social media researchHave you considered reaching out to social influencers to win more credibility and sales?

Do you want research to help make the case that influencer marketing works?

In this article you’ll discover the most recent findings about marketers’ perception of influencer marketing and its ability to boost social media marketing efforts.

Influencer Marketing Defined

Quickly, influencer marketing happens when marketers create a list of influencers: regular people—not movie stars—who have blogged, videoed and podcasted themselves into social media stardom. These influencers have proven credibility among and even sales to a specific target audience. Examples include fashionista Chiara Feragni (3 million Twitter followers), YouTube makeup video blogger Michelle Phan (7,600,000 subscribers) and John Lee Dumas of the Entrepreneur on Fire Podcast (923,000 unique listens in December 2014).

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While these stars have grown so big they actually have sponsors (advertisers who pay to put ads on their content), they also act as influencers for others in their industries. When Chiara Feragni reviews a shoe or accessory, she’s looking to provide information her audience wants. The product brand doesn’t pay for her comments. These days, influencer marketing is connected to social media stars as the influencers.

#1: Influencer Marketing Budgets Growing

In a poll of 125 marketers conducted by online promotions firm Tomoson and reported in AdWeek, marketers rated influencer marketing as the fastest-growing online customer acquisition tactic, beating organic search, paid search and email marketing.

tomoson poll data

According to Tomoson, influencer marketing dethrones organic search as marketers’ best method to acquire new customers, 22% to 17%.

The same study reports 59% of marketers plan to increase their influencer marketing budget over the next 12 months.

tomoson poll data

The majority of marketers polled plan to increase budget allotted to influencer marketing.

The buzz around influencer marketing is intensifying, but more robust studies about its effectiveness and appeal are needed.

#2: Young Audiences Trust Social Media Stars Over TV Stars

Who do you think has more influence with teens: Seth Rogan or PewDiePie? Never heard of PewDiePie? He’s the king of video-gaming content, with 34 million subscribers and over a billion total views. Not bad for someone in his early twenties who simply films himself as he plays video games.

Variety magazine found PewDiePie comes out on top, beating comedic actor and writer Seth Rogan by eight spots. It conducted a study measuring 1,500 teens’ perceptions of social and Hollywood stars’ approachability, authenticity and a wider range of characteristics considered to have the highest correlation to purchase influence. Six of the top 10 highest scorers were YouTube stars, not Seth Rogan or other glitterati. Variety‘s top 20 most influential stars may surprise you.

variety magazine youtube influencer identities

The stars circled in red are from YouTube.

Other studies have confirmed Variety‘s findings about the influence social media stars hold over teens. DEFY Media’s Acumen Report: Constant Content polled 1,350 13- to 24-year-olds and found that 62% would try brands recommended by a YouTube celebrity. Just 49% would act on a Hollywood’s star’s recommendation.

It’s interesting to examine just why a less-successful social media star could have more purchase influencing power than a highly successful and very wealthy Hollywood star.

The key—for the group studied, those under 24—lies in which group is more relatable or closer to the consumer’s life experience. DEFY Media explains:

YouTubers are described as: just like me, understands me, someone I trust, has the best advice, doesn’t try to be perfect, genuine.

Movie stars are cherished for their otherworldly beauty and features that seem superior to the average person’s.

acumen report data

The stars circled in red are from YouTube.

This change in perception could be a dramatic paradigm shift. Younger consumers clearly operate from values different from their parents’ when they choose whom to trust. Where older populations put more faith in success and glamor, clearly their children perceive those with less money and maybe even more scruff as more genuine and honest.

Currently, most of the U.S. population with money to spend still seems to trust Hollywood celebrities’ pitches. Those under 24, however, are opening up a whole new path to stardom for those who prefer to perform via YouTube channels in unique fashion.

#3: Young Audiences Consume More Social Media Than Television

It’s no wonder that social media stars are taking center stage when it comes to brand pitching. Younger audiences are on their computers and devices more than the family room television or the movie theater. Electronic devices just fit better into their on-the-go lifestyle. As they complete their homework, they take a break with a quick show on Netflix. Stuck in the car, they see what their friends are doing on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.

