How to Choose Ambassadors for your Brand
Rachel Baumann on July 10, 2023
In the realm of influencer marketing, the ultimate goal has always been to connect sales with creativity. While there is no foolproof method, we will explore key metrics that have proven effective in driving sales for the Shopify merchants using Acorn.
There are various approaches to consider when it comes to direct sales and marketing through influencers. Some teams adopt a long-term strategy, building strong relationships, granting influencers creative control, and establishing a solid endorsement foundation that eventually leads to sales. In my opinion, if you're a direct-to-consumer brand, it's advisable to build relationships with influencers even if you don't have immediate plans for sponsored activations. This is because influencers have a direct line of communication with your potential customers. However, marketers often have numerous questions. How do you measure sales? How do you optimize influencer selection to drive sales? How do you determine the lifetime value resulting from sales generated by influencers? In this post, we will provide a framework to help you narrow down your options and ensure you focus on the right metrics when choosing influencers.
A successful process requires a standardized approach to measuring results. In this case, we're primarily talking about financial metrics, but there are also secondary ways to gauge sales. We will focus on three methods: affiliate sales, sales/post reach overlap, and surveys.
Affiliate marketing is a straightforward approach. Your marketing team provides influencers with a dynamic tracking code or link that allows customers to receive potential discounts and commissions. When an influencer drives a sale, you can track it through the affiliate tracking link. Tools like Acorn, Refersion, Everflow, and ShareASale can assist in monitoring these interactions.
Sales and post reach overlap is a more rudimentary method of quantifying sales, but it can still be effective. This approach involves analyzing sales data and comparing it with social media reach data, including the periods when influencers posted on your behalf. If you observe a spike in sales during the post period, it is likely a result of the influencer's post. The challenge with this method arises when multiple influencers post simultaneously, making it difficult to determine which one specifically drove the sales. Conducting experiments can help shed light on the combined impact or isolate the effects of individual influencers.
Surveys, while relatively crude, have been widely relied upon in the industry for years. Conducting surveys requires diligence, organization, and accurate data representation. Various strategies can be employed, such as running ads with embedded surveys or selecting a statistically representative sample cohort. Surveys, however, are time-consuming and can be costly compared to other methods. If you plan to conduct a survey, it is recommended to survey the cohort both before and after exposure to the ad. Ask them about their perception of the creative content, the brand, and whether they are more inclined to make a purchase. Surveys can be challenging to design effectively, so it's beneficial to test questions with friends and explore available online resources on constructing reliable surveys.
Now that we understand how to measure results, let's delve into the process of selecting influencers who can drive meaningful sales.
Finding the Right Platform
The first step is to identify the platforms where your target audience is most active. For instance, if you're selling a video game or gaming-related product, YouTube or Twitch may be ideal choices. However, our research indicates that only low-cost products show a direct return on investment (ROI) on Twitch. This is likely because gamers are already accustomed to subscribing and tipping nominal amounts on Twitch, making them more receptive to purchases under $20. YouTube, on the other hand, appeals to a slightly older audience, and its evergreen content makes it the dominant platform for influencer marketing. YouTube should be a default option for brand collaborations, considering its strong indexing on Google and the fact that people often search for product reviews, recommendations, and guides there.
Instagram is excellent for scaling content, especially for fashion clients. If you expect sales from influencers, it is advisable to integrate your store directly with Instagram. Instagram Shopping helps streamline the buyer experience, enhancing your return on investment.
If you have a clear understanding of your audience's characteristics, Twitter can be a valuable platform. However, compared to Instagram, Twitter doesn't attract as many buyer audiences. Think of Instagram as a shopping mall where you hang out with friends. When you pass by a store window showcasing something you like, you can easily enter the store and make a purchase. The psychology of buyers hasn't changed; it's simply shifted to the digital realm. Twitter, on the other hand, is more akin to reading a newspaper. This is not to say that Twitter, newspapers, or newsfeeds are ineffective for advertising; in fact, they can be quite effective. If your product can be purchased on impulse or appeals to spontaneous buyers, Instagram is likely the best platform to focus your influencer marketing efforts.
At Acorn, we have observed many successful influencer activations on Instagram. Generally, consumer packaged goods (CPG) and direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands perform well on Instagram and Facebook. However, more advertisers are shifting their influencer campaigns to Instagram and TikTok, following YouTube. TikTok is an excellent platform for influencer marketing, although some concerns have been raised about the fleeting nature of content on the platform. Nevertheless, TikTok's novelty means less competition, making it easier to achieve viral success. However, affiliate marketing on TikTok has not been widely proven on a large scale yet. This doesn't mean it can't work; we simply lack sufficient data. If you prefer a safe bet, start with YouTube and then engage with Instagram influencers. Depending on your specific target segment, you can explore Twitch, TikTok, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other platforms to further expand and optimize your influencer programs. When choosing a platform, consider these additional questions:
- Is my audience older? (Consider Facebook)
- Does my audience have low disposable income?
