As influencer marketing continues to mature and solidify its role as a core digital marketing channel, it is only reasonable that expectations will rise. And although businesses are making $5.20 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing, with an industry that is growing at such a rapid pace, there’s always room to tighten up processes and create additional value.
Because it is not an exact science and many variables can affect your success, improving performance requires a holistic approach, starting with the selection of the right influencers for your campaign and ending with a revision of your strategy and a close look at the results.
Taking these five steps can focus and streamline your influencer marketing program, ensuring you’re earning the best ROI and making the most of your influencer marketing efforts.
5 Must-Dos to Improve Your Influencer Marketing ROI:
1. Take the time to appropriately vet influencers.
No matter how good an influencer’s audience might sound or appear, it’s essential to take the time to review their profile and make sure they’re the best fit for your role.
You wouldn’t hire an employee without making sure their credentials and experience checked out. And, just like employees, influencers who work with you on sponsored partnerships are an extension of your brand and company.
And, influencers want the same thing. They’re also putting their names on the line and want to make sure the products and companies they’re promoting align with their values; in fact, 71 percent of influencers cite value alignment as their top consideration when it comes to brand partnerships.
Ask these questions when considering whether to build or continue an influencer relationship:
Do they reach your target audience?
If you’re a fitness apparel company, you might think about syncing up with a millennial runner with a large following.
Finding an influencer who loves running isn’t enough, though. Take a closer look at the people who choose to follow the influencer, not just at the influencer alone.
Do their followers look like your desired target audience? In this case, are they being followed by a lot of other runners who share their passion? Or, do they love running, but have more followers interacting with their healthy meal or interior design posts?
Dedicate time and resources to understanding your consumer and creating a buyer persona that embodies your audience. Doing so will help you gain clarity on who you’re connecting with and what you’re trying to achieve.
Is their audience engaged and real?
An influencer may have great follower numbers, but are their followers engaged? Most importantly, do they seem real? Here’s how you can tell:
Read the comments.
What types of interaction are influencers receiving on their posts? Are the comments genuine engagement, or do they look more like automated messages from bots?
Looking closely at comments can help you gauge what you might expect as far as interaction from their followers, as well as helping to determine whether they’ve built a real following or are mostly spreading their message to spammers.
You may also research whether they’ve mentioned your product (or a competitor’s) organically, what they said and how their followers responded.
Analyze follower names and photos.
In addition to checking numbers and comments, a glance at usernames and photos can give you an idea of your potential influencer’s audience makeup and legitimacy. Are their profile images duplicates, or blank? If so, they may be bots. Are their profile descriptions unusual, incomplete or repetitive? They may be fake accounts.
According to the New York Times, fake followers and bots remain a growing trend, with more than 60 million estimated fake Facebook profiles and 48 million Twitter bots.
For many marketers, verifying influencer credibility is a top challenge, second only to measuring the ROI of campaigns.
If you’re evaluating a group of multiple influencers or looking at influencers with larger audiences, this process can be extremely time consuming. Working with an influencer marketing platform can streamline the process as they manage the review process and ensure you’re being connected with authentic influencers.
2. Balance guidance and autonomy in your influencer relationships.
When seeking to improve ROI, it can be tempting to push hard and become very involved in the drive for results.
However, micromanaging influencer campaigns can actually have a negative impact on your overall success, because influencer marketing is intended to connect with prospective customers via real people to whom they can relate.
If you micromanage the influencer relationship, your content may sound corporate and salesy, rather than authentic. 84 percent of buyers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and an influencer message combines the best of both worlds.
Give influencers the freedom to inject their personality and style in the content, so it sounds like them, and more importantly, so it sounds real. This approach is especially important if you’re running a multi-influencer campaign, as you don’t want everyone to parrot the same three bullet points.
Provide key messaging points and a desired CTA, allow open dialogue and feedback, then see what they can do. After all, there’s a reason you’re trusting them to support your brand - because they know what they’re doing as marketing professionals.
