But it’s a flawed approach and Takumi, an influencer marketing platform, believes it has found the fix. Says Solberg Audunsson, Co-founder and CEO of Takumi:
Too many brands are using subjective assessment of influencers and pitching them based on their follower count. This approach is crude because influencers are more than just their follower count and the obsession with it is one of the reasons we have fraud in the industry.
Every brand wants an influencer
According to a survey by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), 75% of companies currently employ influencer marketing and almost half plan to increase their spending in the next year. However, the majority aren’t sure about the effectiveness of their influencer marketing strategies (44% neutral, 19% said it’s ineffective, 36% said it’s effective).
The problem lies in measuring the performance of an influencer. According to Audunsson, CPM (cost per thousand) is a common metric employed; the same metric used to calculate ROI for ads. However, influencer CPM maps impressions to follower count. It assumes that every follower is going to see every post from the influencer. It follows then that an influencer with a large number of followers is going to achieve a high number of impressions and a higher CPM.
And this is why we see such a problem with fake followers and bots. People want to be seen as influencers, so they buy followers or use bots to make it look like they have more followers then they really do. With inflated follower counts, brands cannot trust their campaigns are working.
Fixing the influencer fake follower problem
Takumi has found a way to resolve this problem and focus metrics on real impressions - at least on Instagram. Audunsson said that when they talk to customers, they explain that by using follower count, true “impression” data isn’t available. There is no way to know how many of an influencer’s followers actually see a post. He said it’s more likely that an influencer post only has about 25% reach.
The Instagram Business Account has given Takumi a solution to measuring what it calls “guaranteed impressions.” The business account provides influencers impression metrics on their posts. These metrics are then shared with Takumi by taking a screen grab of the reports screen and uploading that into the Takumi app. The app then pulls the relevant data with the assistance of a smart algorithm. There is still a risk here that an influencer may doctor the screengrab but Audunsson said it’s risk they will have to be aware of and monitor closely.
Once an influencer starts sharing their actual post impressions, Takumi can track the influencer over time and gather insights as to how effective that influencer is. It can then provide a brand with a better idea of the effectiveness of a given influencer.
Switching to this approach - which Takumi is currently only testing - will help disincentivize influencers to buy followers because the focus now is on true engagement with the influencer. What this also means is that influencers with smaller, but very loyal followers, have a better opportunity to work with brands because their posts are seen and engaged with more often:
This transparency is key, and with our new model fraud will not just be filtered out, but influencers with more accurate demographic targeting will be prioritized and priced according to campaign specifications. This means activations can be tailored to be as relevant as possible, giving brands a new level of assurance. There’s no mystery surrounding who they’ve reached, and it’s much more closely aligned with traditional media, and the metrics marketers rely on.
Looking to micro- not macro- influencers for true influence
Shifting the focus towards micro-influencers is something many brands are considering for this very reason. From a blog on Skyword, a content marketing platform:
While macro-influencers are well-known to everyone—think celebrities like Justin Timberlake or Chrissy Teigen—micro-influencers often only possess followings in the tens of thousands. But these niche audiences offer a number of benefits to marketers in terms of brand loyalty and engagement.
There’s something to be said for Drew Barrymore promoting Crocs on her Instagram feed. It certainly helps generate brand awareness, which is a primary reason many brands do influencer marketing. But a person is more likely to pay more attention to a product their friend talks about, or someone in their close circle than a celebrity.
Influencers with more niche following as usually seen as people who understand their market and what their followers are interested in. They also want to keep those followers loyal, so they aren’t going to promote things they don’t truly believe in.
As part of their change to guaranteed impressions, Takumi can start looking at paying influencers differently with micro-influencers potentially making more money. At this time, they haven’t communicated the change in the way they will measure impressions, but Audunsson said it’s not something they would discuss with them anyway. Takumi carefully screens the influencers it brings onto its platform and pitches opportunities to influencers. It’s up to that person if they want to take the opportunity or not.
Finding a way to measure influencer marketing correctly is a good thing. It’s too easy to buy followers and employ bots to make a person look more popular than they are. If the metrics are available to track actual impressions on posts, then it should be used to measure influence.
But I also like that this approach proves the value of the smaller influencer who doesn’t have millions of followers but can be very effective at helping a brand build awareness around something that influencer believes in.