Seminar: Wednesday 5-8pm Rachael Bolton
Bourdieu’s original conception the cultural intermediary refers to ‘those sets of occupations and workers involved in the production and circulation of symbolic goods and services in the context of an expanding cultural economy.’ (Adkins.) Where tensions between stakeholders with aligned interests meet, intermediaries operate as ‘facilitators, translators and mediators.’ (Hutchinson. 2017) With the emergence of social media as the preferred location for advertising as audience participation is now a necessary element of a successful, engaging social media strategy, cultural intermediaries have unprecedented influence over the cultural economy. Their professional relationships with brands imposes values on products. In order to discuss modern cultural intermediaries and their relationships with social media, a strategic affiliation between intermediaries and the media is necessary. Maguire and Matthews locate cultural intermediaries as working within the media, for the media with the mutual economic goal in promoting consumption of mediated content. (Maguire.2013)
For the purposes of my analysis, I wish to specifically discuss the relationship between cultural intermediaries and non-for-profit organisations. These relationships are niche subsets of cultural mediation as non-for-profit organisations and charities often do no have the fiscal freedom to pursue highly sought after cultural intermediaries. By undertaking a case-study analysis of the Global Women’s Project and their social media presence, I wish to demonstrate the extreme scope of influence these people possess and how difficult it can be to convince audiences of your legitimacy in a crowded marketplace. As the followers of influential cultural intermediaries are similarly cultural producers making cultural product, data surrounding their participation is invaluable to businesses attempting to represent cultural life in their marketing materials. (Carah, Shaul. 2016)
Types of Intermediaries
Hutchinson extensively analyses cultural intermediaries within the context of audience participation within social media, and delineates between four different types of cultural intermediaries who operate within this field of cultural transmission. They are social media producers, community managers, micro-agents and change agents. Though features of all are needed for organisations and stakeholders to have their strategy effectively implemented, micro-influencers are the subset whose existence and legitimacy are the most crucial to successful consumer-business relationships. (Hutchinson. 2017) Micro-influencers are the ‘Instagram Intermediaries’ – the independent third party endorsers who shape audience attitudes through blogs, tweets, and the use of other social media.’ (Freberg, Freberg, Graham,McGaughey. 2011) They are agents of culture who have disrupted the equilibrium between hierarchies and individuals by re-energising cultural production with audience engagement within the media. (Bolton. 2018)
Through their promotional material, such as sponsored post (Image 1A) or an unsponsored ‘shout’ out post they weave legitimacy into the public image of a brand, company or movement.
Morello clearly identifies her paid affiliation with the brand in her public Instagram post.
A successful example of this is the #Ham4All Challenge, created by Tony-Award winning composer Lin Manuel Miranda to raise money for a coalition of immigration organisations. (Chen.2017) For the celebrities who participated and exposed the charitable cause to their online followers and fans, there was no financial gain for participating. Their video posts, which were widely circulated and then replicated by others, are an example of an intermediary activity. These celebrities were taking the form of ‘third wave’ cultural intermediaries who Hutchinson denotes ‘use cultural capital in order to improve our social society.’ (Hutchinson. 2017)
— Ben Stiller (@RedHourBen) June 26, 2017
The Global Women’s Project
The rise of the conscious consumer not only denotes the increased interest and demand for transparency between businesses and consumers in relation to ethical practices, but a desire from consumers to make purchases that are considered investments into their social status. As cultural intermediaries operates as agents of change by translating one form of capital into another – such as transforming economic capital (a young woman’s purchase of a dress by the label Bec & Bridge) into social capital – this women receiving increased social currency in the form of likes, comments and new followers on her Instagram profile. ( Hutchinson, 2017.)
Analytics company Annalect produced research carried out in conjunction with Twitter that discovered approximately 40% of people have purchased an item online after seeing it promoted by an influencer or celebrity. The implicit trust given to the intermediaries by their followers is the equivalent of a personal friendship. (Oppenheim. 2016) By mobilizing their fan bases to commit to monthly donations, the intermediaries will have successfully transformed their social capital into economic capital for the charity.
