With the rise of social media has come the rise of the social media influencer – an individual who, through depicting an aspirational lifestyle, amasses a major following and subsequently markets various products to their community. 

Trust is one of the keys to the success of this marketing strategy. But in the internet age, trust is hard won and loyalties can be fickle. So CivicScience dove into the data to understand how influential influencers really are. 

As current data show, 41% of U.S. adults say that their friends and other contacts on social media influence the products they buy (n=22,433). With over 2-in-5 reporting this, it’s easy to see how social media is an ideal place for influencers to make their mark.  

Among social media users, 11% have made a purchase because of an influencer in the last six months, with adults under 25 years old being the most likely to have been influenced by an influencer to make a purchase. 

Not All Influencer Marketing is Created Equal

Many companies see influencers as the ideal marketing plan, helping to encourage purchases among consumers who feel a connection to the influencer or aspire to their lifestyle. However, not all influencer marketing is equally as effective.  

For example, in a comparison of seven distinct high-profile brands/retailers, IKEA furniture and Lululemon clothing favorables are the most likely to have made a purchase thanks to influencer marketing, with 22% indicating they’ve done so in the past six months. Chobani yogurt, Chick-fil-A, Walmart, and Target come in second, with 11%-12% of favorables making a purchase in the last six months as a result of a social media influencer. Finally, Nike footwear favorables are not as easily swayed. Only 4% of this demographic indicate that an influencer has led them to make a purchase. 

To Trust or Not to Trust 

If the motivation behind using influencer marketing is that influencers have created a sense of trust within their community, then that foundational belief could be in jeopardy, given the fact that the overwhelming majority of U.S. adults (65%) have no trust in social media influencers. However, and perhaps not surprisingly, adults aged 25 and under are the most torn – they’re both the most likely to trust influencers and also the most unsure.

As is to be expected, when you trust someone, you are more likely to buy from them. Current data show that social media users who trust social media influencers are the most likely to have bought something as a result of their recommendation in the last six months. 

But just like not all influencer marketing is created equal, not all social media platforms work with influencer marketing in the same way. Currently, TikTok users trust influencers more than IG users. Perhaps TikTok’s more laid-back, uncurated vibe leads users to feel more at ease with influencers than on the platform’s highly curated and aesthetically-minded rival, Instagram. 

So what does this mean for the future of influencer marketing? For starters, it’s here to stay – for now. With so many Americans influenced by the accounts they follow on social media, it’s clear that these platforms provide the perfect scenario for influencing a purchase. However, the effectiveness of influencer marketing will depend heavily on the intended audience (ideally adults 25 and under), the brand association, and the platform. But what remains to be seen is how brands will overcome buyer hesitation and win consumer trust in the long run.