A Simple Guide to Influencer Marketing in Social Media.

Influencer marketing is a growing part of social media strategy. According to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) 75% of companies have influencer programs and nearly half (43%) are planning to increase their spending next year. Of companies not using it over a quarter (27%) plan to do so. Yet, there are many forms and methods to structuring an influencer program. To be successful brands must ensure they have a solid strategy rooted in business objectives, target market and best practices. Below is a guide to follow in creating or optimizing an influencer marketing program as part of a broader social media strategy.

Objectives and Target Audience: Begin your influencer marketing with business objectives. Are you trying to increase sales or build brand awareness? Do you have a reputation problem and are looking to increase positive sentiment? Are you a B2B brand that wants more leads? Look for the bigger problem or opportunity. Don’t make the mistake of starting with social media objectives that just become an end unto themselves.

Who are you trying to reach? Identify the target market for your product and service. Then turn that market into a target audience or audiences that you want the influencers to reach. You may have one audience active on specific social media platforms. Knowing this will focus your effort on finding influencers popular on those social channels. If multiple target audiences are involved identify every target by objective. Each audience may need to be reached with different platforms, influencers and content. An example is colleges with an annual enrollment objective targeting high school students, parents and alumni. They may also have a second objective of raising funds for a building project targeting alumni, business leaders and state legislators.

Method and Compensation: Influencer marketing can be structured in several ways. Small organizations with a minimal number of influencers or big companies with larger internal resources may want to create and manage their own influencer program. For more help brands can work with influencer platforms or networks that streamline processes and payments and make it easier to find influencers. Fees are charged for the convenience and you may be limited only to influencers in their network. A third option is hiring an Influencer Agency. These agencies provide the most options, customization and access to influencers, but will also cost the most in fees.

Another increasingly popular option for influencer marketing is affiliate programs. Affiliate marketing has been around for many years, but in the past it focused on building websites to draw an audience and send traffic to product links for sales. The retailer rewards the affiliate for each visitor or customer. Today more affiliates are using social media to attract audiences and insert links in social media posts. Instead of paying per post or sending free product, brands pay a commission per sale which could motivate affiliates to send traffic for a longer periods. Options include building and managing a brand affiliate program, working with an affiliate platform and network, or hiring an affiliate agency.

Social Channels: Select the social platforms that make the most sense for brand objectives and target audience. Where is the target audience spending time? What social media networks are they on and where do they look for content in the brand’s industry? Consider options in multiple categories such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogs, and podcasts. Also look at niche social platforms such as forums, Medium, Reddit, Quora, or SlideShare. The idea is to match social channel users and social channel content type with target audience and objective.

Type of Influencer: Are you looking for a celebrity (famous in traditional media), a social media star (known for or because of social media ), or a thought leader (known for industry knowledge)? Celebrities can have a lot of advantages including their mass reach and appeal. Yet film, music or sports celebrities can be expensive and people may question the authenticity of their product endorsements. Social media stars may have less followers, but those followers could be more engaged and endorsements could be seen as more believable. Thought leaders are a good choice for certain product or service categories in B2B. A mention or recommendation by an industry leader can carry a lot of weight.

Influencers can also be categorize in terms of follower size. Macro-influencers have 100,000 or more followers. Mid-level-influencers have between 25,000 and 100,000 followers. Micro-influencers can have as little as 50 to 25,000 followers. It may be tempting to only go for the macro-influencers because of their massive reach, but micro-influencers are often more effective. Adweek reports micro-influencer engagement rates can be 60% higher, their buys are 6.7 times more efficient, and they can drive 22 times more conversions. According to the ANA more than half of brands use mid-level (66%) or micro-influencers (59%) while less than half are using macro-influencers (44%). No matter what type of influencer you use a growing concern is influencer fraud. Influencer marketing software companies are working on ways to detect fraud and create industry standards.

Type of Content: Once you have your influencers decide how content will be created and spread. You may think it is best to have the most control, but content created by the brand and merely shared could come across as not genuine. Certain influencers or influencer networks may also have their own standards for what they will or will not do. Consider the pros and cons for each option such as influencer shared brand content, influencer created brand content, or product and service reviews and mentions. Or get creative with options such as influencer brand account takeovers, brand guest content contributions, or collaboration on a contest or giveaway. Another consideration is to repurpose influencer content in other channels and in other forms.

Monitoring and Metrics: Ensure you follow the FTC Endorsement Guidelines. Recently the FTC cracked down by sending out letters to influencers and brands not following the standards and creating deceptive advertising. Brands are responsible for training influencers on these standards and for monitoring their influencers to ensure compliance. Influencers, agencies and brands are all held accountable. Also make sure you have an up-to-date social media, user generated content, and privacy policy. After the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the new European data-protection law (GDPR) many companies are updating their privacy policies to meet new expectations and standards.

