Commercialising social media : a study of fashion (blogo)spheres

Abstract: A common characteristic of the theoretical developments within the field of social media marketing is that activities to which consumers devote themselves in social media settings shift power from firms to consumers. Extant literature has therefore analysed the practices of consumers within social media and their potential implications for marketing. The current state of social media, however, suggests that these settings are undergoing a process of transformation. Although social media were initially characterised as non-commercial in nature, firms have started to manage interactions within these digital landscapes. From initially being characterised by its social base, this development implies that social media have become increasingly commercialised.The aim of this dissertation is to expand the literature on social media by describing the process through which they evolve from their initially social character to a commercial utility. More specifically, it seeks to develop a conceptual framework that captures the role of marketing processes that lead to the commercialisation of these spheres. This is done mainly through a netnographic study of the Swedish fashion blogosphere in order to explain how and why consumers and professionals interact, organise, create and appropriate commercial values in the fashion blogosphere.Drawing on theory of spheres, this dissertation proposes a sphereological understanding of social media that expands the role of marketing. It is suggested that social media may be understood as a collection of micro-spheres that, together, comprise a densely connected foam of spatiality and place. In these spheres, consumers, together with commercial actors, take part in practices that become increasingly commercial. In that sense, marketing takes the roles of navigating social media in search of symbolic meanings of value, and of affecting, negotiating and redefining atmospheres of places in the social media landscape.