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The Right Content Strategy, Influencer Metrics & KPIs for your Brand Goal

Having success with an influencer marketing program (*briefly*, I mean it is a complex machine) comes down to a few things:

  1. Having a solid content strategy. *Do not leave this up to the influencers if you want to assure success* While I do find many intelligent and creative influencers who are capable of understanding and creating the kind of content that engages brand, I put this chief responsibility on the marketers. Influencers can be guided, and you want to assure that your content strategy actually achieves the objective and KPIs you will be measuring its success on.

  2. Picking the right influencers. There are over 900 million Instagram users alone, with a predicted 1M+ self defining as an "influencer". With the rise in utilization of nano-influencers it's expected that the number is higher. However, not ever self-defined influencer has the power to move people or sway opinions. Not every influencer has curated an expertise or cause in which they have high authority to speak of. Not every influencer has a deep relationship with their audience beyond their photos. While aligning with a high-quality, high reach and engagement content-creator is great for advertising goals, it may not transfer over well to scenarios where the expectation and goals of the program lie beyond ad value. It is incredibly important to align the metrics (KPIS) used to qualify or disqualify talent with both your content strategy and your end goal.

  3. Measurement. The campaign or program should be measured both individually (per influencer) and holistically (program or campaign wide) against its main goal. Learnings and insights should then be re-optimized and fed back to content strategy, where the process starts all over again.

These points have a major thread in common - consistent, well defined KPIs are consistent throughout each step and these KPIs all lead back to the brand's goals.


I have been designing programs and campaigns for over 7 years and I can tell you that even as a seasoned strategist, it is incredibly rare to design ONE campaign or program that has concrete alignment with ALL brand goals - because influencer marketing has so much internal value and can support paid and earned media goals, top and bottom of the funnel goals, acquisition through retention / loyalty, and yes - even sales. But consider the example of acquisition vs. loyalty: an existing consumer is in a completely different headspace than the consumer who is still considering purchase. Thus the content strategies must speak to the consumers where they are - the messaging through an influencer channel to both parties is going to look different, so may your strategies or goals for engaging them. You may have multiple campaigns or programs running to address different objectives to create clear paths between your influencer relationships and brand goals.


I'm going to take you through a few of the most popular brand goals, the KPIs that define them, and how to integrate them into your influencer marketing strategy.




Advertising Value & Brand Awareness


For many brands, influencer is actually "influencer advertising". When comparing to other advertising methods, namely print, social media ads, banner ads, email ads, etc. Influencers have distinct advantages.

  • Over 60% of users have noted being influenced by social media at retail.

  • 49% of consumers rely on influencer recommendations for purchase decisions.

  • Over half of women in a particular study cited that they have made purchasing decisions because of an influencer recommendation.

Especially true for retail brands who have a disconnect between online influence and offline purchase, brand awareness and advertising value is key. Even some DTC or e-commerce brand may lump some of their influencer marketing efforts into the advertising category (paid media).


Content Strategy

  • Most influencers will charge on a per-post basis, even for long-term relations. Thus for this kind of initiative, you want to pack the recommendation into the least amount of content as possible to keep the cost-per-impression close to that of other advertising channels. (It's usually slightly higher, but justifiable based on the stats above. It's still different coming from a 3rd party influencer and not the brand).

  • Believability should be the key focus of the recommendation, which means building context through storytelling should be a top priority

  • Engagement boosts organic reach and impressions, thus content should be high-quality and scroll-stopping. Even engagement given without regard to caption can help drive down the cost-per-impression

Influencer Selection

  • Cost for Reach / Cost for predicted impressions. To keep competitive with advertising goals, it should be estimated what the potential cost returns will look like. Influencers will reach anywhere from 25-40% of their audience which will allow you to estimate ranges against cost. Typical CPMs on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter are about $5-10 with YouTube slightly higher at $15-30 and Tik Tok slightly lower.

  • Above average engagement rate to drive reach

  • Clear evidence of identity that aligns with the key consumer (ie. motherhood, fashion, makeup etc.)

