Social media influencers are online celebrities who have the power to shape the opinions of audience members due to their relatable qualities. Influencer sponsorships have changed the nature of social media platforms and the strategy by which the content is posted. But besides the potential to be sponsored, why do influencers post content? The purpose of this study was to understand what motivates influencers to post content through the lens of social exchange theory by identifying resources exchanged between the social media influencer and the audience and explain how this affects their motivation to post content. I interviewed 15 lifestyle influencers with more than 10,000 followers or subscribers on Instagram or YouTube or TikTok. The results show that the comments, direct messages, and other forms of engagement received by influencers from their audience give them friendship and support, but also negative mental health consequences. Participants also shared several internal drivers that motivate them to share their lives with others, including wanting to inspire and help others.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Internet personalities--Attitudes; Internet marketing--Public opinion; Exchange theory (Sociology)

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Communication and Media Technologies (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

School of Communication (CLA)


Ammina Kothari

Advisor/Committee Member

Sorim Chung


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes