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Younger Americans have embraced influencers, with about 7 in 10 Gen Z and Millennial consumers reporting that they follow people on social media who could be considered influencers. And, in its survey of more than 2,000 13-38-year-olds, Morning Consult found that the youngest of these respondents were the ones most likely to follow many influencers.

So, what traits are Gen Zers and Millennials considering when deciding which influencers to follow? The vast majority (88%) of respondents are looking for influencers who are authentic and genuinely care about their interests, with 58% of respondents citing this as a very important trait and another 30% deeming it a somewhat important one. Another 85% choose influencers who are knowledgeable about something the respondents care about (48% say this is very important).

The lifestyle of the influencer is significantly less important to respondents when deciding whether or not to follow an individual. Only 49% say it’s important to some degree that the influencer has a lifestyle that is more exciting or interesting than their own lives, and again fewer than half (48%) say it’s important that the influencer’s lifestyle is similar to their own.

Although an influencer’s lifestyle is not necessarily a deciding factor when it comes to choosing influencers to follow, other research found that influencers who dramatically misrepresent themselves or their lifestyle are likely to find themselves unfollowed by 7 in 10 followers.

An influencer’s knowledge is not only a key factor in who these two generations follow, but it’s also what makes 55% of Gen Zers and 57% of Millennials more likely to purchase a product or service that an influencer recommends. By comparison, only two-fifths (41%) of Gen Zers and more than two-thirds (38%) of Millennials are more likely to buy a product recommended by an influencer if that individual is the type of person the follower inspires to be.

The Trust Factor

A full 88% of respondents say they have learned about products they are interested in buying through social media. Although Instagram and YouTube are the top social platforms for both Gen Z and Millennials, one notable result from the survey is that TikTok, which has seen increasing growth among US adults over the past year, is just as likely to be used by the youngest of the respondents (13-16-year-olds) as Facebook and Twitter. However, it should also be noted that due to a current investigation of TikTok’s parent company by the US government, there is a growing concern for brand safety from advertisers.

This leads to the issue of trust in social media influencers. Close to 3 in 5 respondents say they either have a lot (10%) or some (47%) trust in social media influencers to give them good advice about brands or products they are promoting. The trust factor is higher with frequent social media shoppers, with 25% saying they have a lot of trust in influencers and 56% having some trust.

However the survey also finds that influencers are not necessarily the source that respondents trust most to give good advice about brands or products. Instead, the majority of Gen Z (82%) and Millennials (84%) respondents say they trust their friends and family to give good advice on brand or products, while only 52% of Gen Zers and 50% of Millennials say they trust influencers they follow on social media.

The full report can be downloaded here.

About the Data: Results are based on a survey of more than 2,000 13-38-year-olds.

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