As enterprise companies continue to look for ways to connect with their audience, influencer marketing is a powerful way to accomplish that goal. But how do you ensure your activations are valuable and your influencers are reaching the right audience? Out of all the questions we get from companies looking to dip their toes into the influencer marketing pool, this is the one I get most often.
To make sure your influencers are talking to the right audience, we first need to reset the philosophy around influencer identification. Much like how social media evolved as a discipline, influencer marketing needs to adapt and change to be more directly aligned to business goals. In the olden times (about two to three years ago give or take), companies mostly chose influencers based on the size of their following. We’re finding that that’s often still the case today.
It’s time to evolve our perspective from leading with audience size to looking at audience quality and engagement. Brands are wasting precious time and resources working with influencers with large following but little impact. Influencers with a smaller, more active following often drive stronger engagement. While brand awareness is always a relevant KPI, it doesn’t drive business results.
When thinking about driving authentic conversations and qualified leads, engagement metrics reign supreme. How do we have real conversations with our intended audience? Can this influencer drive traffic and conversions for our brand? If influencers with large followings are shouting into the chasm, you’re not going to hit your goals and drive business. An influencer’s audience quality matters. So, how do you ensure this?
Start by using the right tools
Having the right tools and technology stack can set the tone and give you stronger insights into the influencers you’re investigating. One tool we love is Traackr, which provides insights into an influencer’s audience quality and growth, interests, occupation, and more. Traackr also provides audience age, location (city & country), gender, and income level. This helps assess if the influencer’s audience aligns with your target audience.
You can also see historical data to assess the quality and performance of their posts. Gathering this information gives you clearer insight into their content and audience impact before even approaching them for a conversation.
DemographicsPro takes that Traackr audience data to the next level with Segment Analysis. It allows you to define audience segments based on various demographics and criteria (age, gender, education, bio text on social, etc.) to build out your target/current audience. For an influencer, you could just build out a segment based on followers of a certain social handle.
Another useful tool is Twitter Audit, which allows you to understand what percentage of someone’s Twitter following are bots. While this tool provides valuable insights, you need access to the account to find out. So, if you’re investing a high dollar amount for an activation, it’s worth asking the influencer to take the additional step and provide you with their audience score.
Ask for performance data and case studies
Whether or not you have access to these tools, a critical part of the process is to ask for proof. It’s not uncommon for brands to ask influencers to provide case studies or performance metrics from previous partnerships with other brands, who have similar audiences. The fact is that ultimately, influencers are peddling their social media footprints for hire. If they’re expecting brands to partner with them and pay top dollar, they should be able to prove they’re relevant and in line with your target audience. Beyond that, they should be willing to prove that they’re not just going to create and post content, but to generate real, valuable results. Influencer marketing is a two-way street, so it’s instrumental to find influencers who are willing to put in the work to demonstrate they’re aligned.
You will come across some influencers that won’t be willing to provide that information. If the influencer isn’t willing to provide information about demographics, audience quality, and case studies/success metrics, it might be in your best interest to look elsewhere. It should be noted, though, that the amount of detail you’re asking for should be in line with the size of the project and the amount of compensation you’re offering. If you’re asking for free promotion, or for an activation with a very low budget, it isn’t appropriate to ask influencers to jump through hoops.
Once you have an idea of the influencers you want to work with, it’s time to test their efficacy with a pilot. Similar to social media, it’s important to be continuously learning, optimizing, and evolving. If you’re looking to launch a full-scale influencer campaign but you want to be judicious about results, it’s a good idea to take some baby steps first.
Start with a pilot approach, choose a number of influencers, and evaluate their performance to see what works and what doesn’t. Go beyond vanity metrics like reach and impressions, and truly evaluate business value through engagement metrics, the number of leads generated, and how many leads are qualified. It’s an effective technique for ensuring the influencers are reaching the right audience and they’re a good fit for your goals.
Beyond performance data, running a pilot will help determine if the influencer is a good fit for your brand before you commit to something more high value or long term. It provides you the opportunity to learn about their work styles. Are they reliable? Good collaborators? High maintenance? While audience quality will always be the most important piece, it’ll be helpful long term to learn more about if they’ll be an effective extension of your marketing organization.
Once you’ve concluded your pilot and identified the right audience, you’ll want to optimize. You’ve now determined they’re a good fit for your brand. But you can’t keep doing the same thing if you want to keep driving engagements and leads. Test and iterate to see what the best posts are and do more of that. Continue pushing out successful content using whitelisting, which enables you to run paid campaigns targeted at the right audience to further extend your reach. Continued optimization and controlled content extension will give you the insights you need to maximize the influencer’s impact.