Social media influencer marketing is the fastest-growing online customer acquisition channel, beating out organic search and email marketing in 2019. And while influencers have gotten their fair share of bad press, there's no denying the reach they have on the ever-important young demographic. Social media influencers span the fashion, beauty and home products industries (and more), and you can find them mainly on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. They have become popular as a result of the trend toward engagement-based marketing in addition to the credence these individuals hold among consumers.
"Influencers often have a relatively high level of trust with their audience, [which makes] it easier to promote products and services, rather than running ads," said Brandon Webb, founder of Hypluxe.
But where traditional marketing had easy-to-measure results following a campaign launch, influencer marketing is more fluid and difficult to measure in numbers. Here are nine ways to judge whether your influencer campaign was successful.
1. Use affiliate links.
Use affiliate links to measure success. Through programs like Amazon Associates, you can create a specific URL that contains a unique code that identifies a person's ID or username. If the visitor clicks on the advertisement or post and goes to that business's site to make a purchase, you may receive a commission.
"Affiliate links will allow you to track purchases and clicks uniquely, so you can see the analytics specific to each influencer," said Webb.
An affiliate link lets you see exactly who is clicking on which products, giving you data on what products are selling well and not.
2. Track impressions.
Look at impressions to find out how many people have viewed a piece of content. Impressions are another type of hard data that show you exactly how many people the influencer campaign reached; however, impressions do not mean engagement. This only shows the number of people who saw the content for any amount of time, rather than read or engaged with the content in other ways.
3. Track engagement.
Likes, comments, shares, retweets and reactions all count as forms of engagement. These are publicly available and can be a good initial method of vetting potential influencers by showing what level of engagement an influencer's posts have with their followers.
To calculate engagements, add up the likes, shares, comments, etc., that you see to determine how many people engaged with the content. You can also divide the number of comments, likes and shares by the number of impressions to create a metric known as the engagement rate.
4. Set goals.
Do you have a solid plan for what you want to accomplish with your social media influencer campaign? If not, set some goals.
"The best way to measure your success is to set targets," said Mikaella King, social media marketer at Blinds Direct. "Setting realistic targets, like 'I want to have 1,000 Instagram followers by June,' will allow you to see if using an influencer is successful."
This is also helpful when choosing an influencer to work with, because you have clear expectations of what you want to achieve and those expectations allow the influencer to create an effective plan.
5. Monitor traffic before, during and after the campaign.
Observe what your site and social media traffic looks like before you launch the campaign. Then take daily or weekly notes as the campaign is going on, noting spikes and dips. Finally, record what your traffic looks like after the campaign is over, and compare your notes to get a picture of how effective the campaign was at driving traffic to your site. For social media, assess your follower counts and engagement rates, then compare.
6. Determine your KPIs.
A key performance indicator (KPI) is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively your company is achieving your business objectives. These will vary depending on the industry. To set them, ask yourself basic questions about your brand:
- What impact do you wish to have?
- How can you improve the world?
- What are your moneymaking goals?
Basically, follow the SMART method (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time-based objectives) when setting your KPIs.
"Set up KPIs that are relevant to your brand and industry," said Kyle Flaherty, CMO of Zaius. "You'll need these in place so you can track and then report on them at the end of the campaign."
Flaherty suggested objectives, such as boosting brand awareness, improving website traffic, increasing lead generation or reaching new audiences.
7. Create promo codes.
You've probably seen promotional codes offered by social media influencers for a discount on products or services. This is a great way to bring in new customers, as well as track sales, since you'll be able to see how many people entered the code at checkout when purchasing your product.
8. Add UTM parameters.
A UTM parameter (also called a UTM tag or code) is a customizable piece of text that allows analytics software to track campaign traffic. Attaching a UTM code to the end of a URL helps you determine which campaigns brought in the most traffic, which links visitors clicked on the most and more. Flaherty said to use Google Analytics' Campaign URL builder to avoid mistakes.
9. Ask for access.
When discussing a potential partnership with an influencer, see if they're willing to share their personal data and analytics with you after the campaign's completion. It never hurts to ask.
"Don't hesitate to ask to see potential influencers' Google Analytics data," said Flaherty. Many influencers will have sophisticated data (and plenty of experience interpreting it) that they can share with you to help you understand your campaign's success.
Things to look out for
When choosing an influencer, it's very important to have a firm grasp of your objectives. There are thousands of influencers to choose from in every space, so you want to partner with the right one for your business.
Geoff Crain, digital director at Kingstar Media, recommends checking for fake followers and low engagement first, then seeing who has an authoritative voice in the space you're looking to advertise in.
"For example," he said, "if you are interested in increasing business in the fitness world, find influencers who are personal trainers or own their own gyms. Their followers engage with their content because they trust their voice to be legitimate when discussing the category in which they are experts."
Flaherty added that asking for referrals is a great way to ensure you're working with an effective influencer. "Not every influencer is the right influencer," he said. "It depends greatly on your specific budget, your target market. Ask for referrals from other relevant businesses you know who use influencers."