Eroding Trust Changing Influencer Status, Reddit Study Finds

As trust erodes, what role does community-driven advice and recommendations play in purchase behavior?

“We’ve been dominated by search algorithms and influencers for the past five to 10 years, but consumers have started to lose trust in those channels," says Rob Gaige, Reddit head of global insights. "They understand there are competing incentives at play.”

Competing incentives like recommendations and summarizes driven by artificial intelligence (AI), as well as fake sponsored listings and reviews. 

A Reddit study released Tuesday looks at the changing role. The data shows twice as many U.S. Gen Z social-media users ages 18 to 26, said they will rely less on influencers in the coming five years.

More than half of social-media users believe bots are likely making fake product reviews on Amazon and other sites. Online communities are changing that trust factor. One in four posts on Reddit are recommendations, Gaige said.

Influencers and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms appear to steer millions of purchase decisions daily, but trust in the authenticity of the recommendations continues to erode.

In 2023, Google users added the keyword “Reddit" to searches 32 billion times as they searched for answers from “real people” rather than influencers, digital articles or sponsored listicles. 

Unlike a search engine or influencer, which are trying to guess what’s correct, communities passionate about topics have proven, per Reddit data, gives a nuanced perspective.

Reddit analyzed millions of conversations across thousands of subreddit communities and supplemented the findings with four consumer surveys with a total of 11,000 responses. It aimed to uncover the nuances that conversations and recommendations play in influencing purchase decisions. The study found that digital communities filled with passionate humans offer personalized advice. And the advice people actually follow.

Products included Consumer Electronics, Auto, Beauty, and Alcohol and Drinks.

Reports on Recommendations of Services spanned Travel, Credit Cards, Food Subscriptions, and Education Subscriptions, and Recommendations in Entertainment are upcoming.

About 40% of social media users said they first heard about products and services they purchased through a search engine, a social media influencer, or Amazon, but now they think these resources and the technology driving them are unsafe, impersonal, and untrustworthy.

Consumers are ready to speak with brands directly, and they can do that in Reddit forums. It provides an opportunity for brands to invite early adopters to test products. Some 74% of people say that Reddit is where they go to challenge their thinking and views.

Some 90% of people say that they are "open to new ideas when I’m using Reddit," and 79% of people said they have interest in seeing brands share information about their products on Reddit.

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