The times they are a-changin’ – younger generation are influenced more by social media than friends and family

A new survey released by UK experience design agency, 383, has found that 18-35 year olds are twice as likely to take advice from influencers on social media than they are to trust the judgement of friends and family when booking a holiday. More than half of students (18-24 year olds) and ‘Gullenials’ (gullible millennials) (58% and 53%, respectively) believe Facebook, Instagram and online bloggers are more trustworthy than their nearest and dearest.

The UK survey reveals the extent to which social media influences the buying decisions of consumers across generations, and the increasing control and dominance it has over big real-life decisions, including overseas travel. It suggests that a lack of street wisdom, coupled with the usual holiday maker’s suspension of disbelief, could make the younger generation more vulnerable to holiday scams – less likely when recommendations come from a trusted resource.

Further statistics found that just under a third (32%) of UK consumers cited Instagram as their app of choice for vicarious travel. Also, UK women browse three times as much as men – with one-third using it to find holiday inspiration, compared to only one in ten (11%) men.

The full findings show that overall 44% of young adults would use Instagram over the recommendation of friends and family to influence holiday-booking decisions. Looking at the different age groups there is a clear reduction in social media influence the older you get – 58% of 18-24 year olds, 53% of 24-35 year olds, 49% of 35-44 year olds, 29% of 44-55 year olds and only 13% of 55+ year olds trust social media (Instagram, Facebook and online bloggers) over friends and family when it comes to travel.

The survey also highlights that social media influences 71% of travel-planners’ decisions in the UK, with only 36% relying on word of mouth from family and friends. It also shows that one in ten people spend up to 20 hours searching for holidays before they book with 40% of millennials searching for holidays while they’re at work.

“These survey results provide interesting insight about how customers are searching for their holidays. Customers are more influenced by complete strangers on social media than their own friends and family,” says Sukhi Dehal, founder of 383.

For ‘interesting’ we read ‘flawed’ as on social media, there are many people whose income derives from promoting a fantasy version of their lives and they cannot be viewed as 100% reliable. The lines between what is a genuine recommendation and what has been paid for, are increasingly blurred. As 383 highlights when travel influencers post images of their off-the-beaten track adventures “we can’t gauge how much of the ‘picture perfect post’ really is perfect and what is in fact a potential danger”.

Social media plays an important role in inspiring us, but the findings show that we need to be smarter in research ahead of booking. “In an era of fake news and online scams that are increasingly difficult to identify, it’s important that travellers do their homework with a broader spectrum of trusted resources – whether that’s family and friends or reputable travel-relevant sites,” acknowledges Mr Dehal.

“It’s a huge concern that the younger generation has been found to be so trusting of a source that may or may not be telling the whole truth. The urgent message from these survey results is yes, be inspired by social media, but be smart, responsible and safe by broadening your scope of research before making a big-life decision like travelling overseas,” he adds.