Influencer marketing is one of the most debated and controversial digital marketing tactics. There is no doubt behind the potential value it can bring to a brand’s image or the effect it can have on sculpting it. However, its nature makes it hard to track and to measure whether it is really worth the trouble or not.
So how do you build an influencer marketing strategy set for growth and optimized for ROI? What are the challenges you may run into and how to overcome them?
Let’s dig in.
1. Define your goals and set up a KPI
Probably the most difficult problem brands face when engaging in influencer marketing is measurement and success tracking. Influencer marketing is most often seen by brands as another broadcasting method with last hit interaction measurement whereas your final goal defines its overall success.
This is wrong.
Let’s start off with a question – what is it you are trying to achieve? Improving brand awareness? Increasing the number of subscriptions, or improving the quality of your leads? Are you simply looking for more engagement on your channels or do you have a business objective behind it, such as increasing the number of sales? Each of these goals needs a specific KPI (Key Performance Indicator) to be able to track its performance and success.
Brand Awareness and Reach
Improving brand awareness is a continuous engagement throughout the brand’s journey. Whether you are a fresh brand starting out or a well-established one, you will be constantly exploring new channels and audiences for future acquisitions. When employing influencer marketing to increase your brand awareness, your main KPI should be the number of impressions compared to the chosen influencer’s reach.
Subscriptions & Lead Gen/Signups
Lead generation and subscription farming are easier to measure and track as you already have a conversion point for it defined – a mailing list signup. In order to separate the KPI from overall email subscriptions, you will need to tie this goal to the channel/campaign run by the chosen influencer.
Engagement – Shares, Comments, Likes
Constant acquisition and awareness aren’t sustainable as a branding model. You need to work on your user retention and referrals and the best thing for it is to ensure continuous engagement via your marketing distribution channels.
Social media influencers are great for driving retention and referrals to your social media pages, however, your goal here can be to:
- drive engagement on shared content by the influencer
- drive engagement on your social media pages
The KPI here simply differs from the conversion point you wish to track but is the same in its nature – number of shares, comments, likes. The value is distributed in that specific order.
Likes can be bought or otherwise faked by various bots. Comments are rarely constructive and it’s not uncommon to run into ones faked by bots such are “Nice post”, “Great share”, “Wow”.
Shares, on the other hand, are the most valuable indicator of engagement as people who did it decided that that post was something worth sharing with their audience and friends. When combined with a #brandedhashtag, shared posts tap into the source of engagement with potential acquisitions and future brand advocates.
Conversions and Completed Purchases
Driving sales via influencer marketing is one of the most common secondary marketing strategy used by e-commerce businesses and retailers. When running sales campaigns you already have a conversion/purchase point defined. In order to define the CPA and ensure ROI from it, you will need to set up tracking on every step of the customer journey.
Each channel path or filter combination leading to a product or point of purchase has its own value and CPA so in order to optimize for it, you will need to use tracking links or create branded pages tied to specific campaigns launched by the influencer.
2. Identify influencers for your brand
Identifying influencers is a major challenge for most marketers. According to a study by Econsultancy, 73% of marketers surveyed agreed to this statement. And much of the success of your influencer marketing strategy relies on making a good choice of influencer to promote your brand. Here’s what you need to be looking for in an influencer to validate your choice.
The influencer needs to be tightly bound to your niche and audience. There is a greater chance of a positive KPI as the audience shares the same interest in the market and engage in topics about it. It brings relevance, plus, it becomes much easier for you to validate your target persona and work on their retention.
Engagement is a major factor here as it indicates just how much the influencer’s audience is interested in interacting with them and their content. A solid fan base is always a plus, but the engagement rate is much more important. You can take an average of 10% of the influencer’s fanbase as a referent point. Anything below 5% is less to no engagement and indicates that the person is merely a broadcaster, not an influencer.
You can calculate the engagement by taking an average of engagement actions/fanbase ratio for 30 previously published posts. You can deepen this analysis and get more precise results if you manage to identify and segment real engagement from bot actions.
