Evaluating Influencers and Predicting ROI: 5 Metrics You Need to Consider

Evaluating potential influencer partners can be a big hurdle for brands, who have a lot of variables to contend with when rolling out an influencer marketing campaign.

The first decision is whether to go with a celebrity, mega, macro, or micro influencer, the relative merits of which will change from business to business. Following that, however, most brands have no idea how to separate really influential individuals from people who purchase their followers from low-cost follow/unfollow services. Such services are not hard to get ahold of, and automate the process of adding followers for rates like $100/month.


The issue with these platforms is that the audiences they provide are typically made up of:

  • Dummy accounts

  • Abandoned and hacked accounts

  • Follow-follow back pods, and

  • Cloned accounts of real users that will make it seem as if real people who are active on social are following an influencer

When a user buys followers, they can offer no guarantee of who is following them or what these followers might have in common. Real influencers unite people under one interest, even if that interest is just the influencer’s lifestyle. Separating the two is crucial to getting your brand’s message to real people.

The problem with Vanity Metrics

Brands are investing their time and money into partnering with social media influencers, and seeing those campaigns fail.

This occurs not because the strategy was unsound, but simply because the chosen influencers don’t have the influence they claim.

Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat employ algorithms designed to show users content based on their individual preferences. Users demonstrate their preferences by what they choose to click, Like, comment on, and repost. If this is the system behind news feeds across platforms, then content from users who buy followers probably won’t even show up in the feeds of those “bought” followers.

Unilever has tightened up ship on their influencer transparency policies, announcing they will no longer work with influencers who buy followers. They will also give preference to social media platforms that allow for more clarity.

The UAE is taking even greater steps by requiring social media influencers to be either licensed themselves or working through a licensed influencer marketing agency. This is going to impact any influencers who were hoping to do business in the Middle East.

These two high-profile companies are triggering a global call-to-arms signifying the need for better measurement consideration in how we approach influencer marketing.

Predicting ROI with the Right metrics

Vanity metrics like these-- high follower counts, lots of website traffic, experience as a brand ambassador-- are important to see, but aren’t necessarily great at predicting ROI.

To get a real sense of your potential returns, look to the numbers on follower engagement, bounce rates from website traffic, email open rates and on-page activity, and an analysis of the results brand ambassadors have obtained for brands in the past.

Now, let’s get into the real metrics that will help your influencer marketing campaign reach maximum success.


1. Organic Follower Growth

To begin, you have to get a sense of a social media influencer’s degree of influence.

This starts with analyzing their follower growth. The graph below is an actual screenshot of follower growth for an influencer who's working with a major brand. The chart shows follower growth from July 2015 to about February 2018.

The influencer’s number of followers hit a jump point right around July 2017, with another big jump the following month, and a third increase in followers 6-8 weeks after that. Jumps like these three are an important indicator that the influencer artificially boosted audience numbers on at least three separate occasions.

(Note also that between the first and second jumps, and between the second and third jumps, the follower count rapidly declines.)

Again, don’t allow follower count to factor too heavily into your decision to work with an influencer.


2. Social Content from All Platforms

You should also avoid zeroing in on in on a single platform when analyzing an influencer’s content.

Check them out across as many social media platforms as possible, including their own blog, to make sure you get a comprehensive view of the verticals in which they actually wield influence. Unless you assess an influencer’s existing body of online content, your brand risks a mismatch by recruiting a popular influencer to promote products for which they hold little to no actual sway, and miss your target audience entirely.

Consider a hypothetical mommy blog with 50K+ followers. We can examine her conversations across Instagram and Twitter to reveal the verticals in which she directs most of her online conversations. We can also determine what topics she talks about as well as brands she mentions most often in her posts.

Based on this analysis, a brand that sells travel experiences can quickly see that our mommy blog is not a good match for them, since less than 2% of her content relates to travel. Making this kind of assessment can go a long way toward helping brands form a complete picture of someone’s potential value as a brand ambassador.


3. Audience Demographics

Our hypothetical mommy blog may have been targeted by a brand because she and many members of her audience are part of the desirable demographic of trendy, middle-income Millennial moms.

But that isn’t enough on its own to build an effective influencer marketing campaign. For effective targeting, marketers must have a better understanding of both their own target audience and the influencer’s followers. This includes seeking additional insights about an audience, like:

  • Geographic distribution

  • Age breakdown

  • Approximate income

  • Gender

  • Languages

  • Brand affinity

Your brand doesn’t necessarily need to reach an influencer’s entire audience-- just the intersection where your two audiences overlap. That means ensuring there are enough people in an influencer’s audience who would also be interested in your brand or product.

Frequently, it may be more effective to forego the handful of macro influencers you may have been considering and instead hyper-target your influencer marketing efforts by working with a niched-down group of micro influencers.


4. Brand Affinity

The shopping habits of influencers matter - if you want to know what a person treasures, figure out how she spends her time and her money.

Figuring out where influencers shop, which brands they like, and what experiences they seek out will help you to integrate your products into sponsored posts. This is a good way to boost your authenticity and garner more engagement.


5. Price Ranges of Products Mentioned

A product analysis is another great way to get intel about influencers and their audiences.

Since some brands carry hundreds of thousands of different products at varying price points, marketers have to consider what range an influencer typically works within. When they mention a brand, are they talking about nabbing an item in a clearance sale for $20, or purchasing a full-price item for $1000?

Not only can insights like this inform you about your influencer, they can also enable you to approximate the median income of an influencer’s followers, and begin to identify their collective pricing sweet spot. This tactic alone will tell you whether you will be reaching your audience by working with a particular influencer.

The most effective, creative, and successful influencer marketing campaigns require analyzing dozens of data points-- in fact, influencer marketing is largely data science topped with boundless creativity. If you don’t want your campaign to fail, you’ll need healthy amounts of both on your team.

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TrendsMaria Vasbotten