How to Influence Part I: Influence is a Function of Trust

Influencer marketing is becoming one of the most prominent forms of marketing today because companies no longer have total control over their marketing or brand. Especially in a world where consumers are continuously inundated on all sides by online and offline media, people are more skeptical than ever of more traditional forms of advertising.

However, as a result, people are relying more and more on their personal networks and recommendations to determine their buying patterns. Thus, instead of utilizing traditional methods of marketing, more and more companies are funneling their efforts towards making themselves a part of these everyday conversations — both on- and offline — through influencer marketing.


This is not to say that influencer marketing is the end-all-be-all solution for marketing, though. There are many ways to do it wrong.

Research and many first-person accounts will tell you that there is a fine line between casual marketing and when the consumer realizes they’re being marketed to. For one study, 61% of the tech-savvy women surveyed said they would not engage with an influencer if they felt the review or advertisement was disingenuous. Not just any celebrity or influencer will do either. In fact, studies show that smaller and niche influencers may have more power than those with higher follower counts.

So, as I’m sure you’re thinking by now…

How Does a Person Correctly Influence?

Remember the fine line discussed above? Well, that line is often simply called the “Trust Threshold,” and one of the words contained in the name is our main focus for today.

If you guessed “Trust,” then *ding ding ding* we have a winner! If you guessed “Threshold,” we might need to have another discussion altogether.

What’s so important about trust?

The fact of the matter is that mainstream advertising is no longer as effective because we as consumers have become disillusioned to it and, thereby, have lost trust in it. According to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising report from 2015, Millennials have the highest levels of trust for online and mobile advertisements, but even among this population, only about half of them said that they trusted these formats.

Without this inherent trust, brands fail to influence possible customers to change their buying habits.This lack of trust has also extended to celebrity endorsements as well. Even everyone’s queen Bey(once) was not immune to consumer backlash when she was found endorsing Pepsi shortly after partnering with Michelle Obama for her “Let Me Move” campaign.

Similarly, the Kardashians lost the public’s trust for endorsing diet pills that ended up banned in Australia because of how dangerous they were. Nowadays, it’s no longer even worth it to pay the hefty price for celebrity endorsements when there is very little consumer trust.

On the other hand…

The same Nielsen report showed that the most trusted forms of advertising overall came directly from the people consumers trusted most — like friends and family. Adweek similarly reported that 92% of individuals trusted others — even total strangers — more than branded content. Think with Google also released a report stating that 70% of teenage YouTube subscribers felt they could better relate to YouTube creators than traditional celebrities, and 4 in 10 Millennial subscribers reported that they felt their favorite creators understood them better than their friends.

This shared trust then influences people to change their buying habits over 13% more than branded content. Similarly, 60% of YouTube subscribers said they would more likely follow the advice of a YouTube creator for what to buy than their favorite TV or movie personality.

Conclusion: TRUST → $$$

Since consumers have already lost trust in more traditional formats for advertising, it’s more important than ever that companies that want to stay relevant start utilizing this knowledge to their best advantage. Specifically, companies should be looking for ways to take advantage of the “influencers” who are trusted sources in their communities.

The term “influencer” is not just limited to the top Instagram models either. Anyone who holds any sway or — dare I say — influence over your buying decisions can be an influencer.

If anyone can be an influencer, then how do I pick who should represent my brand?

Great question, hypothetical reader! An answer for which will be saved for another day for How to Influence Part II. Check back in soon for the next installment to learn how your business can best find and choose the influencers that your brand will benefit from most.