January 6, 2021
15 Min Read
Most people in business are aware of the rapid rise of influencer marketing. Since 2016, the industry’s value has trebled, while the number of agencies dedicated to influencers has more than doubled – according to the Influencer Marketing Hub.
In this context, meanwhile, traditional marketing agencies and departments are allocating more and more of their budgets to influencers. Yet, there remains uncertainty on how to determine whether these budgets are going to good use. According to one study, this very uncertainty is holding back up to 40% of brands from investing further in influencer marketing.
That’s why, when we talk about influencer marketing campaigns, we need to talk about KPIs, or key performance indicators. These are the specific, quantitative metrics – such as return on investment, or website traffic – that tell us exactly how well a given campaign is going.
It’s influencer marketing KPIs that we’re discussing in this article – and, to help us out, we spoke to Philip Brown, founder of the Influencer Marketing Academy. With over seven years in the industry, and having worked with brands including Panasonic, Dyson, and Morphy Richards, Philip knows success when he sees it.
Yet, he is clear that tracking engagements and brand mentions – the classic social marketing KPIs – is only part of the story. Instead, he thinks that every performance metric needs to be seen in its proper context.
“I still see a lot of people and businesses getting into influencer marketing from a “I should do this because everyone is” perspective.
People always rush to that question: ‘What’s success? I want to do influencer marketing, so how do I know if it’s successful? What are the KPIs?’ But I think a lot of them are missing a step,” Philip says, immediately turning our interview on its head.
“I must sound like a broken record at this point, but I feel that a lot of people skip the most basic and important question: what do I actually want to achieve through influencer marketing?”
For Philip, before they start worrying about KPIs, businesses need to first gain clarity on their aims for particular campaigns. And when it comes to influencer marketing, these can be much more diverse than conventionally thought.
“There are a lot of people who see influencer marketing as an advertising-only mechanism, almost as a replacement for TV advertising that (mainly) focuses on generating content & eyeballs. However, influencer marketing can be utilised in a variety of ways, ranging from “simple” content creation to conversion, brand-building, brand advocacy, as well as awareness. Once you have a clear understanding as to why you’d like to collaborate with influencers, you can feasibly apply it to all sorts of business objectives – and these will inevitably determine which performance indicators you’ll want to use.”
However, there’s one common motive that isn’t a good reason to collaborate with influencers, Philip points out. That’s the fact that everyone is doing it.
“Does it actually match with your strategy? Are you able to build a proposition that is mutually beneficial? Successful influencer marketing strategies work because both parties share mutual values. Are there influencers out there that you can see yourself working with in the long term?” he asks.
“Mutual value is not a given. So many people jump in without much due diligence and primarily and focus on the performance part, versus the relationship element. Influencers are often held responsible for content performance after the fact. There are important questions to be asked before that, and there is a lot of due preliminary due diligence that can be done to come to a short-list.”
One of these questions relates to which influencer (or influencers) your brand might want to collaborate with in the first place. The style of content an influencer produces, together with their values, will naturally shape this choice. However, if you would think that an influencer’s actual performance would play an obvious role in this decision, you might be surprised by what Philip has seen.
“I always cite an old(er) example of not doing due diligence when setting up an influencer partnership. A women’s beachwear brand decided to work with a swimwear model – thinking it was the perfect match. It wasn’t until after the content was published that they reviewed the model’s audience: 80% turned out to be male. Clearly, this wasn’t what they had in mind trying to sell beachwear.
Philip tells us that so many brands are still not doing the proper research before collaborating with influencers. And, as a result, they end up investing in an audience that is completely wrong for them.
“Lots of brands still have this slightly odd approach where they’ll cold DM an influencer out of the blue (often based on keyword-based influencer identification tech that most influencers are unaware of even exists), saying “all right, we’d like you to create content for our brand”. It’s rare that brands actually have a proper conversation with the influencer prior to engaging in a partnership. It’s considered to be too much work, too much of a drain on resources, something that cannot be scaled efficiently. However I do feel that in order for a real influencer marketing partnership to work, brands need to have a conversation with the influencers first. There needs to be a dialogue about values, as well as influencers’ first party metrics,” Philip observes.
“How do you feel about our brand? What do you like about my feed? What’s important to you when collaborating with brands? How did your last five sponsored posts perform? Which brands have you worked for? What’s the difference between your sponsored engagement rate and that of organic posts? These are the questions brands should be asking before collaborating, to get a sense of what they are investing in – and of what their potential returns may be,” Philip says.
On this point, Philip outlines some of the crucial metrics that should be informing influencer marketing campaigns from the start. These include data on audience demographics and on previous performance.
✔ Audience gender, age, and location.
“Maybe your business only operates and ships products to the UK,” Philip notes, “or maybe you’re a women’s only swimwear brand. Knowing your audience is influencer marketing 101. Influencer content needs to resonate well with your target audience, and your audience demographic must align with your goals.”
✔ Keyword metrics.
“Brands will usually identify content based on keywords – and influencers need to ensure that their content is linked to keywords relevant to a given category,” Philip says. “I would start broadly and develop a set of keywords to identify influencers, before comparing them on engagements, likes, and other data points”.
✔ Engagement rate and average likes.
