The top Instagrammers in the world are female celebrities in the music and entertainment industries with more than 40 million followers. In comparison, US president Barack Obama has 4.7 million Instagram followers, only about 10% of these global celebrities. In October 2015, the number one Instagrammer in the world was Grammy awardwinning, 28-year-old American pop star Taylor Swift, who had nearly 50 million followers. Other members of the top five included reality TV star Kim Kardashian (48.1 million followers); R&B singer Beyonce (47.2 million); pop stars Selena Gomez (45.9 million); and Ariane Grande (44.6 million) (Sinha-Roy, 2015). The audiences for celebrities on Instagram are global. Of the top five Instagrammers, their second biggest group of followers were in Indonesia (Swift); Britain (Kardashian); Mexico (Beyonce and Gomez) and Brazil (Grande) (Sinha-Roy 2015). Almost 90 per cent of their fan bases are under 34, meaning that Instagram is incredibly valuable from a marketing perspective. It is worth noting that Facebook now owns Instagram, which was recently valued at US$37 billion (approximately GBP24.5 billion) (Kosoff 2015).
Analyse the content on Instagram accounts for any of the ‘top five’ celebrities: Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian, Beyonce, Selena Gomez and Ariana Grande. What are they posting about? Do you have the impression these accounts are managed by professional communicators or are the posts as authentic as they appear in terms of being posted by the celebrity themselves and offering insights into their everyday life? Is there much engagement with fans? Can you draw conclusions about what is meant by ‘performing celebrity’? To what extent do these celebrities conform to Jo Littler’s (2004) markers of authenticity: intimacy, reflexivity, and ‘keeping it real’? (For more information, see the ‘Celebrity and the internet’ section.)