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Understanding Electronic Word of Mouth Part 1- The Online World of Skinfluencers and Skinthusiasts!

This is part 1 of my Understanding Electronic Word of Mouth blog series. This series is about understanding how audiences respond to Electronic Word of Mouth content within TikTok and Instagram skincare communities, and how these responses differ. Through these blog posts I aim to explore some of the key finding and topics of interest I have encountered.

In this blog post I explain the context of my research and introduce you to the online world of skinfluencers and skinthusiasts…

Woman skincare routine illustration collection Free Vector
(Image credit: Pikisuperstar, 2020)

I have always loved learning about skincare and all the different products you can use, it has sort of become my media niche over the last couple years. (Read more about my media niche here.)

What prompted me to start this project was the realisation that I was buying and wanting to buy products; that I had never even heard of, just because I had seen a TikTok video about it.

This led to the question, why do I find the TikTok skincare community more engaging and persuasive then on Instagram? Ultimately the goal of my research project evolved to be,

How do the audiences respond to EWoM content within Instagram and TikTok skincare communities and how do these responses differ?

My Field Site:

The nature of the intent and social media often means that everything is interconnected. So, when studying a media niche online Jenna Burell explains that a field site has transformed from, “a bounded space that the
researcher dwells within to something that more closely tracks the social
phenomenon under study.” (Burrell, 20009, p.195). Furthermore by defining my field site I was able to better understand the objects and subjects of my research (Burrell, 2009, p.1).

“To learn how an online community operates is to find out about key members who have the potential to influence tone, topic, or policy for the whole community.”

ANATOLIY GRUZD & CAROLINE HAYTHORNTHWAITE (2013)

(Click here for more information on my initial field site).

My field site for this project consisted of three prominent skincare content creators, three from Instagram and three from TikTok. View Figure. 1 to see my main field site for this project.

Figure 1.’Field Site’

I then consumed and analysed five pieces of content from each creator. Click here to view my detailed field notes on each content creator.

So, what is Electronic Word of Mouth?

According to Wen-Chin Tsao and Tz-Chi Mau, “Electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) is the sharing of relevant knowledge and opinions (positive or negative) about the products and/or services of a firm among potential or actual customers” (Tsao and Mau, 2019, p.195).

Influencer woman on social media landing page Free Vector
(Image credit: Pikisuperstar, 2019)

In regards to this project, Electronic Word of Mouth took the form of skincare product reviews, recommendations, tutorials and explainers. Basically any form of content that promoted a skincare product/s.

So what is a skinfluencer and/or a skinthusiast?

After looking into a variety of prominent content creators in Instagram and TikTok skincare communities I have identified two different types of creators: skinfluencers and skinthusiasts.

brown labeled box lot
(Image credit: Curology, 2019)

To me, a skinfluencer (skincare influencer) is a creator whose channel/account features personal content about them and their life as well as skincare content. @Jadeywadey180 was an example of this. I found that I didn’t perceive skinfluencer content to be very authentic. I felt like the purpose of skinfluencer content was to designed to persuade the audience to buy the skincare product.

Whereas, a skinthusiast (skincare enthusiast) in my opinion, was a creator I perceived to have a genuine passion or interest in skincare and whose content in almost all skincare related. @Sortofobsessed was an example of this. I felt like skinthusiast’s content was designed with the purpose of sharing advice and opinions about skincare products with other users.

References:

Burrell, J 2009, ‘The Field Site as a Network: A Strategy for Locating Ethnographic Research’Field Methods, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp. 181-199

Curology, 2019, Girl with Products, image, Unsplash, viewed 12 November 2020, <https://unsplash.com/photos/2z47pLrDBMI/info&gt;

Gruzd, A, Haythornwaite, C 2013, ‘Enabling Community Through Social Media’Journal of Medical Internet Research, Vol. 15. No. 10.

Pikisuperstar, 2019, Influencer woman on social media landing page Free Vector, image, Freepik, viewed 12 November 2020, <https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/influencer-woman-social-media-landing-page_5481523.htm#page=1&query=influencer&position=2&gt;

Pikisuperstar, 2020, Woman skincare routine illustration collection Free Vector, image, Freepik, viewed 12 November 2020, <https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/woman-skincare-routine-illustration-collection_9366910.htm#page=1&query=skincare&position=0&gt;

Tsao, W-C, Mau, T-C, 2019, ‘Ethics in Social Media Marketing’, Aslib Journal of Information Management, Vol. 71, No. 2, pp. 195-216.

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