WTF is Influence Anyway?

Published on Aug 14th, 2019

Ann Sciandra
Senior Product Manager, Shareablee

Consider the scale of influence on social. Almost 70% of Americans today are following at least 1 influencer and at the same time we're seeing phenomenal volume this year.

From January 1st 2019 to May 1st, there were 62.7 billion actions on influencer content across all platforms. I’m not looking at three years I promise you, but 62.7 billion in just those four months. When you look at it closely, the strength that influencers bring is audience but they also have engagement rates.

So as an advertiser planning a campaign or a brand, not only do you look at an influencer for their leverage and trust, but you’re really looking for reach and engagement.

Influencers are connecting with their audiences on really specific topics and interest levels and approaching these partnerships is easier and smarter than ever before, if you rely on data to inform your planning and decisions.

I was thrilled to take to the stage at our recent INTERACT Summit with one of the sector’s most respected experts on Influence, Sara Grimaldi from Fullscreen.

Together we unpacked the history of the trend and the analysis that proves social commerce is here to stay. It was a fascinating snapshot of the development of what is today one of the most powerful tools in a brand or advertisers campaign.

It started back in the 18th century with a potter in England named Josiah Wedgwood, who used Queen Charlotte as his way to endorse his pottery.

He soon became known as the Potter of the Magistrate and the Wedgewood brand is still with us today.

Moving forward to the 1900s when Hollywood get involved, we saw movie stars promoting products and baseball players like Babe Ruth promoting cigarettes.

Fast forward to the 1980’s when it became more integrated and we saw product lines emerging from influencers that were promoting their products like Oprah’s Book Club.

As Sara Grimaldi explained, the emergence of the everyday influencer, the digital creator, was a result of technology. They came from the era with both the ability to create videos on their own and also through distribution platforms like YouTube.

“On the consumer side we're all connected," she said, "so we’re connecting to these influencers, we’re addicted to our phones and we’ve seen this emergence of niche communities where people are forming communities on different topics."

"There’s just an explosion of programming, when we think relative to what existed probably 20 years ago on TV, even with the emergence of cable television, there are just so many more options for people to connect with."

Sara recommended 3 distinct areas to focus on within the influencer segment.

“Obviously there are celebrities who have become famous in the offline space and have huge followings, then the digital creators in the middle tiers with the 250k+ follower range all the way up to millions of followers, then the micro-influencers with smaller followings, less than 250k but still drawing levels of influence with their fan base, and obviously from a business and marketing perspective, a very important part of the influencer funnel as well.”

No matter where you fall on that spectrum this idea of influence is really about creating authenticity with your audience, building high levels of trust and unity - and we know that goes beyond just engagement rates.

A lot of the research in our industry has solely focused on the fact that maybe micro-influencers have one level of engagement rate and digital creators have another level, but really we felt that it was important to put an additional layer across these influencer types in terms of how well they’re doing across these different attributes on the board up there.

What we did at Shareablee in this case and we’ll dive into some of the findings, is that we were able to survey individuals who were engaging with content within each of these buckets to effectively do a segmentation based on survey data which we thought was important since much of our industry is focused on specific social behavioural data. We thought it was important to layer that with some survey work to understand the space.

We asked individuals how they felt about being exposed to sponsored influencer content across these spectrums and broke it out by celebrities, digital trailblazers, risers and micros. We saw the highest level of trust came from the digital trailblazer segment. What’s interesting is that this tends to look very different for different audience segments. So in this case we were looking at 18-24 year olds, that cusp generation right on the bridge of Gen Z and Millenials and for them over half of individuals exposed to that content said it made them trust the brand more.

Then looking at the 25-34 segment we saw a little bit of a different story but digital trailblazers still were the strongest segment. However the micros had a pretty decent showing here as well so obviously some differentiation even within the 18-34 segment between the younger and older bands, which we found was pretty interesting.

We looked at what percent of survey takers reported being prompted to take an offline action - like trying a new product, researching it, or buying it. Sara described the numbers as very strong as an industry, regardless of which influencer segment you’re focused on.

“The overall figures are impressive. 42% of individuals exposed to the content were likely to try something or do something as a result of seeing sponsored influencer posts. Then nearly a quarter reported they actually made a purchase - which is incredibly high",

“What’s interesting is when you look at that break out by individual demographic segments and the purchase figures - they were far higher among the 18-24 audience as a result of being exposed, than other demographics. This leap to social commerce is huge,” Sara said.

If only Josiah Wedgwood knew he helped pioneer so much more than a world renowned pottery company.

If you're keen to hear more about the latest trends in influence, be sure to catch our upcoming webinar focused solely on this industry. Register here to join us in October 3rd.


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