UNSW Canberra PhD candidate Shuyun Sun’s research explores the components that make an individual an ‘influencer entrepreneur’.

“‘Influencer entrepreneur’ refers to an individual who has taken advantage of social media platforms to establish a strong online presence, grow a large audience and build meaningful relationships with their audience. The audience often considers influencers to be credible information sources and rely on them to make certain purchasing decisions.

“Consequently, influencers attract brand sponsorships and promote sponsored content to their audience, through which they earn a living. There is evidence of their entrepreneurial activities across all social media platforms and across the world,” Shuyun said.

Portrait of Shuyun Sun
UNSW Canberra School of Business PhD candidate Shuyun Sun.

Shuyun is particularly interested in influencer entrepreneurs on Weibo, one of the largest social media networks in China.

By conducting a case study analysis, Shuyun says she has “identified the context, process and motives contributing to the emergence of influencer entrepreneurs.”

Understanding the components that lead to a successful influencer entrepreneur allows Shuyun to cultivate others to follow in these footsteps.

“I understand how important it is to increase financial security in a society where employment is never secure. I want to help people who struggle to find a practical way to gain an extra income in addition to their primary job,” she said.

Shuyun hopes that her research helps others to maximise their earnings by using influencer entrepreneurship to break out of the mold of traditional business and entrepreneurial structures.

“I understand that being self-employed by starting a physical business is unpractical for most people because it requires a lot of pre-investment. An affordable and easy way to gain an extra income is to use social media to become an influencer entrepreneur,” she said. 

Through researching influencer entrepreneurship Shuyun has also developed an entrepreneurial mindset and hopes to pass this on to others.

“Given the knowledge about what social media platform to select and what strategies to apply to social media use, everyone has this opportunity to increase their financial security.”