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Performance Marketing

Influencer Marketing: A Performance Marketer’s Handbook

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Influencer marketing and performance marketing – if you’re a brand operating in these channels, chances are you strategize them separately, plan them separately, budget them separately, execute them separately and optimize them separately. Sound familiar? 

That makes sense. 

They’re both complicated, highly specialized and require huge effort to deliver week-in, week-out. Team members probably developed their careers working in one channel or the other, rarely crossing over.

From a commercial perspective, it’s logical to split them: performance marketing (we’re talking SEO, PPC, display ads, programmatic ads, marketplace ads, paid social ads) focuses on turning dollars into clicks, clicks into sales — and sales back into dollars.

Performance campaigns tend to focus on Bottom-of-Funnel activities. Regardless of whether you measure against CPA, ROI, or ROAS, ultimately the same question is always asked: “What was the return on our performance investment, and how can we do better next week/month/quarter/year?”

Contrast that with influencer marketing, which is often planned and measured primarily against very different (arguably Top-of-Funnel) goals: reach, opportunities to see, brand lift and engagement, to name just a few, and is often given more room and time to prove its value. 

From a creative perspective, influencer marketing is often seen to offer much more scope than text-based search ads or a simple retargeting banner. But ironically it’s often the latter two that are seen to drive results.

But consider this: Influencer marketing is hugely performance-driven, and its insights on audiences, consumer preferences and platform trends can be gold dust for performance teams.

And this: Influencer-generated content is incredibly high performing when used to power paid channels, not to mention a fraction of the cost of studio-shot creative.

Ultimately, performance and influencer strategies have immense strength on their own, but we believe brands can achieve breakthrough impact when bringing them together.

How can you achieve this? These are our five key steps:

  1. Plan performance and influencer marketing in a single funnel
  2. Align measurement as much as possible
  3. Share and align audience data 
  4. Share performance and creative insight across channels
  5. Collaborate on content

Let’s get into them one-by-one.

1. Plan performance and influencer marketing in a single funnel

When it comes to practical steps to align performance and influencer teams, a great first step is to figure out where your campaigns are already overlapping. Sure, they are perhaps run, managed and measured on different platforms or channels, but one place they’re very likely to overlap? Your marketing funnel.

Let’s make a couple of assumptions to set the scene:

  1. If a user searches for your brand on Google or Amazon, and goes on to make a purchase, we need to assume they didn’t suddenly wake up with your brand front of mind, and their awareness of your brand has come from somewhere.
  2. If you don’t feed the somewhere, the branded searches that show those sky-high conversion rates simply won’t happen.

Say a user searches for information around a certain product and comes across your ad in Google. They might spot a social ad on Facebook a day later. Without interacting with these ads in terms of clicks, they have paid attention and are starting to build awareness around your brand. At this stage, we could consider the user activated

With the product in mind, this same user may see their favorite influencer demonstrate the product as part of an Instagram sponsored post and be inspired to take the plunge and buy. We can now consider them converted.

The bottom line? While you consider your channels separately, chances are they complement each other much more than you think. Be open minded about what activity activates and what converts. Try to work out where each piece of activity sits in the marketing funnel and where there could be a crossover – it will vary. 

2. Align measurement as much as possible

It needs to be said – it’s time for performance and influencer marketers to join together on measurement. 

While separate measurement tools are still a fact of digital marketing life, different measurement models can lead to wildly different conclusions, which can prevent teams from identifying patterns or similarities across the data. 

We all know the horror stories of different teams using different attribution models: “Paid social sold all the products month!” “No, paid search sold all the products this month…” rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat. This kind of reporting doesn’t tell you how many potential customers you actually reached this month vs last month, nor does it do anything for solidarity between your teams.

Aligning data from analytical tools, deciding attribution and accountability models up front, and reviewing the data from different platforms at the same time enables different teams to look at marketing activity holistically, exploring the relationships between different results and outcomes. It’s likely that influencer activity increases demand for your brand, leading to more search queries and impacting interaction rates with paid search and paid social ads. 

How it’s done

So how do you align? In a word: experimentation. Paired with careful measurement, of course. For example, if you boost search marketing budgets for your generic terms to increase coverage, what happens to influencer performance? Or, what happened to branded search clicks when you launched that influencer campaign? They went up, right? And by how much? Now we’re learning.

Inevitably, influencer marketing and performance marketing are intrinsically linked. By joining up tracking, brands can gain much deeper insights to not only better understand the performance of past and present campaigns, but inform future ones too. After all, doing more of what works best is what we’re all driving towards.

3. Share and align audience data

Here’s the idea: audience data from influencer marketing can be used to very positive effect to improve performance marketing metrics. Let us explain.

It’s fair to say that influencer marketing (and most paid social activity) is primarily driven by audience targeting. When planning campaigns marketers carefully consider which audience their chosen influencers reach and how those audiences align with the brand’s goals. The better the alignment, the better the results, right?

Contrast that with performance marketing, which, in the case of search, focuses almost exclusively on bidding on keywords, with audiences coming a distant second. With Shopping Ads, the dial is starting to move – search engines now show ads based on users’ search queries, and advertisers can layer additional audience (or “interest”) adjustments on top of their core campaign settings. With programmatic and display advertising, audiences are often the first consideration, but with the rise of contextual targeting, marketers often find themselves planning performance display campaigns based on content and keywords they want their ads to appear alongside.

