The Law and Business of Social Media
May 12, 2015 - FTC, Marketing

Are You Socially Aware? Take Our Millennial Influencers Quiz

Are You Socially Aware? Take Our Millennial Influencers Quiz

OK, Socially Aware readers, we’ve got a pop-culture quiz for you today. How many of the following names are familiar to you?

  1. Smosh
  2. The Fine Brothers
  3. PewDiePie
  4. KSI
  5. Ryan Higa

If any of those monikers rings a bell, we’re guessing you’re a millennial, the parent of a millennial or a marketer who targets millennials. Those of us who don’t fall into any of those categories might be surprised to learn that, according to a survey conducted for Variety by a celebrity brand strategist, the people on the above list are the five most influential celebrities among U.S. teens aged 13-17. These celebrities are unfamiliar to most of us because they didn’t rise to fame in the mainstream media but on social media—YouTube, specifically.

The brand strategist conducting the survey, Jeetendr Sehdev, presented 1,500 teenage respondents with the names of the ten most popular English-language YouTube personalities (based on the number of their subscribers and video views) and the names of the ten mainstream media celebrities with the greatest clout among 13- to17-year-olds (as determined by an accepted set of criteria used to measure consumer appeal).

In an effort to compare the 20 celebrities’ influence, Sehdev then asked the respondents to rate these celebrities based on several criteria, such as authenticity and approachability. Based on the teens’ responses, all 20 public figures were ranked. Six of the top ten were social media personalities. The respondents’ comments revealed that, for the teens, the rawness of the YouTube celebrities’ appearances translated into trustworthiness.

The lesson for marketers is obvious: When you’re vying for teens’ time, attention and allowance money, your spokesperson shouldn’t be overly polished, and your message shouldn’t be overly produced. Otherwise, your target audience will feel like the endorsement is disingenuous—a quality that’s unlikely to make them ask their parents for the credit card.

Of course, advertisers enlisting these or any other YouTube stars to promote products and services need to be aware of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Endorsement Guides and related legal concerns; as we’ve discussed on this blog, the FTC takes the position that, where a social media influencer endorses a company’s products or services in return for consideration from such company, such consideration needs to be clearly disclosed in order to avoid deceiving consumers.

By the way, here’s the entire Variety list, complete with the occupations of the listed celebrities (so you can feel like you’re in the know):

  1. Smosh (comedy duo)
  2. The Fine Brothers (producers, writers and directors known for their React video series)
  3. PewDiePie (Swedish producer of Let’s Play videos)
  4. KSI (English video game commentator)
  5. Ryan Higa (YouTube personality and actor)
  6. Paul Walker (American television and film actor)
  7. Jennifer Lawrence (American film actor)
  8. Shane Dawson (American YouTube personality, actor, comedian, and film director)
  9. Katy Perry (American singer, songwriter and actor)
  10. Steve Carell (American actor)
  11. Seth Rogan (American actor)
  12. Betty White (American actor)
  13. Vin Diesel (American actor, filmmaker and producer)
  14. Johnny Depp (American actor)
  15. Daniel Radcliffe (English actor)
  16. Jenna Marbles (American entertainer and YouTube personality)
  17. Michelle Phan (American make-up demonstrator and entrepreneur)
  18. Ray William Johnson (American video blogger, producer and actor)
  19. Bethany Mota (American video fashion-blogger)
  20. Leonardo DiCaprio (American actor)

Yes, 93-year-old Betty White is up there, only a couple of rungs beneath the top ten. Feel better now? We sure do.