By Erin Salisbury, Ketchum Global Research & Analytics

Communicators and marketers have long been trying to work out the rules of engagement with influencers – including how to collaborate, co-create and measure performance.

PR pros and brands are under increasing pressure to prove the value and ROI of their influencer campaigns, and as such, are constantly working to understand:

  • How and if their programme reached and affected their core audiences
  • How they can integrate data in a meaningful way
  • What metrics they should be using to track and measure performance
  • How to prove the impact and effectiveness of influencers in their integrated marketing mix

As measurement professionals, there’s so much we can do to help on this journey, while also positioning ourselves as valuable partners that provide strategic guidance.

Working backwards

Link the work to the business: In order to prove the value of influencer partnerships, success needs to be communicated in a language business leaders and decision makers understand. By discussing business objectives at the very beginning of the programme, and agreeing on communications objectives that are based on those commercial objectives, we can create a solid measurement framework that clearly links all communications activities – including influencers – back to what the organisation is trying to do. While influencer activity can’t always directly and clearly attribute to hard metrics such as sales figures, it is possible to show how it can contribute to wider company objectives such as brand building, reputation change, increased awareness, or audience education.

Define what you want influencers to do: Unless the role of the influencer is clearly defined within the overall communications strategy, it’s hard to measure or prove value. As measurement partners, we need to push for alignment ahead of campaign development and influencer selection so it’s crystal clear how the objectives and results of the influencer programme feed into the wider organisational vision.

Using Data to ID

Audience First: Influencers cannot be selected until the brand has identified a clear target audience for the campaign. Different audiences have different behaviours, use different channels and consume different content. By taking the time to really understand how different audience groups behave, brands can be more strategic in selecting influencers and deciding what they want those influencers to actually do for them.

Selection & vetting: Choosing influencers is part science, part art.

Tools and technology allow for clear data on the demographic makeup of an influencer’s audience – a critical step to making sure we aren’t recommending influencers whose audience is outside the age or geographic target we are aiming for. With the rise of bots and fake followers, it is imperative influencers are vetted both manually and by using technology to ensure they have a strong number of real followers, and that their in-target reach is just as strong as their overall footprint.

While data-driven selection is a first and essential step, a qualitative filter should also be applied to the selection to ensure each influencer is a good brand fit, hasn’t been caught up in any scandals or negative news, and is creating the right kind of content on the channels where the target audience is active.

Authenticity and credibility are so key in today’s influencer programmes that this left-brain-right-brain approach simply cannot be ignored.

Measure and Optimise

Ongoing measurement: As we all know, ongoing measurement throughout activation is key. Keeping an intentional and consistent eye allows for real-time optimisation and course-correction across the campaign. I love an analogy I heard at an AMEC Young Leaders Panel last September – in order to assess how much it’s rained, you wouldn’t leave a bucket out for 30 days, take it inside, and use the volume of water as your total for the month. Instead, you’d track the numbers day over day so you can have a more detailed understanding of the peaks and troughs, and what caused the shift over time.

This is also the case when we talk about influencer activations, because regular monitoring not only helps us understand what’s working, but also enables us to utilise paid media to boost top-performing content to an even broader audience.

Working with influencers: The recent news involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica has had a big impact on third party data providers – for example, Instagram shut down its API nine months ahead of schedule, leaving providers scrambling to communicate with customers around how it would affect their access and the information they could receive. As such, we’ve learned the most reliable data on organic content performance will come straight from the back end of the influencer’s platform.

Influencers must be collaborative and share this data with the brands they are working with. They have skin in the measurement game as much as brands do, and should be confident enough in their content and the engagement they receive from their audience to showcase their success.

The list for specific tactics for measuring influencers is long, but some examples include:

  • Social listening/search data to measure awareness
  • Unique tracking codes to assess influencer traffic to site
  • Cookie/pixel tracking to measure blog content
  • Pre- and post-campaign questionnaires to measure shifts in advocacy or brand loyalty

Today, influencers play such a pivotal role in communications that measurement can no longer fall by the wayside. It is the only way to justify the continued use of influencer partners across B2B and B2C campaigns, and it’s an area we need to be fully versed in and ready to give counsel on to keep the measurement industry relevant.