- What product category am I selling, and where can I find a concentrated audience for that category?
- Is my product expensive? Can people make impulsive purchases?
Finding the Right Person
Storytelling and content creation should be the starting point for most teams. Great content is often shared, and consumers make purchasing decisions based on recommendations and the authenticity of influencer marketing. Therefore, when selecting influencers to drive sales, prioritize their ability to create outstanding content for your product. Platforms like Instagram have a vast pool of talent, which means there is less room for uniqueness. Ideally, you want influencers who are distinct, genuinely interested in your product (or can develop an interest), and capable of sharing a compelling and authentic story about its value. If influencers can demonstrate authenticity and value, they should be able to drive conversions, especially if they have a dedicated and engaged audience.
Here are a few tips:
- Choose influencers who have mentioned your brand organically.
- Develop a hypothesis for up to ten different individuals and focus on the top performers.
- Look for influencers who have previously participated in affiliate campaigns. Research their comments and engagement on those particular posts.
- Identify customers who have made purchases from you and already have a significant following.
The Best Metrics
Every successful influencer marketing team has its own golden metric(s). While most people use engagement rate as a predictor of success, there are several other metrics that can further help predict success.
Sponsored Post %: Oversaturation of sponsored posts can reduce buyer urgency. Depending on the influencer's account and content, a high percentage of sponsored posts could be a red flag. Generally, teams look for influencers with lower percentages of sponsored content.
Comments: Analyzing comments on existing sponsored posts can provide insights into what to expect. Are people expressing purchase intent? Are there any negative comments about the influencer or the product?
Demographics: If your target audience is in the United States and Canada, it makes sense to find influencers with strong engagement metrics in those regions.
Follower Growth Percentage: Smart influencer prospecting teams recognize that up-and-coming influencers are more cost-effective, have fewer sponsored activations, and generate higher engagement. Teams that consider this metric often achieve more success by discovering unique content before anyone else.
Followers: Depending on your budget, negotiation skills, and relationship-building abilities, your ideal follower range will vary. Generally, there are diminishing returns on sales when working with influencers above a certain follower count. For influencer affiliate marketing at scale, it is recommended to collaborate with influencers who have under 150K followers.
Bots: Identifying irregular activity and large audiences that appear to be artificially inflated is a red flag and unlikely to drive conversions.
Touchpoints & Pairings
Consider your influencer sales in conjunction with other marketing initiatives. To select influencers who drive conversions, think about your current marketing campaigns.
Here's a non-exhaustive list of marketing campaigns that can influence your influencer marketing efforts:
- Retargeting: Be cautious not to overwhelm your audience with excessive targeting and influencer marketing, as it can lead to mistrust.
- Geo rollouts: If you are partnering with localized influencers and targeting the same demographic, there may be a compounding effect. Pay attention to increased conversion rates during these periods.
- Ad channel cross-targeting: If you engage in cross-targeting, your influencer selection may need adjustment. For example, if you are building an audience on Snapchat and retargeting them on Instagram, you might want to focus more on Instagram to ensure conversions. Alternatively, you could experiment with partnering with influencers on emerging platforms like Twitch to gauge interest.
- Video ads: If you run video ads, collaborating with influencers who create high-quality video content can be beneficial. Video content generally produces higher return on investments (ROIs), so look for influencers who frequently post videos on Instagram.
- Quizzes and buyers' guides: If your goal is to drive conversions and sales, quizzes should be directly related to your product. For example, Bright Cellars incorporates quizzes and algorithms into their sales process to recommend the perfect bottle of wine.
- Direct mail: Combining influencer marketing with direct mail campaigns can be effective for direct-to-consumer companies. Including samples and unique codes can have a compounding effect if done correctly.
Selecting influencers is just as crucial as understanding the tips and data science behind consumer behavior. Influencer ads in the first 30 seconds of content perform 70% better than other parts of the content. Therefore, it is important to emphasize to your partners how essential it is for consumers to quickly encounter the brand. This simple trick can significantly improve the performance of influencer content, especially in video-based campaigns.
Many of our customers have achieved significant sales by focusing on selecting the right partners. Some of the brands we work with have sold over $10,000 worth of products in their first week by collaborating with the right influencers for their affiliate programs. With sufficient diligence, you can scale your program as well. Here are some last-minute tips:
Encourage your affiliates to inform their audiences about code expiry dates and time-sensitive deals. Building a sense of urgency can significantly improve sales.
Study your current customers and find influencers who resemble them.
Be mindful of exclusivity contracts and ensure they do not limit your ability to work with influencers.
Remember, influencer marketing is constantly evolving, and there is no definitive guide that applies to every brand and every product. Experimentation, testing, and data analysis are crucial for finding the best influencers to drive sales for your specific goals.