Social Media Influencers and Their Effects on Advertising With Professor Esther Thorson

By: Htin Aung Kyaw

I had the privilege of interviewing Professor Thorson on her research about Social Media Influencers and their impact on advertising and society. Professor Esther Thorson is the Professor of Journalism and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies at Michigan State University. Professor Thorson’s career has combined quantitative research and theory with extensive applied research with advertising, television, and newspaper companies.

I wanted to conduct research on Social Media Influencers, because they are an integral part to marketing and advertising these days. The amount of advertising content we consume from these Social Media Influencers is staggering, as social media companies develop a specific algorithm that caters our interests and these influencers tend to make the message even more effective. Social Media Influencers with all their control and power have a massive impact on our society today, influencing how we think about certain things.

Why Social Media Influencers are an integral part to marketing corporate brands.

Professor Thorson tells us that the interpersonal communication factor that influencers bring is highly effective with people and even more effective than mediated communication such as corporate commercials. “The bringing of the interpersonal relationship between the audience member and the influencer is the key to a very powerful persuasion.” With Social Media Influencers although they are mediated since you meet them on different social media platforms, they seem like real people and the relationship that you have is more powerful compared to an ordinary ad, as in this case, ordinary ads look created and fixed lacking the components of a real person.

Dr. Thorson, a professor of Journalism at Michigan State University.

The bringing of the interpersonal relationship between the audience member and the influencer is the key to a very powerful persuasion.”

How Social Media’s dominance controls advertising

Advertisers are using social media as their main platform due to social media’s dominance in our lives during this day and age. Mostly all advertising moving towards social media creates a platform for the advertisers to use influencers to impact how persuasive their message is to us. She goes on to explain that interpersonal skills enhance the persuasion that a mediated message like an advertisement have on us. She highlights the importance of interpersonal communication by stating, “When people hear a political message if they are able to talk with each other about it, be interpersonal then the message will have a greater effect.”


The effects of brand enhancement for both the Social Media Influencers and their products and the issues surrounding it

Advertising on social media is a two-way street, influencers while advertising products are growing the product and their personal brand at the same time. As Professor Thorson puts it, “The more followers they have which is enhancing their brand, the more advertisers pay them.” However, there are issues with brand enhancement at times as influencers may be advertising vile and unethical products that may not be suitable for all their audience. Professor Thorson expands on this issue by explaining that these messages from the influencers need to be regulated. Giving an example of an influencer taking a young girl to a sex shop videoing it for the world to see. Professor Thorson explains that incidents like this need to be regulated and influencers being powerful people should not have the freedom that damages their viewers or their own children in this scenario.

The more followers they have which is enhancing their brand, the more advertisers pay them.”

Would Social Media Influencers still be here in the near future and what kind of changes can we expect?

It is extremely hard to imagine a future without social media. However, Professor Thorson stated that the only way to “get rid” of social media influencers would be that the government regulates them in a way that they are useful to advertising, although this is not easy. She also adds that, not all influencers have a negative impact on society. An example would be that there are influencers that encourage young women or girls to be comfortable with their own skin while promoting healthier lifestyles – these are examples of influencers bringing in a positive influence towards society. Social media influencers are here to stay unless we can regulate the negative influences that they bring towards society.

What surprised Professor Thorson the most throughout conducting her research on Social Media Influencers

Professor Thorson was mostly surprised by the fact that influencers can at times although disclose the fact that they are being paid for the mediated message, this did not have a damaging effect towards the persuasion of the message. She found this fact frightening and interesting at the same time. She also states that her findings show how powerful interpersonal relationships are in these circumstances.

The effects of social media being the most dominant form of advertising today

Professor Thorson explains that social media is absorbing the majority of the advertising revenue and this lead to many problems in society in general as it killed the newspaper industry that creates quality news, and it could be argued that social media companies like Facebook hold too much power and monopolization of the power to communicate and advertising. The government needs to regulate these aspects and the control that these companies have over communication. However, she states that you don’t particularly have to be a social media influencer or a figure to have an effect on the internet or society. Giving an example of a National Basketball Association player publicly announcing that they wont be vaccinated and messages like this will still travel effectively because of the individual that said it. If it were to be summed up the basic general concept of influencers is to have a message travel out effective that will impact on people think about things. Professor Thorson states that individuals will always have this type of authority and control over society, but if we can regulate better rules and regulations then this won’t always be tied to social media.


Social Media Influencers are being more prominent these days and we are being overwhelmed on our social media platforms with their content. It’s important to highlight the causes of this and the effects that they bring towards our society as we are consuming their content on a daily basis. Professor Thorson explains why Social Media Influencers are dominating the advertising industry and highlights the fact that the interpersonal factor that these influencers bring gives more persuasion to their message. Professor Thorson also highlights on the importance of regulating these influencers as they can bring harm to society with their mediated messages, and I totally agree, as these messages can easily be perceived by millions of people on a daily basis.

It was a pleasure to interview Professor Thorson and I have learned so much from her during my interview. I’d like to thank her for taking the time to be apart of my blog post.


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