Trust: it’s a vital part of our everyday lives. We trust banks with our money, pilots to keep planes in the air, and just about everybody to drive their cars with some competence (we hope they will, at least). Sometimes we trust our friends with secrets, and other times we just trust them to pick us up from the airport on time.
Trust isn’t just some abstract concept, though. Our brain chemistry determines whether or not we trust someone. The hormone oxytocin is known to control attachment; the most common example is the kind of attachment parents feel towards their children. But in 2008, a study found that oxytocin can help dissuade feelings of distrust. People are more likely to trust those they develop a bond with, even if it’s just a temporary one.
Marketers know that trust is at the heart of their business. You’re more likely to convert a customer if they trust the brand you’re pitching. So how do you leverage the neurology of trust and distrust to your advantage? The answer lies in a new field that’s become prominent with the rise of social media: influencer marketing.
What exactly is an influencer?
From makeup tutorials to home cooking to parental advice, there is no shortage of influencer-made content on social media. These social media entrepreneurs, which you’ll commonly find on Instagram, Twitch, and YouTube, are extremely popular and have hundreds of thousands of followers, but they are different from typical celebrities. They’re successful because they resonate with an audience looking for a relatable expert voice in a particular niche.
Gaming influencers, for example, stream and discuss the games they’re playing. Not all of them are necessarily masters or even good at the video games they’re playing, but they have one thing in common: they’re experts and they’re popular. That sounds contradictory though, doesn’t it? How can a gaming streamer be both an expert and bad at some of the games they play?
Take the Game Grumps: Arin and Dan, the pair behind the moniker, stream both new and classic video games. It doesn’t always go smoothly, though, and they often lose or die many times before they beat the game (if they do at all). But they’re experts in entertaining their viewers and offering recommendations to fellow gamers.
This is true of influencers across the board. They aren’t always the best at what they do and they don’t always pull off their projects perfectly. After all, they’re only human. But that’s their secret weapon. Their followers are looking for someone relatable, someone like them who can offer entertaining and useful advice… someone they can trust!
What does this have to do with my business?
Celebrity endorsements have been a mainstay of the marketing world for decades. Attaching a celebrity’s likeness to a product helps increase its recognition with consumers and boosts sales. But this is an era in which consumers watch a TV ad and think, “Am I supposed to believe Idris Elba uses a $10 razor?” Maybe he’s frugal. And maybe these ads are right for your product. But according to The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report, consumers’ trust in brands is sliding. Idris Elba is famous and also shaves his face sometimes, but if you’re looking to increase public trust in your brand, influencer marketing may be the route to take.
Because they operate in the fluid space of social media, influencers don’t play by the “old rules” of marketing. An influencer might use the product during the course of their content or actively promote it in one of their videos. Because they work with an accessible medium, they can bring a more interactive touch to the campaign and answer their subscribers’ questions. They regularly reply to comments on their content or even respond to them in videos.
The effectiveness of influencer marketing comes down to trust. Just like they would listen to a recommendation from a close friend, followers take influencer recommendations seriously. According to the Edelman report, 63 percent of consumers put “much more” trust in influencers’ opinions of products than in marketing from the brand itself. Nearly the same percentage made a purchase based on influencer recommendations. Influencers don’t just give your product visibility, but credibility within their niche.
However, you can’t simply pay influencers to say nice things about your product. If it’s flawed or inferior, there’s a good chance you’ll hear about it from the influencer. They’ve built their following through years of work and honest opinions, so they’ll avoid promoting things that could break their followers’ trust.
In a time when brands can become untrustworthy with a single tweet, having influencers on your side can give your product and company credibility. It all comes down to trust. By making use of influencer marketing, you can show potential customers that your brand deserves theirs.