Finally, monitor key metrics per influencer and social channel to measure success. Be sure to identify KPIs that connect back to each business objective. This not only helps prove success but also allows you to optimize the program over time by social channel, influencer and type of content. Setting up key metrics and monitoring in the beginning will simplify social media metrics and help prove ROI. Not all marketers are effectively measuring influencer marketing, but according to the latest State of Influencer Marketing Report, 70% are measuring ROI and those firms average an earn media value of $5.20 per dollar spent on influencer marketing.

As other forms of traditional, digital and social media marketing become more challenging many marketers are adding influencer marketing to their IMC mix. Consider these guidelines when structuring or restructuring your influencer efforts. Also, consider how influencer marketing fits into your overall social strategy by Asking These Questions To Ensure You Have The Right Strategy and you should Perform A Social Media Audit at least once a year.

Social Media Not Meeting Expectations? Perform A Social Media Audit.

Companies have been active in social media for years. Today 97% of Fortune 500 companies are on LinkedIn, 84% are on Facebook and 86% are on Twitter. But those efforts were likely created in a piecemeal fashion. Different brand accounts were added for different reasons at different times. Objectives or options may have changed. Or you may be so focused on current social accounts you are missing out on opportunities elsewhere. How do you know you are posting the right content in the right places to drive the right consumer actions? Perform a social media audit.

Social Media Audit TemplateWhat Is A Social Media Audit?

A social media audit is simply a systematic examination of social media data. It is a snapshot of all social media activity in and around a brand evaluated for strategic insights. Why? Different organizational objectives and target markets may require different social media messages and platforms. Existing brand accounts may be wrong for current business objectives and new social media platforms may be ideal, but were never considered. Perhaps brand social media was started by marketing or public relations, but now customer service requests are overwhelming the system and increased integration is needed.

First Start By Listening.

Use social media tools to gather data about brand social media channels and content. Discover what consumers are saying about the brand, product, service, and key personnel in any social platform. Listen to what is being said by and about brand competitors. You may be monitoring social media daily, but simply responding to what comes your way.

Analyze the bigger picture. Qualify and quantify social media action looking for patterns and opportunity. Listen with an outside perspective to the social talk about your brand, employees, customers and competitors. Look on both official corporate social media accounts and unofficial or personal accounts.

If you don’t have a social media monitoring software or if you are a startup or student just getting started simply go to each social media platform and search the brand name to find the conversations. Look on official brand accounts to see what the brand is doing and look at the conversation happening on those official brand accounts.

Start with the social channels you know the brand has brand pages (they are probably listed on the brand website). Then search other popular social media channels the brand does not have official accounts to find additional consumer brand content. Do the same for one main competitor to find their social channels, brand content and consumer brand conversations. This Social Media Channel Template provides a list of top social platforms by category for ideas on where to look for official brand accounts and consumer brand conversations.

An audit need not capture every mention, but should gather a complete picture. Find conversation on all social platforms. Be sure to consider social networks, blogs and forums, microblogs, media sharing platforms, geosocial, ratings and reviews, social bookmarking, social knowledge, plus podcasts. This Social Media Channel Category Guide provides a quick guide to the top social media platforms in each category by kind and key characteristics.

Next Organize Social Talk Data.

When collecting social talk data it should be organized for meaningful analysis. This can be done by following a social media audit template such as the one I created from the concept of the Five Ws that journalists use to write news stories. Gather social talk into three categories of company, consumer, and competitor (down first row) then record observations by where, what, when, and why (across columns).

Collect and Analyze Social Media Audit Data by:

  • Who—company, consumers, competitors
  • Where—social media channel (YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.) and environment (describe the look and feel)
  • What—type of content (articles, photos, videos, links, questions, etc.) and sentiment (positive, negative, neutral)
  • When—frequency of activity (number of posts, comments, views, shares, etc. per day, week, or month)
  • Why—purpose (brand awareness, promotion, drive traffic, customer complaint, praise, etc.)

The number of rows under “Who” will vary based on the number of brand and competitor social accounts and the number of social media platforms where consumer brand talk is found. Larger organizations may need to divide the “Company” category further into departments, offices, or employees. Capture what each location or executive is communicating.

If the brand has an official social media account (such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc) you place it under “Company” with its own row for insights. This is where you describe what the company is doing on those platforms. Under “Consumer” you should list all the social platforms where consumers are participating in discussion about the brand. If they are engaging on an official company social media account list it here and provide those insights in a row (such as Facebook and Pinterest). Also search the brand name and see what people are saying off the official account be sure to include that discussion as well.

