Practices for Optimal ROI on your Influencer Marketing Platform

In a world dominated by social media, influencer marketing is perhaps the best way for brands to engage with their target audience. With netizens choosing Adblockers to outsmart intrusive display ads, it is getting increasingly challenging for brands to hold a conversation with their audience. Global mobile traffic sees three times more ad blocking than desktops, this makes it ever harder for brands to gain with the most lucrative demographic – millennials – who practically live on their phones.

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Influencer marketing explained

Simply put, influencer marketing involves companies turning to people who wield a high social impact subtly – or not too subtly – to promote their product. The relationship between a company seeking promotion and the influencer needs to develop organically, in order to seem natural. Their endorsement must seem believable and almost effortless – like it’s something the influencer would have done anyway, had they not even been paid for it.

It could be anything from organic farming, to windscreen wipers, to a new electronic gadget or a snazzy watch. The key point is, it can’t don the guise of a typical advertisement. It shouldn’t be George Clooney thoughtfully staring into space with a super expensive watch casually hanging on his wrist (although this might work perfectly). That’s not subtle.

Talking about watches, perhaps a street-style or a red-carpet picture of a popular celebrity, who – casually, as if by accident – wears a certain product, will do. People will obviously notice, look up the product, possibly fall in love with it, and probably even buy it. And there you go – that’s influencer marketing done right.

Influencer Marketing and ROI

The one hitch with influencer marketing is measuring and quantifying the complete ROI and this is challenging. It has resulted in many brands pumping in an inordinate amount of money into their influencer campaigns. Measuring the right ROI for influencer campaigns also becomes difficult due to its organic reach being limited by social platforms such as Facebook or Instagram, that already feature content-rich feeds that negatively impact your chances of getting noticed.

In spite of these hurdles, there’s a lot you can do to ensure that you realize the true ROI of your influencer marketing campaigns:

Use compelling CTAs in your influencer campaign

“While most marketers out there coach influencers on their brand’s touch points and messaging, using a simple but powerful call to action(CTA) can do wonders for your brand. Marketers looking to create a strong CTA for their influencer campaign need to go about the process organically – you need to ask yourself — What will inspire your influencer’s audience about your brand? What will excite them? What will they engage with?”

Ezra Kucharz, Former President of Digital Media at CBS says, “While influencer marketing campaigns must always speak in an authentic voice to be truly effective they must include some sort of call to action. The direct sell model of ‘check this out at…’ can be very effective for the right types of products and services. While a more subtle model that uses enthusiasts, not spokespeople, to push a product or service tends to be more widely effective. The key is allowing the consumer to have a simple way to discover the product or service via social, search, or shop.”
CTAs could range from an influencer offering a coupon discount or just leaving a simple yet direct message for the audience to check out a brand. However, it is integral for the CTA to stand out in the content integration, it could either be at the beginning or in the title of whatever format of content your brand is sponsoring.

Identify Your Niche

One of the biggest faux-pas in influencer marketing is painting all audiences with same broad strokes. You need to identify your influencer’s audience and think qualitatively instead of focusing solely on numbers. Approaching your influencer campaign with “maximizing reach” in mind will do more harm than good. You might end up clobbering your influencer’s reputation along with your brand.
Stick to your brand’s niche and hire an influencer in line with what your brand resonates with.

According to Ezra, “B2B marketers can capitalize by using influencers that are enthusiasts; real users of a product or service. Whether it is a kitchen wares company having an expert cupcake maker using their products or a master home builder demonstrating the use of a product s/he uses daily, it needs to be authentic. A celebrity using power tools or kitchen appliances isn’t going to move product.”

Speaking about the must-haves in influencer campaigns to boost ROI, Chris Lynch, CMO at Cision states “I think it starts with taking an outside-looking-in approach to identify influencers in the first place. When it comes to PR and communications, brands typically choose influencers based on their existing media relationships or the perceived popularity of the media outlet. In the case of paid influencers, too often it’s based on the whims of the marketing team or executives, and their own personal celebrity fascinations. To truly understand the best influencer for your brand, you need to start with a better understanding of your customer and the data you know about that customer. What are their attributes? What types of activities do they engage in? Once you have that data, search for influencers based on those attributes. There is now technology that helps communicators and marketers do this more efficiently.

After the right influencers are identified, there are several ways communication pros can ensure they’re establishing and nurturing strong relationships. In my view, influencer relationships that come through true earned media engagement make for the best ones since they’re not in the employ of a brand. To deliver them value, communicators need to provide influencers with information for their stories that is objectively helpful versus self-serving.”

He adds, “Finally, there are a number of ways to measure the ROI of an influencers relationship. Frequently, people start with looking at engagement data – how many page views, impressions, or activity on social did the relationship generate? But I would argue you need to tie it back to business metrics — did that engagement cause someone to come to your website and purchase a product or engage in a lead gen program?”

