From Passion to Pay Check: The Cyclical Practices of Influencer Brand Building




Social Media, Influencer Marketing, influencers, self-branding


The escalating influence of social media influencers on consumer behaviour continues to captivate the interest of marketing professionals and academic scholars alike. Current literature examines mainly source characteristics, psychological dynamics, and content attributes that explain influencer marketing but there is scanty understanding the mechanisms by which influencers ascend to prominence. This qualitative study introduces the Four E Framework of Influencer Brand Building, explaining the cyclical practices by which social media users transform into person-brands within social media ecosystem. The framework comprises four pivotal practices: Exploration, where influencers identify and refine marketable personas; Exploitation, involving the acquisition of tangible and intangible compensation for their digital labour; Evaluation, a critical assessment of brand sustainability and content success; and Extension, during which influencers expand their brand presence across various platforms, adopt alternative personas, or venture into consumer goods to enhance profitability and reduce risks. This model challenges conventional perceptions of influencers as mere marketing tools by repositioning them as central figures in branding literature. The research draws on data collected from influencers and talent managers, providing robust insights into the strategic and operational aspects of influencer brand building. This not only bridges a significant gap in existing academic discourse but also furnishes influencers and marketing professionals with actionable strategies to enhance their brand-building endeavours.