Social advocacy is nothing new. Companies have leveraged celebrity endorsements for years, and up until recently, the rules were simple. Brands pay celebrities to promote a product. Marketers come up with a strategy. The celebrity makes a pitch.

Everybody wins—except the consumer.

Influence is all about relationships

The biggest flaw in this outdated strategy is that consumers no longer respond to blanket endorsements.

Research in advertising psychology tells us that people tend to develop “relationships” with the celebrities they see. The stronger the relationship, the more effective the endorsement. And while superficial relationships with unknowable celebrities may have once been enough to generate profit, these relationships pale in comparison to those found in influencer marketing.

Endorsements rely on trust

If we work on the premise that better relationships mean better endorsements, then it’s clear the value of a celebrity face doesn’t mean what it used to.

Influencer marketing lets brands leverage the existing relationship between influencer and viewer to deliver marketing messages. Think of it as a marketing shortcut—rather than spending years building a following person-by-person, companies can piggyback on an influencer’s massive following to reach huge numbers of potential customers.

But even with this advantage, just how much impact do influencers really have in a world oversaturated with unfocused celebrity endorsements? According to Google, more than you might think.

Influencers are in, celebrities are out

Google’s consumer insights department analyzed data from several of its recent surveys and compared the influence of social media creators against traditional celebrities:

  • 70 percent of teenage YouTube subscribers relate more to their favorite creators than to traditional celebrities.

This is consistent with what we know about social media use. Users love to create their own social circles around their own interests and will be more receptive to messaging that comes from their own tribe.

  • 40 percent of YouTube subscribers say their favorite creators know them better than their own friends do.

Imagine being plugged into a market so effectively that customers actually trust your word over the word of their social circle. By teaming up with creators, brands can make this happen.

  • When it comes to engagement, typical celebrities can’t compare: Videos created by the top YouTube influencers generate three times as many views, twice as many actions, and 12 times as many comments.

This data speaks for itself. Users will happily engage with their favorite influencers on social media.

  • 60 percent of YouTube subscribers would follow advice on what to buy from their favorite creator over a favorite celebrity.

Across recommendations, engagement, and the purchasing process itself, it’s clear that social media is the final frontier when it comes to endorsement.

Influencer marketing is not optional

Creators on social media wield considerable power over their followers—power that brands can tap into. Companies that team up with influencers gain a new marketing channel that uniquely positions them to connect with potential customers.

In the coming years, we expect that these investments in social advocacy will become non-optional. There’s just too much gold in the hills. Companies that fail to get in on the ground floor will always be a step behind those who start early, and those that start early will gain a marketing channel that will pay dividends for years to come.