While influencers may help brands promote their products, what are consumers’ perceptions of social media influencers, and do they trust the products they sell?

Should UK SMEs use influencer marketing?

With businesses turning to social media platforms to reach new audiences and drive brand awareness, some small to midsize enterprises (SMEs) are recruiting brand influencers to market their products or services. Influencer marketing tools may help SMEs make the most of their social media marketing campaigns by driving web traffic, increasing customer engagement, and influencing sales. However, how do consumers feel about this type of marketing? What precautions should businesses take when incorporating influencers into their brand marketing strategies?

Capterra interviewed 1,013 UK online consumers who regularly use social media to discover the impact brand influencers have on their purchase behaviour. The full methodology is at the bottom of this article. 

Most know what an influencer is, but younger generations are more likely to be followers

Influencers have been around for several years now, which is reflected in the fact that 89% of our survey respondents said they are familiar with the concept of social media influencers. Familiarity is even higher among younger generations. When reviewing the results by age group, we saw that 95% of Generation Z respondents and 92% of millennials knew of the concept. 

What is influencer marketing?

Gartner defines influencer marketing as a ‘type of social media marketing that involves mentions and endorsements of brands and/or products by individuals who exert influence on a particular audience due to their perceived expertise, trustworthiness or popularity.’

Commonly known as influencers, these content creators use social media, personal blogs, or other mediums to share their opinions and can influence the consumption patterns of their audience. Companies sometimes solicit influencers for commercial or advertising purposes to act as brand ambassadors. 

Most Gen Z respondents who know about social media influencers are followers, while baby boomers are far less active

Of the respondents who knew the concept, 53% said they followed influencers on social media. Yet again, the numbers varied depending on the generation. 84% of Generation Z respondents and 68% of millennials followed influencers. The numbers were strikingly lower for Generation X (27%) and baby boomers (11%).

Do consumers follow social media influencers?

Businesses should look at the demographics and profile of their target audience to understand better whether influencer marketing can appeal to their customers. Social media analytics and web analytics tools can help businesses understand who engages with their brand and on which platform. This information can then be leveraged to develop market segmentation strategies to deliver targeted and fine-tuned campaigns. 

Instagram and Youtube are the most prominent networks for influencer marketing

There are over 57 million social media users in the UK. These users access content over different channels. According to the online consumers we surveyed, the most popular channels are Facebook (77%), YouTube (73%), and Instagram (58%). 

However, usage varies depending on age groups, most notably with Gen Z most commonly using YouTube, closely followed by Instagram, and TikTok coming in third place, ahead of Facebook.

Influencers can use the multiple channels available on social media to reach out to their audiences. Interestingly, our respondents who followed influencers have different preferences in channels when it came to accessing influencer content. 

Instagram (55%) and YouTube (44%) are the channels most commonly used by this group of respondents to follow influencers, while it appears LinkedIn (6%) is not such a popular platform for this type of use. 

On what platforms do consumers follow brand influencers?

Again, generational differences came into play when we analysed the results. When exploring different preferences according to age, we saw that even though Generation Z respondents also most frequently use Instagram (65%) to follow influencers, TikTok (58%) is the second most popular choice as opposed to YouTube (47%).

Consequently, while Instagram appears to be the most popular social media platform to follow influencers, businesses may want to use more than one platform and should identify their market demographics and understand their preferences before choosing where to deploy influencer marketing strategies.

Fashion and lifestyle are the most followed topics

Businesses considering developing an influencer marketing strategy need to understand what subjects UK consumers who follow influencers are most interested in and how relevant their products and services are to these audiences. Our survey looked at the preferences and behaviour of this group of respondents. We found the overwhelming majority followed multiple influencers —with over a third (37%) following more than eight.

But what topics are influencer followers interested in? Both fashion and lifestyle influencers proved popular for around half of followers, while creators of food and cooking content and those who focused on health and wellbeing each attract 41% of this sample group.

subject niches for influencer marketing strategies

Again, there were generational differences in the top three results:

  • Gen Z subscribers mainly follow lifestyle (60%), fashion (57%), and music (50%) influencers 
  • Millennials are interested in fashion (49%), lifestyle (44%), and food and cooking (41%)
  • Gen X prefer lifestyle (50%), health and wellness (48%), and fashion (44%)
  • Boomers like lifestyle (67%), travel (50%), and health and wellness (50%) 

46% of respondents follow influencers for entertainment

When trying to pinpoint the reasons why people follow influencers, we asked our respondents who subscribed to these content creators why they did so. Our survey-takers predominantly said they followed influencers for entertainment (46%) and to get inspiration on ideas they were interested in, such as fashion, food, and fitness (45%).

How CRM can help companies understand consumer behaviour

If companies want to develop an influencer marketing strategy, they should consider analysing customer relationship management (CRM) data to learn more about their target audience. Businesses can leverage CRM tools to collect data from customer interactions, behaviour, and preferences to understand how consumers navigate through social media. With this information, they can make data-driven decisions based on the insights they receive.

By understanding their customer’s habits, businesses can more effectively identify their needs and tailor their social media campaigns or live-stream shopping events and collaborations with influencers to adjust to their target audience. 

Trust and credibility are crucial when choosing an influencer

Trust is essential when building a relationship between a customer and a brand, and this also applies to a consumer’s relationship with influencers. A combined 48% of followers said they trusted influencers advertising a product either ‘somewhat’ or ‘a lot’. 

Additionally, 38% of respondents had a neutral stance when it came to trusting influencers advertising a product or service, with 14% somewhat distrusting them and 2% not trusting them at all. But what could condition some consumers not to trust influencers?

