Influencers are the new celebrity—whatever their lead, Gen Z and millennial follow. Exactly how much influence does the new class of cultural tastemakers have on young Americans and how much trust do consumers have in influencers? Morning Consult’s new report, “The Influencer Report: Engaging Gen Z and Millennials,” explored answers to these questions to reveal how brands can leverage influencers of different scales to reach young consumers.
The report found that 72 percent of young Americans follow influencers on social media and that teenagers are most likely to follow multiple people. Among this group, men prefer to follow gaming and sports influencers whereas women prefer beauty and fashion influencers.
According to research, gaining inspiration, learning about new trends and being exposed to interesting, fun content are among the reasons why young consumers follow influencers. “Seeing their successful lives inspires me to do better in my own,” one respondent noted, while another said, “I like to see the new beauty trends and what works and doesn’t work.” Voyeurism is also another reason young consumers follow influencers’ moves closely as one stated, “To see what they do with their lives and their wealth. It’s intriguing to follow their life.”
For an influencer to impact a consumer’s choices, however, they must appear authentic. 58 percent of respondents said being authentic and genuinely caring about their interests is a very important trait for influencers to have, followed by 53 percent for being funny or having an engaging personality. Interestingly, only 10 percent ranked having a large following as very important. Additionally, both Gen Z and millennials said the influencer must seem knowledgeable about the product, brand or industry they’re promoting and the influencer must be the type of person the consumer can relate to.
Surprisingly, influencers are now more trusted as spokespeople than celebrities as 50 percent of millennials said they trust influencers they follow for product recommendations compared to only 38 percent for their favorite celebrities. For Gen Z, top YouTube influencers are as popular as major celebrities. For example, as many Gen Z men are familiar with gaming YouTuber PewDiePie as know Lebron James, but the kicker is that PewDiePie is more well-liked. When asked to name their favorite influencers, respondents listed PewDiePie, Jeffrey Star, Shane Dawson, Markiplier and Kylie Jenner. Four out of five of these influencers are YouTubers.
Social media remains a key driver of consumer purchases for Gen Z and millennials. Eighty-eight percent say they learn about products they’re interested through social media and 56 percent have purchased a product after seeing a post from someone they follow. What’s more, half say social media is where they most often learn about new products to buy.
Where do young consumers engage with influencers the most? Gen Z and millennial men prefer YouTube, while a majority of both Gen Z and millennial women prefer Instagram. Those 13-16 are as likely to use TikTok as Facebook or Twitter.
Consumers themselves expressed a desire to become influencers, with 54 percent of respondents saying they’d become an influencer, given the opportunity. The chance to enlist micro-influencers, a category of influencer whose social media audience ranges from 5,000-100,000 followers, is ripe for the picking as consumers of all stripes are largely willing to post sponsored content for money.
Morning Consult’s findings are based on 2,000 survey interviews with 13-38 year-olds.