Crafting a sophisticated influencer marketing program starts with putting true data and auditing at the center of your strategy. Without data it’s impossible to make educated, strategic decisions—and because influencer marketing has become a key component of brands’ budgets, making the wrong decisions can be extremely expensive. In part two of our influencer marketing series, discover the top ways to center data and insights in your influencer program, as well as your broader digital marketing strategy.
One of the most commonly overlooked elements of a brand’s influencer strategy is the “iterate”, or the component of the strategic cycle focused on learning from the past as a way to inform future decision making. Brands must focus on working with new influencers, creating new content, and building high-value relationships, as well as consistently auditing their current partners to ensure that they’re contributing to the brand’s overall growth strategy in a meaningful way.
The hard work doesn’t end once an influencer launches their first campaign; long-term ROI relies on recurring audits. That means constantly evaluating whether your influencers hit the goals you set as well as your team’s KPIs. Even creators who’ve been successful in the past may drop off in effectiveness, whether it be due to an audience change on either side or another external factor.
Regularly auditing your influencer marketing program is important because it forces you to take time for the critical strategic decisions which will ultimately determine its success. It’s easy to get stuck in the day-to-day legwork of running your influencer marketing program. We recommend designating specific time blocks to go over your data to ensure it’s up to date and accurate, as well as conduct analysis of previous campaigns to make informed decisions for growth. By continually reviewing your set of content creators with fresh eyes, you’ll have clarity on the effectiveness of a relationship long past the vetting stage.
Audits can be as formal or informal depending upon what makes sense for your team—as long as they’re getting done. We recommend either a deck or sheet with each of the outlined criteria below. Some of our brands include downloads from our Relationship section in their weekly status updates, for example.
There are a few steps involved in conducting an effective audit:
1. Gather data
You’ll want to make a list of every single creator you’re currently working with—and past creators if you can—as well as all of the campaigns you’ve done with that influencer. We recommend breaking it down post by post so you can dive into what works and what doesn’t on a granular level. It’s more time consuming but it’s worth it. Once you have that, fill in your performance data.
2. Determine goals and success criteria
If you already had goals for previous and ongoing campaigns, now’s the time to fill them in. If you didn’t, now’s the time to think about what you were trying to accomplish by working with that influencer. Followers gained and conversions are common goals for brands. Brand awareness is great as well, but is much harder to measure.
Tip: Make sure all goals are SMART. You should be able to answer, “Did we achieve our goals?” with a yes or no answer.
3. Establish if the campaign was successful
Make notes on what went right and what went wrong. Were the results what you expected? How close were you to hitting your goals? Were the goals realistic? Were there other factors that might have impacted success?
4. Use what you’ve learned to fuel future growth
Do a mini post-mortem. If the previous step is the “what”, this is the “why” and “how”.
This is also a chance to further segment your data. Dash Hudson customers do this using Content Segmentation Boards.
Tip: We recommend hosting informal audits regularly, and scheduling formal ones at least quarterly. The influencer landscape and best practices are changing regularly, as do social channels and business needs, so doing audits less frequently can leave you with outdated insights.
Dash Hudson has a set of tools that help brands measure influencer and creator ROI by tracking effectiveness, EMV, and followers gained by post and overall, so you can ensure that every influencer relationship is directly contributing to your growth goals. Relationships show brands the performance of every post as well as the overall relationship’s effectiveness, so the auditing process is as simple as looking at the metrics and making a decision.
As influencer marketing becomes more prevalent, regulations are being developed and are changing rapidly. While influencer marketing has been largely unregulated, strict guidelines have recently been put in place by the Fair Trade Commission and its international equivalents. Marketing professionals are now responsible for training influencers and ensuring that they’re following guidelines. “Advertisers need to have reasonable programs in place to train and monitor members of their network” (FTC). While not a massive component of overall success, should there be an issue, it’s important that brands can prove that they took the appropriate steps to follow regulations.
Setting clear KPIs is crucial to evaluating influencer performance. “Measuring and improving ROI is cited as the #1 challenge when working with influencers” (Mediakix). Here are some key metrics you’re likely already tracking, and a few that you should consider adding to level-up your influencer program (as well as some tips on how to use them to drive ROI).
