Study: PewDiePie more popular than LeBron among Gen Z men

Morning Consult's new study delves into the sway influencers and social media have on Gen Z and Millennials.

Influencer PewDiePie is one of the highest earners on YouTube, raking in millions of dollars a month. Getty Images.
Influencer PewDiePie is one of the highest earners on YouTube, raking in millions of dollars a month. Getty Images.

WASHINGTON D.C.: YouTuber PewDiePie is more popular than NBA star LeBron James among young male Generation Zers, according to research from Morning Consult.

This is just a slice of a growing body of evidence that shows influencers hold considerable sway over young people, according to "The Influencer Report: Engaging Gen Z and Millennials."

The study, which surveyed about 2,000 Americans between the ages of 13 and 38, shows 72% of Gen Z and Millennials follow influencers on social media.

PewDiePie’s clout has increased as gaming becomes more important to young men, with 62% saying they’re likely to follow someone who posts gaming content on social media, according to Jeff Cartwright, VP of content, marketing and communications at the research firm.

"We’re seeing a ‘newish’ rise in what it means to be a thought leader," Cartwright said.

The definition of influencer is constantly evolving. The people Gen Z and Millennials follow on social media include names as far flung and disparate as climate activist Greta Thunberg and singer Ariana Grande, Cartwright explained. "It’s hard to keep them in boxes," he added.

The percentage of Gen Z individuals who trust influencers they follow on social media (52%) is 8% higher than those who trust their favorite celebrities and athletes (44%). Among Millennials, the gap was even more extensive: 50% trust influencers they follow, while 38% trust celebrities and athletes.

Cartwright attributed this phenomenon to influencers’ ability to be authentic, which is the most important attribute Gen Z and Millennials consider: 58% say it’s very important, 30% say it’s somewhat important.

Almost nine out of 10 Gen Zers and Millennials learn about products on social media, with 56% saying they purchased a product as a result of seeing a post from someone they follow - 50% say they most often learn about a product on social.

Both generations would become an influencer if given an opportunity, highlighting the potential of the micro-influencer market, Cartwright said.

A striking 54% of Gen Zers and Millennials say they would become an influencer, while 86% would post sponsored content if they were paid. However, their reasons for doing so differ greatly.

The top reason Gen Zers want to be an influencer is the opportunity to make a difference in the world (58%) - 10% more than Millennials. The next-biggest reason is the desire to have flexible hours (55%).

In contrast, the number one reason for Millennials is flexible hours (60%), followed by money (58%).

YouTube and Instagram are the two most popular platforms on which Gen Zers and Millennials follow influencers - 53% of Gen Z and 41% of Millennial men prefer YouTube, 43% of Gen Z and 40% of Millennial women prefer Instagram.

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