'Digital Influencers' Get Info from Magazines, TV First

MS&L Survey Shows Traditional Media Still Matters

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Those all-important "digital influencers" actually get their information from magazines, newspapers, TV and radio.

That's according to an MS&L survey whose results will be released tomorrow. The study, developed by MS&L's influencer-marketing unit IM, reveals that some 84% of digital influencers go online to find out more about something only after first reading about it in magazines and newspapers or hearing about it on TV or the radio.

Renee Wilson
Renee Wilson
Renee Wilson, deputy managing director of MS&L New York and director of the IM MS&L practice, said the study reveals that traditional media sources are shaping opinions in the rapidly evolving digital-media landscape.

What it means
"Everybody wants to talk about how it's all about digital and we certainly believe that it is the future," Ms. Wilson said. "But traditional media still has the capability to spark word-of-mouth." And for marketers, it highlights the fact that influencer-marketing campaigns can't only be digital-based efforts. "[These] campaigns [have] to leverage both traditional and online tools to connect with consumers," she said.

The study explored how influencers operate within three specific categories: green, beauty and health. Among its findings were that influencers in the environmental space spend a large amount of time getting information from non-profit, association and academic websites, with 42% saying they do so at least once a week.

The study also finds that influencers in the category of environmental causes will embrace "traditionally credible and objective sites when it comes to share-ability," a ranking of online-information sources based on how often material from those sites is passed along by some of the category's most powerful influencers, with an index score of 100 meaning the content is shared every time. Content from websites of environment-related publications (60), nonprofit or academic websites (59) and general new- media websites (54) have the highest share-ability scores; social networks (27), online community sites (21) and banner ads have the lowest.

Beauty drives more word-of-mouth
MS&L's discoveries in the beauty sector found that beauty company and product websites (70) tend to be more effective sources in generating and driving word-of-mouth than those in either the personal-health or environmental-cause categories.

Online communities (90) take the top spot for share-ability among digital beauty-influencers. Consumer opinion may likely motivate more sharing than the other categories. Blogs, discussion boards and chat rooms all had an above average share-ability index score of 76 within the beauty category; portals and search engines were below average (69) at 48.

Only 33% of health influencers said they spend at least half the day online, compared with 42% of environmental influencers and 51% of beauty influencers. Health influencers are also the least likely to go online and share info. The majority of digital personal-health influencers (54%) spend their time collecting information about nutrition, yet less than half share that content with others. Other areas of interest include health conditions (53%) and wellness (47%). Four in 10 go online frequently to look up information about exercise programs and fitness (40%), prevention (39%), symptoms (39%), medications (38%), dieting (37%) and treatments (36%).

'Not one size fits all'
The study shows that health-care marketers need to pay attention and utilize national and local government websites as they are the most "shareable" (71) sources of information for digital influencers in this category. This is in spite of the fact that these sites are not as heavily trafficked as other health-information sites.

"This [study] just further clarifies that when it comes to influencer marketing, or PR for that matter, it's not one size fits all," Ms. Wilson said. "I know people know that but it's really niche when you look at the motivations of the influencers and where they go for information."

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