AN INFLUENCER’S GUIDE TO INFLUENCER MARKETING ROI (HOW BRANDS MEASURE SUCCESS)

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There is a huge misconception by a lot of companies that working with influencers is like waving a magic wand… with one poof, all their problems will be fixed!

We often have to be the bearer of bad news and explain to brands that working with influencers does not mean an automatic increase in sales or bookings and there are way more things to consider and value when determining influencer marketing ROI.

Here at Sidewalker Daily, we work with brands on their influencer marketing initiatives but we also provide one-on-one coaching for influencers so we really understand their needs as business owners and creators. While there are tons of articles on the internet about influencer marketing ROI, we want to speak directly to the Instagram influencers and creators to give you valuable insight into how brands actually measure success in our industry.

We truly believe knowledge is power, and the more you know about how companies value your work, the better equipped you’ll be to land brand partnerships.

Influencer's Guide to Influencer Marketing ROI

But First, Let’s Define Influencer Marketing ROI

Whenever you hear the term ROI – this is an abbreviation for the phrase, “Return On Investment.” It’s an industry term that brands use to measure if the funds they are investing into marketing initiatives were worth it based on their goals as a company.

Basically, if a brand is paying you for your work as an influencer (either monetary compensation or trade) it’s an investment for them. Instead of spending that budget on other marketing avenues such as Facebook ads, they spent it on you! So that means, they will expect to see a positive ROI from the work that you do. At the end of the day, brands (no matter the size) do not have unlimited budgets so they need to spend their money wisely.

ROI is important to brands because they are running a business and businesses are in the business of making money – so basically, just breaking even isn’t a win. Companies need to show a positive return in order to feel like an influencer initiative, project or campaign was successful.

One of our favorite influencer marketing stats is from a study done in 2015 by influencer marketplace Tomoson. They surveyed 125 marketers and found out the average ROI from their influencer marketing was on average, $6.50 for every $1 invested. That’s 6 times their investment, which is considered huge.

This means that when done correctly, brands can see a big ROI in their influencer marketing initiatives. And when brands see that influencer marketing yields high ROI we should all jump for joy because it not only strengthens the validity of our industry but also means the company will likely create more influencer marketing opportunities in the future…which means more work for all of you!

brand representative measuring ROI

Social Media Influencer Strategy Starts With Setting Measurable Goals And Objectives

The most important part of any influencer campaign or partnerships is understanding what the brand’s goals are for the project. As the content creator or influencer, it’s your job to find out what their objectives are as a company, so you can strategize on how you are going to help them achieve those goals.

Warning – if the brand does not have any clear goals it could be a recipe for disaster… how can they possibly measure the success of their campaign if they don’t even know what they are measuring?

Before you press go on any campaign, partnership or project, you and the brand both need to be on the same page to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success. The worst thing is to spend tons of time creating content to achieve the goals YOU think the brand has (or needs to have), pushing it out on social media only to have the brand disappointed by the results.

After understanding their goals, the next step is understanding their KPI’s or key performance indicators on measuring those goals or objectives.

A Key Performance Indicator or “KPI” is a business term used by all sectors (and now even the influencer industry) to refer to the measurable indicators you can look at to judge whether the actions or initiatives are helping you reach your overall goals and objectives. So in the influencer world, a KPI could be the number of new email sign ups you got for a brand’s email list, or the amount of Instagram followers you got to follow the brand’s account.

Also, the more specific you can get the brand to be about their goals, objectives and KPIs, the better. So for example, if their goal is to grow email subscribers, find out how many new email subscribers it would take for them to consider the project a success…500, 3000, 10,000. Understanding what they are hoping to achieve with your expertise will also help you set realistic expectations for the client.

Many brands think influencers are magicians and since they have 100,000 followers that you’ll easily be able to get them 3,000 new email subscribers. And maybe it will be a piece of cake for you, but if not, it’s a good idea to be upfront and manage expectations from the start. A lot of this business is about building relationships so at the end of the day you want the brand partner to feel good about their investment in you.

