Between Commerciality and Authenticity: The Imaginary of Social Media Influencers in the Platform Economy

Arturo Arriagada, Sophie Bishop

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Influencers are highly visible tastemakers who professionally publish content on social media platforms. In their work, influencers are tasked with reconciling their contradictory positioning-they are both promoters of consumption, and marshals of "authentic"sociality and community. Influencers thus organize their social world in ways that enable them to justify moving between two contradictory poles of commerciality and authenticity. In this article, we argue that these navigations necessitate "influencer imaginaries."This concept was drawn from, first, in-depth interviews with 35 Chilean social media influencers, and second, from participant observation with advertising agencies who hire them. The influencer "imaginary"sheds light on how individuals experience and justify the commodification of the self and forms of knowledge as subject to valuation in markets when they communicate their brands. Thus, the imaginary was shown to emerge from three intertwined narratives: to resolve information asymmetries in markets; differentiate influencers from celebrities and advertisers as average people; and negotiate self-definition with regard to agencies, audiences, and themselves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)568-586
Number of pages19
JournalCommunication, Culture and Critique
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Chile
  • Instagram
  • authenticity
  • consumer culture
  • influencers
  • social media


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