Just as it’s always been, today’s influencer marketing is about hard-wired details like platform domination, number of followers and level of engagement—but now it’s also about less tangible factors like authentic voice and consumer trust.New research from global influencer marketing firm TAKUMI explores the industry’s dynamics with a study of over 2,000 consumers, marketers and influencers across the UK, U.S., and Germany, on their perceptions of YouTube, TikTok and Instagram as influencer marketing channels, and how authenticity and trust are created.
The firm’s new report, The realities of influencer marketing: TikTok and YouTube in focus, is a sequel to its 2019 whitepaper, and contrasts perceptions of influence, trust, authenticity and creativity.
One quarter of consumers credit YouTube influencers with purchases
In the last six months, over a quarter of consumers (27 percent) have been influenced to purchase a product or service by creators on YouTube, followed by 24 percent of consumers on Instagram and 15 percent on TikTok.
But TikTok may actually be driving more puchases
Meanwhile, 16-24 year olds are the most likely to have purchased as a result of TikTok influencers; 40 percent in Germany and 30 percent in UK, vs. the U.S. where surprisingly 35-44 year olds were most influenced (37 percent) to purchase by TikTok influencers. It’s an interesting sign that the platform can deliver ROI for brands beyond its core younger user demographic.
On YouTube and Instagram, the demographics most likely to purchase were again younger in the UK and Germany (38 percent and 59 percent of 25-34 year olds on average respectively) versus the U.S. (57 percent of 35-44 year olds on average).
“Since 2019, the influencer marketing industry has matured significantly, with consumer concerns lower than ever before, potentially accelerated by increased industry legislation and professionalization,” said Mary Keane-Dawson, Group CEO of TAKUMI, in a news release.“However, more remains to be done if influencers and marketers are to truly harness the potential of influencer marketing—and our research shows a multi-platform strategy is the best approach.
Some consumers say they trust influencers more than friends
The data shows how trust is earned over time: consumers trust influencers on legacy platforms such as YouTube more (28 percent) than those on newer platforms such as Instagram (22 percent) and TikTok (15 percent).
That said, influencers on both YouTube and TikTok fared well vs. more traditional celebrity brand endorsements: 37 percent of 16-44 year olds trust a YouTube influencer more than a high-profile figure or celebrity. Meanwhile on TikTok, almost a quarter (23 percent) of the same age group agreed they trust a TikTok influencer’s recommendation over a friend’s.
Consumers are increasingly trusting of influencers across the platform: 44 percent had “no concerns” about TikTok influencers, rising to 48 percent on YouTube, compared with 20 percent in 2019. However, “disingenuous endorsements” and “the promotion of unrealistic or unsustainable lifestyle or body images” remain consumers’ top concerns across UK, U.S. and German markets showing the importance of authenticity and its impact on consumer trust.
“Armed with the expert insight of influencers who are native to the different social platforms, brands can explore authentic and bespoke campaigns to engage different audiences,” said Keane-Dawson. “Being platform agnostic is a necessity, and also a huge opportunity for marketers to work with creative influencers who really understand how to engage people on each platform. A multi-platform strategy cannot be implemented with a one-size-fits-all approach. Successful brand and influencer partnerships harness co-creation, avoiding poor replications of the ‘same campaign’ across social media channels.”
Demonstrating ROI is the top concern for marketers
Marketers’ trust in the various influencer marketing channels varies, with Instagram ranked first followed by YouTube and TikTok. A “lack of familiarity” emerged as one of the top three concerns for marketers with TikTok, whereas 96 percent felt familiar with YouTube. That said, influencers’ ability to help “demonstrate ROI” could improve marketers’ trust, which was identified as their top concern.
As with TAKUMI’s 2019 study, “creative control” and “a clear brief” remain influencers’ top priorities when working with brands and marketers.
Overall, influencers’ trust in brands to work fairly with them has seen a decline since 2019, falling from 64 percent to 58 percent.
Instagram aspirational, TikTok escapist, YouTube influential
Across all markets, consumers perceived Instagram as more aspirational, informative, and user-friendly than TikTok. In contrast, TikTok is considered more escapist, entertaining, and creative than Instagram, with three out of five (60 percent) marketers agreeing TikTok is the most creative channel and two thirds of marketers (68 percent) also considering TikTok the most entertaining channel.
Again, perceptions varied considerably across various demographics, but YouTube was consistently the highest ranked social media platform by consumers across all these characteristics. This includes a significant majority of marketers (72 percent) and consumers (55 percent), who agree that YouTube is the most likely channel to lead to a purchase, followed by Instagram and TikTok.
“Brands who can entertain and educate through influencers will capture the hearts, minds, and wallets of consumers versus traditional media. This will only grow as time goes by and trust is won,” Keane-Dawson concluded.“Influencer marketing in 2020 will continue to push boundaries, innovate and become a trusted awareness, engagement and sales attribution approach for brands.”