Social influence marketing platform Crowdtap, along with marketing research firm Ipsos Media, found in their study titled Social Influence: Marketing’s New Frontier that those ages 12 to 32 spend 30% of daily media time consuming “user-generated” or “peer-to-peer” content. In comparison, they spend 13% of total media time watching live television and 10% watching shows they recorded.

ipsos report data

People ages 12 to 32 spend a third of their media consumption time on user-generated content.

So much time devoted to user-generated content rather than television and movies prompts Crowdtap and Ipsos to boldly declare:

Brands looking for consumers to trust their marketing can no longer rely on traditional media to communicate their messages to consumers. In today’s landscape, it’s peer-created content or consumer-to-consumer marketing that drives trust.

DEFY Media’s study came to similar conclusions, although they measured in a different way. They found 96% of 13- to 24-year-olds view online content through social media channels or YouTube at a rate of 11 hours weekly. Eighty-one percent watched 8 hours weekly of scheduled television and 56% watched recorded television for an average of 7.5 hours. The consumption of content through social media channels has given rise to the social media star.

defy media report data

Nearly every 13- to 24-year-old watches online video content every week.

#4: What the Social Viewer Consumes

Authors of DEFY Media’s Constant Content study also analyzed participants as they scrolled through their social media feeds. They tallied the type of content participants stopped on and what they scrolled by. Authors called the content that participants stopped for and consumed “thumbstopping” events.

In the end, they found that those ages 13 to 24 stopped the most on content with funny messages that conveyed that they didn’t have to grow up. These were termed rebellious messages. Participants also stopped often on reflective messages, which normalized common events and helped participants feel they weren’t alone in their emotions and experiences. This age group has become accustomed to finding these two types of content through social media and will gravitate toward brands that can provide it. Economists forecast that these young consumers will have record-breaking spending power of $1.4 trillion by 2020. Brands looking to sell in the coming years may want to make influencer marketing plans now.

Incorporating Influencer Marketing

20th Century Fox used influencer agency Speakr to appeal to teen boys to promote their summer 2014 film Fault in Our Stars. While executives like Marc Weinstock, 20th Century Fox’s president of domestic theatrical marketing, knew the film would appeal to teen girls, they feared it would get categorized as a “chick flick,” and therefore might miss the date crowd. Speakr contracted with several male influencers including former Nickelodeon star Josh Peck of the tween hit Drake and Josh.

ROI? The film topped the charts with more than $300 million in global sales (production budget of $12 million). This said, typical in the social media ROI sphere, it was tough to distill just how much came from Speakr’s efforts. Still Weinstock wasn’t disappointed, explaining, “The young audience doesn’t like direct marketing, so we got the conversation going out there in an organic way.”

What do you think? Should social influencers be paid? Will younger consumers still trust an influencer who is paid? Will your company be exploring social influencers this year? Leave your comments and questions below.

Influence photo and Balanced scale photo from Shutterstock.
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  • I see this working and continuing to be a very powerful form of marketing. My 12 year old son and 10 year old daughter are always quoting their “influencers” as reasons for wanting something or making an argument that they’re right because an “influencer” said something and it must be right.

    For our new Startup it’s on our list for May to see who we can strategically work with to help promote our company. I think influencers will be believed (paid or not) provided they’re sincere and not just doing it for the money (having values).

    GREAT POST!!!! P.S. My son follows that Game guy and daughter used to love Drake & Josh. Right now SpongeBob has influence over my 8 year old.. GRRRR.

  • SuzanneDelzio

    My now 15 y.o. was a big Drake & Josh fan as well! I have to admit I find SpongeBob pretty funny. Do you think you’ll be using an agency to find an influencer? Good luck and keep us posted on your efforts.

  • Amber Gott

    Thanks for the insightful article, Suzanne. Do you have any experience with software services that help you manage influencer / advocate programs, like Influitive?

  • Its very informative and super excited to see that social media stars are turning into customer acquisition source. But you didn’t mentioned, what scale of companies would make best out this new influencer marketing strategy.

  • Roberto Rivadeneira

    With not budget to hire a influencer marketing agency, I wonder what methods should I use to reach these new breed of stars.

