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How to Measure Success for an Influencer Marketing Campaign


April 29, 2024


Influencer marketing has a reputation for being a luxury, often reserved for large companies whose primary focus is brand awareness. As such, early-stage startups and mid-stage organizations typically shy away from influencer marketing. Perhaps they’re focused on measurable growth and prefer to invest in channels like paid search or paid social, which are more straightforward to implement and measure.

While measuring the efficacy of influencer marketing can be a far more manual and imperfect process that requires a nuanced understanding of campaign objectives, audience dynamics, and the interplay between awareness and conversion metrics, it’s a hyper-effective growth channel for companies of all sizes.

Perhaps you’re interested in implementing influencer marketing as a growth strategy but aren’t sure how to measure or prove its efficacy. Or maybe you’re already running an influencer campaign but are unsatisfied with existing measurement tools. You might even consider shelling out a lot of money for an influencer agency to set you up with a dashboard that rivals Meta’s Ads Manager dashboards.

We’ll delve into strategies, measurement tactics, and the complexities that face marketers at high-growth organizations, with actionable strategies and real-world examples to tackle influencer marketing.

What is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing refers to paying individuals, known as ‘influencers,’ with social influence to market products or services on social media platforms—such as Instagram, Facebook, X, TikTok, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

When you pay an influencer, you’re paying for their audience: the people who care about the organic content that influencer is making, whether that’s family vlogs, tech product reviews, financial advice, or any of the other millions of niches influencers have monetized.

Successful influencer campaigns often focus on building awareness by tapping into the influencer's audience and capitalizing on their trust and credibility.

Examples of Successful Influencer Marketing Campaigns

Several brands have executed influencer campaigns that have captured the attention of millions: Tarte Cosmetics’ recent #trippinwithtarte activation, in which the brand flew a group of infamous creators to Bora Bora earned billions of views (and significant backlash). Skeptics can’t believe the brand would spend millions to take influencers on vacation, but proponents remind us that the cost per impression for this trip, while not publicly shared, is likely low compared to plenty of marketing campaigns from Tarte’s competitors.

Tarte’s campaign—like the majority of influencer campaigns that make it to the mainstream news circuit—is an expensive awareness play from a brand that has money to burn on gaining impressions. Meaning, if you’re not at a stage where Super Bowl ads are relevant to your marketing strategy, and if you hear “influencer” and you think about famous people en route to sunny islands via private jet, please don’t stop reading: that’s not the type of influencing we’re talking about here.

Another example: Mercury, an online banking brand for startups where I worked alongside the social team, recently partnered with influencer Nicholas Crown. By partnering with a niche creator like Crown, who creates organic content about finance and entrepreneurship, Mercury successfully puts its brand in front of other founders who fit its target audience.

Difference Between Awareness & Conversion in Influencer Marketing

Awareness-focused campaigns are essential for building brand visibility and credibility, but the ultimate goal for many brands is conversion: turning awareness into action. To paraphrase author John Doerr, measure what matters.

So, what matters? Establishing clear campaign objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs) is the foundation of effective measurement in influencer marketing. For awareness campaigns, cost per thousand (CPM) impressions is everything. This metric provides insights into the efficiency of reaching target audiences and can be compared impression to impression, against other channels, like organic social, TV, or podcasting.

Calculating both expected CPM—by referencing a creator’s recent impressions across ten or more pieces of content and calculating against a campaign budget—and actual CPM helps assess campaign performance, optimize budget allocation, and impact your negotiation process.

Say a creator quotes $1,000 for a post, and you calculate, based on their most recent pieces of content, which average 43,000 impressions, that your expected CPM at this rate would come out to $23.25. If your CPM on a previous influencer marketing campaign or across other awareness channels is closer to $15, you can share that with the influencer and ask them if they could go down in price, or throw in a second video. Or you might choose to work with a different influencer instead.

Measuring acquisition is a little more challenging, compared to measuring awareness, but still doable. First, pick what it is you’re measuring. Take a neobank, for example. Let’s call it Wallet. Wallet’s primary growth goal right now is account opens, which happens in the third stage of its funnel, as follows:

  1. App installs
  2. Registrations
  3. Account opens
  4. Deposits

Say the cost per installation is currently sitting at $14 from a paid social campaign ran in January, and Wallet is willing to pay up to $100 for an account open. In order to implement measurable insights, they should consider a few methods for the influencer marketing campaign to be effective.

