Joshua Gornell
Mar 22, 2024

From ‘credible?’ to ‘incredible!’: Measuring influencers' influence

Influencer marketing can be a fickle, seemingly random practice, but rigorous research, investing in proven measurement strategies, and a focus on generating data-driven results can help make the often opaque marketing strategy clear

Joshua Gornell, head of Commercial Paid Social at EssenceMediacom, unpacks exactly how brands can ensure their influencer marketing investments bear fruit in a measurable, tangible way
Joshua Gornell, head of Commercial Paid Social at EssenceMediacom, unpacks exactly how brands can ensure their influencer marketing investments bear fruit in a measurable, tangible way

To state the obvious, influencer marketing has the capability to be both an incredible success and a miserable failure.

Whilst there are numerous variables which contribute to the success of campaigns, talent selection is arguably the most important.

Our colleagues at influencer agency Goat often discuss their origin story, discovering that an influencer tweeting about football could drive as many downloads amongst their followers as celebrity ambassadors. Following its inception, Goat attempted to replicate this success by having several influencers publish similar tweets. On paper, the influencers were nearly identical – follower numbers, content, longevity—and yet the campaign failed. Why?

Not all influencers are created equal

The medium, which is to say the influencer, is very much the message. Influencers are a media channel, and like all media channels, they have a signalling strength and communicate with audiences. The talent we select affects consumers’ perceptions of our brands and so the importance cannot be underestimated.

It’s easy, and scarily commonplace, to work with the wrong influencers. Brands and agencies cannot simply pick somebody with a degree of fame and a social media following, pay them to promote a product, and expect it to be successful. When reading this, I’d bet that a dreadful example – something unforgettable, or incredibly recent—springs to mind.

So, how can brands ensure they’re setting themselves up for success? Rigour. The same rigour which is applied when planning other media channels, albeit with influencer specific nuance. There are fundamental questions which need to be asked when considering talent, the most important of which are below:

  1. What is the objective of the campaign? Everything must ladder back up to this.
  2. Which influencers have a proven track record of driving the desired outcome? ‘What are my proof points?’ in traditional media terms.
  3. Which influencers have a presence amongst our target audience? ‘Where are our target audience spending their time?’ in traditional media terms.
  4. Do the influencers shortlisted have a natural synergy with our brand, share our values, and are we considering them a partner? What is the benefit / risk of association / adjacency, in traditional media terms?
  5. If you’re unable to confidently answer the above, it’s highly unlikely an influencer will be an effective media channel.

At EMG—EssenceMediacom powered by Goat—our answers come through data, and yours should too. Historic campaign data, spanning >8 years and >250,000 campaigns, is at the start of, and underpins, everything we do.

Whatever your route of getting to these answers, be it data or otherwise, it’s crucial you get there.

Now, assuming you’ve found the right talent, it is fair and logical to assume influencer marketing will drive impact.

Humans have an inherent negativity bias; we don’t trust or believe in anything until it’s proven

Marketeers seem to add an additional dollop of healthy scepticism on top of our natural predisposition for negativity for anything new in the field. For an industry which uses the throwaway comment “we’re not saving lives” at an alarming frequency, our standards for proof are remarkably high.

Until we can confidently show impact, or there is enough uptake within the market to instil mass confidence, most advertisers remain unconvinced. Growing any media channel is contingent on proof.

As it hasn’t always been easy to validate the impact of influencer marketing, because organic performances on social media are essentially impossible to measure outside of affiliate links, which miss a significant number of conversions due to the unwieldy user journey or people forgetting where or by whom they were persuaded, this reality has posed challenges.

How to overcome this challenge? Integration. To start, try getting paid social and influencer marketing teams to work hand-in-hand. Not only does this just make sense, as influencers are synonymous with social media and paid social amplification offers the opportunity for extended reach, but it gives us the opportunity for robust A/B measurement to validate the incremental impact of influencer marketing from an effectiveness and efficiencies standpoint. At EMG, this has produced >195% incremental impact at >-100% cost-per-action.

To take this one step further, aggregating the data from a semi-standardised measurement roadmap across 28 brands and four years allowed us to share a transformational econometric guidance study with our clients; and we all know econometrics is the gold standard!

Once again, data was our best friend and foundation.

Key insight include:

  • Influencer marketing drives +17% short-term ROI versus all media average
  • Influencer marketing drives +9% short-term ROI versus traditional paid social messaging
  • Redirecting up to 10% traditional paid social budget into influencer marketing drives +11% short-term ROI versus traditional paid social campaigns alone
  • Campaigns with >10 influencers drove +11% short-term ROI versus those <10 influencers

Our influencer journey is far from over, and we still have countless plans on further testing, research, and analysis we want to do, but a data-driven approach to talent selection and measurement has very much taken influencer marketing from a relatively unproven, siloed “nice to have” to a hugely effective focus for our agency and clients.

Joshua Gornell is head of Commercial Paid Social at EssenceMediacom. This article first appeared on Campaign's sister site, Performance Marketing World.

Campaign India

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