Earned media value (EMV) is a metric that many marketers look at to measure influencer marketing ROI, but what if we told you EMV is actually… ineffective?
In this article we’ll explain:
- the origins of EMV and how it came to be so widely used
- why EMV is not a good way of measuring influencer marketing ROI, especially if you’re performance-driven
- how to convince your boss to ditch EMV (and what metric you could use instead)
EMV: The notorious influencer marketing ROI metric
Earned media value (EMV) — we know it, but where does it come from? It’s actually a metric that evolved from something called “Advertising Value Equivalents” (AVE). That metic was used in the PR world to try and provide the value of an organic mention by equivalating it to the cost of buying an advertisement in a newspaper or magazine.
Interestingly, AVE’s were eventually dismissed as meaningless and misleading metrics by the most respected experts in measurement (The Institute of Public Relations, for example).
Similar to AVE’s, EMV attempts to provide the value of an earned influencer mention by equivalating it to the cost of buying digital ads. On one hand, the prevalence of EMV to justify spend and measure influencer marketing ROI makes sense. Marketers wanted a metric that was simple and easy for executives and teammates outside of influencer marketing to understand — EMV provides that.
On the other hand, the issues that PR experts had with AVE’s also apply to EMV in the influencer marketing world:
- The metric doesn’t give you insight into how to actually improve your performance (ok, you earned $50K EMV on a campaign, now what?)
- The metric does not have a standardized way to calculate it, leading to a lack of transparency and consistency
- And, most importantly, the dollar value does not actually correlate to any ROI or sales!
At the end of the day, while it may feel simple and satisfying to assign a single dollar value to a campaign, the reality is that your brand didn’t actually gain that monetary value. EMV misses the mark on two of the most important elements for measuring influencer marketing ROI — understanding value and gaining insight on how to do better next time.
Why EMV has no place in a performance-driven influencer program
“Why do we measure anything? To get better. The challenge with EMV is that it puts a dollar on a metric that doesn’t actually measure financial value. For example, if you complete a $10k campaign and receive $1M in EMV, that is quickly seen as ‘we’ve created a million dollars worth of value’ - but that’s not true. Is that million dollars in your sales? Is it the value of your company? The metric doesn’t measure ROI nor does it help you understand what is actually working.” — Evy Lyons, CMO of Traackr
At its core, a performance-driven influencer program is one that is effective, transparent, measurable, and (most importantly) predictable. Teams that use a performance-driven influencer marketing strategy use data to improve all stages of campaigns and programs, from setting goals and KPIs, to finding influencers, to driving impact across their customer journey.
Simply put, EMV’s methodology of assigning an arbitrary dollar value to an earned social mention does not give you the data you need to plan and improve those things. Instead:
- EMV lacks insight. By providing a false sense of monetary impact, EMV prevents marketers from understanding what investments really do increase brand recognition, product consideration, website traffic, loyalty, and sales. The reality is that influencer marketing is complex — EMV doesn’t allow you to actually understand the elements of your campaign that worked. Did you have a good volume of mentions, but low engagement? What tiers of influencers or platforms performed better? Did you have great content, but simply not reach the right audience?
- EMV doesn’t tie back to individual goals. Influencer marketing has the power to impact many different areas of your business, which is why your key performance indicators (KPIs) must align with your goals. Ask yourself, does EMV actually tell me whether a brand awareness or product launch campaign was successful? Don’t different types of campaigns require different information? Similarly, there are many different ways to “win” at influencer marketing. What works for one brand, may not work for another. If both your brand and your competitor earn $10K EMV on campaigns, what does that really tell you?
- EMV is untargeted. Everything starts with your audience. Who are they? What do they want? Do they care about your brand? If you’re using EMV to measure the success of your influencer marketing program, you’re not understanding if your campaigns are reaching your ideal audience.
TLDR: assigning a fictitious monetary value to the impressions and engagements on content is misleading. Best case scenario, you feel good about something that doesn’t matter. Worst case scenario you are wasting marketing dollars without knowing it.
Tip: If you still aren’t convinced, here is a longer article to convince you why EMV is wrong for measuring influencer marketing ROI.
How to convince your boss that EMV is a BS way to measure influencer marketing ROI
Ok, so if you weren’t already, now you’re convinced, right? Now comes the hard part of getting your team and boss on board. Convincing your team to switch away from EMV (or any kind of process) can be a long and arduous road. But there is generally one golden rule for convincing anyone to do anything — make them understand how it will benefit them.
“What your stakeholders want is to see how influencer programs will impact the things they care about. Show them how influencer programs align to their business objectives, and provide a clear way to measure success.” — Geo West, Founder of HAPPY CAT Influencer Marketing Consultancy.
Before you breach this type of conversation, make sure you understand the challenges of the person you’re pitching to and tailor your approach to meet their needs. Once you have that, you should:
- Set the stage. Similar to how you think through marketing strategies for your customers, set up your pitch by reiterating a key challenge that you are trying to address. Does your boss or team have a nagging feeling that they don’t really understand influencer marketing ROI? Are they anxious about influencer programs underperforming? Is there a general confusion about how to improve/what to do next? Make sure you provide concrete reasons (see above) why EMV is preventing your team from making decisions that will drive growth.
- Connect to the larger organization. Find ways to connect this conversation to wider teams and strategies, bonus points if you can also create a sense of urgency. For example, if your organization is cutting back on the whole marketing budget, maybe it’s time to make sure you can really understand and measure your influencer program ROI. Understanding ROI leads to greater efficiency!
- Use data to back up your argument. Support your case objectively with plenty of data - avoid speculation or personal opinion. State of the industry reports, third party publications, and articles from thought leaders in the space are a great place to start.
- Provide an alternative solution with an action plan. Before you approach your team, make sure you research and decide on an alternative solution. If not EMV, then what? Many leading brands, for example, use Traackr’s Brand Vitality Score (VIT) instead. Learn more about using VIT to measure and improve influencer marketing ROI.
- Use competitive examples to light the fire. When it comes down to it, unfamiliar processes and methods can seem risky to senior team members. Using case studies and stories about competitors (or other admirable brands) can alleviate any uncertainty around switching from EMV. If you need some handy, Shiseido and Beekman 1802 both have great case studies about how they used VIT in lieu of EMV to measure and improve their influencer programs.