In this week’s In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris talk about the declining impact and availability of social media metrics when it comes to influencer marketing. As data becomes harder to get ahold of, what are our options? The answer: SEO. Using SEO and traffic metrics along with rigorous analytics tracking is the path to demonstrating impact and even ROI in influencer marketing. Listen now to hear useful tips for configuring your own influencer analytics.
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What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.
Christopher Penn: In this week’s In-Ear Insights, we are back from the MarketingProfs’ B2B Forum. And one of the topics that came up—granted this is B2B to some degree, but I think will be possibly more than just that, if more on the B2C side as well—was that influencer marketing has been for a long time all about who’s got the biggest audience, who’s got the biggest mouth, how many likes did you get? Which is fine, sort of. But when companies are asked now for attribution, for impact, for results, for ROI, it’s awfully hard to tell what the ROI of a ‘Like’ is. It’s a lot easier to understand the ROI of the traffic that has come to your company’s website. So one of the topics we started discussing as a community is, What would it look like if we started using SEO and search and traffic data as a proxy for influence rather than the social media vanity metrics?
So Katie, what are your thoughts in terms of being able to look at an influencer or a campaign or an always-on campaign and saying, as a marketing executive, I” need to see some real impact.” How do you feel about the way we’re currently measuring influencers and the way that we could be?
Katie Robbert: I think it’s terrible. (Laughter). But it’s interesting, because as you’re describing it, it’s really making me think that there are so many different kinds of influencers, even though we tend to immediately think of social media influencers. And as we’ve talked about it in our social 2020 paper, and as we’ve talked about it a lot in our public communities, social media is something that you cannot rely on. You can’t move into the next year and assume that it’s a channel that’s going to strongly work for you. It might. It might not, it will probably not.
So Chris, as you’re talking about the different metrics for an influencer, think about the people that you have guest-blogging or people that you have on a podcast or some other kind of content asset that you might share on social media, but doesn’t originate on social media. I think that’s where we’ve started looking at some of those SEO, domain authority, and important metrics that are really going to help you demonstrate that ROI, because that’s a tangible thing. I had this guest on my blog, or they did a link back to my site and I saw traffic from that, those are things that are trackable. Because you’re right, you can’t really measure the ROI of a ‘Like.’ It doesn’t do anything. It’s awareness, and that’s important. But it’s the beginning of the funnel, not the end of the funnel.
CP: You bring up a really good point that a lot of these metrics like SEO metrics, or traffic and clicks, are closer to the bottom of the funnel. And you’re absolutely right that the closer you can get to the bottom of the funnel the better.
We just did a campaign with our friends and colleagues over at Talkwalker where we got even further down the funnel and put 1000 new leads for them into their sales CRM for their salespeople to follow up. Now it’s incumbent upon them to go on and do business with us, but I like what you’re saying about how the influencer did their job if they got traffic to your website. After that, it’s our responsibility as marketing to say, “Okay, we need to take this traffic and convert it, capture the attention, retarget it and ultimately turn it into a business impact.” But here’s what I think is preventing that from happening. I think it’s the influencers. Because there are an awful lot of people who just like talking through the air. And maybe they can get a thousand likes or a million likes. But there was that case earlier this year, that person on Twitter with 2 million followers who couldn’t sell 36 shirts.
KR: It always reminds me of the keynote that Avinash did at MarketingProfs, a few years ago, where he was talking about engagement. And he said, you might have a million followers on Facebook, but if the only person who likes your stuff is your mom, you’re doing it wrong. That’s not engagement. Because ‘Followers’ does not equal engagement. That’s a really great example of how an influencer campaign cannot work for you, but you can still end up spending a lot of time and energy on it. So I think what we want to see moving into the next year is for marketers to really challenge the notion of what an influencer looks like, and maybe even drop the word. Maybe it’s a partner, an ally.
CP: An ambassador.
