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 got us wondering about the current state of influencers, and what they mean to the modern consumer. So, we 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.
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.
Here’s what our survey respondents said.
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. And your followers are paying attention. This is social proof in action. In fact, our survey respondents said everyday social media users (56%) are the type of influencer they followed the most, followed by celebrities (34%), subject matter experts (29%) and social media stars (25%). They trust what you say as well. When asked which type of influencer they asked to share 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 your influence? When asked who they think is most likely to give an unbiased review of the product they are promoting, 36% said everyday social media users and 30% said subject matter experts. Only 12% said celebrities and 9% social media stars. They’re buying what you’re selling — everyday social media users (37%) are who they are most likely to take a product recommendation from, followed by subject matter experts (25%), a brand’s social media page (8%), celebrities (7%), and social media stars (6%).
#ad simply isn’t enough anymore
A big reason people now view their peers as influencers is because many simply don’t trust mega-influencers anymore. Governing and advertising bodies have caught on to this, and have implemented regulations to help influencers stay authentic and transparent. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like they’re working very well. When asked if they trust influencer content more now that advertising rules have been implemented across social media platforms, only 36% said yes, while 25% said no. 39% said their trust levels have not changed
To rectify this issue, Norway’s taking it’s 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.
When asked what consequences they would like to see implemented for influencers who break advertising rules, 23% said banned from platforms permanently and 23% said banned from platforms temporarily. 21% said banned from monetizing their social media presence going forward and 15% said a fixed fine.
Everyday influencers want a piece of the pie
It sounds like, to trust and be persuaded by a post, social media users want it to be organic and not paid for. A majority (83%) of our respondents said that the type of influencer content that they trust the most are posts that influencers have not been paid to promote, such as general consumer content like ratings and reviews. Only 18% said they trust sponsored posts the most.
In fact, 48% said they do not find value in watching influencers open PR packages. But when asked who should receive PR packages, 44% said everyday social media users, followed by subject matter experts (23%), celebrities (10%), and social media stars (8%).
If you’re a brand interested in incorporating influencers into your marketing strategy, you probably won’t have to pay the big bucks. Sending free products through things like our Sampling offering to everyday consumers, simply asking them in return to post their thoughts about your product on social media, can pay off dividends. And it will likely cost less than what a Kardashian charges for a single Instagram post!
The social media manager’s guide to user-generated content best practices