This emergence of the conscious consumer is a particularly welcome development for non-for-profit organisations and charities who are attempting to accumulate cultural and economic capital through non-traditional endorsements. (Baker.2015) Individuals have been able to successfully commodify and monetise their online presence, and must can then endeavour to inject their own ideological and political beliefs with the choice of professional affiliations they agree to. Using their power to improve social society is an emerging trend amongst cultural intermediaries. (Hutchinson. 2017) Audience are no longer passive users but are integral, active participants in the processes of content creation and distribution. This has been conceptualised as the cyclical practice known as Produsage. Any article produced in the public media sphere is an artefact of that cultural period and possess innate value. (Neti. 2011)
Maguire and Matthews suggest that the work of cultural intermediaries involves processes that are often ‘invisible to the consumer’s eye.’ By analysing the our social media strategy for the Global Women’s Project and the growing leverage of cultural intermediaries within the field of social media, I will suggest that modern consumers are acutely aware of these processes, making the composition and implementation of a successful media strategy even more crucial. (Maguire, 2013)
My group and I decided to suggest some cultural intermediaries for the Global Women’s Project to work with as we felt it was necessary for them to accrue some cultural capital. Though an established organisation that are seeking grass-roots change through fiscal donations and support, consumers won’t think to support this charity unless they are given compelling evidence to do so. Cultural intermediaries operate at the intersection of economy and culture, defining what is relevant, worthy of a ‘like’ or ‘follow and what people should spend their money on. (Maguire.2013)
We particularly focused on Instagram as it is a tool that calibrates and captures attention. (Carah,Shaul. 2016) For GWP to try and successfully penetrate the dense market of brands, individuals and movements attempting to amass relevance and dedication from the most profitable viewership demographics, they need to amplify the potential for gratification felt by potential investors. This would explain why famous intermediaries would choose to associate themselves the organisation, complimented with the burgeoning ability to mobilise social change within the platforms of site such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Individuals who wish to become effective cultural intermediaries must pre-emptively determine what their followers will respond to and engage with. Now that cultural intermediaries are indispensable operators in the field of social media advertising and communication, it is now possible for these users to be selective about which products they wish to endorse and align their personal branding with. Agreeing to associate their meticulously crafted image with an organisation can be an ideological decision, as intermediaries can function as agents of culture, and assist ‘organizations in adapting to an environment characterized by networked communication systems.’(Hutchinson.2017)
The relationships between organisations, cultural intermediaries and consumers are so intimate and blurred in the sphere of social media that all stakeholders now possess an implicit understanding of how intermediaries function. The failure of the Global Women’s Project to successfully engage their desired audience on social media platforms can be partially attributed to the lack of social transmissions about their core mission and vision for the social world. It is clear when assessing the content on their platforms that they have a clear vision for their social branding and can produce this effectively without third-party assistance, but have not established themselves within the marketplace as of yet. The intersection between cultural intermediaries and organisations, especially non-for-profit, allows visions of about the social world to be circulated in a way that is profitable, timely and guarantees exposure. Just as the reliability of traditional marketing methods has been reconsidered in the age of the Instagram Intermediaries, so to these influencers must consider how to generate diverse forms of capital to ensure the sustainability of media-centric intermediacy.
Word Count: 1395
Adkins, Lisa. (Unknown) Cultural Intermediaries in Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture
Baker, J. (2015, April 2). The rise of the conscious consumer: why businesses need to open up. Retrieved April 27, 2018, from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/women-in-leadership/2015/apr/02/the-rise-of-the-conscious-consumer-why-businesses-need-to-open-up
Carah, N., & Shaul, M. (2016). Brands and Instagram: Point, tap, swipe, glance. Mobile Media & Communication , 4(1).
Freberg, K., Freberg, L. A., Graham, K., & McGaughey. (2011). Who are the social media influencers? A study of public perceptions of personality. Public Relations Review, 37(1), 90-92.
Hutchinson, J. (2017). Cultural Intermediaries: Audience Participation In Media Organisations .Palgrave MacMillan.
Maguire, J. S. (2013). Bourdieu on Cultural Intermdiaries. In J. S. Maguire, & J. Matthews, The Cultural Intermediaires Reader(pp. 15-24). tUnied Kingdom.: SAGE Publications .
McDuling, J. (2017, April 7). How Google and Facebook trillion dollar duopoly strangles the internet . Retrieved April 27, 2018, from Financial Review: http://www.afr.com/business/media-and-marketing/advertising/how-google-and-facebooks-trillion-dollar-duopoly-strangles-the-internet-20170328-gv7zxi
Neti, S. (2011). Social Media and Its Role in Marketing. International Journal of Enterprise Computing and Business Systems, 1(2).
Oppenheim, M. (2016, May 12). New data reveals people trust social media influencers almost as much as their own friends. Retrieved April 27, 2018, from Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/new-data-reveals-people-trust-social-media-influencers-almost-as-much-as-their-own-friends-a7026941.html