By Keith Bendes, VP of Strategy, Linqia
A 16.2 billion dollar industry poised to multiply in 2023, influencer marketing continues to be marketing's hottest segment while still being in its infancy. Riddled with question marks and unknowns, there are telltale signs of an evolving space with room for growth and innovators on a mission to make brands, creators, and agencies successful. But there is no escaping one of the biggest challenges in influencer investments – measuring influencer marketing campaigns and extracting maximum value from creator collaborations.
Demystifying the true impact of influencer marketing is not only an art and a science; it is also a strategic alignment of business objectives and pairing prioritized goals with proven tactics and actions. However, after evaluating thousands of influencer campaigns launched across all major social platforms, consistent trends lead to an emerging framework proven to show value in influencer marketing and satisfy stakeholders at all levels.
The foundation of this value-based framework is the Total Business Impact (TBI).
Total Business Impact is calculated by compiling a 360-degree view of campaign performance. This includes high-level metrics across key categories, including Social Conversation, Media Optimization, Content Efficiency, Primary KPI Performance, and Qualitative Insights. Within each category is a set of numbers that offer insights into the true business value and impact of the influencer campaign. Together, these metrics provide a data-driven analysis of performance and how brands can best leverage these strategic initiatives to have a widespread impact.
Social conversation primarily encompasses reach, engagement, engagement rate, audience sentiment, and share of voice. Alone, the numbers are vague and provide a high-level overview showing which content is served to whom. However, a more holistic view of these numbers demonstrates how interesting, valuable, and powerful an influencer campaign is and which platforms perform best for specific brands and audiences. Understanding and tracking engagement metrics and changes provides a real-time analysis of campaign performance. And when the campaign is over, the overview can offer valuable learning outcomes for future campaigns.
The media thesis in influencer marketing is that when used within paid media channels, influencer content will deliver better results than brand-produced content. This is primarily a social construct, given influencer content is produced organically for social media. Still, recently the content produced by influencers has been used by brands across a host of media channels, including programmatic display, OLV, digital out-of-home, and even CTV.
To prove the value of influencer content in any of these channels, brands must establish benchmarks representing their historical performance. When incorporating influencer content, brands can compare performance - apples to apples - against brand content. Given the volume of content influencers produce, it’s almost a loaded outcome since the volume is significantly greater than brand-produced content. Thus the likelihood of an asset performing better is relatively high.
Multi-cell tests are becoming increasingly common, whereby brands run coordinated tests that pin influencer content against brand content while controlling other external factors. These tests can be executed with partners (such as Meta and Google) to reveal the content style that resonates best with the brand's consumers.
The holy grail of media measurement is connecting influencer marketing back to broader Marketing Mix Modeling (MTA) or Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA) frameworks. Today, this is done by sophisticated brands using models from companies such as Nielsen, Neustar, and Ipsos. Increasingly, these analyses show that influencer marketing is a better-performing channel.
Content is a significant investment for brands, especially with a growing number of digital touchpoints, which require different styles and formats to feel native. The utility of influencer content is that the same content can be reformatted for other digital properties, including eCommerce pages, OLV videos, banner ads, and more. This reduces the spending needed for cross-channel content while still improving performance.
Scoring technologies are another rising tool. This enables content to be graded on its propensity to drive consumer actions. Using this scoring method, influencer content proves to be highly effective and prime to become the primary style of creative to drive changes in perception and purchase intent.
Requiring less new content production by leveraging influencer content across digital channels means lower content creation costs overall and better efficiency in spending on creator partnerships, being that the investment is amortized across a host of uses.
Primary KPI Performance
When launching a campaign, specific key performance indicators (KPIs) are identified at the outset. There may be many goals within a campaign, but there can only be one north star, and optimizing every aspect of the activation, including influencer talent, media targeting, and measurement framework, will ensure optimal results.
Brand awareness, engagement, purchase intent, and sales are typically the primary KPIs for influencer campaigns. Regarding awareness, measuring the change in share of voice, positive consumer sentiment, the volume of brand/product mentions, and 3rd party studies in brand lift are all indicators of influencer impact on upper funnel metrics.
For purchase intent, consumer actions tracked by campaign links and pixels leading to brand-owned sites and e-commerce pages demonstrate consumers' interest in moving down the funnel. Following a user’s path to product carting indicates an even deeper purchase intent.
Implementing direct attribution links and tracking site traffic data (or a correlation between site visits and sales increases during the campaign), conversion rates, and total sales can be used as campaign performance metrics to indicate success. Sales lift studies through partners like IRI and RetailSync can also be valuable in demonstrating the impact of a campaign on in-store sales. These full-funnel metrics are valuable to any business and highlight the value of influencer campaigns.
Measuring learning outcomes via tactics like influencer surveys, audience polls, and multivariate testing uncovers valuable qualitative insights for brands. These methods allow brands to gain a deeper understanding of the campaign's impact – if the main messages were comprehensive and resonated, and if the campaign reached the right audiences. By evaluating the results, multivariate testing helps determine the combination of variables that lead to the best possible outcomes. This information leads to valuable insights for the brands, influencers, and agencies that support the campaign.
Applying this measurement framework to influencer campaigns helps prove the business value and effectiveness of the initiative. Speaking in terms that resonate with the key stakeholders and decision-makers will create understanding - and promote buy-in - across an organization.
There is a big difference between telling a CMO that an influencer campaign drove x impressions, vs. telling them that the campaign delivered x lift in brand awareness, $x of carted products at priority retailer sites, a 40% improvement in media effectiveness on existing paid channels, and valuable insights on which brand RTB resonates most with younger audiences. Sophisticated influencer marketers are after the latter, not the former.