Consumers are finding influencers more helpful and trustworthy than brands during COVID

by | Jun 2, 2020 | Covid-19, Public Relations

The COVID crisis has challenged brands to find innovative ways to connect with consumers, and new data suggests brand marketers may be losing ground to influencers when it comes to building trust. Consumers are spending more time and increasingly engaging with influencers on social platforms during COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, according to new research from brand elevation agency Matter Communications.

The firm’s data shows the majority of consumers find these influencers’ content appropriate and helpful—with an overwhelming trust in influencer content over posts from brands, impacting purchasing behaviors.

Matter surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. consumers in May to uncover how COVID-19 has impacted social media consumption, influencer perceptions and purchasing habits.

Less face time means more screen time

Since social distancing restrictions started, consumers are spending more time engaging with social platforms and seeing more content from influencers, as a result.

  • 63 percent have spent more time viewing and/or posting on social platforms
  • 50 percent have spent more time viewing live-stream social content
  • 55 percent of consumers ages 18-29 are viewing more live-stream content
  • 58 percent of consumers are noticing more sponsored content from influencers

The good news for brands already utilizing influencers is that most appear to be striking the right tone during COVID-19, offering useful content that doesn’t rub consumers the wrong way:

  • Only 19 percent feel influencer content has been “tone-deaf and/or unhelpful”

“Brands of all sizes are grappling with how to shift or amplify their marketing, PR and social media strategies to adapt right now, and a challenge for many is how to authentically connect with consumers,” said Matter president Mandy Mladenoff, in a news release. “Our data makes one thing clear: influencer marketing presents a unique and timely opportunity for companies to engage with a thoughtful, nuanced approach.”

Consumers are finding influencers more helpful and trustworthy than brands during COVID

Influencers vs. brands: Who do people trust?

When it comes to brand, product or service recommendations, consumers continue to place their trust in friends, family and influencers over brands.

  • 61 percent are likely to trust recommendations from a friend, family member or influencer on social platforms
    • Only 38 percent are likely to trust recommendations from a brand on social platforms
  • Trust in recommendations from friends, family members and influencers shared via social posts is strongest among younger audiences:
    • 66 percent of consumers ages 18-29
    • 61 percent of consumers ages 30-44
    • 60 percent of consumers ages 45-60
    • 53 percent of consumers over 60

When looking at the categories of content respondents prefer to follow, Matter examined which types of influencers resonate across health and wellness, beauty and personal care, food and beverage, baby and kids, personal technology and consumer goods:

  • Consumers prefer influencers with relatable personalities (60-70 percent of each category) followed by expert personalities (50-58 percent of each category).
  • Only 17-22 percent of consumers prefer celebrity influencers over personalities seen as either aspirational, relatable, expert, “just for fun” or well-known non-celebrity individuals, like authors or public figures.

Social networking service concept. Influencer marketing.

Influencers are driving the conversation—and the sales

A sweeping majority of consumers have had some part of their buying journey impacted by influencer content.

  • 82 percent have either purchased, researched or considered purchasing a product or service after seeing friends, family or influencers post about it.
  • Consumers are most interested in seeing influencer posts about:
    • Food and beverage (56 percent)
    • Health and wellness (48 percent)
    • Personal technology (45 percent)
    • Consumer goods (40 percent)
    • Beauty and personal care (33 percent)
    • Baby and kids (13 percent)
  • Of these content categories, consumers are most likely to act on (purchase, research, spread the word or consider) influencer posts about:
    • Food & beverage (51 percent)
    • Health & wellness (39 percent)
    • Personal technology (37 percent)

“Consumers trust influencers who serve as positive, relatable resources and help inform their buying decisions,” added Mladenoff. “However, brands shouldn’t worry—they just need to focus on compelling, strategic programs with influencers to further reach the right audience at the right time.”

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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