Our fourth appointment with the Ask the Experts series touches upon the issue of influencer marketing metrics. In his op-ed, Tom Cornish – Influencer Marketing Director at Wavemaker – dives deep into how to work against performance when running an Influencer Marketing campaign. Take a look at what he has to say.
There’s a problem with influencer marketing. I talk to clients about the fact that the medium is maturing, that influencers are becoming more professional, and that the services we can offer are getting more sophisticated. That’s all true and it’s great; but as practitioners we’ve got to acknowledge the big flaw at the heart of influencer marketing: most of the time, we don’t really know if it works.
Social engagements hold no intrinsic value; we just assume that they’re indicators of other things which really matter. In fairness, this is true of all media metrics – viewing a TV ad, interacting with social advertising, or seeing a print ad for example – but in those instances, we have a reasonable basis on which to make a connection to the things that really matter to clients; sales and big brand metrics like favourability (itself largely an indicator of eventual purchase intent). This is because the media can either be more directly attributed (e.g. social advertising, performance media) or can be more reliably modelled in the media-mix (TV ad views, print advertising).
Because influencer marketing is a relatively young, non-performance medium, it doesn’t fit comfortably into either of these solutions, and because this means we can’t reliably report on what the performance is worth to the client, it can feel like a bit of a stab in the dark. The classic “so what” argument around social engagement becomes even more difficult when influencers are the publishers, so it’s not even your engagement.
That’s not to say that the impressions, engagements, pieces of content, or influencers we pay for don’t clearly correlate to those more important metrics, just that we can’t yet prove it.
Understandably, this leads clients to ask difficult questions of the nature and value of reach and engagements. If the engagement that a post receives is the only basis we have for determining effectiveness, then it’s natural that they’ll be scrutinised. For example, if I, as an influencer’s follower see them advertising your brand’s sunglasses, and my comment is “nice shoes”, then it’s completely natural to assume that the content hasn’t done its job.
Is that a fair assumption though? Would we set the same criteria for understanding the effectiveness of a TV campaign, a partnership, or an experiential event? Superficial metrics like engagement can give an indication of which of an influencers posts may have been best received in relative terms, and they certainly give a platform for people to share what they think, but is the purpose of influencer marketing to get this sort of interaction, or to affect the audience in a more meaningful way?
Clients ask difficult questions of the nature and value of reach and engagements.
Don’t be disheartened if the comments aren’t all about your brand, focus instead on proving the general benefit of the activity to the brand. Essentially, just because I say I like an influencer’s shoes doesn’t mean I’m not considering buying your brand’s sunglasses.
Our job with influencer marketing isn’t to get a bunch of comments which say “I now feel more connected to your brand, and intend to buy your product”, it’s to make people feel those things in the real world; and to prove to clients that our efforts are working.
There are two routes we can take which can help us do this – either setting up infrastructures that allow us to accurately measure sales impact from influencer marketing, or developing media models which reliably show the impact of working with influencers relative to other types of media.
At Wavemaker, we’re working to integrate more sophisticated measurement solutions in both areas, and the partnership between Buzzoole and Nielsen is a great example of how the best in the industry are taking this issue seriously.
The partnership between Buzzoole and Nielsen is a great example of how the best in the industry are taking this issue seriously.
As far as a solution to the problem goes, there is no perfect answer right now. However, there are a few principles which ought to ensure that you give yourself the best chance to deliver the best results possible.
- Buy Engagements. In an imperfect situation, engagements are the best metric on which to buy influencer marketing. They represent a more significant and valuable connection to your content than views, and they’re far more performance-indicative than just paying for content, or for the ‘participation’ of individual influencers.
- Track Sales or Brand Affinity. This one obviously depends on your campaign objectives, but If you can get the infrastructure in place to do so, try and measure the impact influencers have on sales. Trackable links, or shoppable ad units are a great way to do this. Alternatively, try and factor influencer marketing into brand studies to understand their contribution to favourability or affinity.
- Work with Data People! If you have people responsible for data analysis in your organisation, work with them. Collaborate on the task of understanding the impact of influencer marketing – the answer is more likely to come from them than it is from us.
- Stay Creative. All these measures mean nothing if you don’t keep looking for new ideas to excite and engage your audiences, and if you don’t know how to create the right ideas, with the right talent to meet your campaign objectives.
This post is also available in: Italian