Under the influence - Study shows consumers seven times more likely to trust social media photos over traditional advertising

Olapic's report features insights gleaned from over 4,500 social media users aged 16 to 49

The influence of a social media photo inspires trust and engagement among consumers seven times more than traditional ads, a recent report suggests. With only six per cent of people surveyed in the UK (between the ages of 16 to 49) trusting traditional advertising, over three-quarters of those surveyed state they prefer looking at user-generated images (UGC). The recent findings suggest brands may have to re-think strategies when seeking trust and engagement among consumers.

The report released by Olapic today (30 November) details the results of more than 4,500 active social media users between ages 16 and 49 in the US and Europe (UK, France, Germany, Spain and Sweden), and finds that photos featuring "real people" are trusted seven-times more than traditional advertising.

The study also shows that trust has a significant impact on click-through rates and sales. In fact, over half (56%) of respondents said they are more likely to click on an ad that features UGC, and same amount are more inclined to buy the product after seeing this kind of ad.

José de Cabo, co-founder of Olapic, said: "Social media brings streams of authentic images to consumers’ fingertips, transforming how they see products and interact with brands. These preferences and practices send a strong message to brands about how they should engage with consumers."

Top brands have begun to take note, using branded hashtags to increase visibility and engagement. NYX’s NYXCosmetics campaign, for instance, showed that customers who interact with UGC have a 93% higher average order value (AOV) and convert to customers at a rate 320% higher than those who do not.

Similarly, up-market clothing store AllSaints encouraged consumers to upload photos of themselves wearing the brand’s clothing with the hashtag ItsUpToYou. Not only did this campaign make it easier for shoppers to browse UGC, it also increased conversions by 50% within the first week.

The report’s findings also show that in the UK in particular, UGC play an instrumental role across the customer journey. The report found that 35% of those surveyed are interested in looking at social media photos while "pre-shopping" —when consumers begin browsing products — and another 24% turn to UGC while shopping online or in-store.

UK respondents also showed a particular fondness for brand engagement on social media as almost half (48%) having uploaded photos featuring a brand’s hashtag. This trend is even stronger among the younger generation, with 57% of UK millennial respondents reporting the same. And the motivation for such social media activism is clear: 86% of UK millennial respondents who have posted photos with a brand's hashtag say they did it simply because they enjoyed the product.

Although all verticals are affected by these trends, the fashion industry is particularly susceptible; in an age marked by heightened consumer backlash against photoshopped models, 38% of UK respondents said they seek ads that feature real people before making a purchase in fashion.

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Laurie Fullerton

Laurie Fullerton is a writer based in Boston, MA with a background in business, sports, community, medical and travel writing. She has been a newspaper editor in the Boston-area, a sports writer covering yacht racing and a community reporter. She has been reporting for The Drum since October 2015.

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