  • Believability in caption writing

  • High-Quality content

Measurement

  • Audience Reach

  • Generated Impressions

  • Actual vs. Potential Impressions (inline with 25-40% average)

  • CPM (Cost per Thousand Impressions) or CPIs

  • Engagement Rate

  • Increased Share of Voice, social listening


Deeper Brand Engagement & Sharing


While brand awareness sits at the top of the funnel, many brands choose to engage in the deeper funnel - wanting to spark interest, consideration, evaluation and intent to buy or engage with the brand through social media accounts. To trigger deeper brand engagement, we want to look at things like correlation, personification, social proof, endorsement and affiliation.

  • Correlation is the visible gradual growth of a brand. We are more likely as consumers to perceive popularity and effectiveness of a brand when multiple people are talking about it vs. one influencer.

  • Personification is the use of the influencer's lifestyle and look to bring a portrait of your ideal consumer to life. You are making a statement through an influencer partnership that this is the story of your consumer.

  • Social Proof makes your brand worthy to be talked about online. Using influencers to create social proof can lead to increased opportunity for UGC from everyday customers.

  • Endorsement and affiliation are referrals from a strong authority. Through association alone the brand can receive an approval which is often enough to spark deeper engagement (as well as sales).

Deeper engagement can be facilitated through paid and earned influencer media. Gifting and building relationships can net earned media mentions while paid programs can guarantee them.


Content Strategy

  • There must be a high level of personalization and relevance to the content when looking for deeper connection.

  • Building content around lifestyle is important when looking to build personification

  • The amount of content and density in a certain niche is important - you want there to be decent audience overlap to provide correlation value

  • More content allows more real estate for use cases and contexts to be build with respect to authenticity. Consider more focus on casual integrations like stories or YouTube integrated videos over feed or dedicated video

  • Video is usually a more preferred platform to build deeper context

  • May want to consider more sponsored content approaches and branded co-creations between brand and influencer

  • You will want to really focus on use case and context to spark the duplication of content through UGC efforts

Influencer Selection

  • Engagement Rate

  • Authenticity / Believability - Are people engaged with previous brand partnerships? Are captions believable?

  • Comments / Response - Are they real interactions?

  • Personality and content style. Does not necessarily need to be highest-quality, but there needs to be a match between the influencer and your brand customers interests and personalities.

  • Creativity / Ability to personalize and integrate product over promoting product

  • Ability to group content requirements under competitive pricing. Flexibility is paramount and an influencer who is willing to work over more pieces of content for the ability to be more authentic and real will consider pricing as so.

Measurement

  • Engagement Rate

  • Cost Per Engagement

  • Earned Media Value (for organic placements only)

  • Comments / Response with consideration

  • Social Asset Growth over time

  • Quality of content

  • Increase in UGC

  • Increase in organic searches and web traffic

  • Increase in sales over time


Content Creation & UGC


Influencer content has incredible value to content creation efforts. According to MobileMarketer.com, Nearly two-thirds (60%) of survey respondents said they were more likely to buy from a user-generated image on the company’s Instagram account than its branded post. User-generated content on your page can help increase brand consideration and other mid-end funnel goals. It also helps to bring correlation, social proof, endorsement and affiliation from an influencer's assets, to your own - providing more opportunity to convert audiences gained from other social media marketing efforts as well. In some studies, influencer produced content as ads also has historically performed better than brand content.


Content Strategy

  • There must be a high level of personalization and relevance to the content when looking for deeper connection. You want to be able to show a variety of use cases and consumer scenarios in your re-publishes.

  • Building content around lifestyle is important when looking to build personification

  • The amount of content and density in a certain niche is less important. Diversity in consumer types is more important.

  • Content should align with the type of re-use. For example, if you are re-purposing feed post, they may be more-important than Instagram stories. With additional funds needed to cover rights and usage, it's important to stick to less content to keep pricing competitive.

