How is Influencer Marketing Measured?

As influencer marketing grows in popularity, the industry that has sprung up around it has been trying to get to grips with how to measure campaigns more effectively. Advertisers no longer need to just throw money at a YouTuber or an Instagram star and then pray it has an impact — now there are plenty of metrics that brands can use track to both measure the impact of a campaign and inform pricing.

With the space evolving, and around 62 percent of marketers growing their influencer marketing budgets, VAN spoke to those working in the space to clarify what is and isn’t currently possible, and to gauge the direction the industry is heading.

Towards More Standardised Pricing

In its early days of influencer marketing, the rarity of influencer campaigns meant that prices tended to be negotiated on a case by case basis, as Sheetal Sahota, a senior manager at Rakuten Marketing, explained to VAN, “As part of our affiliate business, we’ve always worked to connect advertisers to content creators. In the beginning, for example, we might have just asked how much we’d have to pay for a certain level of exposure.” In some instances, this method is still used by some of the larger influencers who are in a strong enough position to be able to set their own prices.

Maria Cadbury, managing director at publisher Evolve Media’s influencer marketing department The Studio, gave an example of one in-demand influencer she worked with who wanted to cut down the number of campaigns she worked on to maintain her authenticity. This influencer was able to quadruple her rates, knowing that limiting the number campaigns she worked on would make any she did work on more valuable.

But as influencer marketing has grown in scale and brands are working for with much smaller ‘micro-influencers’, negotiating prices with every individual influencer has become impractical, and so new, more standardised pricing models have emerged.

The social platform a campaign is delivered on might partly dictate the pricing model. YouTube for example tells you how many views a video has received, meaning YouTube campaigns can be measured on a fairly standard cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) basis. On Instagram however this isn’t possible, meaning campaigns tend to be traded on a cost-per-thousand followers basis instead.

Some in the industry think these pricing models need to evolve further. Dafydd Woodward, global product lead of content and influencer marketing at GroupM, says the cost-per-thousand followers metric is too “broad and generic”.

“At the moment we’re asking is there a more genuine metric that we can trade on, for example cost per engagement, whether that’s a like, a comment or a view,” said Woodward. This model again would be very platform dependent, as different platforms offer a variety of forms of engagement.

Rakuten Marketing’s Sahota said she “wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the way the industry goes”, as there are already significant moves towards cost-per-engagement across the industry. For example Rakuten Marketing, which in many cases uses affiliate links to lead users from an influencer’s content to a brand’s domain, can already reward influencers for being the first click on a customer’s purchase journey.

Performance

When it comes to key performance indicators, again the social media platforms themselves dictate in part what is possible.

Total views is perhaps the most basic metric measured, and pretty much all of the most popular platforms will show creators the reach of a given post. More sophisticated insight though, for example into how many users watched the entirety of a video post, will vary between platforms. Snapchat, for example, only showed creators their story view counts until recently, but now offers more in-depth analytics, including things like average time unique viewers spent watching and completion rates, as well as audience demographics. Instagram meanwhile currently gives analytics for regular photo and video posts, but not for Stories.

Engagement too, whilst still not commonly used as a currency, is commonly measured as an indicator of campaign performance. Likes, comments, retweets, and any other forms of engagement all point to a deeper level of interest in a piece of content of course.

Sahota says brands have to be careful with how they interpret engagement for a couple of reasons. Firstly, larger influencers expect to see lower levels of engagement (in relation to their follower count), so advertisers shouldn’t necessarily think campaigns with popular influencers that receive lower engagement rates have been less successful if they are looking at reach or awareness as their main KPI. It’s more likely that people are less inclined to comment on content when hundreds of comments have already been made.

Further to this, it’s important to understand the relative value of each type of engagement on each platform. Blog posts for example should expect to see far lower numbers of comments than Instagram posts, so brand should value 100 comments on an Instagram post and 100 comments on a blog post differently.

Some also dive deeper into comments and hashtags related to piece of content to analyse their sentiment. Sahota says Rakuten Marketing uses AI to analyse the overall sentiment of comments, helping brands understand whether the post has had an overall positive, negative, or neutral effect on the brand’s image.

“That’s a great indicator of whether the audience is liking and commenting because they like they creator, or because they like the content,” she said.

If the campaign itself involves driving users to a specific destination, for example an online store or an app download, clicks through these links can be accurately measured. This is a more platform-independent metric, as advertisers can measure the amount of traffic coming from content posted across a range of social media sites.

Harry Hugo, co-founder and chief campaigns officer at The Goat Agency said that his company can track how many clicks a piece of content on any platform gets, how these clicks are converted to downloads, and how those downloads are converted into sales. Rakuten Marketing meanwhile uses affiliate links to track directly when audiences move from a social media post the the brand’s website, although this still isn’t completely platform-independent. Instagram for example doesn’t allow affiliate links within posts, making affiliate links more awkward to use as they have to be posted in the influencer’s bio, or in the ‘swipe-up’ of an Instagram story instead.

The Inevitable Fraud

Of course several of these metrics are liable to being tampered with by wannabe influencers who pay for followers, bot-driven views, likes and comments in order to dupe brands into working with them. The issue was raised at this year’s Cannes Lions festival when Unilever CMO Keith Weed pledged not to work with influencers who buy followers.

Weed’s concern reflects the worries still held by many advertisers, and reignited the debate around how prone to fraud influencer campaigns are. Some are calling for the social media platforms themselves to do more to help identify anyone artificially inflating their follower or engagement counts.

GroupM’s Woodward says some platforms are fairly active in their efforts. “Instagram every now and again will go through a purge where they identify fake accounts and remove them,” he said. “But I don’t think the social media companies see it as their responsibility to ensure that accounts on their platforms are their genuine, or at least it’s not their top priority.”

Often this is just due to technical challenges of creating a solution that addresses all the concerns and needs of different brands and agencies, said Woodward, and the data advertisers get from these platforms is already by and large sufficient to weed out fraudulent influencers.

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Four Steps to Successfully Negotiate Rates with Influencers

There’s more hype surrounding YouTube Influencer Marketing than ever. Even though collaborations with creators on social media have driven results, Influencer Marketing is still a young industry with rapidly shifting benchmarks: especially when it comes to compensating creators for the work they do.

At the end of the day, it’s always a negotiation between brand/agency and creator. However, here are some helpful tips that will help you and the influencer you’re building a relationship with leave the negotiation table on good footing:

Step 1: Find a Baseline: Views vs. Reach

Reach

First, figure out what you want: do you want to reach, do you want views, or do you want both?

Influencers determine their monetary worth based on their subscriber count or the views they get. Expect to pay about $1,000 USD for every 100,000 subscribers an influencer has on YouTube.

A good rule of thumb to abide by as you do your influencer research is to take a look at how many views on average an influencer’s videos are getting. If you see that views on a creator’s content — on average — represent roughly 20% or more of the total subscriber count — then you can safely assume that their subscribers are real and the content isn’t stale.

Don’t feel any pressure to go big either. Try booking a diverse portfolio of creators and test what works best for your brand. As we’ve seen through hundreds of campaigns on the Grapevine Influencer Marketing platform, micro-influencers yield increased engagement.

Views

If you’re leveraging an Influencer Marketing Platform, you should be able to access insights to metrics such as clicks, click through rates (CTR), cost-per-view (CPV), and more. These are additional tools to help you negotiate for better pricing.

Take a look at the performance of influencers with similar follower counts that work in the same industry and base expectations and benchmarks from there. There is a strong correlation between view count and cost. For example, breaking 100,000 views costs $3,000 USD. Expect to see creators negotiate up based on their views. Likewise, you can use view counts to negotiate down if you need to.

Whether it be views or reach, it really all comes down to how well your targeted influencer can sell. If a video gets 10,000 views but yields 500 conversions, then that’s a success! This is only the beginning of your negotiation process. It’s critical that you use this step as only a baseline for your booking process. The best marketers do their due diligence to ensure that these influencers actually drive a return on your investment.

Step 2: Negotiate Content

Have a clear idea or vision of what kind of content you want the targeted influencer to share. Do you want just a shout out at the beginning of a video or something more integrated? This impacts how much compensation a creator might ask for to promote your campaign, product, or brand. If you need conversions: be sure to equip the creator exclusive (and maybe even generous) offer to help drive more leads.

If you want to build a successful collaboration: give yourself and the creator some time to volley back and forth between ideas to ensure that your content actually resonates. Influencers are busy and the best ones usually have packed content calendars. Build campaigns around a 4-6 week buffer before content actually starts being published. This is especially important to keep in mind if you’re creating campaigns based on holidays or special events.

Step 3: Track and Test

If you thought booking and scheduling content was the end of your negotiation process: you thought wrong! Assign an internal champion on your team to keep close track of the engagement your collaboration is driving with a close eye on clicks and click-through-rate.

If it’s not driving the engagement you need, it might be worth re-negotiating with the influencer, finding someone new, or adjusting your offer/content produced.

Step 4: Collaborate Again

When you work with an influencer you are also building a relationship with someone that could potentially even be a brand ambassador. Think of how some NBA players are either fiercely loyal to Adidas or Nike. That’s all because of the relationships they’ve built with their contacts at those organizations.

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