Influencer measurement: don't put data on a pedestal

In the words of American humourist Mark Twain or Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli the old adage goes; ‘There are lies, damned lies and statistics’.

The dramatic shift towards digital marketing has enabled an entirely new, powerful, form of tracking and measurement; you can’t argue with statistics that can track the exact return on investment (ROI) of a marketing spend. But unfortunately data doesn’t always give the full picture, and when it comes to measuring the success of an influencer marketing campaign, evaluation departments have developed an unhealthy obsession with numbers and have become over-reliant on unreliable agency data.

The influencer industry came under the spotlight recently with Unilever's decision to re-asses their strategy. For me it’s a step in the right direction from the huge multinational. But it's not just the brands being misled by influencers, the influencers themselves are often misled by disingenuous brands who are trying to get quick easy wins to up their follower count - these short trysts aren’t dissimilar to a real-life one-night stand as the relationship tends to dwindle as soon as the activity is over.

Consumer feeds are saturated by cheap (or sometimes eye-wateringly expensive!) ‘fling’ #ad posts and the authenticity of influencer content has gradually eroded away. Finding genuine, authentic, longer-term fans and nurturing the relationship with them needs to be the primary focus for marketing departments.

Just like real-life dating, algorithms and cookie-cutter strategies aren't likely to find you the perfect match. It needs to be more personalised. As with any relationship, making connections, no matter how influential, should be an emotional process with a human touch. The same goes for the way we measure the success of these relationships.

Building a brand is about more than just increasing follower count. It’s about developing trust in consumers in the longer term and it's the most impactful content is often the hardest to track. A lot of brands are obsessed with being tagged, but truly organic content which doesn't include a tag to a brand can often be more powerful and have more staying power.

When fans spot Rita Ora drinking a beer brand in a post or story and the beer brand isn't tagged, they are much more likely to believe she's a genuine fan, and consider this next time they’re ordering a drink. When followers see that a celebrity is a genuine fan of a brand, it has far greater influence and impact on sales and engagement. Just because something is more difficult to track, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. This kind of authenticity is what all brands should be striving to achieve, and with the right strategy, it is possible to curate.

Forging a genuine relationship with an influencer requires patience, strong industry insight, more creativity and the ability to act fast. Once a relationship is forged, it’s also really important to assess and nurture the organic relationship to help it develop.

It's time we started treating relationships with influencers more like real relationships. Data plays an important role in measuring the success of a campaign, but it’s time we stopped putting it on a pedestal and brought more of a human touch to our campaigns.

Emma Usher is founder of celebrity consultancy RunRagged and influencer marketing platform thevipsuite.co.uk

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