Fanbase size is also a major factor here as it gives insight into the potential reach of your marketing distribution. Influencers are most often categorized by their fanbase size into three types:
- Mega influencers – with a fanbase size of over a million followers
- Macro influencers – with a fanbase of 100 000 to a million followers
- Micro influencers – with a fanbase of 1000 to 100 000 followers
Although mega influencers have the highest reach, it is a known fact that micro influencers bring better engagement rate. In order to ensure the best results in your influencer marketing strategy, you should make a steady mix of all three types – one macro influencer for every ten micro influencers and one mega influencer on every four macro influencers. Certainly, this is optional and may vary by niche, goals, budget and channel choice.
The quality of work done by the influencer is extremely important when making a choice as it can damage your brand image and marketing ROI. Their work has to be aesthetic and appealing and they need not promote brands and products far too often. Ignoring the aforementioned dilutes authenticity and lowers relevance.
A quality influencer will work with you, not for you. If you identify this with an influencer and manage to organize your processes and campaigns to allow creative freedom, supplement it with content and support it with your brand image, you are on the right path to turning him into a brand advocate.
3. Leverage Influencer Marketing to reach your business goals
Once you’ve determined your goals, set up KPIs and made a base of influencers to engage with you can set your influencer marketing strategy in motion. In order to visualize the paths and optimize for ROI, you’ll need to set up deep tracking and continuously measure the effect of each campaign. Here’s what you can do.
Use tracking links
Have influencers use tracking links – links enriched with UTM tracking codes or well-established link shorteners like Bit.ly, Goo.gl, TinyURL or Ow.ly.
With UTM tracking codes, you can add dimensions like campaign source, name, medium, device type etc., to your Google Analytics (otherwise web analytics) and track success metrics. You can use tools like Google Analytics Campaign Builder to create this types of links. Even shortened with a third-party URL shortener service like Bit.ly, the URL doesn’t lose its tracking parameters and can be tracked in Google Analytics under Acquisition>Campaigns section.
With UTM tracking you can answer questions like:
- How many users did land on our site from this influencer’s campaign?
- How many purchases have we made from this specific campaign, regardless of an influencer?
- What are the exit and bounce paths in these campaigns? Can we improve them?
- How many sales have we made from this campaign from its initial launch?
- Did we validate our target persona by its demography, interest, and behavior?
- Is there a pattern in behavior we now identify as a potential target?
- What’s the CPA? Is there a positive ROI?
You can go beyond the post itself on the influencer’s timeline and identify users who shared the post and the funnel behind them. That’s the power of campaign tracking with UTM parameters.
Monitor branded hashtags
For any campaign launched by your influencers, you can set up and promote a branded hashtag.
When using hashtags, you expand your reach and enable users to discover you more easily. A branded hashtag will help you channel the discovery and engagement of your brand across social media as it helps users identify, mention and connect with you through the same channel.
By agreeing on and leveraging a branded hashtag, you are given an opportunity to track its usage and explore new opportunities for real user engagement. You can monitor hashtags by using social media analytics or leveraging third-party tools for the job.
Make a branded/orphan landing page
Making a campaign specific, branded landing page that reflects your goal and employing it as a conversion point of your influencer marketing strategy is probably the best method of channeling traffic and optimizing for conversion and ROI.
The branded page doesn’t necessarily need to be a part of your website architecture and information structure. It doesn’t have to be indexed by search engines or be accessible through any source rather than its direct link. This is called an orphan page and it’s a great way to channel and summarize your efforts from a single campaign/channel.
Orphan pages are to be treated as landing pages – not necessarily first or last hit interaction points of conversion. The benefit of this model is that you focus your optimization efforts for specific conversion goal on a narrow end of the funnel and work on ensuring a positive ROI.
Although the page itself doesn’t necessarily have to fit in the style guides of the website behind the brand, it does have to reflect your brand image, tone, and voice. It needs to be tailored to provide a specific experience and guide the desired outcome from the users you target. You mustn’t focus on a mere design style according to the latest trends, you need to design with user experience in mind and user journey structured into your distribution channel.
For this to really make an impact, it’s highly advisable to seek out help from a web company experienced in landing page and CRO, or a company that has at least some experience in product development.
