The Psychology Behind Influencer Marketing
It’s a question we hear a lot:
“Why does influencer marketing work”
Most of us know that influencer marketing can help brands reach a whole range of goals, but few truly understand why this powerful marketing tool works so much better when applied to certain scenarios.
Sure, if you just want predictable reach, then paid social media may be a better option. If you just want content then creating a detailed brief for a photographer or videographer could make your life easier. But if you really want to convince your audience to buy, it is difficult to name a more effective tool than influencer marketing.
In this article, we explore just some of the more powerful psychological reasons that influencer marketing packs a punch.
Niche Authority & Expertise
The most obvious and most commonly referenced psychological benefit of influencer marketing is the impact that authority has on consumers when it comes to making buying decisions.
Simply put, many influencers build their influence through developing their knowledge and expertise in a specific niche. This expertise translates into authority and authority offers influencers the opportunity to command obedience from their followers.
In turn, this makes recommendations from authoritative influencers very powerful.
Influencers are masters at earning trust from their audience. Although authority and expertise can help influencers develop trust, it can also be developed through building strong relationships with their audience.
By applying strong and/or agreeable personalities to build personal relationships with their audience, influencers can actually bypass the need for expertise in order to gain follower trust. In fact, many of us consciously or subconsciously consider influencers as our friends, giving their recommendations serious clout.
One example of this psychological effect can be seen in a 2013 study by Neilson. The study showered that a massive 83% of respondents said that they trust the recommendation of friends, even if that friend isn’t necessarily an expert in the area.
There is no need to go deep into the psychology in this one.
We often take influencers advice on products because we feel we simply do not have the time to do the research ourselves. Instead, we turn to influencers, many of whom we trust, to offer us the quick go-to on the best products and services to use.
In fact, we often don’t even look for a recommendation, but skim our favorite influencers posts just looking for a product or brand name that meets our needs.
The ‘Halo’ Effect
The halo effect refers to a psychological effect where we make unconscious assumptions about a person or company based on one trait that we like. In influencer marketing, this gives influencers considerable power over their followers, even in areas where they are not authoritative.
For example, you may follow an influencer who makes highly engaging action-packed videos that totally rock your world. Your love for the influencer's video creates a halo effect around anything that influencer might say - so the next time they recommend a particular brand of vacuum cleaner you run out to buy one, even though that influencer doesn’t know anything about cleaning.
Commonly, influencers rely on the halo effect of attractiveness. There is no hiding that many influencers, regardless of their niche, are physically attractive. Their influence may be gained purely through their attractiveness or maybe gained through the confidence they have by being attractive. Either way, we are psychologically programmed to trust attractive people, giving them more clout on social media.
When we are consistently exposed to content we grow accustomed to it, which in turn can impact our allegiances. This means that when we follow an influencer over a long period we begin to see their content as naturally appealing towards our own opinions, beliefs and preferences - even when we didn’t hold those same beliefs before following the account.
This type of alteration in perspective is clear in our day-to-day lives. We have all seen politicians repeating the same ‘mistruths’ over and over in the hopes of convincing people that they are actually telling the truth. Similarly, many of us form our opinions on the world based on the opinions of the friends and family who surround us.
Influencer Marketing Psychology: Summary
It is clear that influencer marketing has a powerful psychological impact on buyer behaviour. This is for several reasons, many of which we have highlighted within this guide. Ultimately, influencers can leverage the trust they have earned with their audience to help brands communicate compelling messages.
However, a high follower count doesn’t always translate to trust. It is important to assess the tone that influencers take when making recommendations and talking about brands - as if they appear ingenuine, this can have a negative impact.