A Google search for “influencers and children” yields over 35 million hits, which is not surprising. Influencers are certainly a big topic of conversation among those in the business of engaging kids, in part because what is so attractive about influencers is also concerning: the sheer variety and volume of voices in the mix. The different personalities and sensibilities of the many influencers mean that, while kids can find many suitable matches for their needs, grownups don’t always know whom to trust. In addition, because the presence of influencers is relatively new, industry experts are challenged to make sense of the landscape.
To gain a deeper understanding of the role of influencers in kids’ lives, we conducted a study among 1,200 U.S. parents of kids aged 2–16 and 1,200 kids aged 5–16. Our analysis untangled the web of confusion over who influencers are to kids, whether we need to care about them, and what we should know about them.
Who Are Influencers to Kids?
From the kid POV, influencers are any entity worth listening to that they don’t know personally. These are no longer confined to personalities who rose to prominence through posting content on social media — in kids’ minds, they also encompass musicians, athletes, and even brands.
For example, in open-ended explorations of favorite influencers, kids aged 5–12 list YouTube powerhouses like Ryan ToysReview and DanTDM as well as traditional celebrities like Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift, crossovers like JoJo Siwa and the Kardashians, and brands like Disney, YouTube, and Minecraft.
The message for any would-be influencer is “Say something interesting and kids will listen.”
How Much Are Kids Really Engaging?
A lot. Proof is in their behaviors. Among U.S. kids aged 5–12, almost all (97%) have used YouTube. Numbers are also strong for other platforms where influencers are found, including gaming platforms which are the focus of a lot of influencer content. Platforms geared toward straight-up communication with people you know are less entrenched. Kids are hooked on staying up-to-date with pop culture, a need that influencers both stoke and satisfy.
And they’re not just looking; they have their own accounts. Over half (52%) of kids aged 5–12 have at least one account on one of the major social media platforms — YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter. This number increases drastically with age, with kids aged 11–12 at 73%. And preschoolers are in the game too, with a full quarter (25%) having their own account.
Data also show that kids follow influencers as much as they follow their own friends.
What Are Influencers Influencing?
Kids are going to influencers — particularly those on YouTube and Instagram — to explore their passions. And they’re doing so almost as much as they are exploring those passions in the real world! It’s self-directed learning in action.
Influencers guide and shape not only culture and passions but also what kids watch and buy. Influencers have a cool factor that kids want to see in other formats, like movies and TV. And influencers, by demonstrating various personality traits that connect with kids, also earn kids’ trust in a big way. A full 77% of kids say that they trust YouTubers over commercials on recommendations on what to buy.
So Do We Need to Care About Influencers?
Without a doubt.
For more on the art of influencing, stay tuned for our next blog: “Breaking Down the Influencer Formula: How Different Types of Influencers Build Relationships with Kids.”