New data released by Matter Communications – a Brand Elevation Agency specializing in PR, creative services and digital marketing – reveals consumers are spending more time and increasingly engaging with influencers on social platforms during COVID-19 social distancing restrictions. The data shows the majority of consumers find these influencers’ content appropriate and helpful – with an overwhelming trust in influencer content over posts from brands, impacting purchasing behaviors.

Matter surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. consumers in May to uncover how COVID-19 has impacted social media consumption, influencer perceptions and purchasing habits.

Less Face Time Means More Screen Time.

Since social distancing restrictions started, consumers are spending more time engaging with social platforms and seeing more content from influencers, as a result.

  • 63% have spent more time viewing and/or posting on social platforms
  • 50% have spent more time viewing live-stream social content
  • 55% of consumers ages 18-29 are viewing more live-stream content
  • 58% of consumers are noticing more sponsored content from influencers

The good news for brands already utilizing influencers is that most appear to be striking the right tone during COVID-19, offering useful content that doesn’t rub consumers the wrong way:

  • Only 19% feel influencer content has been “tone-deaf and/or unhelpful”

“Brands of all sizes are grappling with how to shift or amplify their marketing, PR and social media strategies to adapt right now, and a challenge for many is how to authentically connect with consumers,” said Matter President Mandy Mladenoff. “Our data makes one thing clear: influencer marketing presents a unique and timely opportunity for companies to engage with a thoughtful, nuanced approach.”

Influencers vs. Brands: Who Do People Trust?

When it comes to brand, product or service recommendations, consumers continue to place their trust in friends, family and influencers over brands.

  • 61% are likely to trust recommendations from a friend, family member or influencer on social platforms
    • Only 38% are likely to trust recommendations from a brand on social platforms
  • Trust in recommendations from friends, family members and influencers shared via social posts is strongest among younger audiences:
    • 66% of consumers ages 18-29
    • 61% of consumers ages 30-44
    • 60% of consumers ages 45-60
    • 53% of consumers over 60

When looking at the categories of content respondents prefer to follow, Matter examined which types of influencers resonate across health and wellness, beauty and personal care, food and beverage, baby and kids, personal technology and consumer goods:

  • Consumers prefer influencers with relatable personalities (60%-70% of each category) followed by expert personalities (50%-58% of each category).
  • Only 17%-22% of consumers prefer celebrity influencers over personalities seen as either aspirational, relatable, expert, “just for fun” or well-known non-celebrity individuals, like authors or public figures.

Influencers Are Driving the Conversation—And Sales.

A sweeping majority of consumers have had some part of their buying journey impacted by influencer content.

  • 82% have either purchased, researched or considered purchasing a product or service after seeing friends, family or influencers post about it.
  • Consumers are most interested in seeing influencer posts about:
    • Food and beverage (56%)
    • Health and wellness (48%)
    • Personal technology (45%)
    • Consumer goods (40%)
    • Beauty and personal care (33%)
    • Baby and kids (13%)
  • Of these content categories, consumers are most likely to act on (purchase, research, spread the word or consider) influencer posts about:
    • Food & beverage (51%)
    • Health & wellness (39%)
    • Personal technology (37%)

“Consumers trust influencers who serve as positive, relatable resources and help inform their buying decisions,” added Mladenoff. “However, brands shouldn’t worry – they just need to focus on compelling, strategic programs with influencers to further reach the right audience at the right time.”

For more than 15 years, Matter has driven results for brands looking to tap influencers and extend their reach to consumers. The agency’s influencer programs are custom-built and scalable based on budget and business needs.