How to Use Paid Media to Drive Influencer Marketing ROI

by: Dustin Hawley | Wednesday June 19, 2019

Influencer marketing exists in this murky, cloudy space as a creative and media asset, but also simultaneously as a PR activity. This ambiguity that exists within influencer marketing is perhaps the biggest roadblock to its maturation. So how does a marketer make clear decisions about who’s responsible (let alone budget allocation and strategy) when you’re not quite sure where influencer marketing even fits in?

Measuring return on investment has historically been a challenge for marketers who engage in influencer marketing. Even so, more than half of the advertisers who have run an influencer marketing campaign say that influencer-generated content outperformed brand-created content, which is likely the primary reason they keep investing in the practice. And there is also an abundance of analytics tools that help brands gather hard data far beyond vanity metrics like follower counts. 

what do you see as the top influencer marketing challenges in 2018?

For those who measure campaign success based on the notorious metric of engagement, this too is not enough. You also need to closely examine how the campaigns actually convert. How did influencer campaigns perform when compared to your brand's other tactics and marketing efforts? Are influencer campaigns a more powerful branding tool than other tactics included in your overall media mix? Should paid media be an integral part of my influencer marketing strategy? These are important questions with even more important answers. 

To help you answer these questions and extract the most value from your influencer marketing campaigns, here are a few things to consider in order to use paid media to drive influencer ROI for your brand.

Making influencer marketing part of your brand's paid media 

While influencers are active on social media, it’s best not to just think of influencer marketing only as purveyors of earned media. Though there is certainly earned media value, influencer campaigns are only comparable with other paid media when brands own the content produced by creators and can distribute it through their own official channels.

earned media vs paid media graph

This is an inverse to the general perception that surrounds influencer marketing; the perception that influencer-generated content should only be considered work-for-hire, while influencer-amplification through their own networks should be seen simply as paid placement. That ideology is beginning to shift as influencer marketing continues to evolve.  

What Can Paid Media Do For You, and how can it drive influencer ROI?

Two of the best things about social media marketing is the ability to measure your results and hyper-target your audience. In these two areas, digital platforms have become arguably unmatched in the world of advertising. Why did we lead off with that fact? Well, because paid media enhances them both.

First off, measurement. When brands run promoted content, they gain access to even more detailed and meaningful data points than they get for organic posts alone. Additionally, paid media is a guaranteed amplifier of any metric that brands care most about; even a modest social spend in support of influencer content will substantially increase consumption metrics like impressions and engagements, decrease CPMs, and showcase more downstream conversions like e-commerce sales. 

social metrics map

In tandem with measurement, digital media’s other major differentiator—the ultra-specific targeting referenced above—becomes much more powerful as well when paid media is involved. Brands and agencies select a particular influencer(s) because he or she has incredible influence and followers within a target demographic, whether that demographic is defined by age, location, interest area, or additional factors.

With a paid media spend behind it, an influencer’s content— which is often both highly relevant and incredibly engaging—will see increased penetration of the audience that the brand most wants to reach, whether they already follow the influencer or not. Additionally, on platforms like Instagram or Facebook, advertisers can target their efforts with near 100% accuracy when using metric parameters like age, location, or interest. 

This is what makes paid media so valuable for brands. Through the use of paid media, social campaigns can provide advertisers with a level of confidence that few (if any) other channels are capable of providing.

How to Create an Influencer & Paid Media Partnership That Drives ROI

We get it, this may all sound too good to be true, but we assure you it's not. However, executing a successful influencer campaign with the support of paid media does require both careful preparation and some additional steps that organic influencer campaigns do not.

person signing into Facebook from their laptop

For starters, agencies should always account for media dollars upfront. In both the initial planning and in the earliest cost estimates provided to clients, the budget for paid content must be included. Why is this important? Because it’s a much harder sell at the 11th hour than it is during the preliminary phases. The simplest way to present and discuss a media spend is to allocate separate line items for compensating the influencer(s) and for the content support budget (or paid media spend). 

The legal element is also crucial to maximizing ROI on your influencer campaigns. It’s incredibly imperative for brands planning to use paid media with influencer content that they obtain usage rights for that content. This cannot be stressed enough. Usage rights are required in order for the brand to promote posts shared by the influencer.

The safest approach in this endeavor is to specify that the brand will be doing paid media promotion in the verbiage of the campaign contract. There can be some gray area when it comes to the general “digital media usage rights”, so it's best to clearly outline these within the structure of the contract. In some situations, some influencers may ask for more money to agree to such rights, but unless the demands are somehow unreasonable or are not proportionate to the ask, it’s absolutely worth it, for both flexibility and peace of mind.

two people shaking hands at desk

Finally, executing a successful paid media campaign often requires working with an experienced paid media manager or influencer marketing agency. While brands have become increasingly proficient with media planning and execution in recent years, even the most expert individual strategist in your organization cannot manage a collection of influencers and properly oversee a media spend at the same time. In turn, brands looking to run an influencer campaign with paid media support should strongly consider working with a media agency that has a portfolio of successful influencer campaigns under their belt, and a strong relationship with their roster of influencers. Spending a little bit more to bring on specialized resources and professionals in the influencer marketing industry will be worth it tenfold once the activation underway.

In Closing

A world where influencer activations will always include paid media supplementation is seemingly on the near horizon. The rewards of a well-implemented media spend (increased market penetration, enhanced analytics, boosted metrics, etc.) far outweigh the cost of promoting influencer content. It's these factors that primarily drive the lucrative ROI we are witnessing in the influencer marketing space today. Digital marketers, whether at an agency or in-house, would be smart to begin brainstorming campaigns with paid media as a notable element of their overall marketing systems. With a well-executed paid media spend supporting the efforts of talented influencers and the content they create, the sky is the limit on how it can boost your brand's bottom line.


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