Influencer marketing has grown exponentially over the past few years. The rise of social media and mobile devices has allowed influencers to amass an audience and tell their own stories. Influencer marketing, where one creates a story and utilizes their online influence and social media to drive traffic to that story, can be said to be the “truest” form of native advertising since the content performs double duty as the advertisement.
The simple introduction to influencer marketing
There are two main types of influencers at opposite ends of the spectrum: Celebrities and micro-influencers.
The two types of influencers
There are two main types of influencers at opposite ends of the spectrum: Celebrities and micro-influencers. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian create influence based on who they are, whereby micro-influencers create influence from the integrity and quality of the content they create.
Micro-influencers, or just influencers, take advantage of our segmenting world to connect with their audiences’ niche interests that can be discovered through long tail searches and social media groups.
Two types of content
As an illustration of this difference, if we were to promote New York City tourism via a celebrity, whose audience is somewhat scattered all over the interest graph, the topics mentioned would be the “lowest common denominator” or something that would appeal to everyone, like, in the case of New York City, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, or the Empire State Building.
On the other hand, if we used an influencer to talk about New York City, with a niche of exploring cities to find interesting food options, they would be able to talk about East Village eateries, hidden gems in Chinatown, and outer borough adventures.
While this content might not appeal to everyone, the audience who it does appeal to will likely be more satisfied than with the generic “celebrity” content; an important distinction, given the personalization of today’s Internet.
Two main purposes of influencer stories
Similarly, there are two main purposes of influencer stories. A popular purpose is for the content to appear within a social media feed, introducing the customer to the new product or service. The other less-emphasized but equally effective purpose is when the content is found via a long tail Google search and is used as a testimonial for the brand.
Measuring effectiveness of influencer marketing
The final pillar, now that we have defined a simple version of influencer marketing, is how we measure its effectiveness.
Looking for reach
A basic form of measurement is to look at the reach of the influencer, defined by the social media metrics each platform provides, such as followers or fans. The more reach, the higher the price.
A Kardashian tweet to her 55M followers is rumored to cost upwards of $50,000 or almost $360 per character. (At that rate, this story would cost $400,000!).
At the celebrity level, due to the sheer scale and the many unknown factors, most agents and managers charge a flat fee for a piece of content.
Some posts are filled with robot generated likes and comments, many of which make absolutely no sense.
— And looking out for fraud!
Many brands have translated this same payment scale to influencers. However, for influencers (as well as celebrities), it is simple to purchase more followers or fans online for as low as one cent per follower with most of these followers either being fake “following accounts” or robots.
Brands have become savvy to this and started looking at comments and “engagement” with the rationale that if people are interacting with the post, liking it, sharing it, etc that it must be doing its job of driving the brand further into the minds of its constituents. Yet, technology is always a step ahead. Some posts are filled with robot generated likes and comments, many of which make absolutely no sense.
How do we come up with a fair way to measure the effectiveness of content?
The typical ways of measuring
A few companies try to combat fraud with an aggressive pay per click model, where the user must click through to the brand’s website.
Similar to the affiliate model, where the user must make a purchase for the influencer to get paid, the pay per click model requires the user to pull themselves out of the social environment (leaving on the growing mobile platforms are much more difficult given the app nature of it) to visit the brand’s website at that exact moment. (The user must click on the link provided; if the user conducts a search and ends up on the brands’ website, the influencer does not get credit).
Brands have measured the value of influencer content from exposure and discovery (CPM) to engagement (CPE) to site visits (CPC) to purchases (CPA). However, no matter how we spin it, content is still a top of funnel discovery tool.
Clicks, visits, and purchases do not reflect the quality of the content, but rather when we stumble into it. How do we come up with a fair way to measure the effectiveness of content?
Can searches provide us what we need?
Search engines, primarily Google, are everywhere: We can search with our voice, we can search in our map, we can search via our web browser. People like search because it (supposedly) provides a neutral view of what we are looking for.
Instead of clicking through to the brand’s web page, where everything is great, users can go to Google and see the one-star rating or the blog post talking about the bad experience, in addition to the rave reviews.
Can we equate interest in a topic, or successful sponsored content, with a user conducting a search?
It is up to the user to determine the validity of this data, but as we make our decisions we want the complete picture; clicking through gives us a biased view, search gives us everything. We see from Google Trends that what people are searching for usually correlates with what is happening in the world and what people are interested in.
Thus, can we equate interest in a topic, or successful sponsored content, with a user conducting a search?
Case study: measuring effectiveness of travel content
Cooperatize, the leading marketplace for sponsored influencer travel content, partnered with Adara, a travel data provider, to try and answer this question.
The Cooperatize marketplace connects brands with influencers who create and promote unique trackable sponsored content, while Adara’s network of proprietary data helps brands target effectively while gleaming exclusive macro behavioral insights.
Given that travel is a big ticket item requiring research through multiple websites, OTAs (online travel agencies), and comparison engines, it can be inferred that conducting a search shows some level of interest in the destination searched for. Further, we can correlate the reading of a sponsored story to a search query to show that the story was responsible for the search.
It appears that influencer content is highly effective at bringing the destination into the consumer’s consideration set.
Travel content and effectiveness
The two companies integrated their technologies which allowed Adara to provide data on what searches from OTAs, brand direct, search engines, and other non-search engine sources were being performed from readers of Cooperatize’s sponsored content.
Content for the test case was about Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where hotel interest was measured and its closest airport, Harrisburg International Airport (MDT), where flight interest was measured. Within a 90 day window, 1.2% of readers performed a flight search with 14.8% of them booking, while 3.8% of readers performed a hotel search with 6.8% of those readers booking.
For comparison the average click through rates of Google AdWords for travel is 2,18%, standard travel display advertising is 0,14%, and rich media is 0,17%. Thus, it appears that influencer content is highly effective at bringing the destination into the consumer’s consideration set, possibly even more so than Google, which is touted as an efficient machine for matching needs and wants.
This data shows that influencer content does intersect with the customer’s path to purchase.
The first step
The percentage attribution of this click to the final purchase is a challenge and best left for another study. “Last clicks” are usually given 100% of the value that it generates. However, content might act as the salesperson while search engines are order takers.
Sponsored content informs, sells, and provides an implicit endorsement of the product. The influencer creates the desire to own or experience something. After which, everyone knows that these dreams can be fulfilled by searching for the right vendor.
Content is not a direct response tool. However, this data shows that influencer content does intersect with the customer’s path to purchase. Determining what an influencer’s “true influence” is, that is, who can make their followers take action, is the first step in determining how successful your influencer campaign is.