How to Turn Your Influencer Program into a Performance-Driven Channel

A lot of influencer marketing right now is largely brand awareness campaigns. These tend to be driven by likes and comments on the post as a way to show engagement and enable the brand to understand what the impact is on their brand awareness. Of course, the more sophisticated brands then also do things like surveys to see the impact on recall and where customers come from.

An alternative approach is to have the post by the influencer use an affiliate link or discount code so you can track the sale, even if you aren’t using the link or code to pay the influencer — it can help with measurement of sales.

However this is where the complexity seeps in. Affiliate links and discount codes are notoriously difficult to use for measurement in reality.

Affiliate links will generally give you a floor in terms of where the customer came from (i.e. the number of order the affiliate platform can track is the low end of what sales were actually driven).

  • Discount codes are significantly harder to know how to use for measurement, as they inevitably leak to retailmenot / others, and so the ability to use it to measure what channel it came from is quite shaky at best.

So with this level of complexity in measurement, how would you use influencer marketing as a performance channel? Here are 2 ways to do this:

  1. The approach which large companies move toward is to run real incrementality tests. There are good overviews of incrementality like this one. The short version is you need to somehow isolate some fraction from seeing the influencer campaign, and compare the difference in sales. This is easy in theory, but how do you create a control group in influencer marketing? One of the few ways to create a true control group is to work with an influencer via ‘allowlisting’ and then running a campaign with a split test where part of your audience seeing your other campaigns sees the influencer content, and the other part doesn’t. This is of course imperfect, but it’s close.
  2. The approach that is now coming up, is to build influencer specific stores or SKUs and be able to directly measure the sales in those stores or of those SKUs. However, this has not been scalable until very recently with technologies like what we’ve built here are FERMÀT. This was reserved for only the largest influencers, and was specifically negotiated.

Influencer marketing is definitely moving toward being highly accountable, and performance teams are trying to figure out how to make the most of it.

What are some other strategies you are seeing that enable performance driven influencer marketing?