Are social media influencers beneficial to society?
- According to Forbes, social media influencers are people who “have large audiences of followers on their social media accounts, and they leverage this to influence or persuade this following to buy certain products or services.”
- Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo was ranked by visualcapitalist.com as the number-one social media influencer in the world, with 517 million followers across all social media.
- A 2020 BusinessWire survey found that 61% of respondents are “likely to trust recommendations” from friends, family, and social media influencers, while only 38% trusted advice from brands themselves.
- The Federal Trade Commission’s 2019 guide for social media influencers, Disclosures 101, states that an influencer must disclose when they have any “financial, employment, personal, or family relationship with a brand” to comply with “laws against deceptive ads.”
According to studies, it is evident that the most effective way to reach out to millennials is via social media. Social media influencers are trusted based on their reputation, predictability, and competence. Therefore, if they are marketing something good for society, such as tourism in rural areas, helping small businesses gain traction or ecological sustainability, they are extremely effective.
Anyone can be an influencer, and it is a science as well as an art to build an audience and then influence them into buying what you are selling—whether it be a product or an idea. The force of persuasion has been proven in studies to be more powerful than what is known as the “share voice” and can create loyal, lifelong followers. Changing people’s minds to think and agree with your idea is much more powerful than simply bombarding them with marketing advertisements.
Additionally, because social media influencers are often regular, ordinary people—as opposed to being a celebrity or a politician—they are more relatable. The average person is looking for a genuine, authentic voice to follow—someone who has real-life experience similar to their own. This facilitates a sense of community and fosters connectivity between people.
People used to say that traditional Word of Mouth (WOM) was the best way people spread good information, but thanks to influencer marketing, the WOM method now has the biggest outreach opportunity imaginable. Generation Y, another name for Millennials, is the hero generation and the most educated to date, and they have the most purchasing power and are the most active on social media. So, when media influencers are using their power for good, then yes, it is extremely beneficial to society to use them. They are the new leaders to follow.
Social media users can experience low self-esteem when they compare themselves to influencers, who carefully curate their output to appear to have the perfect life and perfect physical appearance. Federation University in Australia has found that viewing Instagram posts related to beauty and fitness decreases users’ perception of their own attractiveness.
Influencers are known for sharing inaccurate health information, especially related to weight loss, and they are not required to have certifications or relevant degrees to post health advice. The University of Glasgow conducted a study measuring popular influencers against criteria that included transparency, nutritionally sound recipe recommendations, and providing evidence to back up their claims. The study found that “just one out of nine leading UK bloggers making weight management claims actually provided accurate and trustworthy information,” according to The Independent.
Since influencers are often sponsored to promote a certain product, their followers cannot know whether it is a genuine recommendation. Reality star Scott Disick provided an embarrassing example in 2016 when he accidentally copy-and-pasted instructions sent to him by sponsor Bootea (a weight loss supplement) into the caption of an Instagram post, exemplifying how little some influencers actually care about the products they promote.
Influencers convince their audience that purchasing certain products can improve their lives, which can fool their followers into wasting money on ineffective, unneeded, and/or overpriced items. By snapping a picture of themselves fully made-up and smiling while holding a product, influencers seem to be saying, “Buy this, and you’ll be as happy and beautiful as me!” To an audience afflicted with the low self-esteem influencers contribute to, it can be hard to resist purchasing no matter the price.