Influencer industry to reach $16.4 billion by 2022. More than 75% of brands have a dedicated budget for influencer marketing, from Coca-Cola’s #ThisOnesFor campaign in collaboration with fashion and travel influencers to Dior’s award-winning 67 Shades campaign in which the brand used the brand to promote its Forever Foundation product. We work together with various influencers for Line. But does investing in influencers really pay off?
To investigate this question, we partnered with an international influencer marketing agency to analyze more than 5,800 influencer marketing posts on the popular Chinese social media platform Weibo. (We focused our analysis on the China market, which is home to one of the world’s most sophisticated influencer marketing industries, but our findings could apply to many other global markets as well.) 861 brands across 29 product categories, $200 for a price of about $100,000 per message. And we even found that an average 1% increase in influencer marketing spend resulted in a 0.46% increase, suggesting that the strategy can indeed deliver a positive ROI.
However, we also found that most companies bring significant value to the table: the average company in our dataset could achieve a 16.6% increase in engagement simply by optimizing the way it allocates its influencer marketing budget. Specifically, we documented the effects of seven key variables on influencer marketing ROI:
Below, we take a closer look at how companies can optimize each of these seven elements of their influencer campaigns – and achieve potential average growth of more than 16%.
1. Number of followers
Unsurprisingly, we found that the more followers an influencer had, the more powerful the collaboration. An influencer with a large following not only has more reach, but is also seen as more popular and credible. Comparing brands that spend the same budget on collaborating with a less popular influencer therefore yields high engagement. In our dataset, posts from influencers whose follower base was one standard deviation larger than the average yielded a 9.2% higher ROI.
2. Post frequency
When it comes to how often an influencer posts, our analysis identified a Goldilocks effect: influencers who post frequently are not perceived as up-to-date sources of information. They are also not present enough on followers’ feeds to build intimacy and trust. However, posting too often can clutter followers’ feeds and lead to fatigue. Followers may be disinterested in influencer posts, filter them selectively, or even feel offended by them. As a result, the brands that achieved the highest ROI partnered with influencers who had average post activity, or about five posts per week.
Our analysis also shows that many marketers may not realize how important this effect is. Many of the companies in our dataset worked with influencers who posted very infrequently, and as a result, we found that they were able to increase the ROI of their influencer marketing efforts by 53.8% on average just by selecting those influencers. By doing they were working at an optimal level. post activity.
3. Follower brand fit
We found a similar Goldilocks effect when it comes to the fit between followers and brands, or the alignment between the interests of an influencer’s followers and a brand’s domain. For example, if a skincare brand partners with an influencer whose followers are interested in beauty, the fit between followers and brands will be high, but if it works with someone whose followers are interested in cars, the fit between followers and brands will be high. If you keep it, it will decrease. When an influencer’s followers are highly interested in topics related to the sponsor brand, their posts are more likely to align with their followers’ interests, making the posts more likely to feel personally relevant. However, this also means that these posts with a lot of similar content will compete for followers’ attention, and as a result, followers may lose interest in the topic. As such, we found that partnering with influencers whose followers had some (but not much) brand fit produced the best results.
Our analysis shows that the optimal level of brand follower fit occurs when the interests of approximately 9% of an influencer’s followers coincide with those of the sponsor brand, with a difference of one standard deviation from this optimal level, increasing ROI by 7 .9% is reduced. Interestingly, in this regard, most of the brands in our data set were already establishing near-optimal partnerships, suggesting that marketers may have some intuition for the benefits of moderate alignment between followers and brands.
4. Impressive originality
The last impressive feature we looked at was originality. While some influencers share a lot of content created by other people or brands, others largely post their own original content. Influencers who post a high proportion of original content stand out more, get more attention, and appear more knowledgeable and authentic. As a result, we found that brands that partnered with these influencers tended to receive higher engagement rates for certain marketing spends. Specifically, we measured the proportion of an influencer’s past posts that were original content, and found that influencers whose posts had an originality score one standard deviation higher than the average delivered a 15.5% higher ROI.
5. After positivity
One of the trickiest elements of any marketing campaign is tone. Marketers want to send a positive message, but too much positivity can backfire – and this applies to influencer marketing as well as more traditional channels. Consumers are more likely to post highly positive messages because they suggest strong approval. But if a message is so positive that it comes across as fraudulent, consumers may not respond to it either. For example, the following post from an Audi Influencer uses an overwhelmingly positive tone:
The #NewAudiQ2L is priced from RMB 217,700 to 279,000. It perfectly meets your travel needs with its luxury appearance, high-tech and high-efficiency power, and it brings a new experience to young and free-spirited consumers. Click on the link to join the event and win an Audi Q2L for a year!
This post demonstrates the danger of excessive positivity: this brand was worth over $4,000, and yet it wasn’t reposted once! In contrast, the following message from a Clinique Influencer is an example of a more effective, moderately positive tone that cost less and still generated substantial engagement:
Yesterday a friend asked me what happened to my face in these two days? I felt horrible! I couldn’t stand the haze of the changing seasons and I didn’t take care of my skin properly, hence the dullness and fine lines. I need something to nourish my skin! This year’s new purple vitamin A “microneedle tube” essence works very well. Contains pure vitamin A retinol, which can boost skin metabolism and collagen production to plump up fine lines.
We also found that this was an area where many companies had at least some room for improvement: messages in our dataset were slightly more positive than optimal, to the point that reducing positivity allowed these brands to increase their ROI on average. I could get help. of 1.9%.
6. Does the message contain links to brands?
Consistent with previous content marketing research, we found that posts with links to a brand’s social media accounts or external web pages performed significantly better. This is because these links provide consumers with important additional information about the content, making them more likely to participate. In our dataset, posts with links to a brand’s website or social media achieved an 11.4% higher ROI.
7. Does the post announce a new product?
Turning to influencers to promote a new product launch can be tempting, but our research shows this can be a counterproductive approach: we found that the ROI for influencer posts announcing new products is 30.5% lower than similar messages that were not about a new product. Launch. For example, this product launch post from a Dyson Influencer didn’t do very well:
Congratulations Dyson! Released a series of new smart home products. Desk lamps, air heaters, vacuum robots! Technology brings more convenience and better health to our lives!
While this post from a Kiehl’s influencer – which wasn’t about a new product launch and cost less than a tenth of what Dyson paid for his post – garnered more engagement:
Kiehl’s Ultra-Moisturizing Cream is a must-have recommended product for life. It is the most famous moisturizing cream that has been number 1 for more than 40 years!
Of course, all of these recommendations are based on averages in our dataset and results may vary by company. Also, our key metric for ROI was repost or share. We chose this metric because reposts indicate more engagement than more passive forms of online interaction, such as “liking” a post – but they’re by no means the only way to measure a campaign’s success. While short-term ROI can drive short-term decisions, brands should also consider the potential long-term effects of associating with a particular influencer. It may take some time for these effects (positive or negative) to materialize, but they can have a substantial impact on brand recognition.
That said, when it comes to optimizing short-term engagement, our analysis offers several strategic recommendations: When selecting an influencer, brands should look for partners with a large following, who post regularly. Do (but not very often), those who post a lot. Original content and some followers’ interests (but not many) overlap with the brand’s domain. And when developing messages, brands should strike a medium-positive tone, include links where possible, and not focus on new product launches. With these research-backed guidelines in mind, brands can move past anecdotes to ensure their marketing money goes to the partnerships and content most likely to deliver returns.