Give the influencers creative freedom
You will be amazed at how much this can improve your influencer marketing strategy success. Keep in mind that influencers have their own style and voice. They are their own personal brand and have accumulated a base of followers that recognize and engage with their authenticity. It’s what brings value to the audience behind the influencer. When given the creative freedom, they may promote your brand, product or service in a way that resonates better with the audience and improves engagement.
Most brands working with influencers, design and build campaigns that are strict and to the point according to their audience preferences. Oftentimes, they ignore the behavior and engagement patterns of the audience behind the influencer. This is somewhat justified as many influencers don’t know or simply don’t follow the FTC rules or experiment according to their own assumptions and this can hurt a brands image.
You wouldn’t want to promote a children’s toy for example via video or an image post next to a beer can, right?
Two-way communication is vital, still, it would be foolish to take on full trust in an influencer’s decisions and campaign moves. One way you can reduce the pressure is to ask an influencer to show you up to three campaign examples for you to pick from and adjust if necessary.
Influencer marketing campaigns are not as manageable as traditional marketing campaigns can be. When a campaign looks bad or it had errors prior to launch, you could always adjust it, postpone it or as an end means, delete it.
Supplement Content and Define Guardrails
As previously discussed, your influencer needs to work with you, you shouldn’t be working in silos. You cannot expect from an influencer to have all of the skills, insight and brand assets available and at the back of their heads, all the time. An influencer might have the audience and engagement but they need to be constantly engaged in your marketing strategy development and insight.
Through their audience, they are not simply promoting and broadcasting your brand message, they are helping you build your brand image.
A good way to connect with an influencer is to explain your brand’s mission and vision, your goals, and ideas you inspire. You need to provide continuous insight into your marketing performance share and help build marketing distribution assets for them to use. That way, you will ensure that content used throughout the campaign resonates and performs better.
Again, in order to ensure that your campaign doesn’t violate the FTC guidelines or hurts our brand image, you need to set up guardrails early on. Review your influencers content strategy and define the dos and don’ts.
When does Influencer Marketing fail?
Choosing the wrong influencer, tracking the wrong metrics, missing your target audience and niche or simply completely missing the campaign messaging and goal can lead to a fail. As with any marketing strategy, you need to be sure that your audience is there and which channels are there more likely to engage through.
Here are the key takeaways you should keep at the back of your mind when deciding on or devising an influencer marketing strategy.
Influencers vs. brand advocates
There is a big difference between these two and the sooner you take it into an account, the better.
A person becomes a brand advocate when provided the right brand experience that results in value and trust. This person will spread your marketing message with a passion and belief that it brings the same value to their audience.
An influencer doesn’t necessarily need to be a brand advocate. Your brand might be one of the many they promote and their engagement can be tied to the duration of the promoted campaign.
It’s a major challenge to find a person that naturally promotes your brand and entice them to continue doing so, but a far more valuable effort than finding the right influencer.
Retention and referral beats acquisition
Constant user acquisition is fun as you will continuously find new sources of potential converters and devise new ways and funnels for them to convert. However, acquiring a new user is far more expensive than retaining one. Your influencer marketing strategy needs not to focus on siloed campaigns but to be visualized as a continuous channel for growth.
Introducing your brand to the influencer and synchronizing your mission, messaging and goals with their vision of it are highly important. The goal is not to manipulate, but to elevate your relationship with an influencer and the audience behind it. This should be your mantra that opens a doorway to building natural retention and higher quality of the referrals.
Secondary marketing channel
Influencer marketing shouldn’t be the core of your overall marketing strategy and distribution. It supplements several acquisition channels such are SEO, SMM and Email marketing but it isn’t the primary driver of traffic for any of them.
Campaigns that entice natural and organic engagement guided by the brand image rather than blunt conversion rate help build personalized experience with the audience by adding value and nurturing trust.
Larry is a technical writer with DesignRush – a new digital destination that aims to offer inspiration and overview of the current web design, marketing, and technology trends. Larry has many years of experience in writing content for the web, mostly on topics related to web design and development. To stay updated with Larry’s latest posts, you can follow him on Twitter.