For some time, marketers have suspected that certain opinions matter more than others when it comes to swaying consumers’ buying habits. Influence is far from a level playing field, but it isn’t necessarily for the reasons you might expect—fame, fortune, and celebrity status. Influence is about authenticity, access to information and the drive to empower others.
Micro-influencers are not traditional celebrities, but rather individuals who work in their category or are truly knowledgeable, passionate and authentic and are seen as a trusted source when it comes to recommendations for what to buy. Micro-influencers may not have the flashy appeal of celebrities, but they have something even more valuable: their audience’s trust. But how much and to what extent, exactly? The answer to this question isn’t well studied or known. Experticity commissioned Dr. Jonah Berger, marketing professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and author of the bestselling book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, and Keller Fay Group, the leading authority on word of mouth marketing research, to examine how micro-influencers are driving buying behavior by measuring the volume and impact of their recommendations on consumers.
So what is the power of a micro-influencer versus the general population, and are their recommendations worth more than those from the average consumer? We challenged Berger and Keller Fay to find out. They conducted a study specifically designed to examine how and why micro-influencers are more influential than the average consumer. This unprecedented study format randomly surveyed Experticity’s unpaid network of micro-influencers from across the United States about the number of product-related conversations they have with consumers each week compared to a control group of average consumers. Researchers then surveyed consumers who received those recommendations to measure the weight of the recommendation and the outcome.
One of the most interesting study findings was that according to the data, these influencers have up to 22.2 times more conversations each week regarding recommendations on what to buy versus an average consumer. If this stat reflects a week of time, imagine the media channel a given influencer represents over the course of an entire year. And consider how many average consumers you would need to have spreading your brand message to represent the power of just one micro-influencer. Demonstrating the high impact of these recommendations, 82 percent of consumers who were surveyed for the study, reported they were highly likely to follow a recommendation made by a micro influencer.
What’s the takeaway? Start thinking about micro-influencers as an ongoing media channel. Don’t cut your influencers short by just measuring their one-off posts. Brands need to engage in continuous dialogue, build engaging content, and empower influencers as strategic partners and content contributors.
Additional key findings from the study included:
- Not only do these influencers have more buying conversations, they are more direct in their recommendations with 74 percent encouraging someone to “buy it or try it” compared to 66 percent of the general population who encouraged those actions in their recommendations.
- 87 percent of the buying recommendations they make are happening face to face.
- According to people receiving advice, influencers were seen as more impactful compared to an average person based on the following characteristics: more credible and believable (94 percent vs. 83 percent), more knowledgeable (94 percent vs. 84 percent) and better at explaining how the product works or could be used (92 percent vs. 83 percent).
With the concept of influencer marketing quickly growing from a buzz word to a full-fledged industry, the results of this study will be important to marketers struggling to find a more holistic view of how micro-influencers directly impact consumer buying behavior and shows that micro-influencers are a reliable and credible channel that has real impact in swaying consumer behavior.