Self-branding on social media: A comparative analysis of social media influencers between China and the West
The popularisation of social media has given rise to the figure of the social media influencer (SMI). SMIs have the power to influence societies, economies, and cultures (Abiden, 2018). Most research on SMIs focuses on the West (e.g. Page, 2012; Khamis, Ang, & Welling, 2016), yet influence relies on and reflects social values. China and its social media are increasingly important globally, so understanding how influencers self-brand in China and how this compares with the West is essential. This study fills this gap, utilising the concepts of self-branding, authenticity and postfeminism to understand how fashion and lifestyle SMIs whose online branding activities reflect “the post-feminist self-brand” (Barnet-Weiser, 2012) work across different socio-cultural contexts. I will analyse and compare their posts on two major visual social media platforms: 1) Instagram which is widely used by Western influencers; 2) Xiaohongshu, a comparable social media platform in China. A novel mixed methodology including content analysis, platform analysis, together with interviews will be used to study fashion and lifestyle SMIs’ self-branding practice and investigate the relationship between digital media and everyday life.