So what’s the moral of the story? Before working with a brand make sure you understand their goals, objectives and KPIs before the partnership begins so you can plan how to best leverage your social media platforms and influence to help them achieve their goals and make the partnership a success.

influencer on press trip

Understanding The “Investment” Part In ROI For Travel Partnerships

Let’s just have an off the record conversation really quick. We find that some travel influencers don’t fully understand what it costs to send them on a trip. When a hotel, travel brand or tourism board sends you on a press trip it is usually EXPENSIVE. Imagine how much you pay out of pocket just to book a trip to a nearby state or another country.

With press trips, these are things that are typically covered (which all add up trust us):

  • Flights
  • Hotel/Accomodations
  • Food
  • Alcohol
  • Transportation
  • Luggage Fees
  • Activities
  • Tour Guide
  • Welcome Gifts

And while some trips have multiple partners who are sharing costs, the total value is typically a lot. So basically even when you are accepting a press trip, the company or organization sending you on the trip is using their marketing budget to pay for you to travel (and everything else that goes with it).

So when figuring out the ROI that the company is looking for, a good place to start is figuring out the total value of the trip. Is the trip a $2,500 trip? $5,000 trip? $10,000 trip? If you were allowed to bring a plus one, don’t forget to factor in the costs for them too. And even though it was a trade, the brand is looking to recoup that value (and more) with the deliverables you will be providing so keep that in mind. 🙂

And since many times press trips or travel based influencer initiatives are unpaid (and we completely understand you guys can’t pay your rent with free trips), we’ve created a list of ideas on how you can leverage your travels to earn some money along the way!

Need some help?

We get how tough it is to navigate the industry alone and offer one-on-one coaching for bloggers and influencers to support them every step of the way.

How Brands Track Influencer Marketing ROI 

Fully capturing the ROI of an influencer campaign isn’t always as simple as tracking sales and conversions. There are less tangible metrics that also need to be considered. Whether your brand partners want to see an increase in brand awareness or engagement, collect re-usable pieces of content for their social media or online marketing initiatives, or be part of the social media conversations, the metrics used for calculating influencer marketing ROI can vary widely.

So we’re sharing some of the types of metrics brands use to measure success and an influencer’s impact to help you better understand what they’re looking for and also help you figure out what to include in your partnership report and even case study

AUDIENCE REACH: Some brands will measure a campaign based on the audience reach of the influencers they work with. This approach can be really tricky. Let’s say you have 250,000 followers, but only 15,000 people are seeing your posts (impressions), then it should be based off impressions – not total audience count. This goes for micro influencers too. If you have 20,000 followers but are receiving a super high number of impressions per post, it’s important to let the brands know this as well. Also, audience reach doesn’t take into account reshare accounts. If you have 30,000 followers, but Beautiful Destinations, an account with 3 million, reposts one of your photos, this is also super valuable to the brand.

IMPRESSIONSWe love measuring campaigns by impressions because it’s a certified eyeball that saw the post. We don’t value impressions as high as we value engagements, but at least with impressions on social it’s a tangible metric. As an influencer, you can be like X number of people saw this post and feel good about it.

ENGAGEMENTS: Likes, comments, and saves oh my! True engagements on your account are really exciting for a brand because it shows them that people are reacting to what you’re posting/talking about. If you’re in a comment pod on Instagram where you and other friends are doing comments for comments, then obviously this devalues the engagement. Something you should also consider is that the more you grow on Instagram, the lower your engagement may be. Once you’re at a certain “social media celebrity” level, people may not like your content or comment because they don’t think you’ll ever notice or see it, verses when you’re engaging with a smaller account. Another Instagram engagement we absolutely love is “saves” – which is something a brand can’t see on the front end but only you can via a business account. We look at saves as a “super like” because people are saving the content for later, which shows they are highly interested in it. This is especially important for travel “products” because travel is such a long lead purchase. People don’t just book a trip on the spot, so a save is a great indicator for potential future bookings.

