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Influencer marketing moves beyond vanity metrics

Imagine you’re selecting an influencer to work with on your new campaign. You’ve narrowed it down to two, both in the right area, both creating the right sort of content. One has 24.6 million subscribers, the other 1.4 million. Which do you choose?

Now imagine you could find out the first had 8.7 million unique viewers last month, while the second had 9.9 million. Do you want to change your mind?

Every digital channel has gone from using what are now known as ‘vanity’ metrics – clicks, likes – to adopting more meaningful business metrics, such as shares or engagement. Influencer marketing is the latest to start this journey, with data-based approaches predicted as a major trend for 2022.

The stakes are getting higher

The amount of money now being spent in the channel certainly warrants the increased rigor. According to figures from Statista, the value of the influencer marketing sector worldwide more than doubled between 2019 and 2021 to $13.8bn. With that kind of money at stake, choosing the wrong influencer can have serious repercussions, both in terms of investment wasted and opportunities missed.

“Brands can no longer rely solely on subscriber and follower counts to make effective planning and partnership decisions,” says Kate Ginsburg, head of content and product marketing at global video measurement and analytics platform specialist Tubular Labs. “That’s why you need additional attention and engagement measures to dig into how viewers and consumers are really engaging with your content, and even what they do after viewing it.”

There are other reasons influencer marketing metrics are going up too. One is the phasing out of third-party cookies in Google’s Chrome browser in mid-2023, which will mean only one internet user in 10 can be identified that way. As a result, marketers are looking for new means of introducing their products to potential customers and staying relevant – roles for which influencer marketing is ideally suited.

According to research by Marketingcharts, almost three-quarters of US marketers (71%) expect to increase their spending in the channel. But more investment usually has to be justified by improved ROI; increased reach on its own just isn’t enough any more.

Bigger is better, and so is smaller

The use of better metrics – and better data – is also important for another widely predicted trend for 2022; the use of nano-influencers. Research by Later and Fohr found influencers with fewer than 25,000 followers have the highest engagement rates, because they tend to be catering to a very specialized niche and therefore know exactly what their audience wants. But if you don’t know the engagement rates of the nano-influencers you’re thinking of working with, you’re left just choosing blindly between a bunch of people who don’t have many followers.

Beauty contest

The opening example of two influencers comes from research recently published by Tubular Labs in its Beauty and the Social Video Beast report.

“We used two beauty influencers to compare subscriber counts,” Ginsburg explains. “At face value, the influencers looked similar, but for a brand to make a powerful decision they must look deeper, and that’s where Tubular data came in. Using this data, the brand was able to see how much each audience was interacting with the influencer’s content, which was significantly different.”

Another part of the same research highlighted the importance of knowing what an influencer’s audience does after viewing their content. Tubular compared two more beauty influencers, both with similar engagement rates and both with audiences that are nearly three times more likely to buy beauty products than the average social video viewer. While they might seem like two similar partner options for a brand, the e-commerce shopping behavior data identified an additional lever for optimization.

When examining the audiences’ e-commerce shopping behaviors, the data showed that one influencer’s audience was over-indexing only on haircare products. The other partner’s audience, while smaller, was buying more nail, face, skin, make-up and personal care products. As Ginsburg points out, without that information, a brand or an agency could easily choose a partner that doesn’t match its marketing objectives.

Choose wisely

Reaching the right audience through choice of media has always been key for marketers, but until recently it hasn’t been possible to drill down in influencer marketing the way it has in other channels.

But as Ginsburg also notes, it’s important to consider the numbers holistically.

“Just because an influencer has fewer followers, or those followers have a lower propensity to purchase, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the wrong choice for your brand or your client’s brand,” she says. “In our second case study, one of those influencers would be a great partner for a broadly-based beauty brand, while the other would be perfect for a specialist haircare brand. It’s just a question of having the data available to make the right decision for you.

“We bring together attention, engagement and e-commerce data as a resource for advertisers and agencies. It gives them an extra lever to pull when deciding who to partner with.”

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