Hands up. Who Trusts Influencers?

In general, it’s fair to say that people trust the opinions of their peers more than they trust the marketing messages of brands.  But do consumers still trust influencers in 2019?

“Only 22% of brands are trusted” – Havas Media

92 percent of consumers trust user-generated content more than they trust traditional advertising – Nielsen Consumer Trust Index

This is one of the reasons marketers have turned to Influencers…people whose musings have, in recent years, resonated with an army of enthusiastic followers. But the lustre seems to be coming off influencer marketing in a big way. Where once people seemed content to take Influencer posts at face value, these days they are increasingly savvy and less inclined to believe. For marketers this is a considerable problem. Late last year, Keith Weed, the outgoing CMO of Unilever said it was a moment of crisis for influencer marketing because of “Dishonest Business Models”.

“We need to take urgent action now to rebuild trust before it’s gone forever.”

“The key to improving the situation is three-fold:

  • cleaning up the influencer ecosystem by removing misleading engagement;

  • making brands and influencers more aware of the use of dishonest practices;

  • improving transparency from social platforms to help brands measure impact.”

Recent research proves that the effects of bad influencer marketing practice is in fact cascading down to the consumers who we are trying to convince. Universal McCann recently surveyed 56,000 internet users across 81 countries for their 10th “Wave” study. This research has unearthed some worrying truths about influencer marketing.

Gone are the days in which influencers were the Gold Standard for word of mouth marketing. Although it’s true that Influencers can still expose a brand and its products to large numbers of people in a single post, the question is one of trust…do the people seeing those messages trust what’s being said. Less and less it seems.

The Rapid Decline Of Influencer Marketing in 2019

Whilst Influencer marketing seems to be growing in popularity, the effectiveness continues to be questioned by the professionals. The Association of National Advertisers found that 75% of marketers currently work with influencers and of that 43% plan to increase spending in 2019. But only 36% said they judged their influencer marketing efforts as effective and 19% admitted they thought that the money spent was ineffective.

According to the Wave study from media agency UM, the majority of global internet users have little to no confidence in what influencers say online. Only 8% of people believe that information shared on social networking sites is true, and that drops to 4% when the content comes from influencers.

“Only 4% of Internet Users Trust Influencers.”

The situation is so dire that internet users trust the government more than influencer marketing, and we live in an era of political uncertainty.

This study follows an early study by social analytics firm Shareable, only 37% of adults aged 25 to 34 and 55% of those aged 18 to 24 agreed that they trusted what influencers on social media told them.

In addition, an article by the Drum highlighted that 61% of consumers didn’t think brands are being transparent about how they use influencers to promote their products online.

Writing for The Drum, Rebecca Stewart explained, “On the same measurement, even governments were seen as more trustworthy than most celebrity influencers or bloggers/vloggers, with 12% of people globally saying information shared by governments was ‘mostly truthful’.” Ouch. And the bad news for influencers just keeps on coming.

The Rise Of Influencer Fraud

A report by US marketing specialist Captiv8 has revealed that $2.1bn was spent on influencer-sponsored Instagram posts in 2017 but more than 11 per cent of engagement on those posts was generated from fraudulent accounts.

This makes it harder for brands to track the performance of their campaigns, and it also makes it harder for them to get a feel for the true audience sizes and engagement rates that influencers can bring to the table. Most importantly, it makes it harder for consumers to trust influencer activity.

Recently though, big brands have realised what’s going on and, fed up with being duped, they have started to rethink their approach to influencer marketing.

Brands are now putting pressure on social networking sites to clean up their act. As we saw with YouTube’s adpocalypse in 2017, when big brands change the way they’re spending money, the sites themselves are forced to change along with them.

Unilever Leads The Charge

Unilever is one of the biggest brands to have called for changes in the way that social networks handle bots and fake followers. After addressing the issues with Influencers, Keith Weed confirmed that with immediate effect:

  • Unilever won’t work with influencers who buy followers
  • Unilever has promised its own brands will never buy followers
  • The business will prioritise partners who increase their transparency and work to eradicate nefarious practices throughout the digital ecosystem

What Makes An Influencer Authentic and Believable?

