How Can Influencers Help My Marketing Efforts?
Influencer marketing is a scalable, measurable tactic similar to paid search, social media, email marketing, etc., but how do you harness this elusive tactic and use it to increase conversions and improve user experience? The key is understanding the importance of influencer marketing is to your buyer’s journey and where this content is most effective.
Need a refresher on influencer marketing? Read: How Diff Charitable Eyewear Used Influencer Marketing to Succeed.
But before you commit to understanding the role of influencer content in your marketing strategy, you need to become Oprah. You need to be willing to give of yourself and expect nothing in return. Put good energy out into the world and be open to, but not expecting to, receive good energy in return.
Now if you are anything like me and are less Mother Teresa, more Teresa Giudice – you think the statement above is somewhat ridiculous.
Hear me out, because this is a hard lesson to learn for most people. You must become Oprah. Give out valuable content freely and without expectation. I repeat, VALUABLE content. Do not give out content that is riddled with sales pitches and promotional information. Provide content that organically, naturally adds to the conversation. Content that enriches the reader’s knowledge of a topic. You can (and should) link back to relevant onsite content, but only in a way that makes sense to the reader and adds additional detail or value to the topic.
How to become Oprah.
Give of yourself = Provide valuable, relevant content
Expect nothing in return = Provide useful links but do not create content with the only accomplishment of promoting your brand
Put good energy into the world and be open to receiving good energy in return = By providing valuable content, the audience will be more receptive to your onsite offers, because you have already proven your ability to add value to their lives and provide solutions to their problems.
Now that you understand the content requirements, let’s discuss the possible forms of influencer marketing and how to identify the role they should play in your overall marketing strategy.
Two Types of Influencer Marketing: Sprint and Marathon
In my opinion, there are two types of influencer marketing: sprint influencer marketing and marathon influencer marketing. What’s the difference?
Sprint Influencer Marketing is quick. There is not much time between a visitor’s interaction with influencer content and an onsite conversion. Sprint influencer marketing may only have two steps for a visitor to travel from the top of the funnel to a conversion. It is most commonly used for lead generation or direct sales.
Marathon Influencer Marketing is a much longer process. Visitors may view the influencer content, visit your site, bounce around to a few other articles or social posts, and then come back to your site and convert days or weeks later. It is most commonly a brand awareness tactic, although it can result in lead generation.
How do you know what influencer marketing category your business falls into? Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are you selling?
- What level of commitment do you require from your visitors?
- Where are these buyers in the sales funnel?
These questions are crucial when evaluating whether your influencer marketing is a sprint or a marathon, what influencers to use, what role influencer content plays in your buyers’ journey, and how you should be measuring success. Here’s an example:
Sprint Influencer Marketing
A company that sells sunglasses and wants to use influencer marketing to promote their brand could expect a very quick sprint. Why? First, they are selling a product that most of the population potentially wants or needs. Sunglasses are appropriate for all ages, all genders, and all economic classes. Second, the level of commitment is very low. If the company is selling reasonably priced sunglasses, less than $100, then a high percentage of the people viewing the influencer content are eligible buyers. Finally, these buyers may be at the top of the funnel, but that does not mean they are not ready to buy. We live in the age of instant gratification, and for many people that means once they see a pair of sunglasses on their favorite NFL player or rockstar they need to have it. Buyers who were previously unaware of a brand’s existence may be ready to get out their credit card and click purchase within a matter of minutes.
Simple product, low commitment, quick buyers’ journey.
Marathon Influencer Marketing
A company that sells timeshares in Florida and wants to use influencer marketing to promote their brand should expect their efforts to reflect that of a marathon not a sprint. Why? First, they are selling a product that only a small percentage of the population is interested in or has the financial ability to invest in. Second, the level of commitment required is very high. This company may (and should) provide additional conversion opportunities that don’t include a phone call with a representative or the option to schedule a tour, but even a newsletter signup is a commitment. They do not know if they will be inundated with emails and retargeting campaigns. These visitors are likely at the top or middle of the funnel, just looking for information or possibly dreaming of a potential future investment.
