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How Influencers Continue To Win Consumer Trust

Liz Carson

“What’s more important: reach or engagement?”

“How important are micro influencers in my mix?”

“What is the true value of an influencer?”

Influencer marketing dominates many a conversation today, and for good reason. Influencers are people or groups who sway others by sharing their views and experiences publicly, whether through social media, blogs or earned media. They come in many different shapes and sizes: from the well-known, celebrity endorser who has been around for decades, to the rising social media influencer who has a credible voice and notable following in a specific niche. And marketers are paying attention. Why?  Because simply put, everyone has a voice now – and brand leaders need to know who’s influencing their audience. Technology has taken away the gatekeeper. Millennials see themselves not only as consumers of content but creators as well. With more demand for the “real deal” than ever before, the influencers who build meaningful relationships will come out ahead – and are the ones marketers need to watch.

That said, influencer marketing has had its share of trust issues. Fraudulent followers, misguided endorsements (diet lollipops anyone?), and scandals aren’t exactly ancient history, and the future is fast approaching. Have you met Lil Miquela? She wears Chanel, advocates for social change and is fashion’s first computer-generated influencer.

While authenticity is an overused word in marketing, Canadians genuinely crave it. Emerging audiences, such as Generation Z – young people born after 1997 – are known as strong advocates of corporate social responsibility and are estimated to be one of the largest populations yet. So it is highly likely sincerity and transparency will continue to grow.

Trust isn’t going anywhere. On the contrary, it is only becoming more integral to our lives.

That’s why three years ago, we created our CanTrust Index, which provides a distinctly Canadian perspective on trust. Our 2018 Index revealed Canadians trust word of mouth recommendations and sampling of a product or service the most (76%), followed by trust in editorial content (54%) and consumer opinion or online reviews (51%).

That sounds about right to me. Think about the last new product you tried. Did a friend tell you about it?  Was it a review on Instagram? Or that red velvet funnel cake you tried at foodalicious?

This year we did a deeper dive on trust in influencers specifically, and not surprisingly, family and friends (73%) and thought leaders (58%) influence us the most. Professional service experts and “regular people like me” tied for third place (48%).

But what makes an influencer really resonate? One word: Authority. An influencer’s expertise on a given subject (66%) and contextual relevance (59%) impact our trust levels much more so than reach (31%). In other words, if I truly believe you have made that Grapefruit Rose Pound cake by scratch (and I do as it took you all day to find those elusive rose petals), that means more to me than your 1.1 million followers.

Authority also nabs the top spot with content that that showcases influencers are an expert in their field (65%). Having a personal connection to the influencer and seeing the content as authentic/genuine (52%) is also key.

Influencer campaigns that deliver on this get me to click. The Body Shop’s grassroots approach to pet activism uses actual pet influencers to end animal testing in Canada. Not only is this true to the brand’s essence, but who can resist Elvis Pawsley? Our own Proof team partnered with Catelli Pasta to produce “Real Feels Good” – an initiative that explores what being a parent is really like in 2018 (spoiler alert: it is not all #blessed). Real parents, talking real truths. Now that is something I can get behind.

So, in the words of my millennial niece: “I think being genuine and having a personality is super important. That’s why I follow Erin and Sara Foster, they are fashionable sisters but really funny. I feel like I know them.”

Influencers who ‘get us’ get our attention.  And our trust.