Social media has impacted most lives in some form or fashion over the last several years. Whether it is simply admiring stunning vacation photographs on Instagram or looking for recipe inspiration on Pinterest, almost everyone in the U.S. comes in contact with one of these platforms at some point.

People may use social media for the fun aspects of life, but there is a growing trend to use social media for more practical things, too. Product recommendations on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok are now familiar examples of how consumers shop and get recommendations — even for services like car insurance  — from influencers or audience members. Bankrate took a look at how social media is influencing consumers and what to look out for.

Key social media and consumer statistics

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  • Over half the world, or 58.4%, now uses social media in some aspect. (Datareportal, Digital World Overview 2022)
  • Facebook and Instagram are the most popular social media platforms based on usage, but TikTok is used most by GenZ (people born between 1997 to 2012). (SproutSocial)
  • 39% of Gen Z consumers reported that their purchasing decisions are directly influenced by what they see on TikTok. (SproutSocial)
  • TikTok was the most downloaded mobile app in 2021, with over 656 million downloads. (Datareportal, Digital World Overview 2022)
  • TikTok users spend an average of almost 20 hours a month on the platform, which is about the same amount of time users spend with Facebook (19.6 hours) and less than users spend on YouTube (23.7 hours per month).(Datareportal, Digital World Overview 2022)
  • TikTok is expected to record 1.5 billion users by the end of 2022. (Hootsuite)
  • TikTok users are also active across other social media platforms, mostly Facebook (with an 84.6% overlap), Instagram (83.9% overlap) and YouTube (with an 80.5% overlap) (Hootsuite)
  • TikTok is considered to be the most engaging social media platform, with an average user session coming in at almost 11 minutes, which is longer than Pinterest (about five minutes) and Instagram (about three minutes per session). (Hootsuite)
  • Videos on financial topics are now rapidly growing on TikTok, including videos on investing and cryptocurrency. (Hootsuite)
  • TikTok users spent over $2.3 billion within the app in 2021, compared to $1.3 billion in 2020. (Hootsuite)

TikTok and social media influence on consumers

There is little doubt social media is shaping consumer spending behavior. With so many users spending hours on various social media platforms each day, it makes sense there is such a huge opportunity for a consumer to either be influenced or outright purchase something right there within the platform.

TikTok made be buy it

As mentioned above, TikTok users spent over $2.3 billion dollars within the app during 2021. It is estimated about 76% of consumers have purchased an item they have recently seen on social media. GenZ consumers tend to purchase more from TikTok and Snapchat, but they are not the only age group making purchases. Gen X and Baby Boomers also make purchases, although their purchases tend to occur more frequently in Pinterest and Facebook.

Influencer marketing

Influencer marketing refers to someone who has a built-in audience, such as someone who runs a very successful blog or has a large social media presence, and uses that platform to market products or services for profit. Oftentimes, you will see companies partner with influencers within a certain niche or industry. The “influencing” can take place either through co-creating content, promoting a specific product or simply product placement. If done correctly, the influencer helps promote brand awareness for a company while also expanding the product’s audience or potential customers.

Authenticity is one of the most important qualities of influencer marketing. If someone believes the influencer actually uses the product or sees them using the product, it could make the audience more likely to purchase the product.

Sponsored posts

Advertisers may also work with influencers through sponsored posts. A sponsored post is where a company pays to have an influencer promote a product or the company name with certain content. It is simply paid promotion to expand the reach of the company. It could take place in the form of sponsoring a blog post, podcast episode, Instagram story or post or a TikTok video.

Tips for buying car insurance online

With all the marketing buzz around influencer marketing, sponsored posts and TikTok videos, is there any place for promoting and purchasing car insurance? It seems the answer is now yes, as more consumers are turning to social media for car insurance recommendations. After all, people look to influencers for advice on other financial topics, such as investing and crypto.  As fun and engaging as TikTok videos (or other social media posts) can be, it’s also important to do your own research before you commit to a provider so you know you are making the best purchase for your own needs. We put together a few tips to help you protect yourself while shopping for car insurance online, whether through social media or other websites.

