By Manuela Nogueira

Ensuring Influencer Campaign ROI in the Age of Fake Followers and Algorithm Changes

By Sybil Grieb, US Head of Influencer Strategy

Influencers allow brands to cut through the noise of online advertising and incorporate their key messages directly into the content people are seeking out. In addition, influencers are often seen as more trustworthy than the brands themselves. Edelman’s 2018 Trust Barometer showed the most trusted sources of information to be Experts and Peers, or “a person like myself”, and Digital Influencers often capitalize on being seen both as an expert in their vertical as well as a peer or “person like myself”.

With ad dollars quickly shifting to influencer marketing, the space has grown exponentially over the past few years. However, the blessing and the curse of digital media have always been the metrics, and the fixation on influencers follower numbers has given rise to many influencers purchasing fake followers to help boost their organic following, as well as help increase the interest and dollars they can command from brand partnerships.

To ensure you are maximizing the ROI of your campaign:

Start with Strategy

Before jumping into the creative ideation of the campaign and selecting talent, start by clearly defining you messages and goals.

  • Story – Define the key messages you are looking to communicate.
  • Target Audience – Identify the audiences you are looking to reach.
  • KPI’s and CTA – Determine the goals of your campaign. (Awareness, Engagements, or Actions) and set a clear CTA to deliver on these goals.

Vet Extensively

In addition to ensuring your influencer partner has the right target audience (age, gender, geography) you also need to vet the health of their audience. We leverage our Starview platform which flags potential suspicious followers, as well as additional industry standard tools. Look for the following red flags:

  • Follower Spikes – Check the history of their audience growth to ensure that sudden spikes in follower growth were from organic growth such as a post going viral, a collaboration or other promotion, and not the purchase of followers.
  • Audience Geography – The language and content of the influencers posts should align with the geography of their followings. If you see a large following from a country that speaks another language.
  • Engagement – If audience engagement is consistently extremely low (below 1%) this is a red flag, not only for potential fake followers, but also confirms that any posts on their channels will not deliver on engagements.
  • Comment Quality – Vet to ensure comments from followers are on topic and relevant to the posts.
  • Audience Time on Platform – Showing the length of time followers have been on the platform. If there are a large number of followers new to the platform that is a red flag.
  • Final Safeguards – Influencer contract protection – ensure influencers sign off on the health of their audience and that they have not purchased followers.

Base Influencer Pay on Factors Beyond Reach

When hiring influencers, look beyond follower counts to determine the appropriate rate ranges. Confirm their V30 (views in past 30 days), engagement metrics, check trending to see if they are growing or declining over time, take into consideration their content quality, name cachet, brand fit, vertical, as well as the specific campaign deliverables and content usage rights.

Amplify and Optimize

With the numerous algorithm changes over the past year it is more important than ever to ensure you are maximizing the exposure of your influencer created assets. Remember that your influencer’s audience is only part of the equation. You are hiring them as a creator and a trusted voice for your brand’s messages. Leverage their custom created assets across your owned, earned and paid channels, optimizing to maximize the ROI of each asset.

Organic reach is only one piece of the equation, and in the current landscape of fake followers and algorithm changes, it is extremely important to ensure you are maximizing the reach of all influencer created assets by amplifying and optimizing across your owned, earned and paid channels to reach your full desired audience.

For the most authentic campaigns find the right influencer already having the right conversation with your target audience, vet them extensively for both their content and their follower health, and co-create to incorporate your message directly into their content with a CTA that drives actions.

Focusing your strategy on top quality content that drives engagement and actions is the best way to ensure your campaigns will be a success.

Adam Hirsch, EVP, Emerging Technology and Andrew Schwalb, Director, Influencer Strategy, contributed to this piece.

About Edelman Digital

Edelman Digital is the digital advisory and integrated marketing arm of the world’s largest communications marketing firm. Our global staff, in over 65 offices worldwide, is built to manage the complexity of modern marketing and online reputation, using a data-driven social-first storytelling approach designed to deliver real-time business results. We believe in exploring future-forward technology to advance the stories we tell. The output of our work delivers experiences that transform culture, reputation and relationships to inspire real-world action between brands and consumers.