Audience Size Should Never Be the First Proxy
Follower numbers don’t equal actual reach. They don’t give any measure of true influence with an audience and, most importantly, they don’t give any insight into the audience composition.
Given marketing is about conveying a message to a specific audience, influencer marketing is worthless if it’s not actually speaking to the desired audience, regardless of how niche or broad that audience is.
If you were selling an everyday cooking product would you advertise in Vogue or Good Housekeeping? If you had a fintech product trying to reach a Canadian audience would you work with a very large tech influencer who actually has less than 2% of their audience in Canada?
A focus on organic reach and follower numbers above all else would result in answering these types of questions incorrectly. Focus on who you’ll reach.
When choosing influencers don't don't focus on the quantity of followers, focus on who you’ll reach.
Engagement Doesn’t Equal Effectiveness
Engagement rates have become the most common metric by which influencer comparisons are being made. However, much like with follower numbers, these can be a total red herring and an influencer with the right audience and high engagement can be the wrong influencer.
You have to view influencer marketing as a collaboration between two brands. When brands come together to collaborate, the success is often in large part because of a truly relevant fit. Importantly, contrast is fine, it just has to be relevant in context of the collaboration; be it values, aesthetic, style, aspirations etc. It’s the difference between the wildly cool and successful Louis Vuitton collaboration with Supreme and the Lego collaboration with Shell, which Lego had to end because of misaligned values.
That’s why the best influencer marketing comes from a data-driven approach to understand actual influence with an audience, combined with human insights to assess brand alignment and cultural relevance.
Without these, at best you won’t drive strong results and at worst you could see an audience backlash and brand safety problems.
Once you've found an influencer that reaches the right audience, turn your focus to brand alignment to ensure relevance.
Trust Isn’t Built in A Single Post
A collaboration that’s a single post, without any obvious or easily explainable alignment, can end up with the audience questioning if the influencer really had a belief in the product. This drives little value for the brand, reduces the audience's trust with the influencer and brings up the question of authenticity.
Brands leading in influencer marketing are making increasingly longer collaborations a big component of their influencer marketing strategy. It allows the influencer to best understand the brand's values and marketing needs, enabling the development of a thoughtful strategy to deliver that to their audience over time.
You wouldn’t debate if it’s more effective to have a mainstream celebrity establish a long term partnership/ambassadorship with a brand. When done right, a long term collaboration has a cumulative effect on the audience both remembering and having the desired emotional response to the advertising.
There are also fairly significant ancillary benefits that come from long term collaborations. Financially there are economies of scale combined with the fact you’re negotiating on a rate today that would likely be increased in the future. Relationship wise you’ll build a far closer connection and understanding that will further strengthen alignment and lock out competitors, whether contractual or not.
All Messages Are Not Equal
You Can’t Invest in What You Can’t Measure
Follower numbers, engagements and sentiment analysis are no longer the brilliant basics. Paid social also has an ever growing and almost obligatory role to play—something which brings both deeper reporting, accountability and the opportunity to further scale the reach to relevant audiences for prospecting and retargeting campaigns.
Embrace the tools that exist to enable full funnel measurement:
- For top of the funnel, brand uplift studies produce metrics such as +30% increase in top of mind awareness. To measure emotional responses to messaging, you get back metrics such as +87% emotional intensity and +277% memory encoding.
For mid funnel you can get metrics back such as +1,178% in NPS and +66% in search intent.
For lower funnel you can measure conversions and add to cart rates. You can get back metrics such as 42% in purchase intent and even measure the increase in the intent to repeat purchase. A retailer was able to combine measurement tools to attribute a 20:1 sale generated return on a seven figure investment.
The 5 Key Learnings
- Audience size should never be the first proxy; focus on WHO
- Engagement doesn’t equal effectiveness; focus on ALIGNMENT
- Trust isn’t typically built in a single post; focus on EARNING
- All messages are not equal; focus on PARTNERSHIP
- Can’t truly invest in what you can’t measure; focus on MEASURING