Trying to encapsulate performance in a one-dimensional metric does a disservice to marketers and everything they do. As the Director of Product Marketing at TapInfluence, I spend a good part of everyday elbow deep in data both for my own work and answering questions from others. There is so much we can see and analyze today that was simply never available to us before. It’s not without pitfalls, though.

It’s all too easy to take a single data point and extrapolate it over a much larger data set to draw a conclusion that suits your marketing needs. I call them fishing expeditions, and, to me, that is just reckless. You’re potentially misleading your company, as well as your customers. When I’m analyzing our influencer and customer campaign data, I keep the following in mind, so as not to jump to any conclusions.

  • You need context to define success – To whom are you talking, and what action would you like them to take? A campaign goal should impact one of the stages in the buyer’s journey: Awareness, Consideration, Preference, Purchase, or Loyalty. If you’re not grounded in your strategy, the data lacks meaning.
  • You need breadth and depth of data to understand results – You can’t look at one point and think you have an answer. I look at everything to understand what I’m seeing—Influencer Data, Audience Data and Performance Data, including Reach, Post Views/Impressions, Clicks, Votes, Reactions, Content Views, Share of Voice, Comments, Shares, Retweets, Pins, Likes, Follows, Sign-ups, Mentions, Sentiment, Conversions, Sales Data, Sales Lift, Tracking Pixels, Referrals, Retargeting, User-generated Content. Not every data set is relevant for every analysis, though having access to and looking at related sets is going to provide a better level of understanding of what is really going on.
  • You need expertise to interpret – Success is relative. There is no fixed number that means your campaign succeeded or failed. The ability to bring in benchmarking, competitive intelligence and even your own past performance data is key to understanding how you did and how you can improve over time. For example, I just read a press release about an influencer marketing campaign that stated the audience, influenced by the opinions of everyday people they trust, engaged with the content 1,063% more than the program goal, yet it never states what the program goal was, how it was conceived or if it was even appropriate. Pitfalls like that are everywhere in social media marketing, content marketing and influencer marketing.

I am particularly fond of this quote from Jonah Peretti, “What you see in the industry now is people jumping around and trying to find the God metric for content. It’s all about shares or it’s all about time spent or it’s all about pages or it’s all about uniques. The problem is you can only optimize one thing and you have to pick, otherwise all you’re doing is making a bunch of compromises if you try to optimize for multiple things.”

The TL;DR Approach

When someone sells you an oversimplified solution, it’s about them, not about you. If you buy into the CliffsNotes version of influencer marketing, you’ll get the CliffsNotes results. Listen closely—if they’re talking in sound bites:

  • They don’t have the data to tell you the whole story; ask questions
  • They don’t care if the one-dimensional performance metric actually results in value (ie 4.5x the total media value on your investment); TMV is a waning metric
  • They don’t mind if pegging payment to a bogus performance metric creates incentive for bad behavior and gaming the system

For example, a recent press release from an influencer marketing company touts their success with a pay-for-performance model, based on clicks. They state that a specific influencer marketing campaign’s content has driven over 33% additional clicks to their customer’s landing pages. Here’s what they don’t say: What happened after those clicks arrived? Were they real? Did they take any action? They simply say that their customers only pay for the number of “influenced consumers” that are delivered to the landing page of their choice, whether that be a content page, a coupon page or an e-commerce storefront.

Pay-for-performance influencer marketing models like this miss the boat completely, on recognizing and treating influencers as creators, which is their true value. In fact, on their website they state

“If you’re still paying per post, you’re leaving too much at risk. We facilitate a performance contract between the brand and the influencer, meaning you only pay for consumers who have taken an action after consuming content. We guarantee our results and we deliver on the specified goals for 99.91% of the influencer marketing programs we run. Our influencer content drives an average of 40% more traffic from search and social sharing in the six months following the conclusion of a program, increasing lifetime value. If we don’t achieve your goals, you don’t pay. Period.”

Great, so they define YOUR goals for you, based on one narrow performance metric, creating an easy to hit and potentially meaningless bullseye for them to hit? You’ll be paying, alright, though it likely won’t be for performance.

The Power Middle is about to Bring this Into Focus

Power middle influencers (audience size of 10K – 250K) are emerging as real, authentic, raw and accessible. As the majority of marketers begin doing influencer marketing at scale, developing this untapped—and affordable—resource will be vital to making sure everyone can have a seat at the table.

These everyday influencers are not thinking of their followers in the same way as seasoned professional bloggers and social media personalities, who understand and are accustomed to serving their audiences. Power middle influencers bring a fresh perspective and offer a renewable resource to marketers, though, if not managed well, will lack much of the self-governance that exists today with traditional influencers, whose audiences hold them accountable for quality content. To mitigate this risk, you need a platform that is already equipped to attract, onboard and measure this burgeoning and potentially very lucrative group of influencers.

Engagement creates performance, quality content creates engagement, and quality creators create quality content.

At the end of the day, influencer marketing works because it uses real voices to tell your story to consumers. It happens in the context of how life happens, not in a staid banner ad, online offer or press release. Your objective isn’t to create clicks; it’s to create genuine awareness, affection, and purchase intent around your brand. To do that, you need an approach and a solution that recognizes, understands and embraces the multi-dimensional nature of you, your consumers, and the influencers who are capable of creating content that reaches them.

If any influencer marketing technology vendor or momentary influencer marketing expert tries to tell you that there is a holy grail, get up, and walk away. Better yet, call an Uber, and experience another example of a self-regulating marketplace, like ours, that just works. More influencer marketing campaigns and campaign dollars pass through TapInfluence’s marketplace than anywhere else, and we can say definitively that, yes, there is power in the middle, if you can harness it; there is also power at the head and in the tail. Select the right influencers for you, based on relevance to your audience and prior performance, partner with them to create powerful content, and then measure everything!