When making campaign decisions that include influencer marketing, it often boils down to a matter of scale—would your campaign benefit more from the larger overall visibility that a high-priced super-influencer can bring, or would you fare better with a smaller yet more engaged audience that a micro-influencer offers? New research from product reviews and user-generated content firm Bazaarvoice offers fresh insights on the issue by shining a light on the ever-changing role of the influencer—and highlighting the demand from consumers for authentic, genuine, and transparent influencer content.
Over 9,000 consumers across the US, UK, Canada, Germany, France and Australia, reveal a challenge for brands in the firm’s new survey, as they indicate that “everyday” social media users have become the go-to accounts to follow, compared to celebrities or social media stars.
Quality over quantity
While normal consumers may not consider themselves influencers, they certainly are—everyone is. And the everyday social media user has become the preferred influencer to follow for over half of consumers (56 percent). Whether it’s friends, family, peers, or wider networks, those that share day-to-day content, products, and places that they find a genuine interest in, without an agenda to promote, are now among the most trusted source for authentic and genuine content for two in five consumers (37 percent).
Subject matter experts—from beauty gurus, to fashionistas, chefs, DIYERs, and stay-at-home moms—are viewed as the most trusted to share authentic and genuine content (42 percent). They are often targeted by brands to recommend, sell, or post sponsored content for products relevant to their subject matter.
The millions of users who follow celebrity influencers should not be underestimated, with over a third of US consumers mostly following celebrity influencers (31 percent), but there is now a significantly lower level of trust associated with celebrities. Three quarters of consumers (75 percent) do not care about the number of social media followers they have, it is all about the content.
Transparency is key
The power of an influencer lies in the trust and authenticity established between them and their audience, making transparency fundamental. Countries around the world have implemented various regulations to enforce that transparency. But despite the best efforts of regulatory bodies, two in five consumers feel these rules have made no difference to how much they trust influencers, and almost half (42%) don’t think influencers have become more authentic in the last five years. In fact, 80 percent of consumers globally—and 76 percent in the US—still want to see stricter rules for influencers to disclose editing or filters they used on published content.
Recent laws passed in Norway are requiring influencers to declare if their post contains edited or altered content. Nearly a quarter of US consumers (24 percent) want to see influencers who don’t comply with advertising laws banned from social platforms for a limited time. One in five want to see influencers banned from monetizing their social media presence going forward, e.g., to take away their revenue streams if they break advertising rules.
Authenticity is a headache for brands
Regulations from The Federal Trade Commission have made it compulsory for influencers to declare ‘#ad’ when a post has been paid for in an effort to instill greater trust. Unsurprisingly, it is posts by influencers that are not sponsored, and which promote general consumer content, such as recommendations, reviews, and photos and videos, which consumers trust the most (83 percent). Just 18 percent of US consumers trust sponsored posts on social media.
Over a third of respondents (37 percent) said they are more likely to take product recommendations from the everyday influencer, with 44 percent keen to see those consumers receiving PR packages from brands. This desire for genuine and unbiased reviews means that a large proportion (86 percent) of consumers seek out authentic user-generated content (UGC) before deciding to buy a product they’ve not personally tried before. Two-thirds (68 percent) turn to UGC content for new tips and ideas for products they’ve used before.
“Consumers’ relationship with social commerce is rapidly changing. No longer do shoppers seek out recommendations from large celebrity influencers—instead they are now turning to the everyday influencer for authentic product recommendations and education through the use of user-generated content,” said Keith Nealon, CEO at Bazaarvoice, in a news release. “This presents brands with a huge opportunity to utilize UGC throughout their marketing efforts, giving them access to unofficial ambassadors that are authentic and trusted by their followers and customers.”
Nealon added, “This doesn’t mean that consumers don’t want to see beautifully curated brand content or any sponsored content at all—quite the opposite. Consumers want to see a mix of content types and brands need to be strategic and targeted in their approach.”
Segmentation of influencers
The subject matter expert
From beauty gurus, to fashionistas, chefs, DIYERs, and stay-at-home moms, these influencers are an expert in a subject, post primarily or exclusively about it, and teach you how to do it as well. They often recommend, sell, or post sponsored content for products that have to do with their subject matter.
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, artists, athletes, businesspeople, etc. They often promote or recommend products that fit in with their lifestyle/aesthetic or something they are selling themselves.
Social media stars
These are influencers who became famous solely because of their internet presence. They do not necessarily have any subject matter they are experts on, except for a very pleasing aesthetic, or their ability to do internet trends (such as TikTok dances or funny memes) well or create interesting ~content~. Sometimes they became famous due to a viral moment, and the fame just never faded. They often are paid to promote products or will promote something they are selling themselves.
Everyday social media user
This may be your friends, family members, peers, or people you have never met that you are connected to. They simply share day-to-day content (ratings and reviews, photos and videos) that they are genuinely interested in and they don’t have an agenda to promote or highlight certain products.
Read the firm’s blog post for information.
The research was commissioned by Bazaarvoice and conducted in July 2021 by Savanta among 9,098 consumers from the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany and Australia.