How to Vet an Influencer: a performance-based approach

By
Elsie Bernaiche
,
Account Executive at ThoughtLeaders
November 20, 2020

The key to influencer marketing

It’s all about the numbers - but which metrics matter most in influencer marketing? Influencer marketing is just as complex as programmatic marketing in identifying which channels are credible, produce genuine impressions, and hit your target KPIs. Most of the success brands see in influencer marketing has much more to do with the content and creator-audience connection than the raw number of followers or a lower average CPV (cost per view). 


The key to influencer marketing is understanding which channel profiles match your needs as a brand - and we’re giving you a leg-up on how to select the best content creators to promote your brand. Remember, the winning mechanism in influencer marketing is the creator’s credibility: if they share something with their network, it’s because they believe in it and they know their followers will also benefit. That’s the sales power you ultimately want to leverage, but how can you find channels that fit this bill?


Keep these tips in mind when researching influencers:


  1. Outline your entire campaign process first using the Marketer’s Checklist.

Understand where your audience seeks content (YouTube? Podcast?) and what conversations they’re following (Lifestyle? Gaming? Tech?). There’s quite a bit to cover as far as your consumer identity, so open the link above to get a checklist you can use to cover every detail. 


  1. Check out what other brands are appearing in this content, both organically and sponsored. 

Avoid overspending on influencers that won’t drive returns for your brand. You can learn a lot looking at the spending habits and length of relationship between other brands and potential creators you’ve identified after step 1. You can understand whether the content creator truly aligns with your brand messaging by observing the other brands that are promoting heavily on the creator’s channel. Do these other brands really fit my consumer profile? We’ve written more on how to analyze your competition and learn from their wins and misses here


Another thing to consider is the product type that the content creator is good at promoting: do they promote a physical product, such as mobile tech or cosmetics? Do they promote an app that has a freemium offering? You need to consider the price point and promotional offerings the audience is typically receiving from that content creator and whether that matches your product/promotion. 

  1. Understand your influencer “profile”.

After steps 1 and 2, you should have a solid idea of your ideal content creator channel. You might have identified multiple creator profiles that will work for your brand. Some important characteristics to consider include SIZE, ENGAGEMENT, and STYLE. Here are a few examples: 


Micro-influencers have a smaller reach (lower number of subscribers) and typically boast anywhere from 1,000 to 50,000 followers within a niche community. Their followers, however, often demonstrate a high level of engagement and are more readily convinced of trying and buying a new product. A great example of a typical micro-influencer channel might be KhAnubis YouTube channel, a fun and entertaining educational channel with 36,000 average views per episode, for an incredible 38.2% audience loyalty. 



Expert influencers are thought leaders in their industry: this could be a blogger like AnandaTech:

… or a business executive or entrepreneur, or even members of the media. They are viewed as credible sources and their following looks to them to learn about new trends, industry advancements and their general perspective on relevant topics. A great example would be Impact Theory with Tom Bilyeu, or Entrepreneurs on Fire:


Celebrity influencers usually have more than 500,000 followers and are broader in their interests and content dissemination. Teaming up with a celebrity influencer will most likely come with a price tag: even though their CPV could be under $0.01, with the millions of views they can snag on YouTube, many celebrities can rack up as much as $100,000+ per video. No one is perhaps more well-known for being a costly brand partner than the Joe Rogan podcast: a single 30-second mention of your brand from this influencer can cost $30,000-$50,000! 


  1. Look at the important metrics.

After steps 1-3, you should have a solid definition of the channel size(s) that will work for your brand, the type of content that will engage your target consumer most, and which brands are appearing alongside this content that can serve as your buying guide. You should at this point have eliminated any potential “fake influencer” accounts, as well - feel free to read more on that here


All that’s left is to understand your ROI drivers: which channels have the reach to get you the minimum number of impressions/conversions you need to hit your sales goals but also stay within your CPM range? This last step might seem a bit tricky and appears to involve a decent amount of math, but in reality, you can run through a more general thought process:


How many times did my guide brands appear on this channel? What is the frequency?
If more than 1 brand appeared on the channel more than 3x in the past 3 months, or if you even notice a small gap in content (i.e. the brand appeared on videos from July-Sept, but skipped Oct and reappeared again in November) it’s possible - probable, in many cases - that the brand bought a first test of videos, measured results, and re-bought on the channel.

How much of the influencer’s total inventory is occupied?
You definitely don’t want to be on a channel that has more than 2 sponsors per episode/video. At the same time, it’s part of the vetting process to check that the influencer has been able to stably monetize their content over time. This shows that their engagement ratings translate to sales conversions on the performance end and that their large reach or enticing CPV isn’t an inflation of the channel’s actual value. 


  1. Use Sponsorship Intelligence!

Each step of this process requires tons of searches. Literally, hours of manually filtering YouTube and podcast content, using 3rd party blogs for listicles and recommendations, using hashtag tracking and SEO tools to pull statistical data…it’s a formidable task to take on as a single marketer, small marketing team, or even small marketing agency. 


This is where tech comes in extra handy. We’ve given you a helpful breakdown of the various search tools and other industry analytics companies here and their costs.

We’ve also built out our own analytics platform that is specifically designed to handle Steps 1-4 outlined above. You can search across multiple formats at the same time and search any unique combination of keywords (in any language your keyboard can type!) to find out where your consumer is finding their favorite content. You’re currently able to search through over 50,000 creator channels on YouTube, podcast, newsletter, and blog for an all-in-one experience. 


We also track “brand IDs” or the sponsorship links that brands use to direct traffic to their promotional landing pages, giving you confirmation that the content we’ve greenlit as a “sponsored video” or “sponsored episode” actually involves a paid relationship between a brand and the creator. You don’t have to worry whether the ad is legit and the influencer is actually a paid promoter of the brand. We even include the demographic information (geolocation, age, gender, and HHI whenever possible) under each channel’s profile page. 



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