Influencer marketing is a proven strategy to reach consumers. Influencer marketing saw explosive growth in 2016, with 86% of marketers having used the tactic, 94% of whom found it effective, according to Linquia’s “State of Influencer Marketing in 2017

It comes as no surprise that consumers now look to their favorite social media personalities and thought leaders to inform purchase decisions. Unlike more traditional forms of marketing, influencers are fueled by social media (not TV or radio), followers and subscribers (not viewers or listeners), and viral sharing (not word of mouth), notes influencer Brody Smith in a recent ClearVoice interview “A Crash Course In Influencer Marketing From Ultimate Frisbee Start Brody Smith.”

Despite its growth, influencer marketing still has a bad stigma of being untrackable. According to Linquia’s “State of Influencer Marketing in 2017,” 78% of marketers cite that measuring the return on investment for influencer marketing campaigns as their top challenge for 2017, and 61% of marketers are still measuring the success of their programs through audience reach, which is a metric that can be easily falsified. Social stars can also create fake followers and influence through black-hat coders and bots, influencer networks, engagement groups ( “pods” or “tribes”), and social count manipulation, so it’s all the more important to gain a better vision into other key performance indicators.

And with brands dolling thousands – and sometimes millions – towards influencer campaigns, it’s imperative to attribute engagement, leads, and even sales to influencer activity. So, here in four steps, is how to do it.

Step 1: Find Relevant (and Legit) Influencers

Like any marketing tactic, it’s important to never put the horse before the cart. First, identify the channel(s) and content type(s) to pursue with the help of influencers. Then, select the right influencers taking into consideration:

  •  Relevance (sector specific)
  •  Reach (size of audience)
  •  Resonance (community engagement)

Step 2: Baseline

Baseline before you launch any campaign. Document every web or social metric so you can measure it against post-campaign analytics.

Step 3: Goal Set

The next step is goal setting. Create a list of goals specific to your influencer marketing campaign that meet the following “SMART” guidelines:

  • S — Specific: Is your goal clearly defined and precise?
  • M — Measurable: Fuzzy goals need not apply; include specific numbers or percentages.
  • A — Actionable: Is your goal attainable and not overly ambitious?
  • R — Relevant: Does your goal align in the greater scheme of things?
  • T — Timeline: Is your goal time-based?

[Note: Most influencer campaign goals will target conversion or visibility goals.] 

Step 4: Determine Your Key Performance Indicator(s)

After goals are established, determine what campaign information you want insight into through measurable metrics. Key performance indicators, or KPIs, will quantifiably measure the success at an influencer or campaign level. Here are four ways KPIs to pursue:

1 – Tracking Pixels

Does your campaign include multiple influencers and you want to determine how they stack up against one another? Ask influencers to install a tracking pixel, also known as  web bugs, beacons, tracking bugs, and page tags. It’s a small image used to track how many users visit your website from another one. Tracking pixels are especially useful measuring the traffic from an influencer’s blog post on their own website to yours, but can be applied to many other types of other social campaigns.

2 – Custom URLs

Ever heard of Bitly or Owly? Link shorteners are a great way track individual link analytics, gather intelligence, and measure campaign performance.

3 – UTM tracking

Another more advanced KPI is to customize and track unique URLs using Google Analytic’s UTM tracking parameters. “By setting up an ‘Event’ goal, you can see which of your online customers visited your e-commerce site from an influencer’s blog or social channel, giving you a reliable assessment of ROI on e-commerce sales,” notes Convince & Convert. You can create a custom URL by campaign (tracking all influencer marketing programs), or create a custom URL for each influencer. After creating the URL, you can easily analyze the impact of your influencer’s efforts by viewing campaign data in an accessible way.

To create custom UTM tracking, head to your Google Analytics page. Then, Go to Reporting > Acquisition > Campaigns to see how they stack up against each other.

[For more resources on setting up UTM tracking, view our post on “Content Marketing & Google Analytics: 13 Must-Haves to Bolster Your Configuration”.]

4 – Analytic Comparisons

In a previous step, we asked you to baseline. Here is why…

With analytic comparisons, you compare baseline and post-campaign metrics. So, if one of the metrics you are tracking is aggregate social engagement, then compare pre- and post-campaign numbers. The same goes for pre-and post-website or referral traffic. The problem with analytic comparisons is that you can’t do other marketing efforts during the influencer campaign, because that would skew the data. (I know, kind of impossible, right?) Long story short, it does give a good 10,000-foot view of your campaign’s success and is still based on real numbers.

You don’t have to track every KPI listed, but make sure that you measure the return from your influencers. Numbers are coveted by the C-suite, and better yet, can inform future marketing decisions. Now that you know that your influencers CAN be tracked, go forth and implement this process now!