75% of marketers believe that engagement is the best metric for measuring influencer marketing success. As we mentioned above, the sweet spot is a campaign or post engagement rate that is equal to, or better than, the influencer's average engagement rate.
It’s also a great benchmark of ongoing performance. If an influencer has a strong engagement on their feed but engagement on branded content is lower, it can be a leading indicator that the influencer isn’t a good fit for your brand. While it’s not recommended to hastily end the relationship, it might be time to experiment with a different type of content or distribution channel.
2. Followers gained
If the goal of an influencer campaign is to increase brand awareness, measuring follower growth is likely an effective KPI. However, tracking follower growth effectively can be extremely time-consuming. Dash Hudson has a built-in follower growth tool so you can see at a glance how many followers each post and influencer has gained for your brand.
Tip: Brands will often see an initial spike in followers gained the first time they work with an influencer, with a lower follower growth rate for subsequent campaigns. If followers gained is a KPI, it may be best to test some shorter-term relationships with influencers so that you’re hitting the sweet spot between authenticity and reaching new audiences.
EMV stands for “Earned Media Value” and is calculated based on reach, engagement, and follower growth. However, there’s no industry standard for how to calculate EMV and all platforms will weigh metrics differently, so be careful comparing across platforms. Instead, use it as a benchmark to compare one campaign or influencer vs. another campaign or influencer (particularly macro vs. micro) on a level playing field.
Tip: Make sure your landing pages and UTM or affiliate codes are set up so you can monitor conversions and determine ROI. A custom landing page with a collection that the influencer has curated is a perfect way to track conversions and also add value to their audience. You could also create a standalone Spirit Gallery with a curated set of content from that influencer and track the click-throughs from repurposed influencer content in Dash Hudson's LikeShop tool.
Investing in long-term relationships is one of the most impactful ways to build your influencer marketing strategy. Long-term relationships allow you to not only spend less time sourcing new talent and more time working on impactful creative, but also build trust with a creator’s audience. Many mega brands are shifting from short contracts to much longer ones, often upwards of a year. These long-term partnerships give a robust view of how impactful the relationship is while opening doors for other collaborations—like co-branded products. If you have the time and budget it may be worth setting up a formal affiliate program. That way, you’ll be able to more accurately measure site visits and conversions.
In regards to building actionable insights into your strategy, long-term partnerships also allow you the opportunity to build a data-driven relationship with a content creator. We recommend monitoring metrics not only influencer to influencer, but also across campaigns and posts so you can establish meaningful benchmarks. Once you have that data you can determine what is the most impactful for your brand. It’s good practice to segment your analysis by type of content—for example, static shots of the influencer using the product, pure product shots, and review videos.
Tip: If you’re planning on sharing an influencer’s content on your feed, add the account to Visual IQ to see what types of creative would resonate with your audience. Once you’ve decided on the campaign direction, have the influencer send over a few (or many!) options so you can upload them to Vision (Dash Hudson’s performance prediction solution for photos and videos) to see which types of content would resonate best with your existing audience. It’s likely that your target audience will react similarly.
Influencers have taken center stage in modern digital marketing, playing a role in ads, campaigns, and generating top quality earned content for brands. With the expansion of influencer marketing the complexity of managing influencer marketing programs has also grown significantly. Centering data and intelligence in your influencer program is crucial to ensure that your investment is being realized. For the most successful brands, the vetting process doesn’t stop when an influencer joins the team. Instead, brands must always vet and audit existing relationships to ensure that they aren’t becoming fatigued. Evaluating the length of relationships, content mediums, channels, and types of creators with regular segmentation analysis is crucial to stay on the cutting edge of influencer marketing and beat out the competition in an ever-changing and crowded marketplace.
In Relationships, Dash Hudson gives you a high-level overview or a targeted deep dive of influencer performance, so that brands have the exact information needed to optimize strategy. The solution helps brands break down results post-by-post or story-by-story, attribute follower growth granularly, identify hidden opportunities, and most importantly, feel confident that dollars are only being spent on partnerships that make an impact. Dash Hudson helps brands easily share data-backed report cards that showcase ROI, so your team is always on the beat.
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