Despite increased ad spend being sent in the direction of influencer marketing, 96% of people do not trust influencers, according to research conducted by YouGov and Grey London.
Their report delved into trust and social media to unearth how brands can regain confidence. It questioned 2240 UK adults (18 and over) via an online survey.
Yet while the survey states that 63% trust social media less than they did two years ago, this is at odds with the finding that 25% are using social media more; confirming the fact that while people may mistrust the platforms, this isn’t enough to deter them from use.
The report says this is down to an increased awareness around privacy online, with 61% of users are being more careful about the privacy of their posts and 33% admitting them feel more in control. However, despite fears, a quarter of social media users have admitted to not changing their habits at all.
Influencer marketing appears to be the least trusted form of social media marketing. Only 4% of people admitting they trusted influencers, with 18% saying they trusted brands on social media more than influencers.
This finding is in line with an earlier report from the media agency UM. It found that most global internet users lack confidence in what they see and read online, with only 8% believing that the bulk of information shared on social media is true. This finding drops to 4% when it comes from influencers.
Mistrust of influencers is down to a lack of clarity and transparency that things might not be all they seem when people are paid to place products in posts.
The UK's advertising watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has been cracking the whip in recent years, including tightening up the rules around declaring paid-for content online and cautioning 'hundreds' of influencers and brands for breaking strict guidelines around paid-for posts on the likes of Instagram.
In September it published a report into which kind of labels help people understand when influencer posts are paid for, reminding brands and creators that “upfront disclosures” such as #ad are “necessary as a minimum”.
According to the report, 61% of users feel that social media should be regulated in the same way as traditional media, while 76% said they did not think that regulation was the same.
Political advertising was also addressed. Concerns over political advertising were heightened by the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal that broke last year. Yesterday, Twitter opted out of political ads, saying from 22 November, it will ban them completely.
The survey found 59% of survey respondents strongly agreed that political advertising should be regulated on social media during elections and referenda.
In response to the findings, Grey London’s chief exec Anna Pańczyk advised agencies to work hard to make sure the brands they support are not similarly affected. She said “Trust is the most important part of any relationship and for consumers and brands it’s essential. Brands have worked for years to build public trust in the ‘real world’, therefore it’s vital they ensure public distrust in social platforms doesn’t affect them by proxy.”
She added: “If the public remains unsure about regulation on social media, then how can trust ever be restored? It’s vital that people understand they are protected when online from the harm of false advertising and disinformation.”