KR: An ambassador, a guest blogger, you know, whatever the term is, it’s someone who has authority in the topic that you’re speaking about, and can help get a little bit more awareness and drive traffic back to your site.
One of the things that you and I tend to do, Chris, is that we will guest blog for other people about a specific topic with the goal of them getting the awareness around the topic and the authority, and us getting a reach into their network. So I think that’s a really interesting spin on what an influencer should look like moving into the next year.
CP: The other thing we do a ton of is showing up on other people’s podcasts. Let’s say, for example, that I didn’t work for Trust Insights and you were the head of marketing, but I was one of your influencers. What would you expect to see out of me in the next year? If we said, “I’m going to sign a thing for like $10,000 a month as your premier influencer.” What would you expect to get for that money?
KR: You know, that’s a really good question. I would want to see you contribute some content to my blog. I would like to see you repost that on your blog, to your network, put a mention in your newsletter. So basically, all of the different assets that make you an influencer, I would like to see my company show up in. So your blog, your podcast, your newsletter, those assets. And then maybe reshare them across social media because there is still value in that. But I don’t think that’s the only thing you can do that will work.
Then I think having you as our influencer you could do a webinar with us and then cross-promote it. Because of those activities, people don’t traditionally think of them as influencer activity. But it is. Since you’re basically partnering with someone who has reached into a network that you want to have access to. So that’s a smart move for companies, to partner up and work with people who have that reach. If I were signing a monthly contract with you, those are the types of things that I would want to see. And then of course, everything would be UTM tracked and tagged and measurable. And then I would want some sort of a monthly report so I can decide, “Hey, is this guy actually doing anything for us, or do we need to kick them to the curb?”
CP: It’s fascinating that you mentioned that because one of the things I have seen influencers routinely and universally fail at is doing any kind of tracking. I was having dinner with Lee Odden and Ashley Zeckman from TopRank Marketing. They were talking about some of their marketing campaigns, and they were saying there’s one influencer who was demanding exorbitant sums of money but actively refused to track and provide reporting. In our work with IBM, for example, we don’t have to but we choose to provide detailed monthly reporting of all the activities, all the traffic, all the views and the reach and stuff like that, that they can then take to their management and justify continuing to work with us both as a partner and as an influencer. Now it’s just astonishing that more influencers do not want to say, “Look at everything I did for you. This justifies my fee.” You would think that would be something you would want unless they don’t have the goods.
KR: And I think we’ve talked about this topic to death, but I’ll bring it up again. A lot of times you start an influencer campaign without a plan so there’s a lack of how are we going to measure this? Are likes and retweets and smiley faces good enough? Or do we need something more tangible? If we need something more tangible, what does that look like? How do we measure that? Does this person only live on Instagram and hide behind 20 filters, so they don’t actually know how to do any kind of reporting? How do we get those metrics if they can’t do it themselves? If you can answer those questions before starting a campaign, you’ll be fine. But I think a lot of times there’s this assumption that by hiring an influencer, they’re going to deliver something for me, and then they’re going to tell me how it went. I don’t know that influencers share that same mentality. So there are a lot of great influencers out there, but there’s also a lot of really crappy ones.
CP: Yeah, there are. (Laughs). So in terms of those metrics that we were talking about earlier, like clicks and traffic and even lead generation. As a company and as a marketer, what would you be expecting to see from a numbers perspective, from showing up in my newsletter, for example?
KR: It depends on how many people currently subscribe to your newsletter. I would say I would even take a step back from there. The first thing I would do before hiring an influencer is I would take a look at my KPI map and my goals to figure out what metrics are even the most important to me. I know one of our goals moving into next year is to continually increase our database of prospects and new newsletters, subscribers, podcast subscribers because those are things that we own.
So my first question to you before hiring you is, How many people subscribe to your newsletter? How many people open your newsletter and read your newsletter and engage with your newsletter? If you are to place something in your newsletter that’s mine, what can I expect? I’m almost sort of interviewing you first before I’m setting the expectations of what I need. So if I come to you and say, “I need a million subscribers” and you say, “Cool, I only have 5000.” Well, we have a problem.
