CivicScience | Under the Influence and They Don’t Even Know It

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Under the Influence and They Don’t Even Know It

Image Credit: Image by Piyapong Saydaung from Pixabay

Charli D’Amelio is considered a social media “personality.” At the ripe young age of 16, she has 37 million Instagram followers and more than 100 million TikTok followers. Her phone is a stage: whether it’s to see her latest Dunkin’ order or to watch her pop-lock-and-drop for a JLo music video, people are tuning in. And there are many other sensational personalities like her on TikTok (and Instagram and YouTube for that matter).

Yet, among Americans 13 and older on TikTok, 70% say they watch zero influencer content on the platform. The number is not quite so high for Instagram, but still, 51% say they don’t watch any influencer content.

Digging into the data, we see that Charli’s age group surely views more influencer content than other generations, but still 55% of young Gen Z (13-17) and 58% of older Gen Z (18-24) say they don’t watch any. Charli has over 100 million TikTok followers, and considering Gen Z has the most TikTok users when compared to other age groups, it makes one wonder if they really know what they are watching.

On the other hand, Instagram users in general report seeing influencer content at a 51% rate (as seen in first chart), which feels slightly more realistic. The generational breakdown tells a story similar to TikTok’s but only among older Gen Zers between 18 and 24. For the younger members of Gen Z, reports of following influencer content on Instagram drops significantly.

In general, people follow more influencers on Instagram than they do on TikTok, which could explain the following data point:  TikTok users are 30% more likely than Instagram users to say that what they view on the platform influences what they buy. 

Taking a look at self-reported influence of both platforms on buying behaviors, we see an enormous amount of younger Gen Zers testifying to the impact of TikTok on what they buy. It seems like either young members of Gen Z don’t see social personalities as influencers as much as just accounts they follow, or they aren’t aware of how much these personalities impact the decisions they make.

Gen Z is a more social-media-influenced age group overall. Similar to how older generations have been influenced by movie stars or athletes, this youngest generation looks to social media personalities when deciding what they like and dislike. 

Circling back on these personalities, CivicScience found a number of the popular influencers on TikTok right now have more unfavorable ratings than favorable ones. Charli D’Amelio is 15% favorable and 25% unfavorable. Spencer X and Addison Rae also have similar favorability scores for being so widely known and followed.

And to illustrate just how concentrated awareness is in younger age groups:

Given the steady increase in TikTok followers over the last year (and the stark ups and downs of Instagram users) TikTok is the platform to watch.

Coming soon, CivicScience will share its report on trust in influencer content and purchases through social media.

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