Authenticity And Education Sway Shoppers More Than Social Media Influencers

Celebrity influencers are starting to lose their luster: shoppers are 2X as likely to order a product recommended by a friend on social media rather than by an influencer or celebrity, according to Sprout Social. Additionally, 61% of consumers said they’d be more likely to research a product or service recommended on social by a friend, compared to 36% for a post from an influencer.

The key to creating social media content that resonates with shoppers is authenticity, according to Rachael Samuels, Social Media Manager at Sprout Social. A strong content strategy should educate customers and make them want to share because they support the brand, not because they’ve been influenced by the rewards or see a post from someone famous.


“I think audiences can sense when something’s authentic,” said Samuels in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “When you want someone to share something, really setting the stage for the story and what makes it authentic — that really can inspire people to share in and of itself. To say ‘Hey, full transparency, we’re really excited for this and want to share it with you.’”

While influencers with enormous followings still have their place, retailers are increasingly interested in smaller players. Loot Crate used influencers to build its brand, but the retailer has switched its focus to micro-influencers who command smaller audiences but higher loyalty.

Additionally, 70% of social marketers use employees as influencers or advocates, or want to do so in the future. Retailers can tap the enthusiasm of their most devoted workers to develop a network of social media boosters who make up for their limited reach with personal authenticity.

“It’s not necessarily someone who has a high social reach, but it is someone who is in your network that you genuinely trust,” said Samuels. “I think leaning on all of your employees, not influencers, is the way to go.”

Moving away from influencers also can offer financial benefits — only 19% of marketers surveyed by Sprout Social had the budget for an influencer program. Approximately 1% to 11% of shoppers actually consume influencer content, depending on the platform, and 3X as many consumers prefer seeing posts that announce what is happening at the retailer than company posts featuring influencers or celebrities.

Shoppers Want An Education

Even as retailers shift toward employee advocates and micro-influencers, they should keep the content shoppers want to see in mind. Approximately 30% of shoppers want to see posts with links to more information, while 18% like graphics and images and 17% look for videos. In terms of content, customers are looking for:

  • 72%: Information about discounts or sales;
  • 60%: Showcases of new products or services;
  • 59%: Posts that teach something;
  • 56%: Posts that entertain; and
  • 49%: Posts that inspire.

However, fun and education will only bring customers so far. Retailers must turn the social media interest they develop into genuine loyalty, and give their social media followers a reason to become shoppers.

“You can’t build an entire social strategy around discounts,” said Samuels. “What you have to do is set the stage for awareness of your brand, bring people into consideration by teaching them something, by inspiring them to do something and by talking to them about the things they love, so when the discounts do come along, they still want to use them.”

Ultimately, retailers need to consider their audience when developing a social media strategy. Companies should start with a listening strategy to understand what platforms their customers use and what content resonates most strongly, then formulate outreach that builds on their brand values.

“The most important thing is relevance,” said Samuels. “Things that can directly tie to the conversations you’re having about your brand, the way you’ve positioned your brand and the things that are relevant to the end consumer — that is what’s going to make a post feel authentic and like it’s genuinely coming from the people that are behind the brand.”



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