On the Winding Road to Purchase, Influencer Marketing Helps Build Trust
Sometimes we get questions from people who don’t understand the value of influencer marketing or are having trouble quantifying that value to their bosses. They want to know: How does this work? Why is this any different than the other ads I buy? Sometimes influencer project money comes straight from a media buying budget. We get it. You need to quantify these programs and explain to your stakeholders why they are worth your time and most importantly why they are worth your money.
We firmly believe that the path to purchase is nonlinear, it is a long windy road from awareness to trust to purchase. We can help with the awareness and the trust. That’s what separates what we do from traditional ad buying: the trust factor.
Here are some hard facts on the psychology of how influencer marketing helps build trust for your brand and returns on your investment.
Followers as Friends or Authorities
Research finds that knowing people personally increases trust in their opinions, even if that personal connection exists in the virtual world. In fact, the greatest value in social networks is the “data on individual preferences and on social networks: who likes what, who is friends with whom, and what sort of information do friends share” (Galeotti and Goyal, 2009, p. 521). What also helps is the nature of clustering friendships and homogeneous tendencies. Essentially, people tend to connect with people similar to themselves with shared connections, increasing the levels of trust among the network (Campbell, 2013). So if you love rock climbing and follow a rock climbing enthusiast on social media, their opinions on the right climbing gear and snacks will carry some serious weight with you– more than a banner ad on a climbing website or a celebrity endorsement.
Peer Recommendation as Catalyst
Research has determined that peer recommendation through word of mouth– whether online or in person– drives decision making at a higher rate than advertisements or marketing campaigns (Galeotti and Goyal, 2009).
Adding fuel to the word of mouth fire is beneficial for brands. With word of mouth marketing– like influencer marketing campaigns– in place, there is a 54% improvement in marketing effectiveness, an 84% rate of action taking by consumers, 43% rate of purchase by those who favorite a product on social media, and “millennials ranked word-of-mouth as the #1 influencer in their purchasing decisions about clothes, packaged goods, big-ticket items (like travel and electronics), and financial products. Baby Boomers also ranked word-of-mouth as being most influential in their purchasing decisions about big-ticket items and financial products” (Mixon, 2015). When your friends (virtual or in real life) recommend something, you’re more likely to take action on that purchase.
Sounds too good to be true right? The catch is that these recommendations have to seem genuine and organic. What is most important, especially with online word-of-mouth marketing utilization, is that that the communication is organic in that “it occurs between one consumer and another without direct prompting, influence, or measurement by marketers. It is motivated by a desire to help others, to warn others about poor service, and/or to communicate status” (Kozinets, et al, 2010, p. 72). This doesn’t mean that there can be no evidence of compensation (we talk often about the importance of proper disclosure) but it does mean that the endorsements need to be thoughtful and natural to the influencer’s feed. It also means that the product needs to be a realistic part of the influencer’s life. To put it simply– it doesn’t work if it sticks out like a sore thumb.
If this sounds like a tricky balance, it’s because it is. That’s why it can be crucial to have the help of a third party to advise content direction, connect you with genuine brand matches and monitor the content that your influencers are creating.
Galeotti, Andrea and Sanjeev Goyal. (2009). “Influencing the Influencers: A Theory of Strategic Diffusion.” The RAND Journal of Economics, Vol. 40, No. 3, pp. 509-532.
Campbell, Arthur. (2013). “Word-of-Mouth Communication and Percolation in Social Networks.” The American Economic Review, Vol. 103, No. 6, pp. 2466-2498.
Mixon, Imani. (2015). “40+ Word-of-Mouth Marketing Statistics That You Should Know.” Ambassador. Date accessed 18 February 2016 https://www.getambassador.com/blog/word-of-mouth-marketing-statistics
Kozinets, Robert V., Kristine de Valck, Andrea C. Wojnicki, and Sarah J. S. Wilner. (2010). “Network Narratives: Understanding Word-of-Mouth Marketing in Online Communities.” Journal of Marketing, Vol. 74, No. 2, pp. 71-89.