Everyone is talking about it, most brands have tried it, but how do you know if influencer marketing really delivers a bang for your buck? When looking at a new industry or channel, robust and industry-agreed metrics don’t exist – think back to the early days of social media – but basic marketing principles still stand.
Before you run any influencer marketing activity, it’s important to have your primary objectives and outcomes nailed down, as this will enable you to ensure - and effectively evaluate - the success of the campaign.
Outlined below are the four high-level objectives that you should consider when planning and evaluating this type of activity. Of course, one objective can lead to another (e.g. awareness could lead to engagement and sales), but it’s a good idea to hang your hat on one primary goal and build your creative brief and content with this as your guiding star.
A key reason for integrating influencer marketing into your marketing plans is the hope that your brand will receive a positive awareness uplift, delivered via an authentic message from a creator to their audience. But can this be accurately measured?
To determine the basic impact of a campaign on awareness of your brand or product, you can simply calculate the total number of views of all the associated videos and posts. But this will only tell you half the story. What if all these views are from the wrong demographic or country? Yes, it’s awareness, but the audience may never be interested in buying or using your product. It’s imperative that you always ask for access to the full channel data from every influencer you work with, as this will provide access to more detailed data on demographics and location. This data can be provided via third-party tools or from the influencers directly.
When calculating awareness, you should also factor in additional traffic to your website, campaign landing page or other social media channels, which has been generated directly from the original video or post. From there, you can build a comprehensive picture of the total number of views, brand mentions and brand interactions.
If you are fortunate enough to have a research budget, then invest in pre- and post-campaign awareness tracking. This will give you a more accurate impression of positive or negative changes in awareness, perception, and intent to purchase.
A high volume of views is one thing, but how do you tell if an audience has really engaged with the content?
Engagement is a broad term, so again your objectives and metrics need to be clearly defined before you start any influencer activity. Engagement KPIs could include total or average time spent watching a video, likes and dislikes, comments, shares and click-through rates, such as via links in the video description.
For me, time watched should always be a key metric – especially when a video view on Facebook is counted after three seconds versus 30 seconds on YouTube. Other engagement metrics, such as comments or shares, indicate interest in the brand and content, but remember, the sentiment may not always be positive.
If engagement is your key metric, remember that not all influencers engage with their audiences in the same way. Take, for example, a well-known influencer, with considerable reach (over two million). During a campaign, you will get exposure to their large subscriber base but these viewers are less likely to be engaged in your content, due to the diverse nature of larger audiences. On the flip side, a niche or micro-influencer (10k followers) with a small but highly targeted and relevant audience is more likely to deliver a high level of involvement and interaction with your content – which equals improved results.
In a Nielsen study, 92% of people interviewed said they trusted recommendations from individuals and friends. So, if an influencer can generate a positive buy-in from their audience, then evaluating the way in which this group perceives or talks about your brand will help you identify and understand what key marketing messages resonate.
Tracking sentiment of your influencer marketing content can be a very powerful tool for evaluating ROI and predicting the future success of your marketing activities, but it’s a bit of a dark art. While some metrics such as follower count and likes are easily tracked, measuring tone and sentiment can be trickier. There are, however, several tools, such as Brandwatch and Rapidminer, that can help with this.
Measuring the number of sales directly attributed to an influencer marketing campaign can be challenging. Adding promotional links to videos, posts or descriptions is one way to measure a direct response to a piece of content; using trackable promotional codes or unique offers is another. As the sales cycle can extend far beyond the campaign, continuous tracking is crucial.
If you like playing around with data, Google Analytics enables you to create and track custom attribution models, which is the gold standard when evaluating the effectiveness of your channels and your content, based on your advertising goals.
So the hunt is over! Go define your strategy, objectives and KPIs. Build them into your creative brief and be laser-focused on delivering influencer created content that achieves your marketing and business a positive ROI.