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For those of us who have been living and breathing influencer marketing from before it even had a name, the last 18 months have felt like the coming of age of the practice.
While not intending to understate the surge in activity and awareness that influencer marketing has encountered lately, as Brian Solis and the team at Altimeter noticed recently in their Influence 2.0 report, the category is still early.
What we’ve observed from our customers, our users, and our peers is an amazing community forming before our eyes. Set to challenge the status quo of traditional marketing, these marketing change agents and opinion makers are coming together to transform the brands they represent. However, it is by no means a fair representation of mainstream marketing today, which stands way behind this group of pioneers, talking a good game about influencer marketing but still doing very little in practice.
Why such a chasm?
The change agents are early adopters to influencer marketing. Early adopters can’t afford not to be first at adopting new practices and technologies that they feel can serve them or their business. They fail often and fast. When they succeed, however, they hold an unfair competitive advantage over everybody else. This is where our user base is today and I’ll contend that this is representative of the state of the maturity of the influencer category: a lot of activity, with few visible successes at scale yet (it’s their secret sauce, after all).
The journey from early adoption to early majority is the infamous “crossing of the chasm” that every new category needs to operate to succeed.
The early majority has a very different approach to business than early adopters. Making the transition is not just a matter of time or scale but a different path to adoption. The early majority is driven by results and willing to change if change is proven to make them better. Failure is not an option for this group and, unlike early adopters, they can’t operate on qualitative information only. They need to see quantifiable data that something works before putting their weight behind it and understand the tools available to deploy and optimize.
Early adopters and the early majority typically come to a clash when early adopters have seen enough (qualitative) proof points of a new technology or new activity and are ready to take it out of the “sandbox” to scale it within their organization. They will meet push back from the early majority to fund the expansion and to join them in adopting the new activity.
The path from early adoption to early majority is challenging for those brave souls walking it. Ask ex-Marketo’s Jon Miller or our own Kirk Crenshaw (at DemandBase at the time) about marketing automation’s journey. Guy Nirpaz at Totango or Nick Mehta at Gainsight still wear the scars of their own expedition with Customer Success. The path is nonlinear and happens through leaps rather than incremental progress.
For influencer marketing, the main hurdle is the lack of true value-driven program level KPIs.
You can categorize today’s success metrics in influencer marketing mainly in two groups (I’ll skip the 3rd group of vanity metrics not worth my digital ink).
The first category of KPIs covers metrics emulating the old marketing success framework;
The best example is the infamous EMV, or Earned Media Value, offering to benchmark the success of influencer marketing to an Advertising Value Equivalent; in this bucket, you can also put the phony campaign conversion metrics a lot of opt-in networks use to show their value. These KPIs intend to make marketers feel comfortable about measuring their success in influencer marketing by comparing it to another familiar set of KPIs used in marketing (e.g. ad spend or demand gen/sales).
This approach fails marketers in multiple ways:
a) It doesn’t acknowledge the particularity of influencer marketing and tries to fit it in another marketing box, and as a result kills the very transformation influencer marketing can unleash (how can you change if you measure success against the very model you’re trying to depart?)
b) Because the baseline for measurement lives outside of influencer marketing, this system doesn’t allow for the primary function of KPIs which is to measure relative performance improvements as a way to roll out best practices;
The second category of key performance indicators is purpose-built to assess the value of influencer marketing as a practice; such KPIs include Influencer Share of Voice (SOV), Influencer Endorsements, or Influencer Relationship Funnel reporting. This model is quite good to support the role of KPIs as way to improve relative performance but it doesn’t address the adoption issue by the early majority. Behind each of these metrics lays the assumption that you should care about influencers (SOV, endorsement, relationship). If you’re in the early majority and remain unconvinced your company should spend money or time before seeing results, this is a non starter.
Traackr’s analytics have squarely fallen in this second category: great for leadership and teams already convinced they should invest in influencer marketing but not helping those still seeking to justify the path of adoption.
This week, Traackr is launching its next generation of analytics, powered by our Integrated Influencer Intelligence (I3) technology. While our new UX is very sleek, the real deal here is that we built a new backend to index and analyze all measureable metrics around influencer content across all major platforms. So for the first time, not only can our users measure how influencers feel about their brand but also what quantifiable impact each influencer and each of their posts has on the brand, thus measuring the value of the relationship between the brand and its influencers.
Leveraging our new analytics, now the early adopters can effectively “cross the chasm” to deliver the quantifiable data that the early majority seeks in order to fund and expand new initiatives. Everybody wins.
The big picture for brands is actually being able to benchmark against the rest of the marketplace and define a baseline to measure progress. With true value-driven KPIs, marketers can see which strategies, platforms, content, and influencers yield better results. Even compare the impact of paid versus organic influencer content to derive contextual insights across brands, topics, and competitors.
See the new analytics module for yourself, including Influence Reports that give users a comprehensive view of their Share of Influence, Influence by Channel, and Influencer Performance. Watch the short video below:
I can’t emphasize enough how mission critical this is to anyone considering scaling or adopting influencer marketing: without the ability to quantify the true value of your relationships with influencers, you can’t figure out what parts of your program work and need to be emulated and what parts create more noise than impact. In other words, you can’t expand the practice without this new layer of intelligence we’re bringing in.