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Deep Dive: What is the true measure of influencer marketing success?

The way in which we measure influencer marketing campaign success is a much-debated topic in the industry, and ultimately, there is no one correct answer. When Talking Influence posed this question to industry experts for its latest Deep Dive feature, we sat down with ITB Worldwide’s Stephanie King and Aaron King to get their perspectives. Here’s what they had to say.

Aaron King, Senior Account Director, ITB Worldwide:

“Before you begin any sort of influencer marketing, you need to have a realistic expectation of what you can achieve with it and, of course, how you will measure it. Success really starts at identifying what is your goal? Most of the time, people don’t actually know; they think their goal is one thing and they want to measure it in a particular way, often if that’s what they want to do, they might need to measure it in a completely different way.  

My very first question to a client will be: ultimately, what is it they want to achieve? Generally, you’ll get a brief that says the client wants this and this and this, but that’s like buying a car to fly you to the moon. The car can only get you so far and then you need to get on the rocket. Influencer marketing is a bit like that. You need to go one step at a time. If you look at the regular marketing funnel, sometimes you can tackle all stages at once but often you need to build out a sequence and bring people through the funnel, so everything needs to be thought out in a holistic sense. 

Influencer marketing isn’t a silver bullet that’s going to fix all of your business needs. A big part of the challenge is the client, more so than the industry itself, don’t always have the influencer piece of the puzzle in the right place. When you start trying to silo influencer, that’s when it becomes wishy washy – when you’re measuring the success of a marketing campaign that is essentially a comms campaign, through the lens of marketing, then you’re using the wrong metrics.  

The good thing is that metrics are becoming much more advanced and APIs are opening up. On the campaign performance side, we’re able to do much more than ever. Tech is becoming more integrated and as an industry we’re starting to consolidate all of the different tools and build the right stack of tools that will provide a level set to compare apples with apples, not apples and oranges.

Stephanie Stabulis, Vice-President, Influencer Marketing, ITB Worldwide:

“Most brands want awareness – because they’ve heard through the grapevine that influencer marketing can give you awareness – but there is so much more that influencer marketing can do, when it’s looked at from a business perspective. Where brands will really see success is when they define from the very start exactly what they want to get out of working with influencers. And it’s not always awareness. It’s not always engagement. It’s not always sales. Influencers will influence how people are acting on a behavioral scale. You can get a lot of different values out of influencer and being very distinct on what you want to get affects the strategy which affects how you’re going to measure it. If success metrics are not being measured correctly or in a very limited space, it’s because the brand is not clear on where influencer marketing sits and its distinct purpose. 

When brands really understand the similarities and what the channel breakdown looks like, what the value actually is, they could start to understand how to measure it better – but conversations can become so limited to reach and engagement. What about things like DEI – how are you using influencers to show that your brand is actually diverse, that you’re showing real faces of real people who consume your brands?  

There are always going to be quantitative pieces that we’re going to continue to advance our ability to measure but sometimes it’s just about doing right – understanding what the consumer wants and knowing that you’ve got to give that to them through influencer marketing. At some point brands will realize they need to be working with influencers to be relevant, because that’s the best way to humanize brands.   

I think that’s one of the hardest things for clients to understand because we live in a world where data is so accessible now, they don’t want to hear it, but qualitative measurement is still a huge piece of the puzzle – at least 50% of influencers’ values in my opinion. That’s still very much a huge piece of what influencer brings to the table, but people are ignoring it because you can’t measure it.

Some of these comments were featured in the Deep Dive article from Talking Influence, which you can read here:

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