5 Tips for Improving ROI From Influencer Marketing

By: Caroline Waxler

October 10, 2018

The practice of brands working with influencers is not slowing down. Social media marketing platform Klear’s latest annual report, The State of Influencer Marketing, states that influencer marketing grew by 198 percent in 2017.

But getting ROI from working with influencers is not as simple as paying an influencer to promote your brand and racking up impressions. Below, our tips to get the most for your money.

Be judicious about selecting influencers. “Choose influencers carefully,” says Sean Spielberg, CEO of Points North Group, a firm that helps brands and agencies get the most out of their influencer marketing. He notes that while many influencers have authentic followings of over 90 percent and can generate an effective cost per impression (CPM) below $3, others have followings that are made up of more than 80 percent fake followers/bots. Those fake influencers can deliver CPMs worse than $30. Spielberg argues that brands can increase their ROI tenfold by choosing good influencers with real engagement and avoiding those who purchased fake followers.

“In an influencer program, look first for quality over quantity,” says Linda Rutherford, SVP and chief communications officer for Southwest Airlines. “Find a few whose content really resonates in your space and nurture the relationships. Next, work to amplify and leverage the content. You will find more value in fully leveraging a smaller stable of influencers than in amassing a herd of potentially scattered voices.”

And that stable could be closer to home than you think.Carmen Collins, social media lead for Cisco’s Talent Brand, and a speaker at our 2019 Social Shake-Up Show asks, “Have you stopped to think that maybe you have a free network of influencers you could tap into?”

Collins continues: “I’m talking about your employees. Employee voices are more trusted than a ‘brand’ and, when activated, can be a force of nature. @WeAreCisco‘s social is made up entirely of user-generated—or what we term employee-generated—content to show off our culture and make people want to come join us and work at Cisco. That means I have 70,000 possible influencers!”

Vet influencers before you go into business together. “Speak with influencers on the phone, as this helps build trust that would take a long time over Instagram direct messages or email,” says Joseph Coulburn, marketing manager for Edinburgh, U.K.-based nutritional supplement brand BrainZyme. Connecting outside of the digital realm can help foster a more productive working relationship.

“Legal is your friend here,” adds Southwest’s Rutherford. “Partner with your attorneys to do thorough scrubs of all potential influencers if you are going to tether them to your brand. Don’t rush this process or you will be sorry.”

Brandi Boatner, IBM’s social and influencer communications lead for global markets, points to the 1928 quote from Ed Bernays, founder of modern public relations: “In almost every act of our lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses.”

“That holds true today when looking at influencer marketing,” says Boatner. “Before you engage with an influencer as a brand, make sure you own your influence first. Truly understand the strength, character and influence of your brand before you engage an influencer or select one to help you with your brand reputation or market share. Authenticity and character are key when selecting an influencer that aligns to your brand.”

Negotiate the highest visibility possible. Stacy Caprio, founder of the social media agency Accelerated Growth Marketing, advises brands to negotiate for the highest visibility possible, and to be specific in their asks to influencers.

For Instagram, for example, she suggests brands request one of the following: a photo that stays up at least 24 hours or permanently, a link to your website in their bio, an image post or a “swipe up” Instagram Story post with a URL. This ensures “you will reach as much of their audience as possible so that you get the best ROI from as many followers of theirs as possible.”

Know your numbers. To maximize ROI you first must be able to track it, argues marketing consultant Devlin Kenny. He cautions that before jumping into an influencer campaign, marketers need to establish custom campaign hashtags, create tracking links for each influencer and establish campaign posting requirements (anything from a single Instagram post to a multi-year deal involving press appearances). Hashtags, referral traffic and press mentions are all trackable and measurable contributions to a campaign’s ROI.

“Track influencer success like any other channel, because it takes a lot of effort and resources to set up these relationships. This is literally influencer operations, you want to optimize the process and validate the channel,” says Lola Catero, a full-stack marketer focused on tech, fashion and driving equality.

Repurpose and amplify content. One of the biggest mistakes brands make, says Kenny, is not repurposing an influencer’s content. Whether it’s a YouTube review or an Instagram post, this is usually quality content featuring your brand’s products or services. Enhance your ROI by embedding the review on your website, reposting images on your company Instagram page or using influencer-produced content in paid social ads. “You’ve paid for that content creation, you should get the most use out of it possible,” says Kenny.

2017 Nestle campaign made smart use of this tactic. While the company was promoting their Gold Organic coffee in Australia, they took content created by their influencers and displayed it on digital display screens in target retail areas.

Beca Alexander, founder and president of influencer casting agency Socialyte says, “since the content created by influencers has a limited reach, a portion of the budget should always be allocated to amplification and targeting in order to maximize the viewability of the content that’s being created in partnership with the brand.”

There’s little doubt that influencers can bring more desired attention to your brand, but with proper planning and oversight they can contribute to your bottom line as well.

Connect with Caroline on LinkedIn.

At The Social Shake-Up