Do Consumers Trust Social Media Influencers? Here’s What Statistics Show
Love them or hate them, but one thing you can’t do is avoid social media influencers. They’ve become integral to many social strategies as businesses shift more resources toward digital. While this can create new sales and marketing opportunities, heavily relying on social media isn’t risk-free. Businesses lose ownership over their contacts with a social-first strategy, and the extent to which consumers trust social media influencers fluctuates. That’s why it’s important to constantly reassess social content performance, while creating a strategy to develop engagement through additional channels.
Here’s what our 2021 survey revealed about the way consumers currently view social media influencers.
- The real deal: A majority of Gen Z respondents (31.69%) said Instagram has the most genuine influencers, followed by TikTok (28.67%). A majority of Boomers (31%) said Facebook. One in three respondents said too many sponsored posts are the number one reasons they lose trust in influencers.
- Owning the conversation: As marketers strive to gain direct ownership of their contacts, texting is emerging as a popular choice. A majority of Gen Z (45.07%) said text messaging is the number one way they’d prefer to communicate with an influencer outside of social media. Millennials said blog posts were their top choice while Boomers indicated email was best.
- Influence purchase decisions with reviews: Most respondents (38%) said reviews are the most helpful social media content, which makes sense when you consider that a majority of online shoppers (52%) said reading online reviews is the number one way they conduct research before buying. A majority (34%) also said unbiased reviews are the best way for influencers to win their trust. Gen Z women are a notable exception to this trend (more on that later).
- The more the merrier: One out of three respondents said they would prefer to see content from an influencer they follow several times per day.
- Value is driving sales: Nearly 40% of survey respondents said feeling like they “need” the product promoted by an influencer is the most likely way to convince them to purchase.
Generations vary on trusted platforms, but unite against sponsored posts
Before you start investing in a platform because you think it’s perceived as authentic, keep in mind not everyone has the same idea of what makes for genuine social media content. Survey results showed Gen Z respondents (ages 16 to 24) ranked Instagram as the most trustworthy platform, followed by TikTok. Facebook, which ranked first in all other age groups, was fourth for Gen Z.
More than anything, these stats prove that perceptions of social media are volatile. Your target audience could have wildly different ideas on what makes authentic content depending on their generation— ideas that could change, fast. That’s why it’s important to own your contacts, instead of relying solely on social media audiences. Unless you build out text or email lists for your customers you won’t have a way of engaging them if one platform goes out of vogue or loses its sense of authenticity in your target age group.
One thing that unites the age groups is a universal distrust for sponsored posts. One in three respondents said too many sponsored posts erode their trust in an influencer. For brands and personalities who rely on sponsored posts to pay the bills, this could represent somewhat of an issue— how do you provide value while asking for something in return? The answer is to bring audiences deeper into your ecosystem through a variety of touch points such as email, text message, and direct messages. This enables you to create more meaningful connections and open additional sales channels so sponsored posts become less of a necessity.
Owning the conversation
Moving your audience into your brand ecosystem sounds nice in practice, but how is it achieved? Again, it depends on the age group you’re targeting. Respondents to our survey ages 16 to 24 ranked text messages as the number one way they’d like to hear from influencers outside of social media. Blog posts came in second and email in third.
Young Millennials, in the 25 to 34 age range, ranked blog posts as their number one preference while older Millennials, Gen Xers and Boomers ranked email as their top choice.
While your audience might favor one method over another depending on their demographics, a smart marketing strategy will include using all channels at your disposal to create many touch points with your customers throughout their journey. Remember, if the content is valuable your audience will want to hear from you often (more on that later).
Our customer Sane Solution used a version of this strategy to improve their SMS marketing. Since they already had an incredibly responsive email campaign strategy, they chose the highest performing emails to reuse as text messages. They found that it was even possible to send the same person an email and a text message with similar content if that customer had meaningfully engaged with the content. Their case study digs deeper into how they accomplished this.
1 in 2 rely on reviews when online shopping
One of the simplest ways influencers can add value to their followers is by providing unbiased reviews, 38% of respondents indicated this was the content they found most helpful. This preference held true for every age group except Gen Z women. For Gen Z women, 23% said how-to’s are most valuable, followed by motivational posts. And while 34% of overall respondents said the best way to win their trust is with unbiased reviews, Gen Z women differed, with 40% saying the best way to win their trust is by interacting with followers.
Authentic reviews aren’t just important for building trust, they’re the main way online shoppers make purchase decisions. One out of two respondents prefer to research using online reviews. As more companies pivot to exclusively digital sales channels, reviews are taking the place of touching and feeling a product before purchasing. Consumers can’t always tell how a product will work by simply seeing photos or videos, so hearing how real people use it has started to become essential. Influencers can help guide this process.
This information presents several follow up steps for marketers. If you’re already working with influencers to promote your product, consider emphasizing reviews instead of purely sponsored posts when you create your campaigns. Give influencers the leeway to be able to provide an honest review of your product, carefully considering both the pros and cons for their audience.
If you’re struggling to obtain reviews or don’t have the budget to work with influencers, turn your customers into your reviewers and leverage their experiences for your social media. You can send them an automatic text message after they’ve used your product or service asking them to leave a review on any of your third party review sites or provide feedback directly to you. Then, create graphics or videos from their reviews to use across your socials.
For influencers, these survey results underscore the importance of coming across as impartial during reviews. Although brands might have difficulty understanding why your content needs to include both pros and cons, seeing the statistics from this survey could be helpful. Consumers have come to question the traditional media and carry a level of skepticism into their relationship with influencers. That’s why it’s important to build trust through honesty.
How often can you post?
It’s hard to find that sweet spot between giving your audience what they want and not inundating them with content. While survey respondents indicated that too many sponsored posts erode their trust, they’re still open to hearing from influencers regularly. One in two respondents said they would like to see content from influencers they follow at least once a day, with one in three respondents saying they’d prefer to see content multiple times a day.
Not all of this content has to be concentrated on the same social media platform. It’s smart to diversify the channels you’re active on, particularly as you look toward owning your contacts by transitioning them to email and text lists.
The key to consistently engaging your audience with each touchpoint is to provide real value. Keeping your selling to a minimum knowing that the more you give to your audience the more you will ultimately receive in return.
Provide real value
We’ve talked a lot about providing real value— but what is it, and why is that so important? The financial impact of the pandemic and the resulting inflation concerns have caused consumers to prioritize value in their purchase decisions. We asked, “What makes you more likely to purchase a product an influencer has promoted?” Nearly 40% of respondents said, “If I need that specific product.” But this mentality doesn’t stop simply at purchasing products— the same can be said for what motivates people to interact with a post, sign up for another communication form or even open text messages from you.
Your audience needs to feel like they need what you’re offering. That’s why so many of our customers have seen success using mobile coupons— there’s real value in signing up for the text list (to receive a coupon). It’s also why audiences like reviews or how-to videos. These pieces of content offer actionable takeaways, they’re essential to crafting an impactful marketing strategy in 2021.
Because consumers are placing an increased importance on reviews when online shopping, content from social media influencers is becoming more useful for businesses looking to influence purchase decisions online. Yet the relationship between influencers and their audiences is only as valuable as the amount of trust consumers have for the influencers they follow. There are many factors that could impact this trust, everything from the platform itself to how often influencers are posting. While an informed strategy is needed to optimize trust, marketers should also be keenly aware of the volatile nature of social media and be constantly working to own their lists so they can adjust to rapid changes.
These results are based on a survey of 1,100 American adults in March 2021.