Influencer marketing is a tricky beast. While brands know influencers pack a powerful following on social media networks like Instagram and Snapchat, research shows they often don’t know how to prove their return on investment.
In fact, a report from GroupHigh found that proving value is the most significant and persistent challenge facing influencer campaigns, concerning almost half of marketers. Twenty-eight percent said that gathering data was a challenge, while 13 percent don’t know which metrics to track at all.
Showing the value of influencers can be a challenging task, perhaps because there are so many key performance indicators and metrics to track. According to GroupHigh, over 60 percent of companies track five or more metrics. Analyzing these metrics may also be a key problem: 43 percent say they only use one tool to track and measure their efforts.
Honing in on the metrics that are most important to your business is critical to properly evaluating the success of an influencer campaign. Here’s what you need to know to prove influencer ROI in the year ahead.
You can’t track every metric in the world, so seek out those that help you understand whether you’re reaching your defined goals with your influencer marketing efforts.
If your goal is brand awareness, the most useful metrics might be website referrals, earned media hits, and overall social buzz (number of likes, comments, retweets, etc.). But, ultimately, most marketers want to know whether their marketing efforts are driving leads, sales, or other conversions. Using tracking links for each influencer and post or piece of content can help you understand the big picture of your influencer campaign, as well as the more granular details. Other KPIs include: number of sign-ups or downloads from influencer referrals, percent of referrals that become qualified leads, and percent of referrals who purchase.
Taking social listening to a deeper level is another way to judge the effect of an influencer campaign. A strong influencer campaign should increase your number of brand mentions. So, to show how an influencer campaign is connected with sales, companies can track the virality of a campaign hashtag over time and compare it to sales of the product associated with that campaign, according to Talkwalker.
Paying special attention to conversion metrics helps marketers get to the crux of influencer marketing. At the end of the day, companies want to know their efforts are impacting sales and increasing the number of valuable customers.
The impact of your influencer engagement might last for longer than you expect. Long-tail influencer content will continue to get discovered days, weeks, or even months after it’s posted (in fact, long-tail influencers can be even more effective than celebrities). For that reason, it’s important to measure the performance of an influencer campaign not only once, but several times—three months out, six months out or even as long as a year out, as Tapinfluencer cofounder Rustin Banks recommended in Adweek. Measuring the impact of content only once will provide only a limited snapshot of how the content is performing at an isolated moment in time.
To boost ROI, marketers can work with influencers to create evergreen content that leverages this longer discovery time. The more timeless the post on Pinterest or in a Google search, the more likely it is to continue generating “free” organic impressions.
Justin Dorfman of Traackr suggested companies also measure their success at gaining traction with target influencers, especially in the B2B context. You might track, for example, the number of times your target influencer mentions a campaign, or how often they share campaign-related assets like content or unique URLs. The number of times your target influencers mention your company or engage with your company can show how your relationship is growing with that influencer, helping you gauge your progress on building relationships among target influencers.
If your metrics don’t reveal the boost you expected from your influencer strategy, consider whether you have a platform mismatch. Research shows that different industry influencer categories perform better on different social media platforms, according to Adweek. The most powerful influencers? Foodies, who command by far the most audience across all platforms. For travel brands, Instagram is a more powerful platform than blogs. Facebook is the strongest channel for lifestyle influencers. Parenting influencers are the strongest industry on Twitter, and so on. Brands need to choose the right channel to get the most bang for their buck.
Brands have a series of choices to make as they engage in influencer campaigns, starting from the defined goals they want to achieve, to the platform and influencers they select, to the metrics they choose to measure. If brands want to solve the challenge of proving ROI with influencers, they need to first look at whether their KPIs and metrics are being appropriately tracked and analyzed, and whether these indicators align with the goals of their campaign. From there, they should pull include measuring success with influencers as well as generating content with long-term effects.
With the new year will come new approaches to strategy, and new opportunities for brands to prove the successes of their campaigns. Set yourself up to prove influencer ROI, so you can spend 2017 amplifying the results of your content strategy tenfold.