For advertisers, measuring an influencer’s influence is still a struggle

Pity the advertiser looking to hook up with an influencer on YouTube, Facebook or other platforms. The marketer might be able to see generically how big the creator’s audience is — followers, views and likes — but important metrics like watch time and audience demographics aren’t readily available.

That’s because YouTube, Facebook and Instagram make only some of their engagement data public. An advertiser can see number of followers, views and engagements, but more in-depth information around how much time is spent with content only goes to account holders. That means advertisers are not only having trouble measuring influencer marketing campaigns, but also understanding which influencers to work with in the first place.

“When I walk into pitch an advertiser, I don’t show them our data and then four other people’s [audience makeup],”said Andy Tu, CMO of Defy Media, which oversees top YouTube channels like Smosh and Screen Junkies. “I don’t have access to their data and they don’t either. They have to take us at face value.”

The lack of clarity around influencer data is like all problems also a business opportunity. There’s a growing group of third-party data companies like Tubular Labs and OpenSlate that can offer deeper stats including engagement rates and demographic information across age, gender and location. These companies are plugged into the APIs of YouTube and Facebook. They also do deeper research reports on the audience makeup of specific campaigns, but those usually come after a campaign has already run.

“They’re all trying to crack the nut, and they’ve cracked certain pieces of it,” said Kevin King, global chair of Edelman Digital. “But different companies have better relationships with different platforms and therefore can deliver better measurement. I don’t see anytime in the future where we won’t be cobbling together multiple partners to get the information we need.”

What’s more, there isn’t as much qualitative data on social video audiences when compared to what’s available for websites and TV. The hard stats can be found, but deeper knowledge on audience interests and passions is lacking. All of this leaves advertisers unsure on the ultimate value of doing influencer marketing.

“On the media-planning side, it’s a wide-open opportunity,” said Tu. “You can show how many subscribers and views [a channel] has, but you’re unable to qualify that with the psychographic piece that shows the audience has a deep passion for a product category on top of it.”

As more dollars continue to pour into influencer marketing, advertisers are getting sophisticated. Omnicom’s The Marketing Arm, for instance, has built a network of 900,000 influencers that it can tap for influencer marketing campaigns. The influencers in this network range from mainstream celebrities to online “vloggers” and are separated by different audience types, said Jake Schneider, director of digital strategy for The Marketing Arm.

“Clients are getting more educated and starting to ask ‘What do we get out of this?’” said Schneider. “As those questions pop up, there will be a push to find more data in a consolidated place.”

Images via YouTube

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