Digital Essays: How real-time data can make or break your influencer marketing strategy by Leena Kewlani

by Leena Kewlani, branded content director, Digital Media Services

Over the last five years, brands have increasingly been demanding customer-centric, data-driven solutions from publishers. Despite this push, influencer marketing (especially in our region) still feels like a gamble, where precious marketing dollars are spent to generate bets against greater ROI.

Influencer marketing campaigns are not easy to plan and are definitely not easy to implement. Brands must wait days or weeks to determine an influencer’s demographics (to gauge if the influencer is a good fit to begin with), all of this within a culture where influencers are known to submit incomplete or old data. In most cases, the accuracy and authenticity of their information cannot be verified. Then there’s another huge challenge – the reporting of campaigns. Today, brands must wait anywhere from four to six weeks from the day their content goes live to determine if their creative actually worked, if audiences engaged and if the overall campaign was successful.

In light of these current obstacles, can real-time reporting help the influencer marketing industry?
To start with, let’s tackle the two most fundamental problems that we as an industry face today: search and discovery, along with analytics and reporting.

Search and discovery:
Real-time data allows us to search for and discover influencers in seconds. It narrows down the target pool of influencers using criteria that surveys their content, engagement and audience demographics. This includes, but is not limited to, searching by social platform activity, follower count, engagement rates, follower country, audience age and even mentions of specific brands or topics.

Today, most platforms in the market can only provide data on the influencers connected to their own platforms. They do not connect to social APIs, but instead encourage influencers to enter in their demographic data manually. This defeats the purpose of real-time data, as these platforms will end up recommending the same influencers each time a brand searches for people to work with. This approach is limiting and restricts a brand’s potential for discovering new, exciting and relevant influencers.

By utilising real-time reporting tools, platforms are constantly updating stats and estimating demographics prior to ever contacting the influencer. This enables brands to find relevant influencers immediately. It also helps a brand to dig through new criteria and discover different influencers that could add value to its campaigns. For example: a brand that has a product related to pet cleanliness at home may be looking for an influencer who is a female, UAE resident, with a pet dog and kids. By using real-time data, they would be able to search bios and posts and comments for keywords, hashtags, or @ mentions. Today, the majority of companies can accomplish this manually and
would have to carry out a time-consuming search across platforms. By utilising real-time tools, this process could be executed in a few minutes, with solid chances of identifying niche influencers.

Another critical metric that brands need to embrace is tracking influence over time. The influencer you leveraged last January may no longer be as engaging or as relevant to your consumers today.

Real-time reporting allows brands to track influence over time and see how someone’s social influence has altered, diminished or grown. Comments, likes, shares and impressions can be monitored day-over-day, week-over-week or month-over-month to help identify the top performing time periods and provide evidence of audience engagement. Real-time reporting helps brands keep up with real-time profile activity and changes.


Analytics and reporting:
Real-time reporting also enables brands to continuously analyse the impact an influencer’s campaign is creating for their product. Reports can be generated to show when posts went live, views can be tracked, along with reach, engagement over time, ROI, social media value generated, real-time analytics and URL tracking.

As a brand, it is important to see if your content (video or image) performed well on day one and then suddenly died, or whether it endured steady for two weeks. Brands may need to rethink strategy if their posts are unable to generate the expected traffic. Real-time reporting helps marketers identify any spikes in views/engagement, which may have come from one of many sources. These include purchased engagement, illegal bot engagement, or another influencer pushing traffic to the post.

Catching things early on enables brands to react in a timely manner and make changes to their creative and approach, versus discovering errors only after the campaign has run its course. This also applies to positive outcomes, where a video performs surprisingly well, leading the brand to ride the wave and quickly release other similar ads. In effect, real-time allows visible data at all times, which means that the agencies and brands do not remain in the dark for a week to a month about a campaign’s performance.

With such a dire need to raise the bar for influencers in our region, we at DMS, along with our publisher Alfan Group, have worked tirelessly on the development of a tool that effectively utilises real-time data and reporting. I am pleased to report that we can now enable brands to match their target audiences with potential influencers easily, create live proposals to streamline the process, and ensure transparency at the same time. With our live reporting tool, campaign reports are generated immediately after a post goes live, allowing brands to monitor updated stats. Our reports also include a host of more detailed stats and, most importantly, an ROI calculator, which tells marketers how much value they have received from their posts at any given time.

We see the industry growing over the next few months in areas such as data on audience demographics. This holds especially true for platforms such as Instagram, where we are not provided with as much data as we would like. We would also like to see more information on “engaged” audiences across any given platform. It’s great to know that 80 per cent of an influencer’s followers are female, but wouldn’t it be more insightful if we could see that 60 per cent of those who interacted with a given post were males?

Looking ahead, we are excited about seeking better means to lift our industry as a whole and establishing greater standards and benchmarks for how influencer campaigns should be implemented from beginning to end.