Originally published on ION.

(Editor’s note: AList is published by a.network. To get up to speed on the rapid changes affecting the influencer marketing landscape, click here.)

Influencer marketing is booming, but how is its success measured? That question is top of mind for some marketers today given the haziness of influencers marketing’s ability to produce real-life business outcomes and the fact that influencers self-report engagement metrics. With a lack of clear-cut ROI, marketers are spending more time justifying spend on influencer marketing

A recent industry study found that 39% of respondents said the main reason they had to justify the use of influencer marketing was that senior management didn’t understand influencer marketing metrics. Due to the surge of influencer marketing, the days of analyzing simple metrics like clicks and unique visitors are gone. That’s why before launching an influencer activation, it’s crucial to define the key performance indicators (KPIs) to best measure goals. 

Ahead, we’re exploring the five most important KPIs that brands should use to measure influencer marketing success across [platforms] and better inform their strategies moving forward.

Impressions and Reach

A brand focused on building awareness should use a different metric than a brand using influencer marketing to increase sales. In this case, social media followers, as well as impressions and reach, are the KPIs to note. Reach is the total number of followers who see the post, and impressions are the number of times the post is displayed regardless of whether or not it was clicked on. For influencer marketing campaigns that run across different social media platforms, it’s helpful to track each influencer’s performance as some may drive more followers and impressions on one channel versus another.

For example, Instagram influencer campaigns necessitate the measurement of follower count. If within the few days following an influencer activation, a brand sees little to no growth in follower count, this could mean the influencer’s post or the influencer themselves is not communicating enough value to the new audience to drive attention to the brand’s account. Choosing an influencer that converts the highest percentage possible of profile visits, therefore, is a must. 

As for Twitch, the most common way for marketers to measure performance is by evaluating how the sponsored video performed. This is usually done by measuring the average concurrent viewership (CCV) and monthly impressions, notes Shane Barker, digital strategist, brand and influencer consultant.

Engagement

Not to be confused with reach and impressions, engagement is the amount of interaction your influencer content receives. Measuring influencer engagement requires monitoring comments, likes, shares, reactions and brand mentions or user-generated content (UGC). To calculate the engagement rate, which is expressed as a percentage, divide the total number of likes and comments by the influencer’s follower count, then multiply by 100.

On YouTube, for example, engagement rate can indicate the videos’ relevance to the audience, which will directly impact the content’s ranking. 

“Brand sentiment and follower growth are two KPIs that are still underused. Brand sentiment analysis before and after a campaign can tell you how collaborating with an influencer changed your image. And, a growth in your followers during the campaign duration also speaks volumes about how successful your campaign was,” Barker tells AList.

Click-Through Rate (CTR) Versus Cost-Per-Click (CPC)

Brands that call on influencers to encourage specific consumer actions typically use CTR as a KPI. CTR is particularly important in today’s influencer landscape because it often takes multiple touchpoints between a consumer and a brand before any purchase is made. To calculate the CTR, compare the number of consumers who click a link on a specific page to the total traffic on the page or total video views (for example, if the content is on YouTube). CTR on YouTube impacts the platform’s algorithm and staying one step ahead means using compelling thumbnails, call to actions and titles. 

CPC, on the other hand, reflects the behavior of the influencer’s audience during the activation, making it part of the brand’s own funnel. For example, should brands use the CPC pricing model,  an influencer is paid each time a follower clicks on a link specified by the brand. More often, CPCs are used in conjunction with affiliate links.

Lead Generation

The challenging part for marketers is determining how influencers assist in lead generation and conversion rates especially given fraudulent social engagement is at an all-time high. To remedy this, brands should identify the platform or channel on which influencers are generating the most leads then use analytical tools to measure lead generation.

Sales 

If you’re enlisting an influencer to create a product review, the activation will naturally boost brand awareness, with the ultimate goal that the influencer’s followers will be moved to buy the product. Use trackable links such as affiliate links or unique codes like promo codes to measure the sales impact here. 

As a recent example, Home Depot tapped Chriselle Lim for a sponsored post about Samsung’s new champagne washer and dryer. In the post, Lim included an affiliate link in the caption that directed followers to a blog post on her site discussing the benefits of the products. Her blog post linked back to the washer and dryer. 

For most marketers, ROI is the ultimate measurement, but a recent LinkedIn study found that digital marketers are trying to prove ROI incorrectly. The problem is that they are undertaking measurements in the middle of their sales cycle, instead of at the end. The study’s focus was primarily big-ticket items like cars, travel and education, which can take months from initial consumer interest to sale. Over two-thirds (77 percent) of digital marketers said they measure ROI within the first month of the campaign—which is only partially along in the engagement cycle. 

When ROI is measured too quickly after or during a campaign, the study stresses that the metric measured is not actually ROI, but rather one of the KPIs. These KPIs are then leveraged to prove value instead of true ROI, resulting in an inaccurate ROI. Rushed ROI measurement results in lower marketer confidence in this metric and less motivation to share it with key stakeholders.

Ultimately, to maximize the impact of influencer marketing, Barker says, “Follow the SMART principle for setting goals that are Specific, Measureable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-Bound. That covers all aspects needed for goal-setting that you should keep in mind.”