The key to understanding the value of an engagement is to think about each engagement as a person joining a conversation, rather than a click or a view.
While digital ads and influencer marketing campaigns are each part of many brands’ marketing mix, they accomplish different objectives and should be measured accordingly. While engagement matters deeply in influencer marketing, it’s recently been categorized as a metric that doesn’t offer value, an assessment stemming from failure to differentiate influencer marketing from digital ad performance indicators. These tactics can and should be treated as separate: influencer marketing is not digital advertising, and therefore should not be measured using the same methods.
Influencer Marketing does not equal Digital Advertising
While digital ads and influencer marketing often fall within the same discipline, there are more differences than similarities between the two:
- Whereas digital ads are a one-way touchpoint, influencer marketing creates a conversation between the brand and consumers.
- A digital ad is gone forever the minute it ends, but influencer content lives on long after the end of a campaign.
- Consumers are ignoring and blocking ads, but embracing friends’ and influencers’ opinions.
- The key point of any ad is “sell sell sell,” and consumers know this. However, influencer content brings more meaningful experience to the consumer, garnering more attention, trust and authority.
Significantly, consumers spend almost 345 times longer engaging with branded content as compared to display ads that last on average 1.6 seconds. In addition, data from a Nielsen study shows 82 percent purchase intent among consumers after interactions with friends and family (influencers), as opposed to less than 50 percent purchase intent after viewing an ad.
Engagement metrics often include comments and shares. When an influencer’s followers choose to read a post, and when they spend their time engaging with it in those ways, that is a strong indicator that they found it valuable. Comments require relatively more involvement from readers, indicating that they think the content is valuable enough to put forth that effort. When readers share content, they make it part of their own social stream, indicating they find the content really valuable and want their friends and followers to see it.
In any other type of communication, you’d be unlikely to dismiss a friend’s interest as something that’s of little value. Rather, adding to or bringing others into the discussion is an excellent indicator that the content is interesting, provocative and worthwhile.
With influencer marketing, engagement matters. The output of this kind of interaction cannot be measured the same as a click of a digital ad.
How does engagement correspond with sales?
There are many reasons to measure engagement resulting from influencer marketing campaigns. While social media engagement is difficult to directly correlate to sales, it is a strong and direct indicator of campaign performance, giving marketers insight into what consumers respond favorably to and what really resonates with them, and it helps identify potential brand advocates and quality sales leads.
The priority of social media and blogs is not to sell directly, but to build brand advocates, open conversation channels and get people to places where conversions might happen, moving them along to the next step in the sales funnel. Only 10 percent of consumers buy an item within 24 hours of discovering it, and we can’t collapse that sales journey – but social media and influencers can make that initial introduction to get consumers to take the crucial first step toward converting awareness and interest to purchase.
It’s also important to note that the value of an influencer is in the dedicated community of followers that they’ve earned. Influence happens without regard to reach; a micro-influencer may influence a larger percentage of her followers than a celebrity-caliber influencer. If they’ve spent the time building a community and earning their trust by publishing authentic content, they’re going to wield a level of influence and often see greater levels of meaningful engagement.