Under the influence: Ad Standards shares new influencer research

The vast majority of Canadians are familiar with social media influencers, and more than one quarter are likely to buy something based on an influencer’s recommendation, according to new research conducted by insights platform Caddle on behalf of Ad Standards Canada.

About half of the 3,348 people surveyed said they currently follow at least one influencer on social, although that number increases among younger respondents. The survey found that Gen Zs are considerably more likely than Gen Xers (73% versus 43%) to follow a social influencer—a broad definition that includes athletes, celebrities, bloggers, content creators, lifestyle experts, models, or other experts.

Asked why they follow influencers, 60.4% of respondents said it’s because they like their content, while 47.9% said they like to learn about new products or trends.

Slightly less than one-quarter of respondents (22.9%) said it’s because they trust influencers’ opinions on brands.

When asked about their ability to distinguish between sponsored and non-sponsored content, about 40% of respondents said they are familiar with the differences, while another 30% indicated that they know a little. Most Canadians are also aware that influencers must disclose any affiliation with a brand or company, although 21% said they’ve never heard of these rules.

About two-thirds of respondents, meanwhile, said that they are comforted by the fact that influencers are required to disclose any connection to brands or companies. However, only one third said they trust influencers to know that rules around disclosure of any such relationship exists.

“The survey findings show that the majority of the public are aware of influencer disclosure requirements and they place a high value on those requirements,” said Shelley Samel, Ad Standards’ chief legal officer. “Influencers and brands alike must work to demonstrate that they know and follow these requirements in order to build and maintain trust with consumers.”

And that trust can be powerful, with slightly more than one-third of respondents indicating that they are willing to learn about new products from influencers, a number that jumps to about 50% among both Gen Z and millennial respondents.

Micro influencers, those with medium-sized audiences of 5,000 to 30,000 followers, have the most sway among Canadians, with 63.4% of respondents saying they get information about new products from that particular subset. But macro influencers (30,000 to 500,000 followers) were chosen by 41.8% of people, up from last year.

About three-quarters of people learning about new products from influencers have made a purchase based on their recommendation, which is consistent with the previous study in 2021. The conversion rates are comparable among Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X.

In addition, 44% of respondents said that influencer recommendations lead to them purchasing a product a few times per year, with 17.6% saying they purchase a product based on an influencer recommendation at least once a month, and 18.1% saying that they purchase products a few times each month because of an influencer recommendation.

Their ability to influence younger audiences is particularly pronounced, with the number of Gen Z respondents who purchase a product recommended by an influencer at least once a month increasing by 13 points since 2021, currently sitting just below 50%.

But consumers are also fickle when it comes to the influencers they follow, with more than half of respondents (50.2%) saying they would stop following someone if their platform is no longer relevant to them, and 46% indicating that they would stop following if their content stopped being engaging. More than one-third of respondents (36.8%) said that they would stop following someone if their posts became political in nature.

And consumers do regard influencers with some degree of skepticism. While just over 13% of respondents indicated that they trust the recommendations made by influencers a lot (8.2%) or completely (5.2%), the majority of respondents (39.5%) said that they “somewhat” trust influencers, and 16% said they do not trust them at all.

The complete research can be found here.

Chris Powell