3 Steps to Standardize Measurement in Influencer Marketing

By Pierre Cassuto

Influencer marketing is growing fast, and the desire to standardize measurement is growing alongside it. The Interactive Advertising Bureau and the ANA are exploring standards to measure the impact of influencer spend, which will be key to evolving the channel as it takes a regular role in the mix alongside search, display, TV, and other advertising staples.

But influencer marketing is not the same as other marketing channels. When brands work with influencers, they are not just placing an ad; they are mobilizing an autonomous publisher with their own evolving and often intimate relationship with anywhere from thousands to hundreds of millions of followers.

This calls for marketer-influencer collaboration on measurement and a complex conversation about which metrics matter and how to measure them across platforms.

Three steps the digital advertising community can take to standardize measurement in influencer marketing are accounting for a varied range of outcomes, navigating gaps in platform measurement, and integrating influencers into the measurement conversation.

Account for a Range of Outcomes

There are two different kinds of metrics in influencer marketing: attributes used to evaluate influencer potential, such as audience size and audience fit, and campaign performance metrics.

The first step in the influencer measurement process is for advertisers to determine which metrics matter to them and how to define them. Then, they can operationalize those metrics across influencers and platforms.

For example, many marketers go wrong by focusing on engagement without first asking what exactly that means to them and how to evaluate it across platforms. Some organizations will consider a video "play" a form of engagement, but is that truly a measurement they should consider?

What if a platform automatically plays videos without any engagement, or action, from the user? Was it that the content was simply "noticed"? Are "likes" targeted at brands or at the creators themselves? Discrepancies like this exemplify why it is vital for marketers and agencies to determine their own definitions of metrics like engagement and then verify that a social platform or influencer's engagement metrics correspond with their own.

Marketers might measure follower count, traffic, engagement rates, and sales, to name a few common metrics. Ultimately, the most important metric to track is incremental sales or possibly another metric that captures the bottom-line impact of a campaign.

Why? For one, this is the business objective at the heart of marketing. Secondly, bottom-of-funnel metrics are the hardest to distort. By focusing on revenue or leads, marketers can most easily identify their top-performing influencers no matter the platform.

Navigate Gaps in Platform Measurement

So, let's say an agency or in-house marketing team has identified the most important metrics and how to operationalize them. Then, they go to evaluate their campaigns, and they discover that Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok provide different forms of data and add up their numbers differently. What then?

This is where understanding why you have selected your metrics and what they really mean to you is crucial. To return to the previous example, one platform might count an auto-play as engagement; another might not. What the marketer needs to understand is what they want engagement metrics to reflect. Is engagement an action taken by a user? Or is it merely a level of assumed attention?

Once the marketer answers this question, they can work backward to determine how much engagement a campaign drove across platforms. Standardization will help marketers become experts at understanding how to navigate the discrepancies across platforms and how they work.

Beyond individual action, marketers need to come together via trade organizations like the IAB and ANA to establish industry-wide guidelines and lobby the social platforms for specific kinds of reporting. Trade organizations and huge media platforms have the power to effect change, but they will have more power if they speak in one voice.

So, while marketers will never use completely universal influencer metrics, they have a lot to gain by agreeing on key data points they would like social platforms to provide.

Integrate Influencers into the Standardization Discussion

The final piece of influencer measurement standardization is bringing influencers into the discussion. Excluding creators is a missed opportunity for marketers. Influencers know their content and audiences best. Why wouldn't marketers want to include them in a conversation about goals and performance to optimize results?

For example, today, many influencers are left to estimate the efficacy of their content by using how much they were paid for a campaign as a proxy and whether they get another campaign from the same marketer. At best, the marketer provides verbal feedback, so the content creator must guess what sort of content, messaging, and style will be most effective at driving results the next time.

By integrating the creator into the measurement conversation, marketers will be able to educate the influencer on their target audience as well as what is working, and the influencer can share their expertise on their own content and audience. Shared expertise drives more efficient results.

Influencers are the new publishers. Audience attention is shifting from large organizations to individuals, so much so that even great newspaper journalists are now more powerful than the organizations that employ them. Marketers looking to maximize the value of influencer marketing and measure it effectively cannot ignore the power of these new partners.

By treating influencers as collaborators, not buckets for marketing spend, marketers can standardize measurement, optimize influencer campaigns, and build the relationships with new and existing customers that the influencer channel has evolved to facilitate.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Pierre Cassuto is the global CMO at Humanz.