Did Social Media Sway Consumer Decisions in 2016?

Holly Pavlika

SVP, Marketing & Content at Collective Bias
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Peer endorsements reign supreme over celebrities and famous pets.

2016 is rapidly coming to a close and with that comes a time of reflection for many marketers and businesses. Analyzing the ROI of specific campaigns, market positioning, and creative initiatives tend to be the norm as 2017 plans begin. But what element of 2016’s campaigns can marketers carry over into 2017? The role that social influence plays in the consumer buying decision process.

Throughout the year we surveyed consumers across the country to get an understanding of the role that social influence plays throughout this process. From deciding which brand to purchase in the grocery store to which presidential candidate to vote for, products, opinions, and images posted on social media channels impacted – and in some cases had no impact at all on – consumer decisions.

Let’s take a look at some of the most surprising survey results this year:


Celebrities are often used in television commercials and print advertisements with the goal of increasing sales because the product or service is promoted by a famous face. But, how much power do celebrities bring to the table when used to promote products?

In March, we surveyed 2,000 U.S. adults to understand the role celebrities play when deciding to purchase a specific item. It turns out that. 

  • Just 3% of US consumers that said they would be most likely to consider buying a product in-store if a celebrity endorsed it.
  • Non-celebrities are the people who hold the most power, as 30% of consumers are more likely to purchase a product promoted by a regular person.

Only 3% of consumers would consider a purchase based on a celebrity endorsement. Click To Tweet

The takeaway: celebrities may be more recognizable, but non-celebrities might be the better choice to increase sales. “Peer” endorsements are weighted more heavily than those from celebrities – perhaps because non-celebrities are more relatable.


The 2016 Presidential Election was no different as celebrities lent their names and likeliness for the various candidates throughout the process. Social media platforms played a major role during campaign season, especially for celebrities, but how much of an influence did they have on the results?

We surveyed 2,000 adults across the U.S. in October to see how much of an influence the opinions of famous individuals played as Americans determined who should be the next Commander in Chief. This second celebrity-focused survey found that:

  • Only 2.3% of the U.S. population was most influenced by celebrity endorsements.

The takeaway: Brand marketers should think very carefully when deciding to use a celebrity to promote a product or service in 2017. Think if the cost of using a famous face in a campaign is the best use of budget and if another tactic may result in higher sales.


This year, Instagram pets became major influencers. “Famous” animals posed for toys and treats all with the intention to increase sales for specific products. But if human celebrities do not influence sales, do pet celebrities?

For Pet Awareness Month, otherwise known as November, we asked 2,000 U.S. adults if they were likely to purchase a product promoted by a pet personality online. Respondents replied:

  • Only 1 in 10 respondents ages 18 – 24 said they were likely to purchase the product promoted by a famous pet face – a demographic that tends to be social media power users.

Insta-pets are cute & market well, but may not influence purchasing decisions. Click To Tweet

The takeaway: Animals of all breeds may bring a special element to marketing campaigns, but don’t rely too heavily on these cute faces to increase sales. Leverage them as one element to increase awareness, but focus on additional pieces of the marketing mix to generate sales.


In August we surveyed 2,000 moms across the country who consider themselves loyal to a specific product or brand. We sought to have a better understanding of why moms are loyal to products and what, if any, factors would skew a purchase decision in favor of a product or brand they do not normally purchase.

It turns out that social media plays a major role in how these moms find out about specific products and the opinions of others.

  • Close to half (44.4%) of product-loyal moms surveyed share images on social media.
  • More than a third (36.5%) of the respondents share news articles on social media.
  • Video also plays a role in social sharing as roughly a quarter (24.9%) of product-loyal moms share videos on social media.

Nearly 25% of product-loyal moms share video on social media. Click To Tweet

The takeaway: brands focused on gaining market share from competitors should focus on social media in 2017 for awareness of products, specials, and discounts. Brands that primarily target moms will find content shared and promoted across social platforms, and if targeted correctly, may lure moms away from items they are typically loyal to in favor of the promoted products.


Social media platforms are a central place for grocery shoppers to turn when creating shopping lists. But, are consumers influenced more by peer or brand social posts?

We surveyed 2,000 U.S. grocery shoppers in July to hone in on how products promoted in social posts find their way onto shopping lists.

  • Peer endorsements tend to have a stronger impact as nearly 1 in 5 respondents say they are influence by peer posts when developing their lists.
  • Almost 1 in 10 respondents noted they are influenced by brand-related social ads/posts when writing their grocery lists.

The takeaway: social media should continue to be a major focus for grocery marketers in 2017. Although not as many consumers are influenced by posts directly from brands, the same posts may be recommended by said consumers’ peers, which do have a stronger influence.

2017 has the potential to be a break out year for marketers focusing on social media platforms for various campaigns. Leverage learnings from 2016 to understand how your audience consumes content on social media and reacts to calls to action to ensure your programs are a success!


Looking back on 2016, we're analyzing how social media influenced consumer decisions, including celebrities, pets, and moms.

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Holly Pavlika

SVP, Marketing & Content at Collective Bias

Holly oversees marketing and PR. Holly, also a blogger, founded MOMentumNation while serving as the Executive Creative Director and Managing Director at Big Fuel, a pure play social media agency. She is an award-winning creative marketing industry veteran who was recognized in 2012 by Klout as the “most influential agency person” and uses her voice for social good with 10X10 Educate Girls, Every Mother Counts, Global Poverty Project and the UN Foundation Shot@Life campaign.