Millennials Are Losing Trust in Online Influencers. Here’s What Marketers Can Do.

Michael Quoc
Dec 15, 2017 · 7 min read

Why are Millennials trusting online influencers less?

First, to keep things in perspective, we should note that influencers are still very much on an upswing, growing in popularity and gaining more influence over how we shop and buy. More people are turning to them for advice, ideas, and recommendations — in fact, our same survey found that Millennials now rely on influencers more than ever before for fashion shopping ideas and inspiration, with 41% of them saying influencers are their primary source of fashion picks.

Trust and investment in influencers has been growing rapidly and it’s possible that we’ve hit a peak

Especially among younger demographics, trust in online influencers has been increasingly steadily for years now.

Blurring lines between sponsorships and authentic recommendations

As the influencer landscape has become increasingly commercialized in recent years, a steadily increasing share of the influencer posts that people see on social media and blogs are sponsored. While the FTC publishes guidelines for disclosure on such posts, these guidelines are far from perfect and they are sometimes ignored or implemented incorrectly, adding to the confusion.

Traditional trust indicators are less reliable than they used to be

There was a time when you could infer a social media influencer’s popularity (and to a lesser extent, their authority and trust) through quantifiable trust indicators, such as their number of followers, or how many likes their posts are receiving.

Influencers are simply becoming bigger, more similar to celebrities and traditional media brands

A few years ago, when people followed their favorite fashion blogger on Instagram, they may have enjoyed an intimate, authentic connection with that influencer. Today, that same blogger might have millions of follows and have a staff of 20 people managing their posts.

What can marketers do about the growing trust gap with influencers?

The good news for marketers is that despite these challenges the influencer industry as a whole is healthy and growing at a rapid clip. Influencers still represent an increasingly attractive channel through which brands can build mindshare — they just must be aware of the changing dynamics and adapt accordingly. Here are some basic guidelines to identifying influencers with real, authentic relationships with their fans.

Focus on micro-influencers

In contrast to mainstream influencers with millions of followers, micro-influencers are those with 10,000 to 100,000 total followers. The smaller fan bases of these micro-influencers can actually be an advantage to marketers, since studies have shown that these smaller influencers on average elicit more engagement and enjoy greater trust with their fans.

Audit influencers carefully

As mentioned above, influencers come in all shapes and sizes, and some aren’t exactly what they appear to be. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy these days for influencers to manipulate their perceived size and influencer by “buying” followers.

Look for compliance with FTC guidelines

Create longer term partnerships with influencers

While the norm in the influencer marketing industry these days is to compensate influencers with some form of up-front payment in exchange for a mention or a review, these one-time setups often don’t align well with the interests of brands since the influencers lack an incentive to promote you over the long-term.

Craft creative partnerships that involve more than monetary compensation

While influencers love receiving cash payments, many are often willing to promote brands in exchange for free products, publicity, travel opportunities and other perks. Often, engaging an influencer in a more collaborative partnership can foster a greater sense of mutual investment and can lead to more authentic, more effective promotions. This is a generalization, but in our experience, influencers who are more open to creative partnerships with non-monetary compensation are more likely to have a better connection with their fans. The more an influencer is doing what they do out of their passion for their topic and a love of their followers, and the less they are doing it for money, the better the chance they’ll have a true connection with their fans and thus greater trust.

In summary

Influencer marketing will only continue to increase in importance as a marketing channel for brands. Consumer attention is still shifting away from traditional forms towards digital, mobile, and social, and in this world influencers reign supreme. By investing in relationships with trusted influencers, brands can navigate this increasingly complex landscape and increase mindshare by partnering with the leading voices on social media and the web.


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Michael Quoc

Written by

Founder of . Currently building Ex-director @yahooinc. Scuba diver, triathlete, guitarist, dad / packmule.



LinkedIn meets Wikipedia for shopping. More (working) discount codes than RetailMeNot or Honey. No browser extension required. Brands: connect with influencers for free!