New Research Shows Micro-influencers Drive Consumer Buying Behavior at Much Higher Rates Than Previously Thought

A first-of-its-kind study was released today to examine how micro-influencers are driving buying behavior and by measuring the volume and impact of their recommendations on consumers. The study was conducted by Dr. Jonah Berger, bestselling author of the book Contagious: Why Things Catch On and a marketing professor at the Wharton School, in partnership with the Keller Fay Group, the leading authority on word of mouth marketing research. The study was funded by Experticity, the largest network of influential category influencers.


With the concept of influencer marketing quickly growing from a buzzword to a full-fledged industry, the results of this study will be important to marketers struggling to find a more holistic view of how micro-influencers directly impact consumer buying behavior. The survey shows that micro-influencers are a reliable and credible channel that has a real impact in swaying consumer behavior. Micro-influencers are not traditional celebrities, but rather individuals who work in their category or are truly knowledgeable, passionate and authentic and are seen as a trusted source when it comes to recommendations for what to buy.


One of the most interesting study findings was that according to the data, these influencers have up to 22.2 times more conversations each week regarding recommendations on what to buy versus an average consumer. Demonstrating the high impact of these recommendations, 82 percent of consumers who were surveyed for the study, reported they were highly likely to follow a recommendation made by a micro influencer.


“Many marketers today try to use celebrities as their influencer marketing solution, but they are missing out on a much bigger opportunity,” said Brad Fay, co-founder, COO and lead researcher of the Keller Fay Group. “Our research shows that real life influencers who are passionate about what they are recommending have significantly more buying conversations, and consumers are more likely to act on their recommendations.”


“The growing importance of influencer marketing has led marketers to openly question exactly how impactful word of mouth is when coming from different types of consumers,” said Dr. Berger. “This study has helped illuminate who has the greatest impact and why, which is a great tool for marketers as they try to harness the power of influencer marketing.”


“In the democratized world of the Internet, everyone has a forum to give their opinion on just about anything. When anyone can give an opinion, regardless of how much they know about the subject, the real question becomes whose recommendation is authentic and credible? Marketers must understand this in order to figure out how to cut through the noise,” said Tom Stockham, CEO at Experticity. “Thanks to the strong work of Dr. Berger and Brad Fay, who used their expertise on viral marketing and word of mouth marketing to design this research, we now know a lot more about out why certain opinions matter more than others. Their research also shows how for consumers, the most credible and influential recommendations come straight from the people we trust who we see as real life influencers due to expertise or passion.”


A unique element of the study was that in addition to interviewing influencers, the researchers also interviewed the consumers who received advice.


Additional key findings from the study included:


  • Not only do these influencers have more buying conversations, they are more direct in their recommendations with 74 percent encouraging someone to “buy it or try it” compared to 66 percent of the general population who encouraged those actions in their recommendations.
  • 87 percent of the buying recommendations they make are happening face to face.
  • According to people receiving advice, influencers were seen as more impactful compared to an average person based on the following characteristics: more credible and believable (94 percent vs. 83 percent), more knowledgeable (94 percent vs. 84 percent) and better at explaining how the product works or could be used (92 percent vs. 83 percent).


The study was specifically designed to examine how and why micro-influencers are more influential than the average consumer. This unprecedented study format randomly surveyed Experticity’s unpaid network of micro-influencers from across the United States about the number of product-related conversations they have with consumers each week compared to a control group of average consumers. Researchers then surveyed consumers who received those recommendations to measure the weight of the recommendation and the outcome.