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Consumer Behavior Social Media Influencer Marketing

Are consumers officially ‘over’ influencer culture?

By Alexandra Sheppard, Insights executive



Opinion article

May 15, 2023 | 7 min read

Alexandra Sheppard of Roast investigates the survival of influencer marketing, and suggests brands should lean on their loyal customers for endorsement.

Gen Z woman applying makeup in mirror

Over it: almost a quarter of Gen Z do not trust influencers’ recommendations / Kevin Laminto

The latest TikTok and Instagram trend of ‘deinfluencing’, as the name suggests, turns the whole notion of influencer culture and marketing on its head. Influencers are now telling their followers what brands/products to not buy. This sounds like a disaster for brands that rely on influencer marketing to connect with their audiences, especially Gen Z and Gen X.

But data from GWI’s latest zeitgeist ‘Trust in Social Media Recommendations, UK’ shows that consumers have largely fallen out of love with influencers altogether, suggesting that for brands that haven’t already, it’s time to reassess the best way to use social media to promote their brands.

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Is Gen Z keeping influencer marketing alive?

Despite influencer culture, both within brand advertisements and on the platforms themselves, accounting for a large proportion of content, trust in influencer promotions is low. For Gen Z, a generation that we expect to be relatively favorable toward influencers, almost a quarter do not trust the products/brands that are promoted, while almost half do trust a little.

For brands looking to build on influencer marketing, Gen Z and their social shopping habits are your best bet. Trust in influencers, unsurprisingly, significantly decreases with generation. For millennials and boomers, over half have no trust at all.

Apathy drives a lack of engagement

Influencers account for such a large amount of social content and the influencer market is reported to reach $17.4bn by the end of 2023, so it’s surprising that consumers lack so much trust in product/brand promotions.

It seems that at the crux of it all, influencers have become too out of touch and consequently, consumers simply do not care what influencers have to say. Attitudes to following or engaging with influencers are dominated by an apathetic ‘neither agree nor disagree’ positioning and just under half of UK consumers do not follow influencers who regularly promote products/brands - showing a lack of consumer care in engaging with influencer content regularly.

Consumers are largely tuning out influencer content with 41% unlikely to purchase a product recommended by influencers, coinciding with growing criticism for promotions of expensive or unnecessary products that they are unlikely to use themselves in a time when consumers are ultra financially conscious.

The everyday consumer v the out-of-touch influencer

Public perception of influencers unraveled across the cryptocurrency sector, where platforms and exchanges regularly use influencers to generate publicity through ads and social media posts, following accusations of influencers abusing their power and promoting misleading content.

Kim Kardashian was fined $1.26m for unlawfully promoting the EthereumMax token across her social media without disclosing that she had received compensation. The unregulated nature of social media in comparison to other channels significantly increases the opportunity for false or misleading content to be circulated.

The now-collapsed FTX exchange reached its dominance with the support of many high-profile figures including Tom Brady and JK Rowling. Its collapse in November 2022 shook the cryptocurrency market, and customer losses are estimated to have been more than $8bn. Events like this provide context as to why consumers have grown tired and suspicious of influencers.

Only 5% of consumers strongly agree that influencers make affordable product/brand recommendations, and 6% strongly agree that influencers make reliable product/brand recommendations. Consumers want authenticity, and especially in the current climate, they want value for money and trust in both the products they are buying and the brands they are buying from.

While the rise of de-influencing suggests that we are finally moving away from the trends of overconsumption and TikTok ‘hauls’, public perception has well and truly shifted, and the era of influencers and their profound ascendancy is drawing to a close.

What does this mean for brands?

While it certainly looks like consumers are no longer interested in hearing what influencers have to say, this has stemmed from out-of-touch content and a lack of authenticity. Influencers are still a great way to connect with new audiences, but they need to be held to higher standards.

While it’s perhaps not in the traditional Instagram/TikTok beauty-influencer sense, Martin Lewis is a great example of an influencer with popularity and deep public trust. Lewis’ content puts consumer rights at the fore, and he has built his credibility through strict impartiality.

Given this shift in sentiment, brands should prioritize posts or reviews from expert bloggers, social proof from qualified influencers or turn loyal, trusted customers into micro-influencers. These strategies will be essential for driving consideration and purchases from those consumers who are thinking carefully about their purchases and don’t want to be misled.

Consumer Behavior Social Media Influencer Marketing

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