The Measurement Menace of the Year: The Influencer Marketing Industry and the Social Platforms that Enable It

Top prize for Measurement Menace this year goes to the unholy alliance of influencer marketing and the social platforms that stoke its empty boasts. AVEs, our old and discredited nemesis, have returned in their influencer equivalent, “earned media value,” as the inflated metrics that make everyone who likes ridiculously big numbers happy. We’ve highlighted many cases of misuse of this dreaded metric.

This particular article epitomizes the problem. Allegedly, 5.5 million posts by the top 20 retail brands reaped $3 billion in earned media value: “the amount of money companies would need to spend on Instagram advertisements in order to have the same number of people seeing their brand…”

There are many faults with this overly simplistic analysis. In the first place, those brands would never in a million years have actually spent $3 billion on Instagram ads. Never mind that all they are counting is whatever Facebook reports as “reach.” We all know they manipulate and falsify those numbers to keep their advertisers happy.

I’m not against using influencers, or even paying them. The problem is the false assumption that a picture appearing in several thousand Instagram feeds actually drives purchase behavior. It might actually deliver for some brands. But, unless you do the detailed research to find out how many of your customers use Instagram regularly to make purchase decisions, you really don’t know anything except what Facebook wants to tell you. And that doesn’t even factor in the engagement inflation driven by bots and troll farms.

One brand discussed in the article claimed to have garnered “1.8 billion likes.” How many of those were actually real humans we will never know.

So our Measurement Menace of the Year award goes to this tacit collusion between marketers, influencers, and social media platforms, fueled by bogus metrics, with the goal of convincing brands that their marketing works. Your influencer marketing might truly be working, but you’ll never know until you do proper research with trustworthy metrics. ∞

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