Social media brand influencers are on the rise, becoming one of the biggest marketing and public relations trends of 2017, especially those who promote lifestyle brands (Glucksman, 2017). While many social media users are capitalizing on the “brand influencer” trend, people who identify as the LGBTQ, still struggle to connect with heterosexual audience as brand influencers. YouTube is a visual medium which allows brand influencers to craft their expertise verbally and visually to communicate their expertise and enhance credibility.
Using the source of credibility theory which posits that persuasiveness of the message in based on the perceived credibility of the source (Hovland et al, 1951), this study investigates how the LGBTQ and heterosexual influencers were perceived by the users on the YouTube platform. Research questions that guided the analysis: RQ1: How do the users respond to content posted by beauty vloggers? RQ2: Does sexual orientation of the influencer impact engagement with their content?
Top videos from the following brand influencers were analyzed: the LGBTQ influencers were Ingrid Nilsen, Bretman Rock, and Nikita Dragun, and the heterosexual influencers were Nash Grier, Camila Coelho, and Marcus Butler. The comments were extracted from the YouTube platform with YouTube comment Scrapper, which allows you to extract information such as comment text, replies, username and date (Klostermann, 2015). After this process, I imported the data to the DiscoverText platform to extract the duplicates and filter comments made in other languages. The final sample was coded for the tone of the comment – positive, negative or neutral.
The LGBTQ brand influencers were more likely to receive negative or neutral comments, for e.g. Ingrid Nielsen received 37% on this category. Comments also focused on appearance and sexual orientation rather than beauty routines highlighted in the videos. The main keywords encountered on the LGBTQ influencers were: amazing, proud, support, and love. While heterosexual influencers were more likely to receive positive or neutral comments, these ones included motivational and compliments comments towards the influencers. The main keywords found on the heterosexual influencers were: looks, love, content, and change. Overall, the YouTube commenters focused on the quality and content of the videos when it came to engaging with the LGBTQ influencers. However, the users engaging with with content proposed by heterosexual influencers tend to focus on the influencers’ appearance rather than the content.
A follow-up study could explore user engagement with brand influencers on Instagram to see if there are any differences in the level of engagement based on the influencer’s sexuality. It would also be interesting to interview some of the brand influencers to understand how they respond to comments left on their accounts.