We all know that social media is about influencing and being influenced, but how much is it about trusting and being trusted? According to research from media agency UM, only eight percent of people trust what they read online, and only four percent trust influencers. This data doesn’t change the fact that word-of-mouth is still the most effective form of Marketing. However, amid accusations of follower and engagement fraud, failure to disclose brand sponsorships, and various high-profile influencer scandals, it’s not surprising audiences are questioning the authenticity of influential social media creators.
The most trusted and effective influencers create authentic content that resonates with their audience, but this natural and instinctive creative process doesn’t negate the need to measure impact. In fact, Measurement is the key to restoring consumer trust. Brands and influencers alike need to begin benchmarking influencer campaigns against other channels to ensure they are creating effective, engaging, and most importantly, trustworthy content.
The Evolution of Measurement
In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, social API functionality has been seriously restricted and consumers are more cautious about sharing personal data. On the other hand, as the industry grows up, social networks understand there’s a need to be more transparent about the metrics they offer to businesses. The whole social ecosystem is under pressure on both sides: from consumers who want more privacy, and from brands demanding better visibility into metrics and access to consumer data.
Companies with business models focused on collecting and utilizing personal data are struggling under the current state of play, while those that invested in opt-in consent and data authorization are seeing the benefits of collecting higher quality data. Influencers are also adapting to this new ecosystem, and are working with trusted operators that can certify the authenticity of their data while providing a layer of security. These relationships between influencer platforms (as the trusted operator) and the creative influencer provides transparency into metrics that enable brands to measure impact.
The biggest challenge when it comes to measuring impact is that metrics are only as good as the data they measure. What’s more: the scope of measurement is directly linked to fraud. We’ve learned some important lessons from the past, where there was never enough transparency and fraud was rampant. More recently though, there’s been a push for greater transparency and stronger data, both of which are key for fighting fraud. Today, the best Influencer Marketing platforms work to provide brands with a full picture of the health and authenticity of creators’ audiences, which enables brands to make an informed decision regarding which influencers to work with.
Metrics for Measuring Impact
Not only how we gather data on creative influencers’ performance has changed but also, the metrics used to determine impact has changed. Not long ago, followers was the most used metric, and by extension CPM and CPE were also being measured. With our effort to detect and reduce the impact of fraud on influencer campaigns, the number of followers has become a less useful metric. Thanks to our ability to gather first-party data through Facebook API, there’s more focus on the actual reach and impressions. Unfortunately, there are still brands that look at followers as the most important metric. Clearly the industry needs more education regarding how to truly measure impact by using more sophisticated metrics such as reach/followers, engagement/reach and impression/post. These metrics combined with other first-party data can provide a comprehensive picture of a creator’s performance as well as an idea of how likely they are to engage in unethical or non-transparent activities.
True reach and impressions are not the only metrics for measuring campaign impact. Ultimately, strategy and which metrics are used is dependent on the brand objective. For example, conversion might be the metric for a brand that wants to sell a product, while engagement/reach might be the key metric for a campaign intended to raise brand awareness. Metrics are also subject to the industry type or market; some industries might be more mature and knowledgeable, so it’s important to tailor strategy accordingly.
Sentiment and brand awareness have arguably been the most difficult metrics. Until recently, sentiment was one of the hardest things to measure because you had to take into account factors such as language and context. However, more sophisticated AI tools have made it easier to do semantic analysis with precision. Brand awareness remains the most elusive metric, requiring an approach beyond data and metrics, and a deeper analysis of brand visibility, consumer exposure, and intent to buy, among other things.
How Influencers Can Help
While brands must do their due diligence when deciding which influencers to work with, influencers also have a responsibility to deliver value to their business clients. Here are a few ways digital creators can use measurement to help drive the influencer industry in a more strategic direction that supports brand objectives.
- Use Data as Proof of Impact: It’s absolutely essential that creators understand which metrics are important to brands and be prepared to demonstrate how they can help brands achieve their business goals. This means creators must be prepared to quantify their impact using metrics that matter — be it Sales or Engagement.
- Create Content in Alignment With Brand Objectives: Authenticity is key, but so is alignment between creators and their brand sponsors, and create content that aligns with the brand voice and messaging. Influencers who pretend they can adapt their style to match the brand brief risk the possibility of appearing less authentic; which ultimately undermines the impact the influencer can make.
- Improve the Industry the Transparency: It may seem counterintuitive, but transparency is one of the best ways for influencers to contribute to improving the industry overall. Influencer transparency means disclosing brand sponsorships, using business profiles to grant access to their performance data, and creating authentic content.
This is a crucial moment for the influencer space — an opportunity to really focus on activities that facilitate audience and brand trust. Going forward, the most bankable influencers won’t always the most popular. Instead passionate, authentic and transparent creators who create high-quality content — and utilize data to prove their impact — will be the most influential and in demand creators on social media.