In Influencers We Trust: Why Influence is the Validation Engine Driving the Social Economy

If you had told people 10 years ago there would be a social networking community built around a stationary bike, they would think you were crazy. Now there’s an entire social community of instructors. Your friends are on Peloton, so you can take classes together and compete for the top spot on the leaderboard.

This is just one example of how social is permeating the entirety of our online experience and making influencers a more important part of the marketing mix than ever. Whether it’s shopping on Amazon, considering a new restaurant, or picking a movie—recommendations and reviews have become an integral part of the consumer decision-making process.

Influencers are a natural extension of the online peer-to-peer validation engine. As the world becomes more digital, consumers are looking for someone they trust to help them find the best of everything: Information, products, and resources. And since people inherently trust other people, influencers provide both trust and validation.

Despite claims that Covid had a chilling effect, the reality is that Covid moved ecommerce forward 10 years in a matter of months. In fact, the pandemic was actually a boon that made influencer marketing a crucial bridge between brands and consumers. D2C brands knew this before Covid and built their business working with influencer marketing. Now more people are online, and brands of all kinds are looking for a direct way to connect with consumers.

For a lot of big brands, marketing was viewed as something that cost the company money, whereas D2C brands saw influencer marketing as a revenue generator. With everything moving online, the big mindset shift is that even established defender brands are looking for influencer marketing to be a revenue center.

The accelerated adoption of social commerce is helping to facilitate this shift. In addition to influencers being the source of trust online and helping brands connect directly with consumers. Now new social media tools make it possible to monetize influence even more, by enabling digital creatives to drive sales directly.

They’re able to do this because they’ve built community, relationships and familiarity with their audiences—and gain the trust of these communities by sharing authentic experiences and expertise. This is an important note for brands that default to celebrities are the source of influence. Trust—not popularity—are at the heart of influence. Trust drives relevance and determines what people pay attention to, and it’s what inspires people to take action.

As the world continues to go digital, we can expect social to infiltrate every aspect of life and business. And since influencers are a direct byproduct of things becoming more social, we can expect greater reliance on influencers in the future—from brands and consumers alike. Ultimately this shift could impact how influence is monetized more broadly.

We already see this shift toward paywalled and subscription-based communities—with consumers paying their favorite influencers and subject-matter experts directly for access to exclusive content. There’s even potential for OTT or premium content to become more social, and wherever things go more social, we can expect to see the rise of new and different types of influencer marketing.

Imagine being able to attend an online watchparty with your favorite celebrity or influencer and hear their comments in real-time. We’re not there yet, but if the trend toward socializing everything holds, it’s a very real possibility.