Influencer Ads: Look Beyond Engagement

By
Paul Johnson
In
January 3, 2020

We’ve all read the headlines: “Insta is getting rid of likes!” and “Likes don’t matter anymore!”. In a world without the little hearts, how will marketers measure the success of their Instagram influencer campaigns?

The truth is, Instagram without likes is an opportunity for brands to look beyond “vanity metrics”. It’s time for advertisers to shift their social media marketing focus to other tangible digital marketing metrics like CTR (click-through rate), RoAS (return on ad spend), and actual sales. While engagement rates (likes and comments) do provide value to some extent, clicks generally have a much bigger impact on actual sales. When working with social influencers, it is crucial that your marketing strategy involves amplifying content. Amplifying your content allows you to add a call to action, direct viewers directly to your website, and even drive purchasing decisions.

Lumanu analyzed thousands of influencer dark posts (ads) with ~10 Million impressions to see if engagement drives sales. The data proves that the amount of social engagement (likes and comments) is not an indicator of downstream conversions. Consider how potential customers interact with brands on social platforms: there are those who engage with content on social media but don’t buy, and then there are those who don’t engage with likes and comments but purchase. 

Do Instagram Likes & Comments Really Matter?

Consider your own liking vs. buying habits on social media. When was the last time you liked or commented on an influencer post or paid partnership ad? Did you take the extra step to click through a social media post to the brand’s website? Did you google the website and visit? Did you go one step further to purchase on the spot? If you answered yes to any of those questions, do you tend to make a purchase when you “like” a post that is a product promotion? The truth is that vanity metrics don’t always predict success for influencer marketing campaigns.

How Clicks and Engagement Rates Correlate to Sales

The following data is from one of Lumanu’s customers and demonstrates the relationship between purchases and clicks versus engagement. All data were normalized to account for the varying reach of influencers and account for both post view and post click conversions. The numbers prove that likes and comments on a post aren’t something that are leading indicators of downstream conversions. For the statistically inclined, the R^2 for correlation between engagement (likes and purchases) was nearly zero (.001 to be exact). What was a good indicator of sales? Link clicks. The R^2 between link clicks and sales, on the other hand, was .446.


Source: Lumanu Analysis. The X-axis for the chart above is normalized against the true reach of the corresponding influencer ads. True reach is calculated as the unique impressions over the lifetime of the ads.


Source: Lumanu Analysis. The X-axis for the chart above is normalized against the true reach of the corresponding influencer ads. True reach is calculated as the unique impressions over the lifetime of the ads.

Shift Your Influencer Marketing Efforts to Deliver Conversions

To drive results with conversion optimization, brands and marketing agencies must figure out the winning formula: driving Instagram users to click the CTA on influencer dark posts to learn more about a product featured. While the solution varies by brand and takes a test & learn approach to get it right, we can offer some advice.

First and foremost: content is always king. Content must be high quality; a good way to gut check is comparing what form factor(s) work for brand ads and apply to influencer content. As an example, if single Instagram images don’t work and videos and slideshows do, guess what? Video and slideshow content is probably going to perform better as part of an influencer dark post strategy. The product should be the star of the Instagram post, and featured in the image and copy with the appropriate and authentic voice of the influencer(s). And, of course, content should live on the right social media platforms for your target audience. This is what transform scrollers into actual customers. Finding the right social media influencers is essential, and successful influencers are those whose voices tell the brand story in a unique and relatable way to an audience that is likely to be receptive to the brand offering. Another marketing tactic to consider: don’t shrug off micro-influencers; they often have high engagement rates, build trust with their following, and a niche online personality/following.

It is worthwhile to point out that copy that resonates with an influencer’s followers may not be right for driving results when amplifying that content to a larger audience. The words used in organic content crafted for an influencer’s followers will often need to be tweaked to perform or direct response. Influencer’s giving advertising permissions gives the ability to transform and iterate on influencer content – which is a huge advantage when it comes to gaining your target audience’s attention. Optimizations may include things like editing copy on the influencer’s post to add a discount code, turning a carousel into a slideshow, testing various taglines and CTAs, and removing excessive hashtags.

Lumanu gathered data from ~200M impressions and ~$16MM in ad spend via influencer dark posts in 2019 to determine the most effective form factor(s) for driving RoaS (return on ad spend). The analysis was focused on RoaS across three verticals (fashion & apparel, beauty & skincare, health & wellness). The data proves that the answer to the most effective form factor is “it depends”. See RoaS comparison of influencer dark posts (single image vs slideshow & carousel) below.


For beauty & skincare and health & wellness brands, the data proves that for companies that use both carousels and slideshows along with single images in their influencer advertising, RoaS is 33% higher when using carousel and slideshow ads vs single images. Why? The message for these brands is often best told as a story across several pieces of content. With carousels and slideshows, posts stand out in the feed and can showcase a few images in a single post.

For fashion and apparel brands, the data proves that single images are more effective than carousels and slideshows. RoaS for single images on Instagram is 11% higher than RoaS for carousel and slideshow content. Why? Fashion and apparel are able to be sold via a single image because consumers can easily understand what the product is. Facebook is able to figure out the best image(s) and show those within ad campaigns to deliver the strongest ROI.

For more information on how to work with influencers to create content that delivers direct response ROI, we’ve pulled together 10 Influencer Ad Strategies that Generate Sales as a guide.  

Losing “likes” isn’t going to slow down sales from a well executed influencer marketing strategy

Reducing the focus on likes makes sense for Instagram, as they want creators investing more in long-form content like videos and stories. This naturally has “helped” Instagram influencers transition to more videos and stories. Instagram stories are an incredibly fast-growing channel, with over 500 million daily users. Although saying adiós to likes seems like a big change to content creators and advertisers, it’s also a friendly nudge to incorporate more relevant metrics into their influencer marketing campaigns. Not only will this give advertisers more accurate results, it allows them to track and measure what’s driving success, increase return on investment, and maximize the potential of their influencer advertising.


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Paul Johnson is the Co-Founder and Head of Operations at Lumanu
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