If a brand has an account on a social platform and there is no consumer engagement (such as Twitter) then list it under “Company,” but don’t list it under “Consumer.” This may be a platform the brand may want to close. Search main platforms where the brand doesn’t have an account (such as Instagram). Are consumers talking about the brand? List that platform in a row under “Consumer” and describe what is being said. There may be a brand community but no official brand account and they may want to add this platform. For “Competitor” you don’t need to go as in depth to capture insights. Simply list each official brand account on a row and describe what the brand is doing and their customers are doing on those channels.

Then Determine What The Data Is Saying.

Does the data point to opportunities? Are there trouble spots? Do brand social media platforms present a consistent look, voice and unified message? Are customers complaining about similar product or service issues? Is the brand consistently posting quality content and consistently responding to customers? Are there social platforms where customers are talking about the brand, yet there isn’t an official brand presence? Is the social media channel a problem or an opportunity for a defensive or offensive social media strategy.

Determining the “Why” for each social action is important. If you can’t think of a strategic purpose then reevaluate the effort. Is maintaining a brand account on specific social media platforms worth the organization’s time? Once a purpose is determined, identify the social media metrics to measure performance. Ask questions such as, “Why does the organization have a Pinterest page and how is success being measured?” “Because everyone is there” and “to increase followers” is not enough. If you know the business purpose and metrics ask, “How has the platform performed? With roughly 10% of marketing budgets spent on social media it is more important than ever to connect social action to higher-level business objectives and justify expense.

Finally Evaluate Brand Engagement.

Are your consumer’s engaging with your brand? How are views, likes, comments and shares? Have they gone up or down over time? Advertising Hall of Famer Howard Gossage said, “Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them.” In social media reach is gained when consumers find content interesting enough to share. Quality content is important. Whether educational or entertaining it must be considered valuable. Only social media that is viewed and shared reaches an audience that can then take action to meet business objectives.

Today you can also interrupt people’s social feeds with paid social media or native advertising. Paid social media can buy reach to a targeted audience, but that does not replace the need to create interesting content. Social media advertising merely buys exposure. Content must convey value to drive consumer action, further distribution, and ultimate ROI.

Is It Time For A Social Media Audit?

If you haven’t evaluated your brand’s social media presence in a while it may be time for a social media audit. Use this template to see how consumers are experiencing your brand in social media. You may uncover some problem areas, promising opportunities, social channels you should be in and ones you should leave behind.

A social media audit can help you:

  • Realize the need for increased integration with other departments.
  • Find gaps in brand promise and product/service performance.
  • Uncover inconsistencies across brand social accounts.
  • Reveal blind spots in current social action with content, schedule and response.
  • Discover consumer ideas for product/service improvements.
  • Optimize brand content to drive engagement.
  • Find unexpected consumer generated content on other platforms.
  • Discover valuable brand or industry influencers.
  • Optimize time devoted to most effective social media platforms.
  • Learn from successful competitor social strategies.
  • Uncover a need for metrics to connect social action to business objectives.

Whether launching a new social media effort or evaluating current social activity, a social media audit can deliver valuable insights to create or optimize any social media strategy. For the latest changes in social media strategy consider Asking These Questions To Ensure You Have The Right Social Media Strategy.

Social Media Metrics: A Short Guide to Making Sense Of What Can Be A Big Mess.

The Business Dictionary defines metrics as standards of measurement by which efficiency, performance, or progress can be assessed. In social media marketing the numbers behind social media efforts are very important. Yet, many get overwhelmed with amount of data and options of what can be collected and where. In this post I will cover the basics of collecting social media data, tracking social media metrics and identifying KPIs (key performance indicators). I also include a template to make sense of it all and link social media actions to business goals and marketing objectives for social measurement and optimization.

First, we will take a quick look at some of the detailed social media metrics top social channels offer through their own analytics. Sprout Social provides a nice survey of the social media metrics that matter to marketers. They detail the comprehensive stats you can get from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. I have added Instagram and YouTube as additional examples.

Social Media Channel Specific Metrics:

Facebook Insights offers metrics on page posts such as likes (unlikes, organic likes, paid likes), reach, engagement, engagement rate, impressions, and demographic information for fans, plus additional people you have engaged with and reached. There are also detailed video stats including views for 3 seconds, 30 seconds or 95% of total video length.

Twitter Analytics offers similar metrics including total tweets, tweet impressions, profile visits, mentions, followers, tweets linking to you, engagement rate, link clicks, retweets, likes and replies. It provides demographic, lifestyle, consumer behavior and mobile information about followers.

LinkedIn Analytics provides metrics on post performance with metrics like impressions, clicks, interactions, followers, views, unique visitors and engagement. They include details on visitor demographics on business focused variables such as seniority, industry, company size and function.

Pinterest Analytics delivers metrics for profile impressions, daily viewers, pins, repins, clicks and favorites. In addition Pinterest provides demographic and interests insights for pin viewers.

Instagram Insights promises tracking metrics like top posts, reach, impressions and engagement data. It also delivers demographic data on followers such as gender, age and location.