Social media is their natural habitat, and online interaction is a craft they work diligently on, not just something they do carelessly. Influencers take their online visibility very seriously and more than three-fourths of them spend 3+ hours each day strategizing and developing content that’s relevant to their followers.
3. Focus on one CTA.
Have you heard of analysis paralysis? When people are asked to review too many things, or make too many choices, they can become overwhelmed by options and decide to abandon the decision-making process altogether.
In other words, if you confuse people, you lose them.
Instead of watering down your message with multiple calls to action, decide on one clear action you want your influencers to promote.
- Do you want them to send people to your website?
- Have prospects sign up for an online event?
- Encourage followers to engage with your brand’s social media profiles?
Different types of CTAs can apply to different stages in the marketing funnel. As you map out your buyer’s path from awareness to decision-making, you’ll want to choose different types of CTAs for each stage.
Attraction might mean using CTAs that encourage prospects to engage with your posts and connect more closely with your brand. As the relationship deepens between your prospect or lead and your brand, CTAs may ask them to attend a presentation or online event, or even ask them to make a purchase.
Letting your influencers know where you want their messaging to fall in your marketing process can guide them to create more focused campaigns with clearer and more actionable CTAs.
As an added benefit, you’ll be better able to track the effectiveness and ROI of campaigns you’re running; just make sure you’re aligning overall marketing goals with your CTAs.
4. Get your timing right.
Timing is everything. And yet, too few brands and influencers collaborate on the best timeframe for sending messages.
Brands may lean too far to one extreme or another - giving influencers a specific time and date to post on one end of the spectrum, versus saying “Just post whenever you want” on the other.
Data backs up the fact that timing matters. Engagement numbers show distinctly different times that work for posting on different social platforms and can even vary based on your business’s industry.
To ensure the best possible ROI, look at global data regarding your platforms, industry and followers, then combine it with information from your strategic partnership that considers both your knowledge and your influencer’s expertise.
For example, you might have more staff available to follow up on leads on weekdays. Your influencer partner might then tell you their audience is most engaged on Thursdays and Saturdays (and trends suggest that some audiences are most likely to engage when posts are consistently scheduled), and you can work from there to find a meeting point.
Conversations about timing are valuable in their own right, because they show the forethought and consideration the influencer is putting into the partnership and may open the door for additional conversations about goals, expectations and alignment.
Also, remember influencer marketing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Ask these questions when setting a launch time/date for influencer content:
What else is on my marketing schedule?
When multiple messages launch across multiple channels, make sure you know how you’ll differentiate leads. Will you use tracking URLs, a referral code, or something else?
To best measure the ROI and to build on the most successful campaigns, break it down to a granular level, determine what works and focus your resources on those channels and/or partnerships.
What’s going on in the world around you?
Is there something else happening on social media that might drown you out? Will your messages be lost in a sea of “Pi Day” or “May the Fourth” posts?
Or, on the other hand, are there trending topics in the news and/or marketplace you can tastefully use to catapult your visibility and engagement?
What are your target audience’s usual decision-making patterns?
Consider trends and patterns in consumer behavior to inform your campaign schedule. For example, studies have shown:
- Grocery shopping usually happens on weekends, but shoppers who want to save more money go on weekdays, when prices tend to be lower.
- People make better decisions in different parts of the day depending on whether they consider themselves a “morning person” or a “night owl.”
- Younger shoppers are more likely to make impulsive online purchases; 44 percent within the last three months
5. Learn and pivot as you go.
Take time after each campaign to analyze the results and figure out what worked, what didn’t and what could improve.
Digital marketing and social media move fast, and you have to be ready to adapt in order to achieve long-term success. Just following the market won’t always work, either, as your audience, product and value proposition are likely different from even your close competitors.
Of course, we all plan to make time for pulling data, analyzing reports and planning for the future. In reality, a full plate of other responsibilities, combined with uncertainty about which metrics matter, can often make this critical process turn into a back-burner item.
Working with an experienced influencer marketing platform can help with managing these processes and getting the data needed to maximize effectiveness. When an influencer marketing platform supports your efforts, you’ll have access to higher quality influencers, better data and strategic partnership knowledge you need to achieve the best ROI.