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New doctoral thesis about social media shopping

Collage of the cover of Anna Spitzkat book and a phone with social media apps
"Understanding Social Media Shopping – Instagram and the reconfiguration of the practice of shopping"

The 9th of December Anna Spitzkat defended her doctorate dissertation “Understanding Social Media Shopping – Instagram and the Reconfiguration of the Practice of Shopping”. The thesis explores how the consumer uses Instagram for shopping and the blurring of previously established roles.

About the thesis

The thesis offers new insights into the understanding of novel, technology-driven consumption practices, and sheds light on a specific group of consumers who have firmly integrated social media into their everyday lives.

Previous research has focused on the business side of social commerce or quantitative user studies of shopper intention, with studies viewing the users as being rational, individualistic, and non-emotional. When in reality, we are buying things because people around us are buying them. With qualitative studies Anna Spitzkat hope to shed light on how consumers integrate social media and shopping. The term Social media shopping in this thesis is used to refer to consumers’ shopping activities on or related to social media.

– Shopping on social media is not necessarily done because we “need” the products – shopping on social media gives us context, said Anna Spitzkat. She claims that social media shopping helps us express our identity, makes us inspired to be shopping and enables us to shop thanks to the platforms design. Social media has become a space where contemporary consumer desires are created, guided, and also fulfilled.

In the thesis Spitzkat uses a practice theory perspective looking at the researched groups’ physical actions and behaviors, mental understanding, social and cultural norms, and the tools they used. The data was collected April 2019 to march 2020 by online observations of Instagram accounts belonging to 23 influencers with over 50 000 followers and 24 female users. She also conducted 24 go-along interviews with women in Germany at the age of 21-34.

– People do different things on social media but many use it for promotion and to show off what they bought. Some stated that they were embarrassed in front of their friends, but they had to do it to be a part of the culture.

In the thesis, Spitzkat claims that social media shopping is not done for the sake of buying, it is a tool to fulfill other needs.

– There is a difference between buying and shopping. Shopping is discovering, finding stuff, inspiration… shopping is an experience, buying is just paying and making the purchase.

Furthermore, she claims that social media shopping enable the user to be social, to be a part of a context, to become someone they want to be, it is a bi-product of wanting to be a part of the social media society. As an example of this Spitzkat used a viral pasta-recipe made famous by model Gigi Hadid.

– It’s a simple recipe, easy to try and easy to spread all over. It’s not really about the pasta. It’s all about being a part of a trend for a moment. This one idea trending can happen and happens all the time, said Spitzkat.

Shopping in the setting of a social media like Instagram gives the user a tool for social interaction: to follow, comment, tagging, and producing their own content. The products bought and shown-off are a part of making the self-identity of the user, and for some a step towards professionalism.

Read the thesis here.

Opponent and Anna Spitzkat sits in a lecture hall, photo.
Opponent Mart Ots and Anna Spitzkat.
Photo of the committee in the audience
The committee asks questions
Photo of people eating appetizers at the department
Food being served afterwards at the department
Group of people
The committee announces their decision
Photo of Anna Spitzkat with a glass of champagne
Toast to the new Phd!
Photo of Kristina Bäckström and Christian Fuentes
Kristina Bäckström and Christian Fuentes, Annas supervisors, holds a speech
Prefect Mattias and Anna Spitzkat hugging
A hug and gift from the prefect.
Kristina Bäckström and Anna Spitzkat talking, photo
Kristina Bäckström and Anna Spitzkat.