Consumers these days have easy access to a lot of information; anything you need to know is practically a simple Google search away. This is further amplified with the power of social media; we constantly receive updates and new content in our never-ending feed from friends, families, acquaintances, and now—influencers, learning about things we probably did not previously have interest in or a need to know.

What does this mean for businesses? Companies and brands are under the relentless scrutiny of consumers whose expectations keep soaring; it’s no longer good enough to simply put out an excellent product or service. You need to earn their trust by measuring up to customers’ expectations, values and beliefs.

According to Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer Special Report, entitled In Brands We Trust?—a research study of eight markets globally, with more than 25,000 respondents, and touched on the evolution of trust from the perspective of digital—brands are not meeting expectations; only one-in-three respondents said they can trust most of the brands they buy or use. And 69% of respondents had concerns about a brand’s growing impact on society, and they expect brands to express their own values. Fully 53% expect every brand to have a responsibility and to get involved in at least one societal issue that does not directly impact their business.

Consumers are also wary of brands’ so-called trust washing—all talk and no action. On that, 56% said they felt that too many brands use societal issues as a marketing ploy to sell more of their products. Consumers are starting to vote with their wallets by walking away from brands that do not practice the values they preach, a trend that is picking up in pace and will not slow down. Some 81% of consumers across all markets, ages, and income brackets expect to be able to trust the brand to do what is right, saying it is a deal-breaker or a deciding factor in their purchase decision.

Respondents in the survey, however, trusted influencers over brands, rating relatability twice as important as popularity as a quality that attracted them to influencers. In particular, younger consumers—millennials and generation z—are interested in authenticity. About 63% trust what influencers say about brands much more than what brands say about themselves in their advertising. Compared to older generations, they have lower trust in brands and want insights from people whose lives are like theirs. This is because people trust people like them. In 2015, the Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising survey found that friends and family are the most trusted sources of recommendations, with 83% of respondents completely or “somewhat” trusting peers’ suggestions.

Influencers can earn brand sales, trust and advocacy; however, we believe that unless companies and brands genuinely care for society and support social causes, the mass commercialization of influencers will start to erode consumers’ trust in them as well. Influencer marketing, although a fairly new concept, has already got brands shifting their focus from working with macro-influencers—those with hundreds of thousands to millions of followers and who charge exorbitant fees—to micro-influencers with 10,000 to 100,000 followers in the search for authenticity and “person like you” word-of-mouth seal of approval. This trend has opened up the market to micro-influencing as a profession driving many to take shortcuts resulting in them buying fake followers, fraudulent engagement, or quite simply promoting products they do not care about or have no genuine interest but are doing it just for the money. Given this transactional nature, consumers can become skeptical of micro-influencers’ content.

When you look at the day-to-day social media activity, you will find that most people follow their family, friends, friends of friends, co-workers, classmates and close acquaintances in their communities. The most active of these regular social media users build a decent follower base of between several hundred and a few thousand followers and are called nano-influencers. They are quite active post interesting content regularly and have a much higher engagement rate than micro-influencers. But most importantly, they are also often active in their local communities, support local causes and do charitable work. We call them citizen-influencers and they not only have the power to influence brand purchases, but as active citizens they can also work with companies to do good and give back to society and local communities. The basics of people trusting people like them is still powerful. Companies and brands that thoughtfully integrate citizen-influencers in their marketing activity and care about societal causes by taking action will gain trust and do well.

Get in touch and find out how Impact Influencers brings together socially responsible businesses and key influencers with a common objective, to “do well by doing good.”