In this opinion piece, Natalie Giddings (pictured below), managing director of The Remarkables Group, provides a five-step game plan for influencer marketing success.

The number of companies leveraging social media influencers as part of their marketing mix is growing. At the same pace, the cosmos of potential influencers types, channels and formats is also evolving. With that increase of possibilities, comes complexity and as highlighted by the recent Daily Telegraph investigation, even some of the simplest steps for maximising return on investment (ROI) are being neglected.

Thankfully, the industry is maturing and increasingly, using influencers is becoming less of a bolt-on tactic and more of a significant part of a brand’s marketing strategy. Most excitingly. this shift has provided us with the scope to test and measure the optimal mix of influencers, channels, formats and amplification for each of the brands we work with. And the growth of this media channel doesn’t look like slowing down. A recent US study by the National Association of Advertisers highlighted three out of four client-side marketers claimed their businesses used influencer marketing, and not quite half of them said they were planning to boost that budget for that this year. But without satisfactory tracking and optimisation of those budget, this could just result marketing budget wastage.

The biggest benefit for brands when moving their influencer activity from tactical to strategic, just like other media channels used to build your brand, brands optimise their influencer budget spend towards the most efficient plan to drive the best ROI. Below are a number of steps to introduce into your influencer program to maximise ROI.

1. Do due diligence on influencers

At The Remarkables Group, have a multi-step process for vetting the best influencers for your industry and provide case studies and documentation to support a long history of successful programs. My theory on why this critical step is so often omitted is some people believe the key outcome from an influencer program is to secure a stack of great looking content. It’s undeniable that influencers can create great content, but the true value of influencers is access to their audience. Hence, working with influencers is requires a level to analysis to assess the opportunity, just like any other media channel.

There is a whole host of ways not vetting influencers properly undermines ROI. The most common default approach unfortunately is a blast email of your latest press release or a shout out via one of the many online influencer marketplaces, similar to the many media lists outlets. I call this the classic ‘spray and pray’ move.

2. Decide on the metrics

This is different for each business depending on the objectives of the program. Perhaps the other marketing channels are going to do the job of brand building, and influencer marketing is an opportunity to highlight parts of your services that are misunderstood, so metrics like ‘time on site’ or ‘minutes viewed’ are important. It is crucial to determine which metrics and ensure they are not misleading, which should be upfront because the way each influencer, channel or format is planned shifts depending on what you decide are your key performance indicators.

In some industries like FMCG, fashion and cosmetics, many influencers’ audience sizes are now overshadowing that of traditional media. If the program is substantial enough, conducting third-party analysis such as cross media studies are now also possible.

3. Influencer induction

As a marketer, you live and die by a solid briefing process and induction for all parties. Similar to the point above, the amount of thought and information shared, and time spent in the process has a dramatic impact on the eventual results. It’s no different in influencer marketing.

Most brands ignore that each influencer is genuinely unique in what they can bring to the table. If the influencers all receive the same generic brief, you are likely going to be appear in channels and formats not best suited to your objectives and, therefore, budget is being wasted. It’s about partnering with influencers to unlock their full potential to help build your brand.

4. Track, monitor, review and repeat

The most important skill in marketing is the ability to be able to extract insight from the results of a campaign. Each marketing program, even if it’s been done many times before, could be done better and or channels may become less effective over time. A simple way to think about this is each program is a type of experiment. Like every experiment, you start with a basic hypothesis. This is usually based on the case studies and documentation of successful programs. The results help form a methodology or mix where the future activity is adjusted and re-measured. As much as everything always appears to change so rapidly in marketing, so much stays the same.

The mix needs to advance and develop overtime. For example, we are in early days of IGTV, a new long-form video Instagram format we’ll trial several different ways with different types of influencers.

5. Quarterly reviews

Influencer marketing efforts don’t end when the definitive strategy is already in place. To optimise your investment, you’ll need touchpoints throughout the implementation of the strategy. That means actively adjusting your approach and resources over time. It is important to analyse the results to lift insights, which will guide the programs set up moving forward.  At The Remarkables Group, we also do major re-calibration every six months.

It’s worth noting too that its quite difficult to do this type of monitoring and program adjustment when you are living campaign to campaign or with a last-minute media release to a bunch of influencers, begging for a mention of your product.

The way you increase your return on investment is by optimising your influencer marketing spend over time towards the most effective influencers, messages, formats and channels. This is when your efforts move beyond tactical towards strategic.