More than eight in 10 “digital influencers” in the areas of beauty, personal health and the environment say they go online to learn more about something of interest after reading or hearing about it in traditional media, according to an Ipsos Public Affairs study developed by IM MS&L.
The study, which examines the complex relationship between traditional and online media and how they work together to shape public perception and influence, finds that digital influencers often go online to do additional research after reading something in a magazine or newspaper (84%) or hearing something on TV or the radio (84%).
Digital influencers are defined by Ipsos as those with a higher-than-average interest, propensity to gather, and likelihood of passing along online information about one of the three topics mentioned above. Their frequency to share differs both by source and category of interest.
“There are distinct classifications of online influencers who have varied interests, motivations for engaging with digital content, and different approaches to gathering and sharing digital content,” said Allyson Clarke, MS&L’s associate director of research and insights.”
Sharability Index Created to Rank Sources
In tandem with this research, MS&L developed a tool called the “IM MS&L Sharability Index,” which ranks sources of online information based on how often material from those locations is shared by a category’s most powerful influencers. The index was introduced as a method for maximizing digital influence based on learnings from the research and was designed to help marketers make decisions on influencer strategies to create campaigns for maximum impact.
The index takes into account online influencers’ propensity to both gather and share information. It also considers information sources influencers use most often and the sources with maximum “sharability,” or those most likely to be shared. The index then ranks 15 types of online sources within three distinct categories of digital influencers: Personal health, beauty and environmental cause. Sources with the highest sharability generate the most digital word-of-mouth per contact.
Specific findings about influencers and sharability, by topic :
Beauty influencers rely heavily on manufacturers’ websites for their point of view.
- Company and product websites are more effective sources for driving word-of-mouth in the beauty category than in either personal health or environmental cause.
- Online community web sites rank the highest of 15 sources for sharability among digital beauty influencers, and portals and search engines have the lowest sharability score.
- In the beauty category, consumer opinion may motivate more sharing than in other categories: Blogs, discussion boards and chat rooms are rated above average on the index.
Non-profit and academic websites should not be neglected for green content.
- ?Influencers in the environment space spend a great deal of time gathering information from non-profit, association and academic Web sites (42% do so at least once per week).
- Digital influencers in the category of environmental cause embrace traditionally credible and objective sites when it comes to sharability.
- The highest sharability scores go to websites of environment-related publications, magazines and TV networks, and non-profit/academic websites.
- Banner ads and online community sites have the lowest sharability scores, meaning that environmental influencers share information from these sources much less frequently than they do information from all other sources, relative to how often they gather information from each of these sources.
Nutrition is a hot topic for health influencers.
- Majorities of personal health influencers frequently gather information about nutrition (54%) and nearly half frequently share this content with others.
- The most sharable source among digital influencers in this category are national and local government websites, even though these sites are not as widely visited and used as other sites that provide health information.
- These websites trigger a great deal of word-of-mouth on the part of the personal health influencers who access them, so the sites may provide the biggest bang for a marketer’s digital communications buck.
- While influencers often use portals and search engines to gather health information, these are among the sources with the lowest sharability rankings.
“This research supports the need for influencer marketing campaigns to leverage both traditional and online tools to connect with consumers,” said Renee Wilson, deputy MD of MS&L New York and director of the agency’s IM MS&L practice.
About the research: Ipsos conducted the study May 7-21, 2008 among a national sample of 939 ‘digital influencers’ across three categories – beauty, personal health, and environment, who were interviewed online. Survey participants were adults aged 18 and older selected from among members of Ipsos’ US online panel based on their interest in one of the three aforementioned topics, how frequently they gather information online about that topic, and how often they pass along information gathered online about that topic to others.