In our latest research peak, we wanted to find out what the term “influencer” means to consumers. Because sometimes, it’s hard not to roll your eyes when a Kardashian posts yet another video unboxing a product you would bet your life savings that she probably won’t ever use. Or promising a detox tea was “life changing” when you can guarantee she’s never tried it.
We know that they’re being paid to say these things, so can we trust what they’re saying? If not, would we buy the products they’re promoting? Because, otherwise, what’s the point of influencers at all?
All of these questions had us wondering about the current state of influencers, and what they mean to the modern consumer. So, we decided to undertake influencer research and surveyed over 9,000 global consumers.
We asked what they thought about influencers, what types of influencers they followed, and which kind they trusted most. To make it simpler, when asking our questions, we categorized influencers into four different categories.
The four types of influencer
- Subject matter experts: Beauty gurus, fashionistas, chefs, DIY’ers, and stay-at-home moms. These influencers are experts in a specific subject, which they tend to exclusively, or primarily, post about. They often recommend, sell, or post sponsored content for products related to their subject matter
- Celebrities: These accounts give you a behind the scenes look at those with extravagant lives who have become famous for something other than social media. They can be actors, reality TV stars, musicians, athletes, etc. They often promote/recommend products that fit in with their lifestyle/aesthetic, or that they’re selling themselves
- Social media stars: These are influencers who became famous solely because of their internet presence. They don’t necessarily have a subject matter they’re experts on. They maybe have a very pleasing aesthetic, or an ability to do internet trends well, like TikTok dances. Sometimes they became famous due to a viral moment, and the fame just never faded. Other times they’re just everyday people who post outfit of the day photos and naturally amassed a large following. They’re often paid to promote products or will promote something they are selling themselves
- Everyday social media users: Your friends, family members, peers, or people you’ve never met but are connected to. They simply share day-to-day content (ratings and reviews, photos and videos) that they’re genuinely interested in. They don’t have an agenda to promote or highlight certain products
Influencer research takeaways
Now you know what the four types of influencer are, let’s take a look at the results of our research and what our survey respondents had to say.
You’re just as much as an influencer as a Kardashian — if not more
You may not realize it, but on a small scale, you’re definitely an influencer. You likely post meals, places, and products that you like, free of charge. If you’re posting content, in today’s consumer to consumer marketplace you’re definitely an influencer. And guess what? Your followers are paying attention. This is social proof in action. In fact, when we asked our survey respondents the type of influencer they follow the most, they said:
- Everyday social media users (56%)
- Celebrities (34%)
- Subject matter experts (29%)
- Social media stars (25%)
And they trust what you say as well because shoppers today prefer to see content from other shopper. This user-generated content is what inspires confident purchasing decisions. When asked which type of influencer they believe shares the most authentic/genuine content, everyday social media users (38%) and subject matter experts (39%) were neck-and-neck. While celebrities (14%) and social media stars (9%) lagged much further behind.
Still doubting the influence you have? As part of our influencer research, we asked our survey respondents who they think is most likely to give an unbiased review of the product they are promoting, and:
- 36% said everyday social media users
- 30% said subject matter experts
- 12% said celebrities
- 9% social media stars
Your fellow shoppers are buying what you’re selling too. Everyday social media users (37%) are who consumers are most likely to take a product recommendation from, followed by subject matter experts (25%), celebrities (7%), and social media stars (6%). A brand’s social media page made up the remaining 8%.
#ad simply isn’t enough anymore
A big reason consumers now view their peers more as influencers is because many simply don’t trust mega-influencers anymore. Governing and advertising bodies have caught on to this too and have implemented regulations to help influencers stay authentic and transparent.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like they’re working very well. Only 36% of respondents said yes when asked if they trust influencer content more now that advertising rules have been implemented across social media platforms. 25% said no and 39% said their trust levels have not changed.
To rectify this issue, Norway’s taking guidelines to the next level. Influencers there are now legally required to disclose if they have used photoshop and/or filters on their posts. A whopping 80% of our respondents said that this should be mandatory everywhere.
23% of our survey respondents said “banned from platforms permanently” is the consequence they’d like to see implemented for influencers who break advertising rules and 23% said “banned from platforms temporarily.” That’s two thirds of shoppers wanting some kind of ban — a testament to the authenticity movement that we’re in the midst of.
As for the rest of our respondents, 21% said “banned from monetizing their social media presence going forward” and 15% said “a fixed fine” would suffice.
Everyday influencers want a piece of the pie
One of the main takeaways from our influencer research is that social media users clearly want posts to be authentic and not paid for for them to be persuaded by it. A majority (83%) of our respondents said that the type of influencer content that they trust the most are posts that influencers haven’t been paid to promote, such as general user-generated content like ratings and reviews.
Only 18% of respondents said they trust sponsored posts the most.
In fact, somewhat surprisingly, 48% said they don’t find value in watching influencers open PR packages. But when asked which of our four types of influencer should receive PR packages, they said:
- Everyday social media users (44%)
- Subject matter experts (23%)
- Celebrities (10%)
- Social media stars (8%)
Use influencer research to guide your strategy
If you’re a brand or retailer interested in incorporating influencers into your marketing strategy, you probably won’t have to pay the big bucks. Sending free products to everyday consumers through product sampling and asking them to post their thoughts about your product on social media in return, can pay off dividends. And it will likely cost less than what a Kardashian charges for a single Instagram post.
Or you can follow global brands like kraft Heinz and Rimmel and tap into the Influenster community of over 7,000 engaged, everyday consumers. All of whom are ready to create content for you. Learn more about it here.