Social media marketing metrics are notoriously hard to pin down, especially for influencer marketing - working with influential people within a niche or sub-topic that is relevant to your brand.
There are a variety of ways to measure the success of an influencer marketing campaign, and deciding which one is right for your brand is essential. Is your goal to increase brand awareness, share of voice or positive sentiment? Drive traffic to your website? Generate top-of-funnel sales leads or shorten your sales cycle? How you measure an influencer campaign is closely tied to that campaign's goals, so it's important to formalize them before choosing how you'll measure success.
21 brands including Samsung, Acura, Verizon, Warner, British Airways, Cointreau and TNT, in addition to marketing agencies and advocacy workflow application providers are finalists in the Top 10 Influencer Marketing Awards, hosted by my client Raynforest. The awards are open to the public to vote through Sunday so weigh in on which ones you think are the best.
The top marketing firms in the contest have developed measurements that work for them, so why not learn from them and see if their metrics would work with your goals? The below four types of influencer marketing metrics are all useful in their own right, and have been put to the test by some of the top brands and marketing firms in the business.
Metric #1: Reach
Measuring the reach of an influencer campaign is a good way to get at how viral the campaign was, and how far it traveled across the social web. Reach is the number of individuals within a defined population - usually a brand's target audience - who encounter at least one piece of content from a campaign.
Bing's "Summer of Doing" campaign during the summer of 2012 is a great example of measuring reach in a recent influencer campaign. The campaign was multi-faceted, but the influencer component saw nine influential bloggers (from food mavens to travel junkies to rock stars) co-host a week during the summer where they helped design innovative Bing Search terms, Pinterest boards, host Twitter chats, hold Instagram contests and more.
The 56-day campaign ended with a total earned reach of over 97.5 million, measured through metrics like the growth of Bing's communities, the number of tweets, status updates, and third-party mentions of the brands.
Gelben Communication developed another top influencer campaign that measured its success using reach for Sprout It, a startup gardening app. Sprout It's audience was invited to submit photos of their backyards in order to win a backyard makeover, and the campaign was amplified by working with influential garderning, home and DIY bloggers.
Measuring the reach of the campaign using campaign-related Facebook posts and hashtags, Sprout It realized a reach of 313,500 people on Facebook and 60,000 people on Twitter.
Metric #2: Sentiment
Sentiment is the emotional reaction to your brand's content - usually measured in terms of positive, negative or neutral tone. And although finding a tool refined enough to accurately measure sentiment can be difficult, this metric can be a fantastic way to glean insights into the perception of your brand.
Marketing firm Brand Influencers identified six influencers across six passion points for Acura's target audience, in order to redefine brand perception of the new Acura ILX. These influencers were given a personalized experience with the car, and encouraged to tweet, blog, upload photos and otherwise speak to their social networks about their impressions of the car.
Far surpassing the outcome of similar campaigns, the Acura ILX enjoyed a 100% positive sentiment across tens of thousands of social mentions (Facebook posts, tweets, video on YouTube, Pinterest, etc.). Impressive!
Metric #3: Conversion Rate
Another way to measure the success of an influencer campaign is by using conversion rates. This is a favorite among some marketers, especially among those of us who like to see hard-and-fast numbers tied to sales goals. No campaign cited the number of leads generated or sales closed -- most likely because this would require integration with a CRM system and lock-step collaboration between the brand and agency - some campaigns did measure conversion rates.
Brooks Digital Marketing, for example, wanted to increase traffic to their blog, and in order to do so they turned to influencers to join them for an interview and to help spread the word. They reached out to just under 100 influential people in their industry, and saw a 45 percent conversion rate from their emails - meaning that just under half of all influencers contacted actually took part.
The success of this campaign was also measured in terms of blog traffic, but the goal of engaging influencers was measured using conversions - which just goes to show you don't have to single out campaign outcomes with your metrics. Sometimes measuring influencer participation can be more effective.
Metric #4: Engagement Rate
One of the more popular social media marketing metrics is engagement rate, and it's applicable to many influencer campaigns as well. Engagement rate measures your audience's response to your content - whether they shared, clicked, Liked or otherwise engaged with it.
Circling back to the Bing Summer of Doing campaign, the team also measured engagement in addition to reach. By examining the total number of Facebook status updates created, retweets, brand mentions, blog posts and other audience-created social media content, they measured over 19,995 shares, 8,600 comments and 423,600 Likes.
Engagement can also be measured in terms of how long the audience stays engaged with your content. Nikon, for instance, partnered with Warner Sound as well as influential photographers and music lovers at SXSW, creating live video streams and photos of the event. The average viewing time of campaign's live stream video, for instance, was a massive 11 minutes - five times greater than industry standard of two minutes.
Each of these metrics is a valuable piece of insight, but if you look closely at the results of these and other top influencer campaigns, you'll notice something they all have in common: they all use more than one metric to measure success, and the metrics they do choose are those that align most closely with the campaign's goals.