Blog to be real: a mixed methods approach to defining, measuring, and determining predictors of blogger authenticity

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Miranda Williams (Creator)
Institution
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Advisor
James Boles

Abstract: Blogs are public sites that document the thoughts, ideas, opinions, and experiences of individuals through posts and images. Initially, these sites were reserved for political and educational discourse. However, the progression of social media and growth of virtual platforms has led to the expansion of blogs, particularly fashion and personal style blogs. Due to this shift in focus, researchers have developed a growing interest in blogs and how they are used to create and communicate online identities. With online identity development, individuals transfer aspects of the self from offline to online, a structured process that results in the creation of a digital self. Fashion bloggers use digital selves to share capital goods, such as clothing selections and accessories, as well as other appearance-related aspects of their identity, including hair and makeup. Similar to actors on stage, these performances are open to evaluation and criticism. Items that are displayed by the blogger and evaluated by an audience can validate or invalidate the online identity. In the case that the identity is invalidated, the blogger will craft and recraft the identity until approval is received from the audience. The two-fold purpose of this dissertation was to gain a better understanding of this process, specifically how fashion bloggers use appearance-related components, including capital, to construct online identities and how blog audiences assess the authenticity of these identities. To address this purpose, in-depth interviews were conducted with four fashion bloggers to understand their experiences in the blogosphere. Themes that emerged from the data were then used to develop a blogger authenticity scale. This scale was tested in Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) with other related constructs, including blogger responsiveness (H1a-c) and number of sponsorships (H2a-c). Regression was used to determine the relationship between (1) blogger responsiveness and authenticity and (2) number of sponsorships and authenticity. In addition, MANOVA was used to assess gender differences on the three factors of authenticity. Findings from the in-depth interviews revealed three proposed dimensions of authenticity: (1) cognitive intimacy, (2) affirmation, and (3) transparency. These dimensions were confirmed with the completion of an exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and confirmatory factor analysis (CFA). As it pertains to the hypotheses, blogger responsiveness had a significant positive relationship with authenticity (H1a-c supported) while number of sponsorships had a non-significant relationship with authenticity (H2a-c not supported). Lastly, males perceived stronger bonds with fashion bloggers than their female counterparts. These findings contribute to existing theory and address gaps in the literature. The new blogger authenticity scale adds a dimension to existing theory (identity theory) by addressing fashion bloggers as a relevant and important group of consumers. Moreover, the use of quantitative instruments addresses a gap in the literature by providing support to findings from previous qualitative studies. In addition, the findings have managerial implications, such as the consideration of blogger activity level when selecting brand ambassadors. Limitations include sampling techniques and suggestions for future research include examination of the perceived bond males have with bloggers.

Additional Information

Publication
Dissertation
Language: English
Date: 2019
Keywords
Authenticity, Bloggers, Fashion, Identity Construction, Identity Development

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