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It’s no surprise why brands are continuing to increase their investment in influencer marketing, with Insider projecting the industry to reach a value of $15 billion by 2022. When executed correctly, influencer partnerships have the power to generate major ROIs for your brand – the challenge lies in choosing the right one. Everyone's an influencer these days, and they all seem to be good at their job, so how do you determine who is the right fit for your brand?
Understanding Evaluation Parameters
As influencer marketing continues to soar in popularity, so does the emphasis on brands to pick the right partner who aligns with the interests and ideologies of their target audience(s). It’s not as simple as hiring the influencer with the most followers, and assuming they’ll automatically align with your brand. At the end of the day, numbers are simply numbers – perhaps even more so now with Instagram and Facebook’s latest hidden like feature – and they lack the human context needed to determine whether or not an influencer truly . . . influences.
The following parameters serve as checkpoints to aid in your influencer evaluation process and help indicate the most valuable things to consider before finalizing any partnership, i.e. what to look for and how to vet your findings when determining whether @InfluencerABC or @InfluencerXYZ is best to represent your brand.
What to Consider When Evaluating Influencers
Arguably the most important qualitative metric to assess is brand alignment. This checkpoint is purely anecdotal, so don’t stress about trying to arrive at a particular number or percentage to figure out if you’re right.
When evaluating a crop of influencers to partner with, ask yourself the following:
- Do they share your same views, aesthetic, and overall vibe?
- Who is their audience? Is it the same group you’re trying to reach?
- What brands, products, and/or services, etc. have they promoted in the past? Are they similar, perhaps even a competitor, or totally left-field?
The best influencer partnerships are ones that lead with transparency, and ultimately provide a mutual benefit to both you and the influencer. Remember: their brand is their business, and striking a partnership is how they make an income. They’re just as invested as you are, so aligning on goals, responsibilities, and anticipated outcomes at the onset of the partnership is key for a successful relationship and campaign.
For this step, identify the following:
- What are you aiming to achieve by partnering with an influencer, and more specifically, the one you’re evaluating? A few examples include: increasing brand awareness; growing your Instagram audience; launching a new product or service
- What is the influencer’s goal for their own platform? How does this partnership play a role in their overarching business strategy? Are they interested in the opportunity to continue partnering with your brand outside of this one campaign?
PLANOLY Pro-Tip: Influencer marketing works best for your brand when you can establish an ongoing partnership with an influencer versus singular, one-and-done initiatives. This longevity allows your audience to establish a relationship with the influencer’s brand and content, and ultimately trust their “influence.”
The market of influence is highly saturated, and a quick scroll through Instagram is a testament to that. Consumers are bombarded with sponsored content from their feed and story, to their DMs and comments – influence is happening everywhere and at all times, but that doesn't mean it's always genuine. Keep this top of mind when evaluating an influencer on this parameter, and apply a critical lens when reviewing their sponsored content.
The reality of "influencer fraud" only increases the importance of ensuring the person you choose has an authentic connection, resonance, and relation to your target audience. This includes location and demographic, as well. As public relations agency founder and fintech startup CMO Toni Harrison shared with us:
“Real influence is measured by quality, not quantity. It’s not about choosing the influencer with the most followers or likes. It’s about finding the right partner who has an authentic relationship with their audience, and is committed to becoming an evangelist for your brand. That means putting in the focus and creative energy to craft original compelling stories and content with your brand.”
Audit their social content and get a feel for the legitimacy of the engagement on their posts. While it sounds super technical, it can be as simple as scrolling through their comments and seeing if they’ve been left by real people or a plague of bots and spammers. While a high engagement rate might seem like an automatic green light for inking a partnership, if the engagement rate is primarily a result of bogus engagement, it’s smoke and mirrors.
If you’re looking for quantifiable data to support your assessment, you can utilize social media measurement tools like HypeAuditor, Social Blade (free!), or Klear. These tools provide detailed reports and live dashboards with engagement rates, follower growth and authenticity, average like and comment counts, sponsored post performance, audience demographics, and a host of other pertinent metrics. There’s a range of products for every marketer’s budget, so do your research before committing to any high-dollar tool. Check out our blog here for more insights on evaluating Instagram engagement.
Past Work Examples
Always take a look at the influencer's previous brand partnerships, sponsored content, and/or events to roughly gauge their return on investment.
Consider the following questions:
- How well did their past sponsored posts perform? Did they rouse authentic engagement, an average to high number of likes in relation to their other content?
- What did their past work look like? Does the level of effort, quality, composition, etc. seem on-par with both what you’re willing to invest in the partnership, and what you had in mind for branded content?
- How often are they doing sponsored content and/or how many brand partnerships do they currently have? Will this have any effect on how people perceive the influencer’s review of your brand?
This is a major parameter to assess particularly if your target audience is diverse. Finding the right influencer to reach multicultural audiences requires thoughtful evaluation, and if this audience isn’t one you’re a part of or acutely clued into, don’t be afraid to seek outside agency/consultant help, organize a focus group, or dedicate time to conducting market research.
The final and one of the most important parameters to assess is risk. Ultimately the influencer you choose becomes an extension and representation of your brand, so partnering with someone who poses a low risk of negative brand impact is paramount. In our current social climate where accountability for past behavior is becoming increasingly apparent, it’s critical to do your due diligence when researching an influencer.
Be mindful of the following:
- When you Google their name, what things pop up on the first page of results, and would they affect how your brand is perceived?
- Have they been involved in any public conflicts, scandals or received any negative commentary in the media or on social channels?
- What types of posts are they tagged in, and are any capable of rousing concern?
Despite the countless numbers of memes, think pieces, and Instagram parody accounts, influencers still remain one of the most valuable tactics to include in your social media marketing strategy. What makes influencer marketing so compelling today is its shift in relatability. Now, “regular” people like working parents, teachers, and business owners who share our same consumer interests and pain points lend influence to our lives, ushering in a new wave of authenticity to traditional advertising.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations on taking the first step towards cultivating an influencer marketing initiative for your brand! While the process of evaluating influencers may seem extensive or overwhelming at first, just know you’re taking the necessary steps to ensure a successful partnership that yields tangible results, connects your brand with the right audiences, provides valuable content, and ultimately propels your business forward with authenticity.