Turning Influencers into Performance Channels: The Hard Way and Easy Way

By
Michael Cole
In
April 2, 2020

I’ve heard the hype about influencer marketing for more than a decade. There were a lot of influencer marketing agencies talking up about how they deliver amazing results for brands. When tested, the only thing I received were apologies about their complete lack of performance.

I used to doubt influencer marketing’s legitimacy for driving pure sales.

That has changed since I’ve been at Everflow, a platform for managing performance partnerships including affiliates and influencers. I’ve been able to see brands that deliver almost all of their sales strictly through influencer marketing. 

Not only have influencers grown to have more powerful voices, but consumers are now happy to immediately purchase recommended products through mobile devices. These two factors massively improved the results delivered by influencer marketing.

Finding the right influencers is hard, and making influencer marketing a key performance channel is even harder. To do influencer marketing the right way requires testing, learning and focusing on your most important influencer relationships. All of these require having access to reliable data and knowing what data points matter most.

The good thing is you can start collecting this information right away using Google Analytics. While this is the free method, it eventually ends up being a much harder, manual way to manage and understand this channel. 

Here is what you should keep in mind for the early days of ramping up your influencer marketing channel and two paths of navigation to help you along the way:

Set up a method to track sales & performance

The free, but harder way, to track sales and performance is by using Google Analytics. For each influencer, you can track them through a unique source name, such as ‘InfluenceA’, assign the Medium as ‘influencer’, and create a campaign name ‘AprInfluencers’. You can simplify the generation process for the tracking link - [here] and then check on the performance reporting (it will need a day to track properly) under Acquisition > ‘All Traffic ‘ > Source/Medium. 


How to track sales and performance with google analytics


The much simpler, paid method is using Everflow for influencer partner tracking to track this performance through Direct Linking. Everflow offers Direct Linking, which tracks users when they reach your site and pulls additional data from the URL to know which partner delivered it. This avoids a lot of the problems with third-party tracking as those links are normally blocked across Social, Facebook and Google.

An alternative way to track is by creating unique promo codes for each influencer. Most shopping carts allow you to see the sales and performance by coupon code, so you can quickly see the sales delivered by each influencers promo code.

The ideal setup is a combination of both to ensure you’re not missing out on any sales that the influencer is sure they sent you.

Share transparency with your influencers on their performance

If you want to reward your influencers for the performance they drive, then you need to make sure they can see that performance regularly. With Google Analytics, you can set up various Goals to track, not only the sales they deliver, but how engaged the users they’ve sent truly are. 

To track purchases in GA: Click the bottom gear (Admin) > On right side click Goals > Click + New Goal > Select Custom > Add Name Purchases and under Type select Destination > Put in your confirmation page URL (This is the URL that shows up immediately after someone purchases on your side) > Click Save.

How to set and track goals in google analytics



If everyone is set up properly, you should start tracking conversions (GA will take one day to update). Once you see goals, you can start  manually adding to a shared spreadsheet so influencers can see what they’ve delivered for you.

Alternatively, any of the Partner Marketing platforms can handle the basic level of performance tracking with accessible dashboards for each of your influencers.

Protect your brand from shady sources

One of the biggest issues with paying for performance is that partners can take credit for performance they didn’t deliver. If you give them a unique promo code for tracking their performance, the less scrupulous influencer can start adding that promo code to all of the user-generated coupon sites. You might start thinking they are super performers, when they are actually just stealing credit from users that were already purchasing from you.

It’s always a good idea to do a manual goal search for your “Brand + Coupon/promo/discount” and see what it is showing up for those searches. If you see your influencers code on any of the top ranking sites, then it’s definitely time for a long and hard conversation!

How to check usage of your unique promo codes


With Everflow, we provide an effective solution for breaking out all low quality coupon performance: Click-to-Conversion Time alerts/blocking. Basically, a low quality coupon site is taking last minute credit from a user that was already buying from you, so there will be an unnaturally short time from the user reaching your site to purchasing (as the purchase was in the final phases of being completed already). If any influencers are similarly delivering unnatural short times, you know that they are doing some shady activities on their side to achieve it.

Track more than sales

The quality of each sale is not the same, so you should track a lot of extra Goals/Events to understand your customer’s full engagement. If you’re running paid marketing, you may be seeing a reliable stream of sales coming in month after month; however, as soon as your paid marketing pauses those, sales tend to dry up entirely. 

Why? 

Users buying through paid marketing are solving an immediate desire or need. They don’t engage your brand as deeply or effectively as a true brand evangelist would. True evangelists bring in new customers, heighten your social presence and strengthen your brand influence. 

Finding influencers that deliver you customers that become evangelists pays dividends for your long term success, and that takes tracking a lot more engagement points than just new purchases.

Build deeper relationships with your best performers

Understanding your influencers full value allows you to appreciate their true potential. Any long term influencer relationship needs to go beyond a one-off exchange into an ongoing brand engagement with them. With data in hand, you know where to focus your time, resources and sweetest swag.

Once you’ve found a type of influencer that delivers long term results, you can start finding similar influencers that should be able to deliver similar performance. The faster you find your first gems, the faster you can ramp up influencer marketing into the core channel of your business.  

If you haven’t yet, it’s time to start understanding this process in Google Analytics today. The sooner you start, the sooner you can start saving time by focusing on the influencers and channels that deliver the result your brand needs.

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Michael Cole is the VP of Marketing at Everflow - Partner Marketing Platform. Everflow’s platform empowers brands to track, manage, and understand the performance from their partnerships: Affiliate, Influencer, In-App, and more.
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