  • If working in video, video should be in a format that can be re-leveraged. That means that if the goal is Instagram ads, Instagram stories will be relevant and content should be < 15 seconds. If using Facebook of Instagram feed, you can consider using YouTube clips, but they should be < 30 seconds.

  • Video and image often have equal value, with video being a more expensive option because of the work required, but often more engaging when utilizing as ads.

  • May want to consider more sponsored content approaches and branded co-creations between brand and influencer. If you create something valuable it will continue to have value long-term and with other marketing practices.

  • Ad language is okay here, but content should still have an element of believability and personality.

Influencer Selection

  • Quality and creativity of content

  • Category Awareness (you can see this by looking at the interest breakdowns and follower breakdowns of a particular influencer. High correlation to a certain category indicates category awareness and high followings by other influencers. You can see these kinds of stats via tools like Hypeauditor.) This doesn't have to be every influencer on your campaign or program, but having a few re-shared can help feed correlation and endorsement efforts.

  • Content value

  • Content style and personality vs. your brand image - does it fit?

  • Clear evidence of identity that aligns with the key consumer (ie. motherhood, fashion, makeup etc.)

  • Believability in caption writing or video speaking

  • Cost-per-impression in consideration of: the influencer's asset impressions + the brand's asset impressions + the ad asset's impressions . Cost per impression of an influencer whose content you are reusing via ads may be slightly higher than average, but should return better performing ads to even out value.

Measurement

  • Engagement Rate

  • Cost Per Engagement (in consideration of engagements on influencer assets + brand assets)

  • Profile Visits

  • Content longevity & value - does the content on your page continue to spark consideration over time?

  • Conversions (in consideration of conversions on brand assets + ad assets. This also has a piece that cannot be directly measured - in the psychological assessment of how a consumer considers and perceives your brand.)

  • Ad performance vs. brand-created ads optimized for the same goal (CPC, CPV, CPM, Engagement, CTR, etc.)


You could also consider brand awareness measurement, as even those efforts tied to content creation have the added benefit of brand awareness. The strategy and influencer selection process may look different, but brand awareness is created no matter the initial goal.



Direct Sales


Though not the only result that should be of focus, direct sales have been attributed to influencer recommendations just as they have really any marketing method. Recommendations have heavy weight when it comes to consumer buying habits with 74% trusting recommendations from their online networks [Digital Marketing Institute].


Direct sales abilities of influencers have seen a decline from their levels only 5 years ago. FTC regulations requiring disclosure of relationship, gifting, and payment has made it transparent that brands are being paid for recommendations - severely impacting the authenticity and believability in the recommendation. Frequency of paid sponsorships as well as ad-sy language have made consumers smarter about from whom and how they receive an influencer recommendation.


I don't necessarily recommend that 100% of influencer efforts be expected to be sales generating efforts - it neglects the key fact that influencer contributes to overall marketing which as a whole contributes to sales - but nonetheless it's a possibility to create a program based on this objective or optimized for this objective, so let's cover it.


Content Strategy

  • Content must be designed for the sale - which is an often difficult situation unless you have extensive data on what really closes a sale for your brand. While some may just close immediately, others require proof, some require time, some require convincing beyond a simple recommendation. For the best results, content should address SOMETHING beyond a recommendation such as proof or use case - getting as close to a reason for sale as your insights or consumer data will allow.

  • You should create reason for a sale where you can. Such as connecting to key relevant timing and events that would make what is being promoted purposeful.

  • Believability and authenticity of content is key. This should sound less like an ad and more like a testimonial.

  • The time to close a sale will vary, thus - so will the amount of content it takes to close a sale. It may not be effective to work with only 1 set of content, but working with multiple may be cost prohibitive. Influencers ethically should be paid for their time and effort, so you may want to consider a unique payment set-up that seeks to match the influencer's ability to drive sales over time to control costs, but pay fairly.


Influencer Selection

  • Engagement rate (to an extent where it should also include the following below to verify influence)

  • Swipe-up conversions

  • Bookmarks

  • Shares of content

  • Send to Stories

  • Engagement and comments on branded post

  • Proof of "influence" (DM screenshots, emails, etc.)

