New research says that the internet has given ordinary people unprecedented scope to reach mass audiences and advance their social status through displays of "good taste."
"Ordinary consumers were previously limited to sharing their views and tastes within their circle of friends and acquaintances, and only media professionals and others in powerful positions could reach a mass audience," write study authors Edward F. McQuarrie, Jessica Miller and Barbra J. Phillips from Santa Clara, Southern Methodist and Saskatchewan Universities, respectively.
"But the Internet has made it possible for ordinary consumers to reach a mass audience or 'grab hold of the megaphone' through blogs, online review sites like Yelp, and user-generated content on sites like YouTube and Pinterest," they add, the Journal of Consumer Research reports.
Once a blogger has established a large audience through repeated displays of good taste, this audience begins to attract the attention of the fashion system, and this then provides social and economic resources to the blogger, further augmenting her audience, according to a Santa Clara statement.
This marks a departure in how we think about what consumers do online.
Earlier studies focused on the development of virtual communities and highlighted consumer efforts to find like-minded others.
The emphasis was on peer-to-peer communities, and what might be called the horizontal operation of taste, where taste displays serve to attract those who share one's cultural preferences.