sent per minute and if that doesn’t put the power of the long tail effect into perspective, I don’t know what will.

If you’re interested in putting the power of new media into perspective watch this video. ‘You’re able to have these multidirectional conversations, you’re not just broadcasting, you’re there in the middle of it’.

Founders of Twitter on the power of social media


Johnson, S. (2009). How Twitter Will Change The Way We Live. TimeFile

Bruns, A. (2009) ‘News Blogs and Citizen Journalism: New Directions for e-Journalism’File

SUPERHUMAN knowledge workers in the world of cyberspace

Liquid labour: global media industries and the costs of immaterial production

First, telegraph to cyberspace and next the fundamental changes in the global perception of culture and daily life. In 1969 when Peter Ducker coined the term ‘knowledge worker’ there would be little to no expectation that the industries of the future would change from manual workers to knowledge workers but in fact this concept changed the practical foundation of modern day businesses.

Why has this only happened now? The answer is hidden within microelectronics and software-based communication technologies. Bradwell (2008) has identified this formed relationship within the ‘increasing importance and visibility of social networks at work’. These networks are powering everything from professional service firms to at home businesses. I say this with first-hand experience as I witnessed an international cake maker (and my neighbour- Verusca Walker) give up her fundamental job of working or should I say the physical concept of walking into a workplace to becoming a networking capitalist online or in other words a ‘Youtuber’. She has utilised the fact social media is ‘cheaper, faster and more widespread’ (Bradwell, 2008) to promote her work. Taking advantage of the way social networks are constructed and therefore embracing the connections it allows her to ‘share’ her work.

This is the new era which utilizing social networking to promote businesses can lead to the entire business being moved online. This seems like a great idea, right? Not only distributing and controlling information through our own computers but being products of platforms like Google. We are the surplus value, the connectors keeping the information flowing. Ideal? Not so much. It is argued that we are blurring the borders between work and leisure and implementing homogenization in our use of cyberspace.

However, I say blur these borders. Witnessing my neighbor utilizing the new paradigm, the internet and changing from physically flying overseas every few weeks to now (literally) rolling out of bed to her kitchen to film Youtube tutorials and get paid by the platform is a framework for the ideal framework of our era of information flow. Who knows, one day we might all be knowledge workers in the world of cyberspace. Sounds superhuman !


This video compares the way we interact with social media like the effects of a drug.

‘Changed our verbal communication with increased separation’


Bradwell, P., and Reeves, R. (2008) Economies. In Networked Citizens (pp. 25-31)File

Fake it WHEN you make it- Youtuber’s and brand deals

Whether you like it or not we are living in a world where instant gratification from contemporary media comes as a second nature. So when AC Neilson’s data revealed 1 in 4 Australian’s browse the internet while watching TV there was no revelation. As a matter of fact, I’m doing this exact thing as I type my blog. In light of this information it got me thinking what ARE Australians doing whilst browsing and is there a way to monitor this?

Using social media to measure the amount of people who are engaging with content is a good place to start. One particular idea which links appropriately to this question is marketing or ‘brand deals’ that come with being a well-known Youtuber, Instagramer or blogger. For example, companies will use Youtube celebrities to promote their products to a broad online audience. Try Zoe Sugg (Zoella) for instance, with 7.2m YouTube subscribers, 3.8m Instagram followers and 2.9m Twitter followers you’d be forgiven for thinking a Youtuber’s media platform would be the perfect marketing tool. However, despite Youtuber’s claiming their ‘sincere’ love for the product this is hardly a reflection of the product’s true nature. In simple terms, content is edited to allow product placement and in turn sway our opinions on different brands. As Kim Kardashian told Piers Morgan about her family’s reality TV show back in 2011: “From the start, they’ve always said we have, you know, the right to edit and to approve all footage.” The real question is whether or not audiences are buying the products or are they just watching the content?
In fact, recent data by the Global Web Index, the world’s largest market research study on the digital consumer, revealed ‘while some prominent vloggers attract larger and more engaged audiences than celebrities do, they are still “a minor force” when it comes to successful advertising’.

“GWI’s quarterly trends report surveys 42,000 internet users between the ages of 16 and 64 across 32 countries.”

So when does this type of media use go from entertainment to exploitation? A ‘vlogger’ exposes their lives to the internet in the form of video. Whilst we as audience members watch, consume and respond at the expense of those people before the lens. This could be determined in this same way as the idea of whether or not we are engaged with the TV or we just have it on for background noise. The main issue is whether or not we are engaging with the content entirely. The question I posed at the beginning of this blog is how do we monitor this? I believe social media platforms and forums such as Twitter feeds and Facebook would be the most affective way to see how engaged audiences are with the media content because of the way the content is edited for marketing purposes. If we see the engagement of viewers through social media perhaps this is how ethnographic research can work to monitor contemporary media in our homes.

Find out more about the future of video marketing via this article.