brand evaluating influencer partnership

SOCIAL MEDIA GROWTH: A lot of brands just want to grow their social media following, and believe an influencer can help them achieve that goal. Whether it’s teaming up on a giveaway, or paying you for a certain amount of posts to drive your followers to their Instagram account, social media growth is a metric that should not go unnoticed. As an influencer, we recommend you make note of the brands follower count before you start working with them, and then after your partnership or campaign has finished, to see if you’ve been able to make a real difference. This is of course if you are the only one working with the brand at the time. If you’re part of a campaign with multiple influencers, then this gets tricky because you won’t be able to fully show what portion of the social media growth you were directly responsible for helping the brand achieve.

GROWTH OF EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS: Many brands set growing their email list as a goal in part of their influencer marketing initiatives. You’ll see this happen a lot with giveaways, where in order to enter, your followers will have to enter their email in a form. Any type of form that requires an email sign up is because the brand is trying to grow their email list.

TRAFFIC: Using swipe ups and trackable links to drive traffic to a brands website, or landing page is pretty common when the brand is trying to increase brand awareness or educate your followers (versus trying to sell something directly). Once you’re able to get traffic to the brand’s website, then it’s up to the brand to convert that traffic into sales.

SENTIMENT: We’ve worked on influencer campaigns in the past where sentiment has been one of our most exciting metrics to analyze. So what exactly is sentiment? It’s your followers and audience’s general response to what you are posting about. Let’s just say you are working with a tourism board and are posting tons of content related to that country. If you receive a high number of comments, where your followers are saying things like, “oh my goodness, I never knew this place existed, I NEED TO VISIT!” – then sentiment is positive. These are important things to highlight and share when working with brands. Sentiment is also a great thing to measure when introducing a new product to the market, because you can test peoples’ reactions and response.

QUALITY CONTENT: Quality content, such as high definition videos or photos, is a great way to measure success for a partnership. Let’s just say a brand has a production budget of $5,000. Rather than paying a traditional photographer, they can pay influencers to create the photos as well as provide additional exposure to their followers via static posting and Stories on Instagram. When you can produce quality content for the brands you work with, this is something that is a win-win for all involved.

SALES: Ultimately, what all brands want when working with influencers is sales. According to the “rule of seven,” a potential customer needs to see an advertisement seven times or more before they will buy. That’s why one-off campaigns for influencer marketing often don’t work, unless it’s associated with a promotion or flash sale. When possible, try to get a brand to work with you on a long-term basis, so that you can truly add value. Sales can also depend on a variety of other factors.  For example, travel is a long lead purchase, which means people won’t purchase it immediately. And with travel, people can be at different stages of the purchasing funnel: aspirational, motivated and ready to buy. It really all depends when you promote a product to your followers. That is why we always suggest long term projects, even months apart, to ensure you are getting that customer interested, depending where their mindset is at the time.

influencer creating content for a brand

Why Influencer Marketing Is So Important For Brands

With people spending an average of almost 2 hours on social media every day, influencer marketing is a powerful tool to reach customers because it helps overcome “ad clutter” – which just looks messy and is not millennial friendly. Unlike display ads, Influencer marketing “cuts through the ‘noise” and creates an authentic experience with your followers and fans.

To be honest, the best influencer marketing campaigns are very organic and do not look like advertising. When the content and messaging is created from the voice of the influencer, the impact far exceeds manufactured posts. But at the end of the day, some brands are adamant at using scripted captions and overly produced images because they want to be in control of the situation and that’s fine…it just usually won’t be as effective.

We’re true believers that the influencer’s follower is their number one client so it’s important to give them the creative freedom to communicate with their audience in the most authentic way possible. But with that said, if the brand does give you creative freedom, it’s extremely important to understand exactly what they are looking to achieve. Setting expectations from the beginning is a good start to a successful partnership…and many more to come!

Need some help?

We get how tough it is to navigate the industry alone and offer one-on-one coaching for bloggers and influencers to support them every step of the way.

Did you find this article helpful? We’d love to know! Feel free to share in the comments section down below!