So brands are taking measures to avoid influencer fraud but what measures can they take to make sure their marketing dollars aren’t wasted on Influencer posts that nobody believes?

With celebrity and self-acknowledged influencers, using #ad for every other post or are “gifted” goods in exchange to talk about 100’s of different products a month, audiences are starting to see through these supposed “endorsements”.  Advertising agency Carmichael Lynch even found that 23% of influencers admitted they did not feel authentic about the brand-sponsored content they were paid to post and 15% said they did not even like – let alone genuinely recommend – the brand doing they posted about.

Fortunately for marketers, you can still find the ‘right’ type of Influencer – Influencers that people still believe.

Here’s a curveball. After leaving Unilever, Weed’s first major action was to become an angel investor in self-service influencer marketplace Tribe. That might seem like an odd move for someone who recently decried the influencer industry but look closer and it makes sense. Tribe aims to act as the middleman between brands and ‘micro-influencers’, allowing them to deliver campaigns at scale. The key here is in the term ‘micro’.


In a recent Drum article, Weed made a careful distinction between Micro-Influencers and the influencers that the “4%” of internet users do not trust.  

Micro Influencers have been defined as people with between 1,000 and 10,000 followers and specifically share or discuss their passion about a particular niche or hobby. A Mediahub study even found that in some cases, Influencers having 1,000 followers generated 85% higher engagement than those who have 100,000 followers.

The Authentic Alternative to Influencers

Some marketers are prepared to throw a cool £75,000 at a macro or celebrity influencer to endorse their product not realising their real, most believable brand advocates are right under their nose.

Leverage the voice of those who are the people talking about your brand already, unprompted. This way you know their are truly passionate about your brand and others can see that they are impartial too.

Passionate, authentic content from authentic people will drive your peer to peer marketing online.

Even micro-influencers are self-acknowledged influencers who might already be pushing a number of #ad tagged messages, yours might be their 5th ad of the week.

Rather than identifying influencers to engage with, a more simple option but equally effective option is to discover, curate and distribute any content that simply shows your brand, product or service. If you are able to do this intelligently and display on the path to purchase. You are able to influence prospective customers with real social proof. This way your content marketing is completely authentic and trustworthy.

Either way engaging with the organic, naturally occuring brand advocate can lead to a longer-term and more valuable relationship.

Brands and influencers have spent years trying to find the best ways to work together for mutual benefit, and so far there’s been no clear winner. Done well, branded influencer marketing campaigns can be a great way of encouraging user trust above and beyond how much they trust their governments, but it takes something special to cut through the noise.

Miappi specializes in helping brands find genuine, organic stories from real people, the brand ambassadors who aren’t being briefed and whose intentions are entirely authentic.

We do that by sourcing authentic user-generated content (UGC) that features your product or service, across the most popular social networking sites and via direct upload to websites.

Instead of paying people to talk about your brand, we help you find the people who are already talking about your products or services. You can then use the Miappi platform to engage with the content creator and get their permission to use it on your marketing channels.

UGC is undeniably powerful, influencing purchasing decisions for 84% of millennials, while 74% of consumers rely on social media to inform their purchasing decisions. An impressive 84% of people trust peer recommendations above all other sources of advertising. 

What’s Next? Leverage existing brand relevant conversations!

With a bit of luck, major social networking sites will continue to clamp down on bots and fake followers so at least the fraudulent angle might be easier to cover. That still leaves credibility problem though. ‘Traditional’ Influencers are paid to say nice things about the brand…but that is just not good enough for most people who want impartial advice and guidance.

The good news is that there is an alternative: you could also a software platform such as Miappi to identify and leverage existing conversation. This takes working with authentic marketing to a new level, allowing you to work with real people who just happen to have a passion for your brand. They say it because they believe it, not because they are being paid.

The content you need is probably already out there somewhere and Miappi can help you find and use it. So what are you waiting for?

Contact us today and to find and leverage UGC for your Peer to Peer Marketing Strategy.

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Contact us: Why not get in touch to discuss how Miappi could help you increase the reach of your social media? Miappi Ltd. Level 5 22 Upper Ground London SE1 9PD Tel. +44 (0) 203 6374360