  • No we don’t, Amber. This is a great question to ask in our LinkedIn group:

  • I hear you on SpongeBob, Patrick, Squidward and my fav Mr. Krabs.

    Haven’t thought about using an agency, though if it can speed up the process it’s a great idea. I’ve been just reaching out individually via phone, email, Twitter and LinkedIn. Thus far successful, though would love to SPEED it up 🙂

    Will definitely keep you posted. To Krabby Patties ~ Mike

  • SuzanneDelzio

    At this point, I think many “influencers” will promote your product as long as it nourishes and nurtures their own audience. That means businesses of any budget can get in the game, even small biz. This said, influencers mentioning your products and services at no charge must see great relevance and value for their audience. Only the top influencers like those mentioned at the top of this article get the big bucks. Heck, an influencer for a local plumbing company could be a nearby electrician who has a decent Facebook following . . .

  • Thanks for a great article. I’m currently struggling with how to find these influencers. I’d like to find smaller/niche market influencers with maybe just 5-10 000 followers in a certain location. I’d like to find who they are on Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIN etc. Any tips on how to find them?

  • We have done some Influencer marketing using Triberr and the results were OK but not anywhere near as good as we were expecting (maybe our expectations were too high!) but i do think its something we will do again soon. Are you aware of only other platforms like Triberr that are available to help find influencers?
    With Triberr you pay the influencer of their work which they have to disclose under FTC rules

  • This is a very awesome case study if that’s what it’s called. We have also started on building an influencer list for our Marketing strategy and for the most part it has prove to be useful and worthwhile.

  • Joyce Duboise

    Influencers should definitely be paid. I think it’s fair because the work load is tremendous as an influencer. People don’t realize the amount of work put into being an influencer. We test the product thoroughly, research the product and company thoroughly, share our honest opinion of the product (in a well-written article of course), take photos, set up the post so our SEO is just right, and then constantly share on social media. Every article on my website takes over an hour and that’s just writing and editing photos.

    My only concern is the companies that expect a 100% positive review after paying an influencer. Too many times I have experienced and heard of companies guilt-tripping influencers into changing their reviews because they didn’t suit their needs or wants.

    Great article! Thanks for your input on this subject.

  • Miranda Fahey

    Well, you found me!! Or actually I found you and gave you unique directions! I would definitely be interested in learning moe about your product and review it!

  • SuzanneDelzio

    Thanks for the boots-on-the-ground info, Chris. 🙂

  • SuzanneDelzio

    Great! Sounds like putting the work in is paying off . . . Did you use an agency to find your influencers?

  • SuzanneDelzio

    Thanks Joyce. Also, influencers only have room for a few review articles per month, right? If you have lots of followers, you may want to check out the influencer agencies that have cropped up in the last few months.

  • I highly recommend TapInfluence for managing influencer marketing promotions and providing real measurement and ROI.

  • My agency has managed hundreds of influencer campaigns that have been highly successful and measurable. The most important things to remember are very careful selection of influencers, clear campaign goals and communication with influencers, and use a tool to measure results. We were the first agency to use TapInfluence and we consider the ROI measurement to be key to why our clients come back to do more campaigns.

  • Amber, I’ve used Tidal Labs and really like their platform as it gives brands the ability to push campaigns out to groups of influencers and easily curate the best content into your brand marketing channels.

  • Super helpful piece to share with clients who are trying to wrap their heads around influencer marketing. Thank you! While the data focuses on younger consumers, influencer marketing is also effective for 30+ consumers.

    Regarding compensation, I’ve worked both sides of the brand+influencer fence and do feel incentives are an important part of the equation. Doesn’t always have to be cash, but brands who build influencer relationships with a value exchange mindset will get better results.

  • Great research Suzanne!
    I’m not sure if young audiences trusting social media stars more is surprising or not. Movie/TV stars are of course more popular… but when you think about media is where everyone is all the time… So.. they see and get influenced by social media stars just as much.. It’s really interesting.

  • Amber Gott

    Thank you all for the tips!

  • Great work! There is not a lot information about that! Thank for share!

  • Guest

    ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ ☛


  • Thank you Suzanne, I’ll have a look at your recommendations, thanks again!