Buying influence is nothing new. In the old days, we called paid influencer marketing “paid testimonials.” But today, with the explosive influence of YouTube, it can be a guy in a garage, or a drunk actress in a kitchen. As major brands get burned by some of these “influencers,” we wonder how long that phenomenon will last.

Influencer marketing is being called the “most trendy” trend, in part due to wild claims of “ROI” based essentially on what it might have cost to buy the same number of impressions in banner ads or other online advertising. Of course, that is a false equivalency, since, as Bob Garfield will tell you, “No sentient human has ever intentionally clicked on a banner ad.”

But there’s growing awareness that, in the words of one corporate marketer, influencer marketing may be also be hitting its peak. Mostly because the number of followers and impressions, in his words, “doesn’t mean shit.”

And of course, bragging about all these cheap paid impressions ignores the downside risk. Too many YouTube stars that have built followings by being outrageous are proving a little too outrageous for the brands that have invested in them (can you say PewDiePie and Disney?).

So, the questions that are being asked today aren’t “How many did we reach?” or “Was it cheaper than advertising?” but in fact, “Is it worth it from a business outcome perspective?”

One company, Silk, actually tracked its in-store sales lift that resulted from its paid influencer marketing program. Read the full study here. We’ve given them our Measurement Maven of the Month award.

So, to move beyond the easy and bogus to real credible data, we offer you the following…

4 Steps to Measure Your Paid Influencer Program

Step #1: Agree upon goals and S.M.A.R.T objectives

What business results does senior leadership expect the program to generate:

  • Revenue?
  • Leads?
  • Reach?
  • CPM?
  • Net profit?

Establish S.M.A.R.T objectives based on your business goals.

Step #2: Agree upon what you’re benchmarking against

Once the business goals have been defined, the next question to ask is: “To what are we comparing our influencer marketing? How do we benchmark our success?” If you want to show that your influencer marketing program is more efficient, then you need to get agreement on “more efficient than what?” Are you comparing your influencer program to:

  • Paid display adverting?
  • Digital/online advertising?
  • Earned influence?
  • Different types of influencers?
  • The competition, e.g., share of voice or market share?

Step #3: Define the metrics

The specific metrics you use in your measurement program will be determined by the goals and benchmarks you’ve agreed upon in Steps 1 and 2. Here are a few suggestions:

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Step #4: Analyze results and draw conclusions, repeat

The purpose of any measurement system is to help you make better decisions, so the work isn’t over when you have your data and metrics coming in. At the end of any campaign, and at least once a month, you need to analyze results, compare them to the benchmarks, look for anomalies, draw conclusions, and make recommendations.

Start by looking at the lowest-performing campaigns or influencers and figure out what went wrong. How can you improve next time? Then look at the costs, and see where you might be more efficient. Finally, tie all your conclusions and recommendations back to the original business objectives to demonstrate the impact (or lack thereof). ∞

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