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Sources of trust: Why HK Gen Zs prefer health influencers for insights over experts

Sources of trust: Why HK Gen Zs prefer health influencers for insights over experts

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In the new digital age, social media has gradually become a trusted source of information, especially on health promotion. According to a YouGov study, close to two-fifths (38%) of Hong Kong consumers consider health influencers a reliable source of information on health and wellness, compared to just a sixth (16%) of consumers internationally.  

On the flipside, only 59% of Hong Kong consumers say they think medical practitioners are a reliable source of health information, noticeably lower than the 65% average internationally, said the report.  

Don't miss: YouGov: Two-fifths of HKers consider health influencers a reliable source of information

A similar age-based pattern can be observed for trust in social media influencers in providing reliable health information: while a quarter of younger Gen Z (28%) and millennial (24%) consumers indicate so, around a fifth of Gen X (22%) and eight of Baby Boomers (12%) say the same.   

While most Gen X (61%) and millennials (53%) in Hong Kong regard medical practitioners as a reliable source of health information, less than half of Gen Z (48%) say the same. 

Meanwhile, when it comes to health and wellness information offered by social media influencers, close to half of younger consumers from Gen Z (48%) and millennials (46%) consider them to be reliable, compared to less than two-fifths of Gen X (38%). 

How the younger generation is reshaping trust 

Industry players MARKETING-INTERACTIVE spoke to believed that this trend comes as no surprise as the younger generations have fundamentally transformed the way they create and cultivate relationships compared to their parents' generations.  

With the advent of social media and online communities, these generations have redefined the sources of trust, relying heavily on influencers, online content creators, and peer recommendations, according to Vin Ng, director, Spread-it.   

“This shift has reshaped traditional consumer behaviours, as they now seek trust and validation through these digital channels, impacting their decision-making processes and shaping their interactions with brands and individuals,” he added. 

This is further coupled by a Meltwater study titled DIGITAL 2024: HONG KONG, which showed that in Hong Kong, 23.6% of social media users follow influencers or experts, surpassing the world average of 22.6%.   

Additionally, a research from social media agency Spread-it indicates that 45% of social media users in Hong Kong consider social networks as their primary information source. These findings highlight the strong reliance on digital platforms for trust and information among Hong Kong social media users. 

On the creative front, health influencers do not only advocate their expertise, but also create collective experiences that promote connection and community with their followers, which aligns with Gen Z’s craving for a sense of belonging, said Victor Lam, group business director, VML HK. 

“The shared experience, such as Hong Kong Fitness and Wellness Expo held in November 2023, creates an opportunity for followers to connect with their fellows of similar interest through practising and learning together."

In a global sense, he said he saw this come alive in the uptake of “run clubs” and mass morning dance events such as Daybreaker. “Tapping into communities influencers have built is a big opportunity for brands.” 

Rather than solely relying on medical professionals when something goes wrong, consumers are now adopting a proactive and “peer-to-peer” approach, according to Carbo Yu, regional executive director, Sinclair.  

“This shift in mindset spans across generations. Consumers are exploring alternative sources of information, including wellness and lifestyle influencers, who often provide first-hand experiences, insights and lifestyle recommendations for maintaining overall wellbeing,” Yu added. 

What should these health influencers bear in mind to retain consumer trust? 

From a PR standpoint, the integrity of information shared by health influencers is paramount. To ensure credibility and avoid disseminating misleading information, health influencers and their PR teams should consider vetting Information, according to David Ko, managing director, RFI Asia.  

“Before sharing, influencers should thoroughly vet health and wellness content with credible sources such as peer-reviewed journals, established medical institutions, or certified health professionals.” 

He said the influencers should also disclose any partnerships with health and wellness brands and be clear about the influencer’s qualifications to speak on the topic. 

Furthermore, both marketers and influencers should implement stricter content guidelines, holding themselves accountable for the dissemination of accurate health-related content, and avoid “healthwashing” at all costs, said Sinclair’s Yu.  

“Marketers need to invest time to nurture and educate an influencer on health-related products to a higher degree than other categories, and influencers should refrain from endorsing health or wellness products they themselves do not—or would not—use,” she added. 

To maintain trust with Hong Kong Gen Zs and millennials, social media influencers must prioritise authenticity, honesty, and transparency.  

Spread-it's Ng said it's crucial that they genuinely endorse the products or services they promote and openly disclose any sponsored content.  

“Engaging with their audience, actively listening to feedback, and fostering a sense of community is essential. Influencers should also be responsible in their content creation, avoiding the spread of misinformation and being mindful of cultural and social sensitivities,” Ng added.  

Instead of focusing on short-term gains, he said they should prioritise building long-term relationships. “By adhering to these principles, influencers can establish themselves as trusted voices among the younger generations in Hong Kong.” 

Join us this coming 26 June for Content360 Hong Kong, a one-day-two-streams extravaganza under the theme of "Content that captivates". Get together with our fellow marketers to learn about AI in content creation, integration of content with commerce and cross-border targeting, and find the recipe for success within the content marketing world! 

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