Social Influencers vs. the Meta-Analysis

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By: Dr. James McFarland, People Scientist

I know we’ve covered the value of social media and impact of influencers in the past, but the release of a new meta-analysis on this topic brings fresh insights and evidence to the table. So we’re revisiting this subject to ensure marketing and brand leaders – like you – are well equipped for the coming year’s marketing strategies.

A recent meta-analysis of 53 studies revealed there are two main factors that determine the success of influencer marketing campaigns: Source Credibility, and Congruity. Let’s dive into it! 

Source Credibility

Source credibility refers to the trustworthiness, believability, and expertise of social media influencers in marketing campaigns. It’s an important concept, because it helps consumers decide whether the information they’re receiving from influencers is going to be reliable, accurate, and valuable to their lives.

One way to evaluate source credibility is to assess the influencer’s credentials. Are they an established expert in the field or subject matter they’re covering? Do they have the education and/or experience to back up their claims? It’s kind of like when you’re looking for a good doctor – you want a professional who truly knows their stuff, not just someone who watched a few episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Second, you should study the consistency and accuracy of evidence the influencer typically provides to support their material. Is their content typically based on facts and real-life expertise, or are they randomly making things up as they go along? The more their opinions are informed by legitimate data and real-life experiences, the more audiences believe in their authority – and greater likelihood that their perspective is believable enough to expand a brand’s following. 

Third (and this one is a bit squishier), you need to evaluate an influencer’s likability. The rapport they’ve established with their followers. It’s not only important that their content feels credible, but their persona should come across as trustworthy. (i.e., Do they establish a sense of genuine goodwill and camaraderie with viewers? Are they transparent about their endorsements?) This can make or break influencer credibility, so it’s important to research reputation and sociability before choosing your next brand ambassador. 

Pizza Hut’s collaboration with The Sidemen, a group of YouTube gaming influencers, provides a fantastic example of effectively utilizing source credibility. By hosting a gaming tournament in a local Pizza Hut and organizing other promotional events with these popular gamers, the brand witnessed a substantial boost in engagement among Gen Z, reaching an impressive 1.4 million in followership. This partnership enabled Pizza Hut to tap into The Sidemen’s credibility with their massive fanbase and connect with a younger demographic. 


The second factor to up your influencer game is Congruity. Congruity refers to the consistency and harmony between the influencer’s personal brand, values, and content, and the brand or product they are promoting. It might seem simple, but it is vitally important that an influencer’s message, lifestyle, and personal ethos aligns with a brand’s message to create a genuine and believable promotion. This alignment helps to build trust with the audience. Because if the influencer is trustworthy, fans can in-turn trust the products, services, or campaigns they support.

A great example of congruity can be found in Spotify’s exclusive partnership with Emma Chamberlain, a popular YouTuber and social media influencer known for her relatable content and approachable “anything goes” attitude. This exclusive partnership more than doubled Chamberlain’s listenership, and her show quickly became one of Spotify’s top four podcasts by the end of 2022.

In conclusion, maximizing your social media campaigns through influencer marketing requires a deep understanding of your target audience, the influencer, and the relationship that they share. By partnering with credible and congruent influencers, you can achieve remarkable results and elevate your marketing efforts to new heights.

Happy Marketing!

-Dr. James