More than a third of consumers trust social media influencers over brands

by | May 11, 2022 | Public Relations

Today’s consumers, particularly Gen Z, are increasingly turning to social media influencers and online communities to make purchasing decisions and receive customer service, according to a new study from Oracle and Brent Leary, partner at CRM Essentials. Social media influencers and online communities are reshaping how consumers form opinions, buy from brands, and get their questions answered.

The way we research, learn about, and purchase new products is changing

Consumers are turning to social media influencers for advice and recommendations with many now trusting social media influencers more than brands.

  • 37 percent of consumers trust social media influencers over brands; Gen Z and Millennials are two times more likely than Boomers to trust influencers.
  • 28 percent of consumers discover new products and brands through influencers. Gen Z are the most likely to discover products and brands this way (32 percent), compared to only 13 percent of Boomers.
  • Only 13 percent discover new products or brands via traditional TV advertising. Boomers are seven times more likely than Gen Z to discover new products and brands via traditional TV advertising.
  • 44 percent turn to social media ads and 13 percent turn to influencers to inform their purchasing decisions. 84 percent of Gen Z has purchased products in direct response to social media content, compared to only 46 percent of Boomers.
  • When it comes to following influencers, YouTube is the most popular channel with 21 percent of consumers following influencers on YouTube. Gen Z favors TikTok (25 percent), followed closely by YouTube (23 percent) and Instagram (22 percent), while Boomers favor Facebook (23 percent), YouTube (15 percent) and TikTok (5 percent).

“Millennials and Gen Z create and extend relationships in a completely different way than their parents’ generations did, and that impacts who they trust, and how that trust translates into basic activities like learning, shopping and relationship building,” said Leary, in a news release. “As this study shows, it’s time for brands to rethink how they connect with customers outside of the traditional or controlled marketing channels. By building out a strong and authentic online presence, businesses have an opportunity to collaborate and leverage creator communities and social platforms that are equipped to provide more genuine buying and service experiences.”

Online communities are replacing traditional customer service channels

Consumers are fed up with traditional customer service engagements and are turning to social media channels and online communities to get their questions answered.

  • 98 percent of consumers find customer service interactions frustrating and 15 percent would rather sit in traffic than engage with a brand’s customer service channels.
  • Only 18 percent of consumers want to pick up the phone and call customer service when they have questions. 26 percent of Boomers want to receive service this way, compared to only 14 percent of Gen Z.
  • When submitting a service inquiry to a brand, 31 percent of consumers would prefer to comment on a brand’s social media page and 24 percent would prefer to direct message a brand on social media. Gen Z is two times more likely than Boomers to want to receive customer service in this way.
  • 93 percent of consumers turn to social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok to get questions answered and get the most out of a product or service. 95 percent of Gen Z use online communities in this way compared to 79 percent of Boomers.
  • Consumers trust YouTube and TikTok videos because they are created by other consumers (20 percent), easily searchable (19 percent), illustrative (16 percent) and there are a plethora to choose from (14 percent).

“I rebuilt my car during the pandemic all by watching YouTube videos. This is a testament to how empowered we all are to learn about anything we wish and at any time. And we do so by watching content made by people with similar interests,” said Jeff Wartgow, vice president at Oracle, in the release. “The powerful dynamic between user generated content and today’s social platforms is an opportunity for brands to reimagine experiences as younger generations, Millennials and Gen Z, increasingly have more buying power.”

The survey was fielded in January 2022 to 2,072 adults ages 18 to 80 in the United States.

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 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter


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