Friends make influencers more engaging
Influencer posts are more effective when they include or refer to their friends or family. People were 95% more likely to like such posts.
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Researchers from Stanford and Rice University looked at over 55,000 Instagram posts from 763 influencers to see what made posts successful.
Were the influencers alone? Or were they with their close friends or family?
Turns out, it makes a much bigger difference than we thought.
P.S.: When influencers tell stories like a friend, as compared to sharing information like an opinion leader, they drive more sales.
Influencer posts get better engagement when they highlight close social relations
Channels: Influencer marketing | Social Media | Content
Research date: March 2023
Ask influencers you work with to mention or include 1 or 2 of their close friends or family. They will feel more relatable and authentic, and will be more effective.
Influencer posts on Instagram received more engagement when they included 1 or 2 close social relations of the influencer.
In an analysis of over 55,000 Instagram posts from 763 top influencers, researchers found that:
Mentioning a close social relationship (e.g. bestie, mate, family) increased engagement on the posts by 8.67%
A post with 2 people received 28.7% more likes than a post with 4 or more people
Two additional experiments found that:
People were 95% more likely to like posts mentioning a close social relationship (e.g. daughter, friend) as compared to a distant relationship (e.g. designer, entrepreneur) in the caption and hashtags
Influencers are also more effective when they:
Are vulnerable and express emotions, including negative ones (e.g. frustration, sadness)
Use first-person pronouns (e.g. I, we, us)
🧠 Why it works
Being open and sharing personal moments with close relations is a key way to show authenticity.
So we view influencers as warmer, as well as more friendly and helpful.
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The researchers only looked at posts on Instagram. This wasn’t tested on other platforms, like TikTok or LinkedIn, but the human relations dynamic is likely to remain similar.
The study looked at celebrities and influencers from various professions, focusing on macro-influencers (those with at least 7 million followers). Mid-size or micro-influencers were not tested, but the effect is probably similar, since other research indicates micro-influencers are best suited to drive sales.
The research focused on engagement, specifically likes, on influencer posts themselves. It did not measure sales of promoted products or any effect on the pages of these brands (e.g. more followers).
🏢 Companies using this
Gigi Hadid shares personal moments in her campaign with Coca-Cola, such as making dinner with her close friends.
⚡ Steps to implement
Include 1 or 2 close friends or family in videos or images, or talk about them in posts or captions.
To maximize effectiveness, try to also:
Keep text captions short and minimize the number of mentions and hashtags.
Use multiple pictures per post (e.g. slideshows)
Post on weekends
Use first-person pronouns
Talk about emotions and feelings
🔍 Study type
Online experiments and market observation (analysis of 55,631 Instagram posts from 763 Influencers)
I Really Know You: How Influencers Can Increase Audience Engagement by Referencing Their Close Social Ties. Journal of Consumer Research (March 2023)
Remember: This is a new scientific discovery. In the future it will probably be better understood and could even be proven wrong (that’s how science works). It may also not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.
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