SALT LAKE CITY: Knowledgeable and passionate individuals and those working within their own categories can exert much more effective influence on ordinary consumers than a celebrity endorsement, research has shown.

These "micro-influencers" are seen as a trusted source when it comes to recommendations for what to buy, according to a study for influencer marketing agency Experticity, conducted by Dr. Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at the Wharton School, in partnership with the word-of-mouth specialist Keller Fay Group.

A random survey of Experticity's unpaid network of micro-influencers from across the US about the number of product-related conversations they have with consumers each week was complemented with a survey of consumers who received those recommendations to measure the weight of the recommendation and the outcome.

These influencers were found to have up to 22.2 times more conversations each week regarding recommendations on what to buy compared to an average consumer.

Not only did these influencers have more buying conversations, they were also more direct in their recommendations: 74% encouraged someone to "buy it or try it" compared to 66% of the general population who encouraged those actions in their recommendations.

Further, 82% of consumers surveyed said they were highly likely to follow a recommendation made by a micro-influencer – and these were also more likely to happen face-to face.

"In the democratized world of the internet, everyone has a forum to give their opinion on just about anything," said Tom Stockham, CEO at Experticity.

"When anyone can give an opinion, regardless of how much they know about the subject, the real question becomes whose recommendation is authentic and credible? Marketers must understand this in order to figure out how to cut through the noise."

The study reported that 94% of consumers believed micro-influencers were more credible and knowledgeable than the average person, while 92% said they were better at explaining how a product worked.

"The growing importance of influencer marketing has led marketers to openly question exactly how impactful word of mouth is when coming from different types of consumers," noted Berger.

"This study has helped illuminate who has the greatest impact and why, which is a great tool for marketers as they try to harness the power of influencer marketing."

Data sourced from Experticity; additional content by Warc staff