Speaking about how choosing the right influencer directly impacts a brand’s bottom line, Sahil Chopra, CEO and Founder at iCubesWire says, “Influencer Marketing campaigns are the trendsetters in today’s times. They are effective, trustworthy and cater to the target audience with a higher reach. However, it is of utmost importance to evaluate the campaign so that it receives maximum ROI. To begin with, choosing influencers requires much time and thought. It is like an investment, which will garner great results over time. Influencers add life to the commodity by sharing their experiences and connecting naturally with the audience. It wouldn’t be wise enough to bank upon outdated platforms and irrelevant influencers as they will impart very little ROI. Irrespective of the success of the campaign, keeping a constant track on its progress is immensely important. Comparing year over year sales could help define the growth pattern of the influencer campaign. However, relying solely upon the influencer for creating a buzz is not sufficient. It should in fact be a good mix of influencer network, publications for covering the campaign and effective content. Amplifying the reach is quite an easy tool which does wonders. Spreading influencers act is a win-win situation as the ‘going viral’ is beneficial for the brand as well as for enhancing the influencer’s following. Higher the reach and popularity, chances of better sales also shoot up resulting in better ROI.”

Set Measurable Goals

As mentioned earlier, one of the biggest hurdles for marketers running influencer campaigns is measurement. For social media marketing, marketers have been relying solely on metrics that vendors provide. However, for influencer marketing, it is an uphill task for marketers to quantify the exact value of their influencer’s reach. In conventional practice, the only way to quantify influencer value was based on the number followers an influencer has. But with increasing reports of bots and fake followers flooding social media, it has become incredibly challenging to correlate influencer value with actual engagement. Setting performance driven goals, and creating “accountable” influencer goals will help marketers better justify their investment on influencer marketing. The key is to drive measurable action, not just likes, views or tweets.

Target Niche Scalability

Up until recently, optimizing influencer marketing strategy has been a numbers game – find an influencer with a massive following and align your brand with the influencer to capitalize on their reach. However, with influencer marketing platforms, marketers now have the luxury to automate and streamline functions like influencer discovery, payments, campaign management, analytics and communications. With this out of the way, marketers can now focus on developing a qualitative approach, rather than a quantitative approach to their campaigns.

When you think of influencers today, you probably picture Kim Kardashian or Jake Paul with their enormous social media followings, but a more effective method of scaling your influencer reach and ensuring authenticity entails building deeper relationships with your niche audience. Marketers can focus on working with a set of smaller influencers (think 6,000 to 90,000 followers as opposed to hundred thousands) and in return reap intangible benefits such as authenticity, a unique voice and nurture deeper customer relationships while scaling their niche engagement.

This works particularly well with shifting consumer preferences, especially digital natives who are weary of the edited and airbrushed world of social media and reality tv. Furthermore, brands employing micro-influencers have noticed significant increases in their engagement rates.

“According to recent survey, engagement rates drop as the follower count increases. Instagram influencers with less than 1,000 followers have a like rate of about 8 percent, whereas influencers with 1,000 to 10,000 followers have a like rate of 4%. And this further drops to 2.4% for influencers with 10,000 to 100,000 followers. Influencers with an audience greater than 1 million witness an engagement rate of 1.7%.”

Micro-influencers versus macro-influencers

In Sahil’s opinion, micro-influencing is probably one of the best options for brands looking to scale their influencer campaign’s reach, he says, “Phenomenon of micro-influencers is becoming a rage now for all the right reasons. The trend has all the brands grabbing the opportunity in the best possible manner across all social media platforms. Since the micro-influencers have large followings, it becomes easier for the brand to approach them and market their product through their posts, tweets, videos, etc. It is the trust and reliability that people have with them that works. Therefore, when they endorse a brand it consequently garners authenticity. Micro-influencers relate to their followers and vice-versa, the followers might not care about the brand but yet get acquainted with it because of their engagement with the micro follower. As per the recent survey by Hello Society, it has been well proven that micro-influencer campaigns extract more engagement macro influencer campaigns. With 60% higher engagement rates, it should definitely be an opportunity to capitalize upon for marketers of small businesses. One process that ensures a wider reach to the target audience through micro-influencers is paid media. It is a perfect approach that is fruitful for the brand as it will have wider reach.”

One of the most compelling reasons to choose micro-influencers over mainstream social media celebrities is – the price tag. Although a brand would need to partner with a network of micro-influencers to achieve scalability, but even so, the total cost of hiring a network of micro-influencers tends to be still lower than the fee commanded by popular social media sensations. Also, micro-influencers enjoy better engagement rates which translate to marketers driving higher ROI. Chris Lynch says, “B2B Marketers of small businesses have the opportunity to secure relationships with micro-influencers before they become more popular and harder to engage. Mega-influencers often come with high price tags and an audience that’s broad enough to become unhelpful for most SMB marketing activities. To find micro-influencers, it’s important to focus on more niche topics and interests as you query social channels. For an SMB, that could be around things like geography or pricing concerns. You might find these influencers have smaller follower counts, but it can be worth the time if the composition of that small set of followers is in the wheelhouse firmographic you’re targeting with your B2B marketing programs. The best part is, good micro-influencers often don’t forget who helped them turn into mega-influencers. By establishing that relationship early, it can be one with long-term benefits.”

Ultimately, brands want to tap into their customer’s desire at a time where marketing is saturated with fleeting content and flashy ads. A good influencer strategy can open up a world of opportunities for marketers and brands alike, you just need to find the right balance between reach and relevance.

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