According to a survey conducted by PING Helsinki, young people are behaving very differently in social media compared to older generations. They trust social media influencers even more than traditional advertising. Under 25-year-olds are very devoted to influencers’ contents whereas over 55-year-olds are more critical.
Young people, aged 15-24, are significantly more committed to social media influencers than older age groups. They follow influencers more regularly, engage more actively in their content and trust the influencers more. For a young social media user influencer is like a friend whose opinions and recommendations are trusted. Older age groups, especially those over the age of 55, are not so familiar with influencers and therefore it is harder for them to trust the content influencers’ are sharing.
Hanna Reinikainen, a doctoral researcher at the School of Economics at the University of Jyväskylä, says that the difference can be explained by the divergences on how different age groups use social media.
“The youth has a strong and very interactive relationship with influencers, which seems to build trust. The age group aged 55+ does not have that kind of relationship with influencers so the trust doesn’t necessarily develop”, says Reinikainen.
Social media influencers have power especially over young people’s behavior. Almost half of the young respondents say that the influencers’ content has affected their behavior not only in everyday decisions but also in topics such as climate change, education, career choices and elections. Older generations feel that influencers don’t have that much influence in social matters.
Social media usage has increased in every channel, especially in YouTube, which has gained popularity among all age groups. It can be said that YouTube has become the mass media of the whole nation in Finland. Young people use YouTube several times a day and as much as 76% of people aged 55+ at least once a month.
Almost a third of those under the age of 34 listen to podcasts on a weekly basis. Particularly popular are influencers’ podcasts. Newer channels such as TikTok and Twitch are also followed at least once a month by more than a quarter of under 24-year-olds.
For the study, Finns aged 15-65 were interviewed about the use of social media and following influencers. The data collection was carried out from April 17 to April 30, 2019 through a web panel. There were a total of 1027 respondents. The sample is representative of the respondents by sex, age and place of residence. The data was collected by Norstat Oy. The research was funded by the Media Industry Research Foundation of Finland and commissioned by PING Helsinki.