Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Advertisements
Advertisements

UIC professor lectures on growing lifestyle influencer industry

Credibility of ’embodied knowledge’ in wellness sphere
UIC professor lectures on growing lifestyle influencer industry
Sophia Scolman

University of Illinois Chicago assistant professor in communication arts Mariah Wellman gave a lecture at the University of Wisconsin Wednesday about her research on how social media influencers are changing the wellness industry for the 2024 science communication colloquium.

The wellness industry is expected to grow from $5.6 trillion to over $8 trillion globally by 2027, Wellman said. It includes several sectors spanning across wellness such as fitness, exercise, medicine, supplements, spirituality, self care, holistic health, massage, acupuncture and Chinese medicine, according to Wellman.

“Influencers are changing the way we obtain information, particularly within the wellness industry,” Wellman said. “Over the last few years, we’re starting to see that influencers do more than just promote products and services. They also promote habits, ideologies, religious doctrine [and] political rhetoric.”

Advertisements

Wellman’s research investigates how social media influencers gain credibility within the multi-billion dollar wellness industry. Constructs of authenticity, platform politics and authority combine to affect which influencers are visible and trusted among audiences, Wellman said.

The authenticity of influencers is more about performing to the expectations of the audience, Wellman said. Influencers straddle the need to be real enough, but not too real that they are no longer inspirational. Influencers also perform structured flexibility work where they try to maintain an authentic persona while working with brands, according to Wellman.

“They want to be able to serve what they think their audience wants with them … but also doing enough that they still get paid,” Wellman said. “So it’s a big balancing act.”

Influencers simultaneously contribute to the growth of the wellness industry as well as grow alongside the wellness industry, Wellman said. The influencer industry is becoming more professionalized as more businesses are made surrounding influencer culture. For example, from 2017 to 2019, there was an increase in intermediary companies which connect commercial brands to influencers, Wellman said.

https://badgerherald.com/news/2024/02/29/study-shows-minimum-wage-increase-linked-to-greater-financial-equity/

Social media influence, in general, has also spread to other industries because of the growing requirement to present personal brands to the world. This includes athletes, musicians, artists and political figures, Wellman said.

“They feel this pressure to join social media and practice influencing in a very similar way,” Wellman said. “The way that we move about platforms is creeping into all these different outside areas.”

Based on source credibility theory, influencers gain credibility based on their expertise, trustworthiness and attractiveness — further, internet interactions have changed the way people understand credibility, Wellman said.

“The internet has become this space for folks to share more embodied or generational knowledge — specifically folks from marginalized groups [are] sharing embodied knowledge that is just as valuable as institutionalized knowledge,” Wellman said.

The tensions between institutional experts and wellness influencers persists and sometimes blur the lines between misinformation and credible knowledge, Wellman said.

Wellman said a main point of discussion on the topic is isolating the role of institutional knowledge compared with lived lifestyle and generational knowledge.

“How can we use both and insert more nuance into these spaces?” Wellman said. “I think that in some cases that’s going to increase the amount of potential misinformation. But sometimes, institutional knowledge is also wrong.”

The next speaker in this series will be Johns Hopkins University professor Adam Seth Levine, who will be at UW March 6 delivering a lecture titled “Policymakers’ Unmet Desire for Science.”

Advertisements
Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *