As I’ve said before, influencer marketing presents some unique challenges in terms of ROI. After all, the cost structure for this area of marketing is a little bit harder to define. Plus, the actual payoff of an influencer campaign is harder to quantify than it is for many other marketing options. However, that isn’t to say that we can’t strive to achieve high ROI. Rather, it means that we need to work harder at crafting a winning influencer marketing strategy. To help you make more money at influencer marketing, I’ve developed some tips.
Be ready to pivot as necessary
One of the hallmarks of social media is that it’s constantly evolving. Take Twitter, for example. It used to be that people got on Twitter to constantly update people about their lives. People thought of it as almost a miniature blogging platform, and communication tended to be about someone’s day. However, nowadays Twitter is a major news source, a customer service platform, and a political battleground. While some people still talk about their day, this is no longer the main focus of Twitter members.
Times have changed
Likewise, Facebook has changed a lot since being launched. Originally, it was a place where college students could keep track of each other and comment on romantic targets. Soon, it evolved into a platform where people could play social games with each other. Unlike Twitter, Facebook did keep its primary purpose of keeping touch. However, it has changed a lot. There’s Messenger, Live, and a host of other features. Finally, the platform has matured with its original members. Less “mature” behavior is likely to take place in other networks.
How is this relevant to influencer marketing strategy? In order to be successful, you need to be flexible. Audiences change over time, and so does the medium you need to reach them, even on social media. Want to talk to a more mature audience? Go with Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Of these three, only Instagram works well with the younger set. However, it used to be that the hip youngsters were Facebook users.
Here’s another way you might need to pivot. Values of your target audience can change over time. Before COVID-19, most people didn’t think so much about what happened to people who lost their jobs and then got sick. However, this has become a major political issue due to mass layoffs and a public health crisis. Both healthcare companies and corporate America have needed to show how responsible they are during these difficult times. For healthcare companies, it’s being at the cutting edge and treating anyone who needs it. Other corporations have needed to show how they’re helping employees, trying to avoid layoffs, or bringing on new people as things reopen. Corporate responsibility has never been a bigger issue. Therefore, pivoting your strategy is a great way to enhance ROI.
Use proper planning for your influencer marketing strategy
One of the best ways to boost influencer marketing ROI is to plan ahead with the end goal in mind. For influencer marketing, there tends to be two basic sets of goals: brand awareness and immediate sales. Both goals have different KPIs which you can use to measure campaign success. For this reason, it’s always important to have the end in mind before you even start planning the campaign.
Take the industry pulse
First off, you should take stock of how your brand is doing on social media. Does your company have just an old corporate page on Facebook? Has the Twitter feed fallen silent for years? Are you avoiding Instagram because nobody knows how to take a good picture? If these things are true, then you need to think about why that is. For sure, Facebook and Twitter don’t have the “cool factor,” but depending on your target demographic they might be the best choices for social. Likewise, Snapchat or Instagram can appeal to the younger set.
Next, think about what your competitors are doing. Look at their publicly available metrics. Where are they marketing? How effective is their latest influencer campaign? Is their audience the same as yours, and to what extent? Can you think up a way to be better than them?
Never forget #goals
Third, it’s time to think about your goals for your influencer marketing strategy. If you are trying to increase brand awareness, then you are mostly going to look for engagement metrics. In other words, your ROI will reflect how many people liked, commented, shared, and so on. Here’s the good news: in this situation, it is relatively easy to track your KPIs. Why? Because social monitoring/listening software can easily pick up these types of interaction with branded content. In addition, analytics applications will quantify likes and page views. These are easy numbers to plug in, and easy numbers to interpret.
For increased sales, it can be trickier. Here, you’ll have a variety of ways to measure ROI. Affiliate links or coupon codes are the oldest trick in the book, and their use is as old as blog monetization. Really, they’re the original form of Web-based influencer marketing, way before Instagram made the practice trendy. NO matter your goals, it’s important to develop KPIs that you can measure success against after doing your first campaigns.
Find a great match
When looking for high ROI, your most important step after having well-defined goals is getting a great influencer. This is admittedly tricky, because there’s a huge number of people out there who either are influencers or want to be. Having the right person for the job is hugely predictive of a successful campaign. As a result, looking for influencers can seem overwhelming for brands. To that end, here are a few tips for finding the perfect person.
Look for the right niche
Your first, and biggest, criteria for an influencer is that they need to be in the right niche. You’ll be borrowing their audience, so you want to know that the audience matches your buyer persona. In order to determine this, take a look at their followers. Let me give an example. If you have a buyer persona that includes 25 year old gamers, then you’ll want to see people who fit this demographic. Think about whether or not followers are the type that use your product, or who you want to use our product. One of the biggest hallmarks of effectiveness for an influencer is that the product you’re selling is relevant to their audience.
