Despite the Critiques, Gen Z Swears by Influencer Marketing

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

three big influencers on tiktok
@DixieDamelio, @NoahBeck, @Jaclynrjohnson

After an influx of scandals, some reports suggest that beauty influencers have run their course. Just look at the de-influcing trend—people are outwardly expressing frustration with the sheer amount of sponsored content being pushed on every social media platform. Others are questioning the pervasive misleading reviews and undisclosed advertisements.

That said, the money flowing into the industry, paints a different picture. Even as companies slash their marketing budgets, they are still setting aside cash for creators. An Influencer Marketing Hub survey found that 23% of brands dedicated at least 40% of their entire marketing budget to influencer content. And the industry is set to reach $21 this year. A January report from shopping platform LTK, which surveyed 1,018 people, found that both Gen Z and millennials consider seeing a product from influencers as more persuasive than other forms of advertising.

So how do we explain these two conflicting signals?

For starters, Gen Z has historically been hard to reach with advertising, and ads coming from influencers are no exception. A 2022 study from digital consumer research firm Bulbshare found that 84% of Gen Z no longer trust influencers. But consumer trends point to the consistent effectiveness of creator-led campaigns. LTK’s survey found that 79% of Gen Z respondents said their shopping was informed by social media. Brands like the fashion companies Selkie and Shein have seen sales explode after strategic partnerships with TikTok influencers.

That said, a looming recession, does lead people to be more particular about what they buy. Consumer price increases have slightly slowed down, but prices for products like apparel are still high. If people are reducing their spending, some have argued that influencers, who make their living off of other people’s purchasing habits, will lose their social significance.

Again, the evidence suggests the opposite to be true. People working with a budget want to make more informed decisions. When they, for example, walk into Sephora, they want to know that they aren’t going to waste $40 on a bad foundation. This is why influencers aren’t going anywhere: people who hunt for the best product before buying something are going to come across an influencer’s TikTok video or Instagram post. Seeing a video doesn’t always lead to a purchase, but people might find the information persuasive enough.

Another alternative is the rise in micro-influencers—people who have cultivated a more personable sense of trust instead of someone with millions of followers. With more people using TikTok as a search engine, the time seems ripe for influencer marketing to help consumers navigate their course.

Not only did the LTK survey find that 44% of Gen Z’s in-store shopping is informed by creator-recommended products, but they are also more likely to search for product information from an influencer instead of a brand’s website.

Which is to say, even those with disdain for influencer culture have likely been inundated with the trendy products they push. All the evidence points to influencers being one of the most persuasive tools in marketing—and you’d be foolish to think that recent developments are signs of trouble.

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