#1. Create a trackable link

Wallet should create a trackable link before the campaign launches. This can be done in Google Analytics, although some marketers prefer to use a solution like Heap or Domo. Wallet should also set up tags mapped to each stage of the funnel to attribute actions back to the influencer.

Remember that this link for Wallet won’t only track clicks—it’ll monitor app installs, registrations, account opens, and deposits. This ensures Wallet can measure the influencer’s ability to move consumers into and through the funnel.

#2. Put the link where it’ll be clicked

Wallet needs to decide where the trackable link should be made available in an influencer’s post.

Social media platforms offer a variety of options. Instagram and TikTok, for example, don’t allow clickable links in post descriptions; therefore, Wallet would need to do a ‘link in bio’ on a creator’s page. Depending on the arrangement, Wallet’s link will be displayed or accessible through the creator’s link-in-bio solution, such as Linktree.

Facebook, X, LinkedIn, and YouTube—in addition to Instagram stories—allow clickable links. Wallet’s trackable link could be placed into the post description, where consumers click it to initiate the app’s download.

#3. Incentivize use of the link

Wallet should consider incentivizing the use of its link, too. Otherwise, it risks underreporting.

Consumers may see a sponsored post from an influencer but not click Wallet’s link, instead navigating directly to the app store and downloading Wallet’s app. In this case, none of the funnel stages are attributable to the influencer marketing campaign.

Incentivizing an app download doesn’t have to be a costly investment. Wallet could implement a contest with small cash prizes for which app installs (from a specific link—have the influencer make this clear in their content) is the metric by which a consumer enters. Or maybe the link rewards them with an automatic $25 deposited into their account.

Challenges in Measuring Success for Influencer Marketing

Despite the many available measurement tools and technologies on the market, measuring success in influencer marketing is challenging and imperfect in the following ways:

  • Tracking is not as foolproof as it is with paid social campaigns
  • A/B tests between pieces of content are less exact than with other acquisition channels, because you can’t control an influencer’s reach
  • Influencers will have their own preferences and requirements; not all creators are willing to put a link in bio, for example, and others might charge more for it

Calculating awareness is easy enough, but incentivizing users towards a specific link certainly helps when it comes to acquisition campaigns. But no matter what, marketers should be comfortable with a certain level of ambiguity when measuring influencer marketing campaigns.

Let’s go back to the fictional Wallet. Even if their influencer of choice shares a trackable link, explains that users will earn $25 for downloading the app from their link, and shares the link in their post, there will inevitably be users who see that video, navigate to the app store, download the app, and come in as an organic acquisition, even when they should be tracked as an influencer channel acquisition.

When you find a hyper-relevant creator—let’s say, a certified public accountant (CPA) with under 50,000 subscribers who will charge $5,000 for a single video on TikTok, and whose followers trust them for financial advice such that this particular CPA will drive 100 account opens at a rate of $50 each, which is substantially less than the brand’s benchmark of $100—a little ambiguity, especially because it’s the direction of underreporting (rather than over-reporting), is worth the risk.

Channel and content strategy have to be well-executed to drive below-benchmark conversions for a niche product through influencer marketing, but that’s absolutely possible and also surprisingly scalable. In my experience, a second campaign with an influencer whose first campaign was effective is at least as effective as the first).

Measuring Success in Influencer Marketing is Doable, Imperfect, and Worth the Risk

Influencer marketing offers immense opportunities for brands to connect with their target audiences in authentic and engaging ways. It allows brands to outsource the labor and time involved with in-house content creation and, if executed properly, deliver growth commensurate with or better than benchmarks from other channels. However, measuring success in influencer campaigns requires a strategic approach that balances awareness and conversion metrics, navigates the inherent challenges of attribution and authenticity, and tolerates the fact that influencer campaigns are, by default, going to be less trackable than paid campaigns.

Get in touch with Right Side Up to find a strategic partner ready to help build, launch, and optimize your next influencer marketing campaign.

Phoebe Kranefuss is a writer, designer, and marketer. She's managed influencer campaigns for fintechs, designed logos for nonprofits, ghost-written tweets for famous teenagers, run social media accounts for healthcare startups, and plenty more! She's great at creating processes from scratch, distilling complexity into digestible information, and thinking outside the box to push the boundaries of creative execution. She lives, works, writes, and teaches in Madison, Wisconsin.

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