Seek out marks of effectiveness
In this situation, you’ll need to consider your campaign goals. For instance, if you want to increase brand awareness, you’ll want to see if the influencer has a high engagement rate. You can find this out by looking at the way people interact with their posts. However, this isn’t the only option. If you’re using an influencer marketplace or something similar, they’ll give you the engagement statistics for a given influencer.
Another thing to look for is evidence that they drive sales. You can find out about this by looking at how many affiliate links they have, the number of shoppable posts, or other indicators that they specialize in sales-driving campaigns. Combined with high engagement rates, you’ll have a great idea of the extent to which people actually click on those links. And again, influencer marketplaces and reviews are another way to see how effective they are.
Get a specialist
Do you really want to trust your brand’s reputation to someone who doesn’t like to work on that particular type of influencer campaign? Just like everyone else, influencers have strengths and weaknesses. So, if you have found out that giveaways are an effective strategy for your company, then find influencers who love to do that kind of campaign. Want someone who will work with you long term? Find someone who enjoys working as a brand ambassador or do an entire series of posts. On the other hand, some brands like to have tutorials done, because the product can be used creatively. Here, choose a tutorial specialist that enjoys the kind of product you make.
“Right size” your influencer
One of the best ways to blow your influencer marketing budget is by paying too much. And the easiest way to pay too much is to go with an influencer with a large following. For example, if you are in the beauty industry, then one of the biggest influences out there is Kylie Jenner. Want her to pitch your product? Expect to pay more than a million dollars per Instagram post. For long established beauty brands, that might be OK. For a small, niche company, it’s way too much.
On the other hand, there are some micro influencers that will work for the price of freebies. A few will charge a little bit more, but as a rule, these influencers are highly effective. This is true, because they still have a lot of passion for what they’re doing. While they’re starting to have a business, it isn’t like their feed is full of a bunch of advertising. Quality tends to be high, and followers are highly engaged. In addition, their prices haven’t gotten very high yet, because they aren’t popular with brands. Best of all, micro influencers can be effective for large and small brands alike.
Adjust your influencer marketing strategy for better results next time
As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. Unless you’re working with an agency, there’s a good chance that you won’t get your best ROI the first time. In fact, those early campaigns will probably be less effective than similar ones will be after you’ve learned more about how your brand can maximize influencer marketing in general. With that in mind, here are some ways to increase ROI the next time.
Social listening is your best friend
Here’s the thing: watching your analytics data for a given campaign is only going to get you so far. People can like and share, and that’s a good thing. But what’s even better is if the conversation is somehow continued beyond the campaign itself.
How can you measure this? Well, it’s hard to quantify, but if people are talking about your brand more after an influencer campaign is run, this is good. Sometimes, it’s obvious which influencer they’re talking about. Here’s an example: if an athlete is hawking shoes, and people go around and say “well, this is what he wears,” then you have gotten a conversation going about your product. And, it’s immediately obvious why the conversation is taking place. Unless you attach codes to the campaign, or add “how’d you hear about us” as a survey question on the order form, you might not see the direct sales numbers.
Don’t forget A/B testing
If your campaign includes multiple posts, and especially if they’re the same kind of post, you can do A/B testing. Here, you’ll look at the metrics for each individual post to see how well they performed. In order to boost ROI for later campaigns, you should try to duplicate the successes of the “better” post. How? Maybe customers responded well to the picture with a certain filter. Or, they might’ve gone for the contest rather than the how-to. Alternately, similar posts done by one influencer might get better results than one crafted by someone else. Sometimes the results are predictable, other times surprising. Either way, look at ways you can improve, and ways you are doing great.
Seek better KPIs for your influencer marketing strategy
Besides comparing two posts, there are other ways to use past performance to plan for better results. In this case, I mean it’s critical to learn from KPI numbers. Usually, you’ll use KPI comparisons on an entire campaign. Once you’ve determined the KPI performance for an influencer campaign, you’ll have an idea of what worked. For future campaigns, consider duplicating the successful approach. Over time, you’ll learn what the best techniques are for your particular audience. Then, you’ll be able to plan ever more successful campaigns.
There is no cookie cutter approach to creating an influencer marketing strategy that delivers high ROI. Hopefully the above advice helps you craft or optimize your strategy. For more advice, check out my book The Age of Influence or download a free preview here.