In a marathon, influencer content most commonly plays the role of a gentle push or reminder for a buyer that is already interested in your product but is not ready to convert. A timeshare is a more complicated product with a significantly higher commitment level, and thus results in a longer buyer’s journey. In this case, influencer content would likely introduce or reintroduce your brand to potential buyers and persuade them to learn more about your company before making a final decision. Keeping your company top of mind and presenting yourself as the industry leader.
Selecting Your Influencers
A sprint influencer will impact your efforts differently than a marathon influencer. As an example, we will continue to use the example of a company that sells sunglasses and a company that sells timeshares in Florida:
Sprint Influencer Selection
The sunglasses company should select influencers based on several factors, including:
- Volume of followers
- How the influencer’s image reflects that of the brand’s
- Opportunities for the promotion to be visually appealing
If the sunglasses company made the decision to hire Tom Brady to promote their sunglasses, they would most likely ask him to post a picture of himself wearing the sunglasses to his various social media accounts. Why? Because sunglasses are a simple, visual purchase.
Marathon Influencer Selection
The timeshare company, on the other hand, should select influencers within their actual active buying audience.
The views from their timeshares may be spectacular, but it would be a waste to ask Tom Brady to post pictures of his timeshare in Florida to his Instagram account, because most of his followers are not interested in a timeshare, and those who are interested are unlikely to make a purchase decision without learning more.
Instead this company should look to place content where active buyers already spend their time: sites like buyatimeshare.com or timesharenation.com. If they place a blog with valuable content on either of these sites with relevant links back to their site, they’ll more likely to have success and reach individuals who are ready to start the buying process. They may not be ready to buy today, but they are serious leads within a longer sales funnel.
How to Identify Funnel Stage and Track Success
Identifying your buyer’s funnel stage and being able to track success is very important, but what comes first?
If you are engaged in a sprint you can immediately track success through conversions. This is because a sprint typically results is a quick conversion and you are not left wondering about the path length of a buyer’s journey. Monitor social media interaction, referral traffic to your site, conversions. Simple.
For a marathon, I say identify funnel stage THEN track success, because it may be difficult to properly track success without first having a few months of data to measure attribution. That said, you should always be tracking sessions from influencer content back to your site, as well as any conversions that result from it. We suggest using UTM tags with a unique Source ID and Medium ID that can be tracked in Google Analytics. I typically use the name of the influencer for the Source ID and InfluencerMarketing as the Medium ID – this eliminates any possible confusion.
Why You Need to look at Multi-Channel Funnels and Attribution
Let’s take a moment to talk about why you chose to engage in influencer marketing – brand awareness and lead nurturing. Even if your influencer marketing model is a sprint, you are still (quickly) making a visitor aware of your brand and nurturing them through the funnel towards a conversion. But broaden your tracking beyond just monitoring influencer success. By evaluating your efforts through a multi-channel funnel and comparing multiple attribution models, you can get answers to the following questions:
- Where is this content most effective?
- Are visitors learning about your brand for the first time, or have they been previously introduced to your brand and are now learning more?
- How long does it take for a visitor to convert and how many steps occur between the first interaction and conversion?
Let’s start with the benefit of viewing your influencer efforts through a multi-channel funnel. A multi-channel funnel takes into account every step in a visitor’s conversion path (whether they came to the site through organic, direct, social, email, influencer, etc.) and allows you to view how these channels work together as well as their singular importance within a conversion path.
Reviewing conversions through a multi-channel funnel in Google Analytics also allows you to assess Time Lag and Path Length.
Time Lag is the amount of time between the first interaction and the final conversion. If you create a separate segment to represent your influencer marketing efforts, as shown in the image below, you can see not only average time lag for influencer conversions but also how that time lag compares to all onsite conversions.
