Influence remains one of the hottest topics in all of marketing, with the meteoric growth of brand spending on social media influencers as the clear metric.
But who really are the most influential people in our lives? When looking for advice or recommendations, we all know the folks in our network that have the enthusiasm, expertise, and in-market experience in the category to reach out to.
We have leveraged data from our Affluent Survey to identify this powerful group of influencers. And from it, we have developed a model of influence — which we call the Affluencer Pyramid — which shows that influence can only be earned and built authentically, from the ground up, via the other four layers of the pyramid:
Engagement: To begin with, Affluencers are passionate enthusiasts who read, watch, listen to, and surf vertical category content significantly more than non-Affluencers. They stay up to date on category content and are voracious consumers of all media, from magazines to websites to consumer reviews to podcasts. They research and stay engaged almost as if it’s a job.
Affluencers in general read 1.5X as many publications as non-Affluencers, indexing 134 for time spent online, and 167 for time spent on social media. And they’re not only reading social content to enrich their expertise, they’re also posting ideas and links that express their opinions.
A very positive side effect for marketers of Affluencers’ category engagement is they also view advertising fundamentally differently — and more positively — than non-Affluencers. This makes sense, as Affluencers aim to know what’s new in their category, and marketing content helps them do that.
Affluencers over-index on the questions “Advertising helps me learn about new products and services,” “Products with great ads usually are higher quality”and “I have bought a product due to great advertising.” And they show significantly higher interest in seeing ads in nearly every platform.
Purchase Intent: Affluencers also demonstrate significantly higher purchase intent than non-Affluencers. Affluencers are significantly more likely (some categories even 4-5X more) to say they plan a category purchase in the next 12 months. They also index 228 on “Sometimes I treat myself to something even though I don’t need it,“ a good representation of their persistent intent to purchase.
Early Adoption: Affluencers are significantly more likely to be the first to try and buy new products and services (Index 234). In fact, in every category we’ve studied, it’s the Affluencers who are the first to embrace new and disruptive category offerings — and then are the ones helping to spread adoption to the early majority.
Category Expenditure: It won’t come as a surprise that Affluencers represent a hugely disproportionate amount of category spending. Intrinsic interest and enthusiasm, combined with being constantly in-market and desirous of trying new products — plus the fact that these folks are affluent — leads to category spending levels 5-10+X those of non-affluent consumers in every category we measure. These figures alone should suggest that a focus on a brand’s category Affluencers would be more than worthwhile.
Influence: Affluencers thus gain influence via these first four layers of the Affluencer Pyramid. It is through their authentically earned category expertise, in-market experience and high category spending that their advice and recommendations become in demand by others.
What’s more, it’s a virtuous circle. Non-Affluencers want the help and advice of those with so much category experience. And Affluencers like sharing their knowledge. In fact, nearly a quarter of them (23%) say they view it as their responsibility to help their friends make good purchase decisions.
And their influence is most clearly expressed via social media, where nearly a quarter of all Affluencers influence others (index 219). They demonstrate this via a number of typical social sharing behaviors.
For example, Affluencers index 203 on “commented about great product experience,” 319 on “provided informative links about products on Facebook” and a whopping 405 for “shared feedback on products and services.” It would appear that Affluencers are the REAL social influencers.