YouTube Analytics provides data in different reports such as subscribers, subscriber status, traffic, traffic sources, views, watch time, earnings, likes, dislikes, comments, shares, favorites, devices, audience retention and organic versus paid traffic. YouTube also offers demographic information on viewers such as location, age and gender.

These are just six of the top social media channels. Other social channels offer their own version of metrics you can obtain along with many third party software tools. New ones include Yelp Metrics and Foursquare Attribution. For a list of over 50 top social media channels by category visit my post Social Media Update. All these options can be overwhelming and many marketers can easily get bogged down and distracted by the minutia of dozens of metrics and reports for each social channel.

Linking Channel Metrics to Marketing Objectives:

The key to making all this data more usable and actionable is understanding the bigger picture as it relates to your unique business goals and then linking the specific metrics for each channel as KPIs to marketing objectives. I have created the Social Media Metrics Template below to help organize and visualize how specific social media channel data and business/marketing objectives come together to measure the success of social media marketing efforts.

In this template you want to first go back and identify broader business goals making sure marketing objectives are quantified and time bound. A start up or business with a new product/service may be focused on building awareness among a certain target audience (views, reach, impressions, demographic data, etc.). Another company or organization may have issues with reputation and are looking to change perception (negative to positive sentiment). Or perhaps the business needs to drive leads or online sales (traffic sources, conversion pages, etc.). Maybe a brand needs to focus on retention of existing customers for continued sales and recruiting new customers via word-of-mouth (likes, comments, shares, etc.). An organization can also have all these objectives and more as long as they are quantified and assigned unique KPIs for each social channel.

A big help with linking social activity to business goals and ultimately proving ROI is integrating Google Analytics on websites with social media. The new Google Analytics Social Reports are especially useful in breaking down social traffic to know how and which social media marketing is working. The Social Conversions report shows which social networks lead to website conversions. Conversions can be anything from a direct sale to a download, an email subscription, event registration, quote requests, etc. Setting up Google Analytics goals with specific dollar values per conversion will show dollar values per social channel. This helps determine where to focus time and money beyond followers and engagement and connects social media to the bottom line.

Using social media monitoring, publishing and analytics tools such as Hootsuite, HubSpot, Radian 6/SalesForce, Sysomos, NUVI, Crimson Hexagon, or other tools like SocialMention, TrueSocialMetrics, Sprout, or Buffer can help you track and organize all these social metrics. Visit my Social Media Tools & Resources page for a more comprehensive list of options.

Social Media Metrics Categories:

For a broader look at metrics Buffer Social  boils it down to the stats that matter in key social media metrics categories. One option comes from Jay Baer of Convince & Convert. He suggests four categories of social media metrics to measure success of content marketing efforts.

  1. Consumption metrics are how many people viewed, downloaded, or listened to social media content.
  2. Sharing metrics measure how relevant the social content is and how often is it shared with others.
  3. Lead-gen metrics measure how often social media content consumption results in a lead.
  4. Sales metrics measure if money was made from social media content.

The last category is often the most important, but marketers have known for decades that not all marketing action is directly attributable to sales. Traditional media advertising such as TV/radio ads, billboards or magazine and newspaper ads are seen as valuable contributors to metrics such as awareness, opinion, or recall, but don’t always lead to a direct traceable sales action. These contributions are often expressed in traditional marketing with the sales or purchase funnel. Here each category of marketing effort is seen as a valuable contributor to the progression of an important stage in the purchase process. You can think of these social media metric categories in a similar way – each is important and leads to the others.

Buffer Social’s article also points out another option first proposed by Google Co-Founder Aninash Kauskih in 2011. He suggests the following consistent social media metrics categories across all social channels.

  1. Conversation rate is the number of conversations per social media post and channel. KPI’s are different per channel. For example, on Facebook and LinkedIn it is comments and on Twitter it is replies.
  2. Amplification rate measures the number of shares per social media post and channel. Again KPIs are channel specific such as reshares for Facebook, retweets for Twitter and repins for Pinterest.
  3. Applause rate accounts for the various ways users can promote a post on different networks. KPIs vary per channel from likes on Facebook and +1s on Google+ to hearts on Instagram.
  4. Economic value is the sum of short-term revenue, long-term revenue, and cost savings. Here Aninash brings it all back to Google Analytics with a KPI such as Per Visit Goal Values. This can then be linked to source visits by social channel.

The number of social media channels, each channel’s unique metrics and social media monitoring and analtics options can be overwhelming. But if you take a step back and look at broader business goals, tie specific metrics (KPIs) to each marketing objective and then find the right tools to collect and monitor that data it becomes much more manageable and actionable.

To consider the bigger picture in measurement see Why You Need A Social Media Measurement Plan And How To Create One. To consider the bigger picture in social media marketing Ask These Questions To Ensure You Have The Right Strategy.