But as the industry grows, we continue to hear questions around measurement and defining success with an influencer marketing campaign. Marketers often ask, “what does ROI really mean when working with influencers?”

The truth is, there isn’t one single answer.

Part of what makes influencer marketing such a powerful strategy is the ability to meet a wide range of marketing goals – from discovery and brand awareness to conversions and driving life-long loyalty. In order to understand what a successful influencer marketing campaign looks like for your brand, you should first identify what you want to get out of your marketing efforts. Once you have a specific goal in mind, you can then create KPIs that will accurately measure success, specific to you.

Building brand awareness

If a marketer is working with influencers in order to drive more brand awareness, they should start by building relationships with well-established influencers who have large followings. The key to a successful brand awareness campaign is working with influencers who have passions and values that align with a brand message and purpose.

But once you identify the right influencers for your brand awareness campaign, how do you know if your strategy was successful?

One of the most important things to measure is social engagement. If influencer posts are seeing high engagement rates, then you know that your brand message is being successfully relayed to an influencer’s audience. Other KPIs to measure brand awareness are social mentions and campaign hashtag usage. If an influencer strategy is successful, people will proactively participate in branded campaigns by sharing related hashtags or tagging the company’s corporate handle outright. In a similar vein, you should expect your following to grow as people become more aware of your brand.

Keep in mind that marketers who invest in brand awareness campaigns at the beginning of their influencer journey often see what we call the “halo effect” of influencers. This is the extended value of influencer beyond just one campaign – well-established influencers often inspire their peers as well as up-and-coming influencers to engage with a brand. That expands audience reach in new and exciting ways and drives new customers.

Fueling the bottom line

Once a brand has successfully built an online presence through brand awareness campaigns, opportunities for lower-funnel growth become a bigger priority. Influencers can help directly drive sales for brands in a number of ways, but one of the most effective strategies is the use of affiliate links. Affiliate links allow influencers to proactively promote products and services of brands that align with their audience’s values and passions—and influencers are then incentivised to drive sales by earning commission on every purchase that is made through a follower clicking on their posted affiliate link.

Measuring the ROI for influencer marketing strategies that are meant to drive conversions is a bit more obvious. Looking at click-through rate for influencer affiliate links is a great way to understand how much people are engaging with product-specific content. Marketers should take note if click through rates are high, but conversions aren’t growing in parallel. There might be other variables on the merchant’s end that are causing people to turn away from their shopping carts – e.g. pricing, stock limitations, etc.

Setting benchmarks is key

No matter what your goals are with an influencer marketing campaign, one thing remains constant: the need for aspirational, yet attainable benchmarks for success. In order to measure the ROI on any investment, marketers must first set a goal for what that success would look like and, when multiple goals are at stake, prioritise goals for each campaign.

Setting goals for increasing brand awareness or driving sales is crucial to understanding whether or not an influencer marketing campaign was successful in achieving the broader goal of the initiative.

So, if you’re a marketer and you’re looking to start investing in influencers as a part of your marketing mix, first think about what you want to achieve by working with influencers, how you would measure the success of that goal, and then build an influencer marketing strategy that helps you reach those specific campaign milestones.

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