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A study claims that influencer marketing is capable of generating a significantly higher number of ROI (up to eleven times higher) compared to the traditional forms of marketing. If that’s true, then influencer marketing will probably be a huge part of marketing campaigns for most businesses. If there are doubts surrounding the data, however, influencer marketing is still part of most marketing campaigns nowadays.

In this era where digital marketing is seemingly dominating the industry, influencers are individuals that most people, especially millennials, see on a daily basis. Whether cooperating with these influencers can indeed generate an ROI of eleven times higher or not, it is perhaps undeniable that to some extent, these influencers possess quite an amount of power to influence the purchasing decisions of their followers. Thus, influencer marketing is mostly never off the radar for marketers to promote their business.

Still, the system for monitoring the prospect and the return from influencer marketing is still blurry; it is difficult to exactly track the conversion rates and obtain a highly accurate, reliable data for the ROI. What kind of influencer is needed? Is this influencer influential enough? How is the engagement between this influencer and his or her followers? those are but a few of the questions constantly asked to have better information before deciding to spend quite an amount of budget for a few posts and mentions in the influencer’s social media.

For the first question, the theme of the influencer’s posts might indicate more than enough information needed to determine if he or she is indeed the influencer suitable for the company’s products and services. If one is planning to promote a sports drink, an influencer focusing on entertainment might not be an ideal candidate, and chances are, he or she will refuse to be part of the marketing campaign since promoting a product not in line with the influencer’s philosophy or theme of the content is not something an influencer should do. Therefore, seeking an influencer who constantly updates his or her followers regarding sporting activities might be the better option, since not only it heightens the chance of the offer being accepted, but it also achieves the most crucial aspect in influencer marketing: raising the awareness of your brand among the targeted audience.

The problem is the second and the third question; how can companies measure the influence of these influencers as well as the engagement rates? The first thought most people might conceive is perhaps the number of followers. There has been a common perception stating that the higher the number of followers, the better influence the influencer has. While it might not be completely wrong, an influencer’s follower count may not be the most reliable indicator of his or her influence. Aside from voluntary following from being truly interested in the content made by the influencer, there are various ways to garner followers; one can ask his or her friends to follow, include the act of following as a mandatory prerequisite to enter a giveaway, or even buy a number of followers as a jumpstart. Point is, as important as they are, do not solely rely on the number of followers.

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If so, then how can a company know if this influencer is influential? One way is to analyze the influencer’s engagement rate with his or her audience. Therefore, the second question is actually highly integrated with the third; in order to know an influencer’s strength, the engagement rate should be known. Engagement rate is basically how involved are the followers with the influencer; do they share the posts often? Are the comments relevant with the post? Those questions are to ensure that they are not simply people who clicks the “like” button in every post they see out of goodwill or habit. A company needs to make sure that most of the followers of an influencer genuinely care about the influencer, and in such cases, the influencer usually cares for the followers. This relationship makes the influencer capable of greatly influencing his or her followers, including their purchasing decisions.

Hence, the number of “likes” is not the most reliable indicator as well since there are those who clicks the button without really understanding what the posts are all about. Nevertheless, it can still be part of the data to be analyzed. When a post has an adequate amount of likes, comments which are mostly relevant to the content (and not spams or completely irrelevant ones), as well as a number of shares, then it is highly probable that the influencer possesses a high engagement rate with the followers.

Still, one more question might arise: wouldn’t influencers with huge followers naturally have a massive number of likes and comments? In answering this question, it is necessary to once again bring the example of celebrity endorsements; celebrities have millions of followers, likes, and comments, but their engagement rate is fairly low. Influencers with also millions of followers may have good engagement with their followers, but it is believed that their engagement rates are actually lower compared to those with thousands of followers. Influencers with a lower follower-count tend to be considered as those who have acquired a significant amount of trust from their followers. These influencers are known as “micro-influencers”. Due to their lower follower-count, they are often viewed as those with similar status by their followers, despite of the possible similar styles with the ones with higher followers or “macro-influencers”. This higher trust and friendliness can translate into better conversion rates.

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Yet another issue might emerge: as effective as micro-influencers are, if they only have thousands of followers, wouldn’t that mean the conversion rate would be around that number? If that is the case, then the conversion rate would not be significant since even if the micro-influencer is capable of influencing 80% of his or her followers, the number is still not enough. This is perhaps the dilemma often faced by marketers: choosing between micro and macro-influencers. At this stage, a variety of options are available: one can approach several micro-influencers rather than one, or one can approach both micro and macro-influencers. In fact, most marketers tend to prefer the latter approach since it ensures a wider reach and better conversion rates at the same time.

Does that mean once a company is certain of an influencer’s theme and engagement rate, the campaign is bound to succeed? Not necessarily. Despite its name, influencer marketing does not solely involve the influencer. It is a form of cooperation between the company and the influencer, with both parties providing mutual benefits. A mention of a company’s products or a picture of it might attain a number of conversions, but it would not be much, especially considering that a number of influencers actually charge an extremely high price for a single post, even reaching six figures. Hence, a proper delivery is needed to ensure maximum conversion rates after determining beyond the number of followers, and there are countless approaches to deliver such content. Influencer marketing is far beyond the numbers of followers and likes. There might be cases where both macro and micro-influencers are not delivering the expected results, and in such cases, the process needs to be reevaluated: is the influencer really the ideal candidate? Are the followers, too? A definite data of an influencer’s influence would be able to significantly increase the chances for success, but there is no such thing. Marketers can guess and do their best to analyze and calculate the prospects, but in the end, influencer marketing is more than just the influencers and the numbers; it is something which is still unclear, yet what we can do is to venture into it and learn in the hope that our knowledge and experience can dissipate the fog.