Influencer marketing is now reaching maturity and is considered by many brands to be a powerful path to reach a hyper-segmented audience, raise awareness around their own content and, in some cases, even infer purchasing decisions.
However, those who try to persuade you that it’s possible to transform influencers into an army of brand supporters and content promoters overnight are not selling you anything more than a pipe dream. Successful brands are fully aware that earning an influencer’s trust takes time, and only can be done by cultivating a long-term relationship that creates value for both parties.
The good news is that, as with any other area within marketing, there are metrics that can offer guidance and help you hone your strategy.
Influence Scoring: how to find the right influencer
Social scoring metrics help identify those people who have the ability to persuade their networks via a deep reach within communities focused on the topics that matter most to you (and your audience). In other words, those with strong social influence.
In his 2012 report “The Rise of Digital Influence and How to Measure It,” Brian Solis defined social influence as a combination of three main pillars: reach, relevance, and resonance on a given topic. Almost all existing influencer identification platforms have been built on the foundation of this original definition and use algorithms to help brands spot the most relevant influencers for their context.
The first step in this process is to have a clear vision regarding your own objectives and the target audience you wish to reach before building your circle of influencers. Therefore, what really matters when using an influencer identification platform is the responsiveness of the final score to the background information of your brand or your upcoming campaign.
Here are a few key context elements that your influencer ranking system should be taking into account, and why:
- Topic: Michelle Phan is one of the world’s top influencers within the fashion and beauty industry, but would you target her if you wished to promote a white paper on marketing automation?
- Location: More important than the location of your influencer is where his or her audience is located (and the language they speak).
- Channel: If your next campaign is on Instagram, do you really need to find the top influencers on Twitter?
- Time: Is the influencer currently active and playing a key role in the on-going discussion on the topic?
Influence scoring is a great precursory metric that can be very helpful in finding the right influencer in the right place and for the right subject. But bear in mind it should only be the first step of your influencer marketing journey.
Proximity scoring: the path to influencer engagement profitability
What sales people hate most is to invest their precious time in poor leads. This is the prime reason why marketers invented lead scoring, whose aim is to evaluate the sales readiness of a prospect and decide whether they should be fast-tracked to sales or slowly nurtured by marketing. If implemented well, lead scoring has been proven to both help companies increase their ROI and reduce sales cycles.
Are influencers different than prospects? Well, of course, they are … and of course they aren’t, either. Just as consumers don’t suddenly become your customers, influencers won’t become your best brand promoters in a single day. You have to catch their eye and be perceived as a credible source before possibly collaborating with them on projects and converting them into new brand ambassadors.
Being able to map out where each targeted influencer is on this path and understand where they are in the engagement process is your key to better relationships and better ROI. And proximity scoring is the way to measure this.
How does it work? In the same way that lead scoring analyzes buying signals, influencer proximity scoring allows you to spot the interest that the influencer is showing regarding your content and actions.
Are they following your brand’s Twitter account? Subscribed to your newsletter? Do they engage with your content? Are they attending events that you are organizing, or requesting to test your new products? All of these signals may be tracked, weighted and fractured into a proximity score.
Proximity scoring is your best ally to stop investing time and money on influencers that looked to be relevant for your brand at first sight yet, at the end of the day, failed to show interest in your content. Furthermore, being able to know at any given moment where the influencer stands in their relationship with your brand will enable you to define and roll out the best engagement strategy.
For example, sending a standard press release to an influencer with whom you’ve been working quite closely is surely the best way to confuse them. It’s likely they’re expecting you to call and pass along an Earth-shaking scoop or let them be the first person outside of your company’s C-Suite to have full access to your strategic plan. On the other hand, inviting an influencer who has just started following you on Twitter to co-create your next white paper will sound a little premature.
Measure the outcome
As is true in any other marketing discipline, an influencer program’s final outcome has to be linked to the campaign’s predefined goals. For example, if your primary aim was to enhance brand awareness, useful metrics would include volume of earned media, level of noise within your social community or referral traffic to your website.
But as Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella state in their “Influence Marketing” book, “True influence marketing is about measurable customer acquisition and lead conversion.” Being able to measure your influencer engagement program’s impact on sales, customer lifetime value or churn reduction is the holy grail of influencer marketing.
Putting it all together: The Influencer Engagement Funnel
We now have one set of metrics for each stage of the influencer marketing process:
- Social influence scoring for influencer identification
- Proximity scoring to measure engagement and build better relationships
- Awareness and business KPIs to assess your influence engagement programs’ overall performance.
That’s great, but here comes the most beautiful part: it all flows together in the influencer engagement funnel:
Checking the funnel’s evolution over time is a very powerful way to measure your influencer marketing efforts. Here are a few ways you can use it:
Analyze the efficiency of your influencer engagement process
Once you have identified an influencer (first layer), the main challenge is to catch their attention and create a primary level of interaction. Once that has been established, they can then pass onto the second layer (engaged). The conversion rate and period of time between those two layers – and even more importantly, their evolution over a period of time – will reflect your capacity to raise your content awareness and attractiveness.
In much the same way, the conversion rate between engaged influencers and active influencers (second and third layers) will reflect your capability to both nurture meaningful relationships with your targets and convince them to collaborate with you.
Predict your results
Checking the health of your influencer engagement funnel will help you to improve the predictability of results.
If, for instance, your roster of engaged influencers has dropped from one time period to the next, it’s quite simple to guess that you will very soon be seeing a decrease in the number of publications and business opportunities coming from your influencer marketing effort. Without these metrics and model in place, a comprehensive analysis would most likely be required to reach such a conclusion.
Back to the basics
Will all these metrics give you the magic formula for influencer engagement success? Not by themselves.
Influencer marketing is about creating meaningful relationships with influencers, and this is a matter in which common sense and intuition can never be replaced. But, as in many other disciplines, measurement is here to fine-tune strategies and tactics, evaluate performance and sharply increase ROI.