“It’s an obvious one”, Philip admits, “but there is no golden engagement standard. Instead, review how these ratios compare to similar influencers. I like to complement the engagement rate with the average number of likes too, as it lets you see the top level of what an influencer can deliver in terms of absolute numbers.”
✔ Sponsored / organic post ratio.
“Finally, this lets you see just how much of an influencer’s content is paid for. A high sponsored count may suggest that they are particularly ‘brand promiscuous’ or that they have a strong relationship with a particular brand. You need to be aware of this – but context is crucial”.
All of these metrics need to be established before any influencer marketing campaign begins. As Philip repeats throughout our conversation, setting your campaign KPIs mean nothing if siloed from their wider context, or from your starting point.
“Looking at data points doesn’t mean much unless it works within the relevant context. There needs to be a match between influencers, brands, and in relation to your goals.”
This brings us around to the KPIs that businesses need to track once the campaign is up-and-running. The importance of these cannot be overstated – as it ensures that influencers are providing you with a return on your investment.
Yet, Philip says a little sheepishly, “with the risk of sounding cheesy, these KPIs depend entirely on what you are trying to achieve. There is no catch-all metric – not yet, at least – that defines success for all influencers and brands.”
Despite this, Philip recommends four crucial KPIs to enable brands to track the success of any influencer marketing campaign:
Let’s take a closer look at what he’s interested in.
Mentions and hashtags allow you to track advocacy and awareness of your brand – and, as Philip points out, they let you answer the question of how much impact and reach an influencer is actually generating for you. However, it is crucial that the awareness you build is within your target demographic. Otherwise, like the beachwear brand, you’ll just end up wasting your resources.
“Make sure to split between paid and organic rates ”, Philip adds, “as this will help you see what types of content resonate best with your audience. Ideally, I’d like to see a campaign that combines paid, earned, and owned influence.”
Engagement rates – including rates of likes, clicks, shares, reactions, and comments – are often cited as the most important KPI there is for tracking influencer performance. According to a report from Linqia, 81% of marketers identify engagement rates as their primary method of measuring a campaign’s success.
However, Philip notes that you need to know what you are looking for. “Lower-tier influencers often see that their content generates higher engagement rates,” he observes, highlighting again the importance of viewing your KPIs in context.
“Both higher- and lower-tier influencers have the ability to add value. If higher-tier influencers provide value in terms of absolute impact and reach, you need the lower-tier ones for your engagement rates. In this way, you can activate influencers throughout the tiering pyramid, which is a much better strategy than focusing on one tier and completely ignoring another.”
There are numerous ways to calculate engagement rates. One such way to take total engagements per post divided by the reach per post. Another way influencers calculate engagement rate is to take total engagements on per post divided by total followers.
The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a measurement of customer satisfaction, allowing you to keep track of the sentiments of your customers towards your brand.
It’s measured in relation to a scale from 0 to 10, on which customers are placed according to their answer to a question such as, ‘how likely are you to recommend our company to a friend or colleague?’ If customers are at 9 or 10, they are promoters: they are your advocates and they are bringing in new customers. Anything below 6, however, means they are detractors. Your business wants at least a neutral score overall.
In relation to influencers, your NPS allows you “to measure the impact that your influencer marketing efforts have on existing customers,” as Philip puts it.
“I would aim to run NPS studies across various points during the year, to measure the impact of influencer campaigns on advocacy, on the likelihood of customers to recommend a product based on the content that they have been exposed to throughout the year, created by influencers.”
The Net Promoter Score (NPS) measures customer experience and is a core metric used to evaluate customer satisfaction across the globe. Calculate your NPS by subtracting the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters.
To learn more, read our B2B Marketing KPIs Blog.
The ways in which you measure conversions will depend on the specific goals of your influencer campaign – whether you are hoping to boost sales or increase newsletter sign-ups. Using unique URLs, for example, can help you to track the precise effect of a specific influencer on the traffic to your site. As Philip points out, this is a very straightforward way of tracking awareness.
Yet, Philip points to a more recent development that is empowering brands to gain clarity on the effect of influencers on sales.
“A lot of the tech platforms are building integrations with ecommerce platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce. This is really important because it allows brands to track directly which influencers are generating sales. Affiliate links and discount codes can help with increased attribution within the influencer marketing space too.”
Something that Philip insists on throughout is the importance of long-term thinking in the influencer marketing space.
“There are a lot of people, even within the industry, that only utilise influencer marketing as part of a transactional, short-lived, campaign-based, pay-for-content model. From a measurement perspective, though, a longer-term
approach just makes much more sense. It allows you to clearly map how an influencer is impacting your business goals.”
With this, our conversation comes full circle. As Philip repeats, it’s only with a clear sense of what you are trying to achieve that you can get real value from your KPIs – and from the influencers themselves.
“Influencer marketing is about trust and authenticity. Short term, smash and grab content-only approaches do not promote positive outcomes. Focusing on a long-term approach that combines paid with earned influence, and delivers content with purpose and advocacy will yield much better results. The human touch matters just as much as the data.”
Huge thanks to Philip for taking the time to speak with us. You can check out his work on the Influencer Marketing Academy website, and connect with him on LinkedIn.
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