Our survey revealed that  48% of respondents who had made a purchase due to the influence of someone they followed said they had been disappointed with a product or service they had been influenced to buy. 

A gap between expectations and reality can result in an unsatisfactory purchase and is echoed to some extent in the top reasons non-followers give for their lack of interest in influencers. 56% of these respondents said they don't follow influencers because the life they show on social media is unrealistic, and 53% simply do not trust sponsored opinions.

What elements affect trust in influencer marketing?

SMEs looking to invest in influencer marketing should understand the importance of transparency, credibility, and trust when choosing influencers and planning campaigns. Not only that, it is also essential to focus on the quality of a product. Businesses should provide guidance to influencers on how to accurately represent the product they are showcasing and what key features to highlight. 

If an influencer is knowledgeable about a product or service, this helps to transmit credibility, which 35% of followers chose as a key element of trustworthiness. Another 25% said they turned to user reviews and feedback to back up their trust in an advertised product or service. 

Leverage user reviews to build trust

User reviews can help potential customers trust your brand. Businesses can leverage review management tools to monitor, manage, and respond to customers’ comments. Even negative reviews can provide an opportunity for companies to demonstrate their commitment to help unsatisfied clients through customer support and to learn from their mistakes. 

However, are there certain things that influencers do that negatively affect consumer trust? When we asked our respondents to identify the top elements that can make an influencer seem untrustworthy, 38% of respondents said influencers who value quantity over quality seemed less trustworthy. If an influencer is marketing too many brands at once, this can not only dilute the impact of a particular promotion but may give the impression they are solely motivated by money.

Also, 28% of respondents said that when an influencer noticeably lacked experience or professionalism, this also eroded trust. Businesses should remember this when deciding which influencer to choose for campaigns and consider whether, in their industry, expertise will play a more significant role than popularity in driving the best results. 

What do consumers dislike about influencer marketing?

Even influencer followers can be put off by certain traits of influencer marketing. 43% of these respondents said an aspect of following influencers they disliked is that influencers can sometimes sell products they themselves do not use or believe in. 

Additionally, 40% of respondents disapproved of the false image influencers sometimes portray, such as promoting beauty products or standards when they have had surgery or using photos that have been edited. Furthermore, 37% of respondents did not like how the life influencers portray on social media is unrealistic and unattainable for many followers.

Businesses should take heed of this information when choosing an influencer, reviewing their content and ensuring that it aligns with their brand and the image they seek to portray.

One in two followers are more likely to buy from a brand that partners with an influencer

Despite expressing reservations about how some influencers promote products, over half of our surveyed influencer followers (55%) said they are more likely to buy from a brand that partners with an influencer.

is there a benefit to influencer marketing?

Breaking these results down by generation, we saw that millennials are the most likely to be influenced by this strategy, with 62% saying that a partnership between a brand and an influencer can encourage them to buy a product. Boomers were the least likely to buy a product due to this type of marketing partnership, with only 33% saying it would influence their decision to purchase. 

Influencer marketing still has to compete with other advertising strategies

Influencer marketing is just one of several promotional strategies available to businesses, so we wanted to guage how much survey respondents trusted this approach in comparison with other advertising methods. From our results, we saw that while 32% of respondents deemed recommendations from influencers more trustworthy than adverts via online banners (31%) or product placements (31%), it was also the advertising method that was most distrusted (36%).

Influencer marketing strategies compared to other online and traditional advertising

The most trusted way of promoting a product is still through word of mouth via friends or family, with 78% of survey-takers saying they ‘somewhat’ or ‘strongly’ trusted this type of recommendation.

Key takeaway and tips for your influencer marketing strategy

Our results indicate that while influencer marketing is a promising tool for brands who want to engage with consumers through a new channel, it is important to have a clear understanding of a brand’s target audience when evaluating the suitability of deploying an influencer marketing strategy. 

Finding the right influencer to engage these consumers is obviously key. Influencer marketing software can help organisations discover, develop, and track relationships with prominent or niche influencers who can produce content that helps promote brands to their followers.

When choosing an influencer to partner with, brands should consider the following:

  • Identify which social media channel(s) your target audience uses to follow influencers before looking for a content creator with high engagement rates on those platforms
  • Review and research the influencer’s content to see how well it aligns with your brand identity, voice, and values.
  • Consider partnering with an expert who attracts a niche audience in your sector and who values quality over quantity when it comes to recommending products or services
  • Determine a budget and resource allocation and establish clear expectations with the influencer when setting objectives and strategic goals

Influencers can help businesses achieve marketing objectives via different channels and formats. One of these formats is live commerce events. In the second part of our survey, we analyse consumer perceptions of live commerce events and the opportunities these provide for small businesses.

Looking for influencer marketing software? Check out our catalogue!


Data for Capterra’s Live Commerce and Influencers Survey was collected in April 2023. Results comprise responses from 1,013 participants in the United Kingdom. The criteria to be selected for this study are as follows:

  • UK resident
  • Between 18 and 65 years of age
  • Shops online at least every couple of months
  • Uses social media platforms at least a few times per month

Survey respondents were given the following definition of a social media influencer:

‘An influencer is a person who uses a personal blog and/or any other medium (e.g., an account on social media) to disseminate his or her opinions to internet users and can influence them by changing their consumption patterns. Sometimes solicited by companies for commercial or advertising purposes, the influencer acts as an ambassador. Their power of influence depends on their popularity, expertise on a given subject and the scope of their target.’