Path Length is the number of interactions it took for a user to convert. You can use the segment previously created in Time Lag to separate the influencer conversions. As you can see in the image below, this is a marathon and most visitors convert after 12 or more interactions with content, email social, or the site itself. A conversion may be attributed to SEO or direct traffic, as an example, but the first contact with that lead came from influencer marketing.
Next to get a better understanding of your visitors you should use Google Analytics’ Attribution Model Comparison Tool. Now that you know the time lag and path length, you can see where your influencer articles are most effective within your visitors’ conversion path. Since we previously discovered that influencer marketing is most effective over a span of 60 days, you can see we set the lookback window to 60 days. We previously identified the medium in our UTM tag as InfluencerMarketing, so we are able to select Medium as the secondary dimension and input InfluencerMarketing in the advanced box.
There are multiple attribution models to choose from and each tells a different story about the importance of influencer content in the funnel.
- Last Click Attribution gives credit for the conversion to the last touchpoint prior to the conversion.
- Last Non-Direct Click Attribution excludes all direct traffic and gives credit to the last channel prior to the conversion.
- First Interaction Attribution gives credit for the conversion to the first touchpoint in a conversion path.
- Linear Attribution gives credit to all touchpoints in the conversion path equally.
- Time Decay Attribution is similar to linear but gives the closer touchpoints more credit.
- Position Based Attribution gives 40 percent of the credit for the conversion to the first touchpoint and the last touchpoint and spreads the remaining 20 percent across all the touchpoints in-between.
As you can see in the image below, for the sake of our example we compared the attribution models of Last Non-Direct Click, Last Interaction, and First Interaction.
Over a span of six months with a lookback window of 60 days, Last Non-Direct Click attribution was by far the most successful, outperforming Last Interaction by 95 percent and First Interaction by 87 percent.
It is not shown in the image above, but we also compared Last Non-Direct Click to Time Decay to assess whether users were consuming influencer content and then going directly to the site and converting – this turned out not to be the case since Last Non-Direct Click outperformed Time Decay by 83 percent.
What Does All This Mean? Let’s Answer the Original Three Questions.
Using our example above:
How long does it take for a visitor to convert and how many steps does a visitor take between the first interaction and conversion? As we saw in the multi-channel funnel, it takes the average visitor 60 days to convert through influencer marketing and they have a path of 12 steps or more. This is a clear sign that this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Are visitors learning about your brand for the first time, or have they been previously introduced to your brand and are now learning more? This information can be found in the attribution modeling in the images above. After comparing multiple attribution models, it was clear that the influencer content being produced is most effective when visitors who are already familiar with the brand find it and return to the site. This is apparent because of the number of conversions in the Last Non-Direct Click model as compared to the First Interaction and Last Interaction Models.
Since we realized that visitors were discovering influencer content later in their conversion path, we also compared a Time Decay attribution model to identify how close influencer content was to the final conversion point. Last Non-Direct Click was 83 percent more successful than Time Decay. This means that although users are finding influencer content prior to visiting the site directly to convert, visitors are traveling directly to the site multiple times, adding more steps in their path, prior to their conversion.
Where is this content most effective? Content is most effective for people in the middle of the funnel. It is most successful when people are already aware of the brand and are in the process of learning more about relevant topics. The difference between the Last Non-Direct Click and Time Decay attribution models also tells us that the influencer content is solidifying visitor’s trust in the brand and encouraging them to return to the site to learn more prior to conversion.
Now that you know the difference between sprint and marathon influencer marketing and how to identify the role each plays in a visitor’s conversion path, you can easily monitor success. The success of a sprint can typically be measured in conversions, but the success of a marathon should be measured by how well it nurtures visitors toward a conversion.
You can also increase your chance of future success by tracking conversion rates for individual influencers. Knowing where your active buyers spend their time, whether you are engaged in a sprint or a marathon, will help you to refine the path to conversion.
Finally, remember to be like Oprah. The woman understands the importance of giving selflessly, but she also understands the importance of nurturing an audience and building a following. Provide value, trust that people will appreciate and respond to that value, then track your success so you can repeat it and improve upon it.