Protect your personal information

Before you divulge personal information to just anyone, you need to make sure you are obtaining car insurance quotes from a reputable site. Look for security guarantees such as an “https” in the web address and the lock icon in the web browser field. You can also Google the company name to make sure the web addresses match before proceeding. You can expect to provide your ZIP code, gender, birthdate and address when obtaining insurance quotes.

Beware of social media and online scams

With the growing popularity of social media shopping, it has given rise to a variety of online scams. The Federal Trade Commission now estimates social media scams are the most profitable scamming method, defrauding people out of over $770 million in 2021 alone. Scams may come through phony investments and bogus investing opportunities, fraud with online romance and scams trying to buy products through a social media site. You can limit your exposure to these scams by opting out of the targeted advertising on each platform, limit the information you post and never respond to an urgent request from a friend or family member who needs money for an investment.

Compare rates

When it comes to car insurance, it is important to regularly compare rates and shop around. While loyalty to a company can be a good thing, by shopping around you can ensure you are getting the best coverage options for your budget. You can go online and compare multiple car insurance companies by providing basic information and find out what additional discounts or benefits you may be eligible for. So even if your favorite influencer recommends a particular car insurance company, it may be worthwhile for you to also secure quotes from other companies for the same coverage before buying.

Company reputation

Don’t just take an influencer’s word for it. As you narrow down your search for car insurance companies, it may be helpful to use insights from other third-party companies to further validate your choice. J.D. Power offers customer satisfaction survey results which may be helpful. You can also review financial information with Standard & Poor or A.M. Best ratings for further information about the company’s financial standing.

Customer reviews

Lastly, it’s a good practice to check out customer reviews from regular people for any company you are thinking about doing business with. There are a variety of sources where you can find information about customer reviews or complaints for car insurance companies, such as the NAIC for information about consumer complaints and J.D. Power surveys for customer satisfaction.

Does social media impact my car insurance?

As dominant a force social media can be in each of our lives, it is possible it could impact life outside your online presence in ways you might not realize. Your social media activity could impact your job, volunteer work or even the cost of your car insurance.

Getting approved

It is possible for an insurance company to review a social media profile of someone who is applying for coverage. Typically, when you accept the terms and conditions of the insurance provider’s website, you are agreeing to let them review your social media activity. This information may be used in the decision-making process for coverage.

Filing a claim

If you file a claim, a claims adjuster may review your social media profiles to see if there is any information available that could possibly negate or impact the claim. Not only could posts be examined for fraudulent activity, but if you have any posted pictures of your vehicle before an accident, it could be used as part of an investigation.

Impacts of using social media while driving

Although data is limited regarding the impact of specifically using social media while driving, it would definitely qualify as distracted driving. The Centers for Disease Control reports there are nine people killed every day on the roads due to distracted driving. Over 424,000 vehicle accidents in 2019 were directly attributed to distracted driving.

How social media can help drivers

While insurers could use social media to find fraudulent activity, social media can also help drivers by documenting the aftermath of an accident or showing the condition your car was in before an accident.

Car influencers on TikTok

TikTok is one of the latest platforms to enter the social media scene, but it has certainly made an entrance. This platform’s popularity has made way for a plethora of online personalities, including some of whom promote topics and information related to financial decisions and cars. Here are a few examples of popular influencers who may be the next one to influence you and make you say “TikTok made me buy it” during your next car- or insurance-related decision.

  • Gabriel Nussbaum. His TikTok channel shares quick-hitting financial advice with over 1.5 million followers.
  • John Liang. His channel, johnsfinancetips, offers his two million followers financial advice about everything from credit cards to insurance.
  • TJHunt. His TikTok channel has 3.5 million followers who want to access his incredible knowledge about all things cars and check out his pretty impressive collection of cars.
  • ChrisFixIt. This TikTok channel has millions of followers and provides plenty of how-to information for fixing cars. Chris tries to help viewers save money by teaching you how to fix common problems with vehicles at home.
  • TheStradMan. If luxurious, exotic cars pique your interest then you may want to check out TheStradMan channel on TikTok. The videos feature close-up views of vehicles you likely do not see everyday, such as Lamborghinis and Bugattis.
  • SupercarBlondie. Follow along with this Australian YouTuber as she posts a variety of automotive videos divulging her obsession with cars (especially exotic ones). She is now considered one of the world’s top automotive influencers, with over 13 million followers on TikTok.