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The practice of microcelebrity in social media has become part of the internet’s mainstream, and has led to the rise of influencers–trusted tastemakers in an industry niche–who are playing increasingly larger cultural and economic roles. Scholars have examined this topic since Senft introduced it in 2001, shedding light on strategies and practices of popular influencers, as well as the cultural milieu contributing to microcelebrity practices. Missing from the literature, however, is an explanation of how these popular microcelebrities reached their social media influencer status. Thus, through phenomenological interviews with 24 participants in multiple areas of the fitness sector, this study presents a general seven-step process by which these individuals became microcelebrities and leveraged their followings. Three findings are particularly noteworthy. First, a process detailing how influencers reached their status contributes to our theoretical understanding of microcelebrity by offering contextual factors and general steps experienced by influencers. Second, although microcelebrity practices are characterised by intentional self-commodification, most influencers in this study began their careers accidentally. Third, social media may be altering the traditional career paths of fitness professionals, especially as it relates to educations and credentials, which can be substituted with body capital. Future research may utili(z)e this process as a framework to investigate specific influencer strategies over time or at certain career stages, the meaning ascribed to influencers and microcelebrity practices, and influencer motivation related to individual context. Findings also encourage continued examination of social media’s effects on the fitness industry as a whole.




Taylor & Francis

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Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health