Marketing used to be an industry devoted to following gut instincts. You’d make connections and nurture each one carefully until it resulted in a win.
While those relationships are still very much a part of how marketing works today, the industry is becoming undeniably data driven. But how do you measure the effectiveness of something as fluid as influencer marketing?
“As influencer marketing evolves, standard KPIs that brands are using to measure ROI have emerged,” says Brandon Brown, CEO of Grin, an influencer marketing platform.
He explains that metrics like engagement velocity and engagement rate, working with proper attribution on the backend, give companies a clearer picture of influencer content performance than more traditional channels. Here are several specific factors companies should be assessing to measure the ROI of an influencer marketing campaign.
Clear Goals And Measurements
The first step for measuring anything accurately is starting with clear goals. Resist the urge to put down ideas that can’t be measured or are nonspecific, like “increase awareness,” and instead focus on goals that can be described with metrics. You might want to say “increase sales by $4,000 a month,” “increase following on Twitter by 20%,” or “expose at least 3,000 consumers to my product.”
If you’re having trouble judging whether a goal can be easily and accurately measured with metrics, hearken back to your grade-school days and make sure they’re S.M.A.R.T.—specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time based. If you’re still struggling, consider settling on your metrics before you set specific goals. Some common metrics include:
• Website views
• Referral visitors (people who visit your website through your influencer’s work)
• Brand buzz on social media
• Social media reach
Make sure that your goals are realistic, and directly relate to not only your audience’s preferences, but also your influencer’s. That’s why it’s important to really take the time to understand every party that’s involved in your upcoming campaign: your brand, your audience, your influencers and even your competitors.
Are you having trouble measuring how many people are coming to your site via a specific influencer? Consider asking them to install a tracking pixel. This tiny image will allow you to keep track of how many users are visiting your website from another one—such as that of your influencer. Tracking pixels are especially useful when it comes to blogs or Facebook influencers, but can be applied to most content.
Pinterest, Facebook And Twitter
The great thing about Pinterest is that its content is evergreen. Unlike other curation sites like Reddit and Digg, the date when a piece of content is uploaded to Pinterest matters very little.
Because of this, it’s a good idea to have all of your influencers cross-promote their work to the site, as well as to any other social media profiles they have, especially Facebook and Twitter. The result is a much longer lifespan and further reach for each piece of content, and an increased chance that your content will go viral.
Sometimes the old-school way of doing a campaign is still the best. One of the most foolproof ways of measuring the effectiveness of an influencer campaign is to give each influencer a specific coupon code, and tally how many of each are submitted. This is especially relevant for impulse buys and consumer goods, but can be applied to virtually any brand.
Instagram’s Comment-To-Buy Feature
Similar to using coupon codes to track influencer effectiveness, the comment-to-buy feature on Instagram will indicate exactly which influencers are getting the most traction. When used in tandem with social media promotion in general, this measurement tactic can also be an important part of your overall online sales strategy.
Links Within YouTube Videos
YouTube influencers are some of the most effective, but it can be difficult to measure the ROI of this medium. The best way is to include links within the video (or description) that are specific to that influencer, a mechanism similar to coupon codes.
An influencer marketing campaign is one of the best marketing moves your brand can make, and can net you over 11 times the ROI of banner ads and PPC when done correctly. However, as with all strategies, you’ll get the best results by tracking progress and adjusting as needed, which means applying the same data-driven mentality as you would to any other strategy.
Don’t let this intimidate you, though—influencer marketing is, at the end of the day, not so different from personal social strategies.
This column was originally published on Forbes.com on March 1, 2017.