Dr Wasim Ahmed, University of Newcastle, UK; Dr Opeoluwa Aiyenitaju, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK; Professor Simon Chadwick, Emlyon Business School, France; Dr Alex Fenton, University of Salford, UK.
Joe Wicks, the British fitness coach who initially shot to prominence on Instagram, is continuing to engage children and fitness fanatics across the world. With many people either social isolating or locked down, Wicks’ daily P.E. workouts delivered via YouTube have become a staple of household routines.
In an earlier article, we noted how Wicks’ workouts have driven the development of a huge social media communications network. This includes via platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. We are still monitoring Wicks and his influence in a research project that uses mixed methods research.
The questions underpinning our analysis are: What is the nature of the health and well-being content being generated by this influencer? How is it moving through social media networks? And what is user sentiment towards this content?
Following our latest analysis of communications posted by and about Joe Wicks, we have identified that they appear in a form that is something akin to a constellation (Figure 1). In this pattern of communications, Wicks is the big influencer star, although he is surrounded by a host of other influencer stars albeit ones that shine less brightly in this context.
A closer examination of the constellation (which we refer to as the #Wicksophere) reveals the identities of other influencer stars in the constellation. Among these are television personality and journalist Piers Morgan, and writer and journalist Caitlin Moran (see Figure 2).
This observation is consistent with our earlier findings that Wicks constitutes the focal node in a broadcast network form, but that content about him is in turn driven by a series of other high profile, often famous personalities and influencers.
However, in this iteration of our study we employed a measure of betweenness centrality — a measure of the ‘influence of a vertex over the flow of information between every pair of vertices under the assumption that information primarily flows over the shortest paths between them’.
This revealed a significant influencer over the last week or so has been an individual tweeting via the account @fliceverett (see Figure 3). This person is neither famous nor an established social media influencer. Instead, she impacted upon the flow of communications about Joe Wicks following a posting set in the context of peoples’ Covid-19 coping strategies (see Figure 4).
Nevertheless, when we switched the nodes and labels associated with Wicks’ constellation to rank by number of followers rather than betweenness centrality, perhaps a slightly more stable view of the universe emerged (see Figure 5).
It is interesting to note that in this version of the constellation, planets such as comedian Stephen Fry and footballer Sergio Aguero are orbiting the suns of YouTube, CNN and Instagram. One can still see the space dust trajectory around Joe Wicks and Flic Everett, but one needs a more powerful telescope to zoom in and see them.
Our work examining Joe Wicks, social influencers and public health policy continues. Hence, we will be reporting again soon via this and our other digital channels. For the time-being, we nevertheless conclude that Wicks continues to be a significant public health influencer during this period when schools and other institutions are in lockdown.
We also note the space dust glitterati of influencers congregated around Wicks. However, we now also note that the meteor shower of influencers from within the general population may also periodically shoot through social media constellations.
Furthermore, it is clear from our initial work here that how one employs techniques of social network analysis also influences how collectively we view people such as Joe Wicks, Flic Everett and Piers Morgan.
This blog was originally posted on Professor Simon Chadwick’s Medium blog.