CP: Exactly. Does that also help the influencer in some ways? Because if you say you need a million subscribers, well, I have 43,000 subscribers. What is it exactly you’re trying to get to if you end up saying “I need 200 leads”? That’s a little bit more understandable because you’re making some assumptions that one half of 1% of my subscribers are going to click on something when I may have 11 to 15% click-through rate.
KR: I was gonna say that’s exactly it. Understanding what those metrics look like helps to set the expectation. So if I’m looking for 200 leads and you have a 30% click-through rate, then I can start to do the back of the envelope math to say, over this period of time, this is when I am likely to get this number of leads.
CP: Yep. Again, this is something that I don’t think many influencers or frankly, many companies have a good handle on, because they don’t even have a handle on their own analytics. And without that infrastructure and that foundation, they’re kind of just guessing.
KR: We always say that it’s a little surprising but we shouldn’t be surprised at this point at how many companies are still kind of guessing at their metrics. I mean, we’ve seen it time and again in the CMO survey, the CEO survey. Everybody wants the data. Nobody’s using the data to make decisions. We know this. We know that a good chunk, and by that I mean, more than 50% of companies are still guessing.
CP: How do you deal with some of the attribution windows being incredibly long, especially in B2B, but even in complex B2C? I got an email last night about my newsletter from somebody who told me their current client said, “I’ve been wanting to work with you in some capacity since 2007 when we first met.” Well, that’s a really long time to try and do that ROI computation. How do we deal with that?
KR: Not well. (Laughter). I think that’s a different conversation to be quite honest. But I was reading your newsletter this morning as well and you’re absolutely right. The attribution for that particular thing is that you have to use your human judgment to go back and adjust that particular prospect, so that you don’t say, “This is where this one came in.”
You can do a lot of your attribution analysis in an automated fashion using only your digital channels. But Chris, to your point, for those who haven’t read your newsletter yet, there’s going to be a lot of offline interactions. The text messages, the in-person conversations, or the phone calls, all need to be factored in. How that’s done, I don’t have a great, short, succinct answer. That will fit within the constraints of this podcast. But I think that is something that we should explore with our audience over the next year because it is something that we’re working on for a lot of our clients: What does that on and offline attribution model look like? It doesn’t look the same for everybody. Because every single customer is going to interact with them in a different way. They might interact with a chatbot and then go in the store and look at some stuff, and then go home and comparison-shop and then ask their friends about it. There are a million different combinations of things. So that’s a really interesting challenge that I think we’ll be tackling a lot in the new year.
CP: I think where that nets out in terms of influencers and ROI, and metrics and analytics, is that we have to set some parameters in our planning as a general expectation. Like yes, we get that your personal brand may have decades of interactions and relationships, but there’s a minimum expectation that you can get 200 people to do this thing. And if you get extra on top of that, great, we’re all happy. But this is sort of the baseline expectation. Do you feel like that’s unreasonable?
KR: I don’t think that’s unreasonable. And to your point in your newsletter again, we have to be okay at some point with ‘Good enough,’ because perfection is going to be the enemy of productivity. You have to cut that off. In this example that you gave about someone who mentioned that they met you 12 years ago, I would say honestly, you could probably just put that in the email newsletter bucket, and then move on with your life.
CP: Right, exactly.
So, to recap, one thing that we need to think about is, Should we be using more than just basic social media metrics or influencers? Of course, the answer is yes. There’s a world of metrics and analytics out there, word of mouth, surveys, attribution, brand strength SEOs. There is social media, web traffic, lead generation marketing automation. You have buckets and buckets of data available to you. So the challenge for all of us is to figure out what it is that aligns best with the outcome we care about, which of course requires good planning.
If you have questions about doing this for yourself, we are of course happy to help. Stop by TrustInsights.ai, and while you’re there, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and to our newsletter. We’ll talk to you soon. Take care.
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