CreatorIQ has long advocated for influencer marketing measurement standards and benchmarks. In fact, not only are we the first influencer marketing software platform to adopt the ANA’s recently released standards—a collaborative effort between the ANA and brands including Unilever, Sephora, Mastercard, Target, Cigna, Hilton, Procter & Gamble, PUMA, Nationwide, Reckitt Benckiser, and SAP—we even helped create them.
Why? Because we believe standards and benchmarks help solve a long-simmering problem within the social marketing industry: too much noise, not enough signal.
Social media is awash in data, and that can be a problem. Social networks have the unique advantage of providing baked-in, publicly available metrics such as likes, views, shares, and comments. Other marketing channels don’t offer this wealth of user-level, highly specific data, which is why brands have become so interested in leveraging social for both paid and organic content.
However, when it comes to brand and business impact, social platforms’ freely available metrics leave a lot open to interpretation. It’s easy to gauge whether or not social content is popular based on views, likes and shares. But it’s a lot harder to tell whether the success of that content is moving the needle for a business.
In other words, we know what’s cool, but we don’t know what works.
Years ago, CreatorIQ’s data analysis team joined forces with their counterparts at client brands like Unilever to close the gap between social media buzz and business growth. We set out to create a comprehensive measurement strategy to determine once and for all how to assess social’s impact on more traditional marketing research metrics, including brand awareness, affinity, and lift.
Our team dug into thousands of data points collected by the APIs of major social platforms, working to translate metrics like impressions, reach, and engagement into established marketing research KPIs.
This effort formed the foundation of what the ANA released today. As an early adopter of these standards, CreatorIQ has learned firsthand just how revolutionary they can be—not only for the individual companies that follow them, but for the influencer marketing industry at large.
Here are the primary benefits of the ANA’s new standards:
Comparing Marketing Formats
Social marketing, and influencer marketing in particular, no longer operates in a silo. It’s a core component of brands’ overall growth strategies, and competes with other marketing formats for budget and resources. In order for companies to properly integrate influencer campaigns into their broader marketing programs, social metrics need to be translated into standard marketing KPIs.
For more established marketing formats, this is already protocol. From campaign KPIs, to annual KPIs, to industry benchmarks, companies monitor how each channel and initiative impact common marketing objectives like brand awareness, brand affinity, brand loyalty, purchase intent, and conversion.
ANA’s universal definitions and agreed-upon benchmarks help translate social KPIs into these overarching marketing KPIs, allowing both individual companies and the industry at large to see how social and influencer marketing efforts compare to traditional marketing formats.
Analyzing Social Platforms
Over the past few years, social media companies have dramatically expanded the range of metrics they report. However, this sophistication applies almost exclusively to paid ads, which are the primary means by which social platforms make money. In other words, metrics feed their advertising machine.
However, organic social content is how creators make their money. As a result, there’s less of an incentive for social media companies to measure the impact of unpaid content, outside of the data that platforms provide creators to keep them engaged.
Standardizing metrics across social platforms allows for independent, third-party measurement of industry benchmarks, creator benchmarks, topic benchmarks, and much more. In addition to evaluating historical trends, this standardization grants everyone involved—brands, creators, agencies, and even tech companies—deeper insights into how social platforms’ algorithms change over time.
For instance, when social networks began placing a greater emphasis on video, CreatorIQ was easily able to monitor and report on the impact of that shift.
Normalizing Internal Reporting
It’s not uncommon for brands with international footprints to measure and report on social marketing activity using different language and benchmarks. As a result, these parent companies are often forced to standardize this fragmented reporting structure after the fact, which can be a frustrating and often futile process.
If you have 100 different ways of evaluating campaigns, you’ll get 100 different results. Unifying around a single consistent measurement standard that speaks a common language allows brands to assess, plan, and budget for their promotional activities across markets more easily, and with much greater accuracy.
In order to make informed, data-driven decisions about how to allocate their resources, brands need standard metrics and consistent measurement tools that work from the bottom-up, not the top-down—and that’s exactly what the ANA guidelines provide.
Enhanced Industry and Competitor Monitoring
When you can ensure consistency across data sources and definitions, you can create benchmarks. These benchmarks are what companies use to not only measure the impact of individual campaigns on their broader marketing efforts, but also to compare themselves to specific competitors and the industry at large.
When your social manager says that an influencer campaign achieved a 25% conversion rate, you’ll know whether that’s good or bad. Benchmarks are often granular, accounting for specific considerations such as company size, category, campaign format, and even the audience sizes of participating creators.
These benchmarks also differ between industries. For instance, DTC retailers tend to prioritize ROI and sales, while retail brands may focus more on reach and affinity. Additionally, there are benchmarks for campaigns aimed at every stage of the funnel, from awareness to conversion.
When all the companies that review influencer marketing benchmarks use consistent language and a comparable set of metrics, the creator economy becomes much easier to navigate.
Content and Creator Evaluation
Finally, one of our biggest takeaways from using these standards is that evaluating all of our clients in the same way grants us powerful insights on content and creators. For instance, we can automatically segment clients, industries, creators, and topics, helping us identify strategic opportunities that might otherwise be overlooked.
Approaching the creator economy with this level of organization is extremely advantageous for brands. After all, brands pay creators for any one of three things: their likeness, their content, and their audience. Using standard metrics to benchmark the impact of all three factors across different industries and topics will help both brands and creators build impactful partnerships.
When it comes to measuring and analyzing data, there are three universal rules: the data must be repeatable, the analysis must be defensible, and the process must be consistent.
The ANA’s standards and benchmarks are designed to achieve all three of these goals. What’s more, these guidelines come at the perfect moment: with consumers fiercely defending their online privacy, it's more important than ever for brands to compile first-party data about their audiences.
Influencer marketing equips brands with enough first-party information to power entire data ecosystems, but this data is only useful when it’s governed by clear standards and benchmarks. We’re happy to announce that thanks to the ANA—with a little help from your’s truly—these standards and benchmarks are available at last.