Where we see opportunity is when marketers are able to take audience insight from influencer marketing, and apply it to performance campaigns. 

An example: suppose your brand has launched a new beauty product which seems to be resonating well with eco-conscious customers. You double down on the insight, promoting the product through a number of eco-influencers (maybe with branded content ads) and sales increase dramatically. The next step – we can take that additional insight and apply audience targeting to Search and Shopping Campaigns. Google calls that particular audience “Green Living Enthusiasts”.  We can choose to target only consumers who match that audience type, or we can choose to prioritize the audience, by increasing our paid search bids when Google knows the person behind the search is in the audience. 

The result? Better alignment of your performance advertising to an audience that the data proves will convert to purchase at a higher rate. Conversion Rate = Up. Revenue = Up. Income = Up.

Screenshot of Google Display Network Custom Affinity Audience options

Thinking about the reverse, Google offers Observation audiences, allowing you to measure how different audiences behave with your Search and Shopping ads, without actually making any changes to ads or restricting their reach. It’s an amazing way to uncover insights about your audiences that you perhaps never knew or indeed expected. You might be surprised by what you learn. For example, you might find valuable insight on age demographics, or interests, that lead you down a different influencer audience path than you originally thought. Or, you might find an interesting intersection you just didn’t imagine. “Natural Skin Care Auto Enthusiasts” could be just the niche you’ve been searching for.

4. Share performance and creative insight across channels

The next piece of this performance perfection puzzle is around creative insight. Specifically,  sharing insight, then delivering successful messages across multiple channels.

Here are some examples:

Performance Ad Assets - when dealing with a multitude of messages and statements, Google automatically combines them to find the best results. This is an amazing way to generate ideas for branded content ads and influencer content. For example, if you note that the line “over 25,000 subscribers” works well in Search ads, why not take it over to Branded Content ads, run an A/B test and see if an uplift happens.

Influencer Content - equally, the same thought process can be applied to high-performing influencer-generated content. Look at what’s resonating. Do videos on ‘beauty products I’m no longer gatekeeping’ resonate particularly well with your Gen Z audience? Take these key talking points over to search and you might just end up with a much more click-worthy ad. 

Customer Comments - some people say life’s too short to read the comments. Hard pass. We know life can be found in the comments. And, so can your next amazingly successful strapline. We love seeing positive, glowing social comments being given primetime slots in Search Ads, Programmatic Ads, in SEO-led content. Why? Because they perform. Increased click through rate. Increased conversion rate.

5. Collaborate on content

Equipped with greater insight on what is working well across your channels, and how the two overlap and intertwine, you can effectively turn your attention to combining performance and influencer marketing at a campaign level. That’s right – we’re talking content. 

Harnessing high-performing IGC

While influencer-generated content is incredibly high-performing when shared organically on influencer channels, it reaches new heights when used to power paid campaigns. 

Think about it: you’re taking the highly-engaging, authentic and trustworthy content that resonates perfectly with your ideal customers, and combining that with the ability to target specific audiences (perhaps informed by your previous influencer campaigns…) who you know are likely to convert. It’s a win-win. 

And if that wasn’t enough to convince you, the numbers speak for themselves. Viewed with 50% greater trust than branded ads, influencer content can increase ad efficiency by 300%, while dramatically reducing ROAS thanks to the comparatively lower cost of producing content in house. 

There’s more. Due to the high volumes of Influencer-generated content that can be produced more cost effectively, brands can build a library of highly-personalized content for different channels and audiences. So, whether you’re targeting Gen Z beauty lovers on TikTok, or DIY enthusiasts on Instagram, you’ll be able to magnify highly-engaging content which is much more likely to prompt action from your target customers. 

While it’s possible to manually upload influencer content into paid ads that appear from your own branded social handles, there are now a variety of platform-specific ad options that let you increase the authenticity of sponsored posts by running them through creator accounts. 

Let’s run through some of them.

Meta Branded Content Ads

Run by Meta across Facebook and Instagram, branded content ads allow marketers to build campaigns as usual, with the ads appearing from their chosen influencer’s own social media handle. Appearing similarly to organic content, branded content ads appear more authentic, while the clear ‘paid partnership’ label maintains transparency around the sponsored nature of the partnership. 

Once again, the results for these ads speak loudly. Research by Meta found that Instagram branded content ads produced an 82% increase in the possibility of achieving purchase outcomes, reduced cost per purchase by 3.9% and generated an impressive 2.4x lift in conversions. 

Learn more about branded content ads in our complete guide.

Screenshot of two sponsored ad formats from Instagram / Meta.

TikTok Spark Ads

TikTok offers a very similar proposition on its own platform. Like branded content ads, marketers can take high-performing content and use it in Spark Ads, which can be set to appear from the creator’s handle. 

They’re slick, equally high performing, and perfectly placed for a platform built on authentic content.

Screenshots of two TikTok ad formats

Learn more about TikTok ad features and formats

Time For A Change? 

So, we hope we’ve successfully made a case for bringing influencer and performance marketing together. A combined approach allows teams to gain deeper insights, share learnings and take advantage of content which is already performing well, as well as better reaching prospective customers at every touch point. 

For more advice on boosting your performance channels with influencer marketing (or vice versa!) speak to a member of our Strategic Services team today. 

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