  • Clear evidence of identity that aligns with the key consumer (ie. motherhood, fashion, makeup etc.)

  • Believability in recommendation

  • Cost Per Potential Conversion - in consideration of the influencer's overall cost and the number of expected link clicks. You may be able to predict down to that actual number of sales if you have e-commerce conversion data within your analytics system on the performance of your website.


Measurement

  • Click throughs (influencers may bring the clicks, but the brand needs to close the sale too)

  • Email signups

  • Retargeted audience growth

  • Sales of product

  • Bounce Rate

  • Bookmarks / Saved posts

  • Sticker clicks (if applicable)

  • Post engagement / questions / comments that indicate interest (lower funnel)


Retention & Loyalty


Many brands have successfully integrated some of their influencer marketing efforts into the retention and loyalty category - with good reason. Over 65% of business often comes from existing customers. [1] It's 5x more expensive to acquire a new customer than to return one AND retaining just 2% more customers boosts profits anywhere from 25-95%. [2]


To create loyal customers, you must create loyal influencers - which is a hard sell in itself because it walks a fine line of cost efficiency if not measured correctly. Most brands will facilitate retention and loyalty goals through solid ambassador-type programs. Though you may not have the funds to create a ton of content with your ambassadors, keeping your brand visible to their audience (even if it's only through 1-2 stories per month) has better long-term success when it comes to being able to retain their audience base as customers and have more successful product launches.


Content Strategy

  • Less is more. When we are talking about retention, it's MOST likely that the brand will retain the influencer's top fans. They are the first to see and will not miss out on content - meaning that simple stories, unfiltered and unedited content is great for retention strategies. Costs want to be kept as low as possible so that long-term spend is manageable.

  • Should simply give re-purchase incentive

  • By "nature" content is more authentic because we are establishing longevity and loyalty to the brand which more solidly backs up the fact that the influencer uses and would recommend the product. There is not as much need to create for the sale.

  • Mirror loyalty - showing loyal use is the main goal as this will be mirrored in engaged audiences.

  • Focus on relation to time and coordinate with your sales cycles data from existing customers. You can easily re-leverage a lot of customer behavior data through a retention focused program


Influencer Selection

  • Engagement rate

  • Bookmarks

  • Pre-existing loyal relationships (can even be those brands mentioned without #ad, #sponsored or affilate codes)

  • Affinity / relationship with competition (can be good or bad)

  • Clear evidence of identity that aligns with the key loyal consumer (ie. motherhood, fashion, makeup etc.)

  • Pre-existing campaign data from a pst partnership with you

Note: You can get more out of your retention and loyalty goals by aligning this with some of the goals above since you can gain both acquisition and retention through ambassador type relationships. The most common paired goals are content creation + retention / loyalty, but you should be aware not to measure the joint program on sales, ad value or new customer acquisition. Be mindful that there does come a point where audience will hit exhaustion with brand mentions and we are ONLY engaging that influencer for (mostly) retention purposes. Value of the audience is key.



Measurement

  • CUSTOMIZE YOUR CHECKOUT PROCESS! I cannot state this enough. While it should be made optional, it's in your BEST interest to connect and engage with your customers this way. It also helps you measure and better align your retention-based influencer programs if you can see who your customer follows and who you can consider attributing sales to. If you can attribute sales to a specific influencer's relationship, you can use the customer LTV (Lifetime Value) to get a more accurate sense of profits stemming from your influencer relationship and cost-per metrics that will help determine cost-efficiency of your loyalty program.

  • Audience overlap between brand & influencer (social listening software like Sprinklr and Sprout Social have allowed this)

  • Engagement over time (per post with influencer)

  • Brand growth over time

  • Overall customer retention rate correlation

  • Customer LTV of a socially engaged customer vs. non socially engaged customer

  • Sales on new product launches with retention strategy / ambassador vs. without


Have specific questions of goals in mind? Email me at hello@socialcreatesimpact.com !

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