Six Learnings from a Decade of Measuring Influencer Campaigns

By Mariana Torres-Lastra, Media Center of Excellence, IRI

While influencer marketing may seem to be a relatively new marketing tactic – starting with the rise of the internet and bloggers in the early 2000s – anyone who has ever influenced what others bought on a somewhat large scale was, in some way, doing influencer marketing. (Yes, that includes your friend who started the neon clothes trend at your junior high school back in the 1980s!) So, it’s safe to say that influencer marketing has been happening since at least the beginning of modern advertising 100 years ago, if not earlier – influencers were just not necessarily getting paid for their recommendations.

With at least half the world now on social media, it’s been taken to a whole new level. Influencer marketing is now a multibillion-dollar industry, and most brands are actively using influencers in some way. Why? Consider some of these statistics from the Digital Marketing Institute:

  • 70% of teens trust influencers more than traditional celebrities
  • 86% of women use social media for purchasing advice
  • 49% of consumers depend on influencer recommendations

IRI has been measuring influencer campaigns on behalf of CPG brands for almost a decade, using a proprietary exposed vs. unexposed methodology that incorporates point-of-sale data and allows for measurement on social platforms individually and at an aggregate. Here are six things we’ve learned and what you should consider for your own influencer marketing programs:

  1. 70-80 percent of your product must be in distribution before you measure influencer campaign results. If the product is not on-shelf, consumers won’t be able to buy it. And if your product is not easily accessible to consumers, your campaign either can have flat results or end up driving purchase of competitive brands.
  2. The influencer must visibly interact with the product. If we think about it, this makes sense for consumers – the more senses we can engage in a consumer, the better. This is especially true for crowded and more confusing categories. For example, an over-the-counter “cough and cold” health care product could be hard to find in the store due to all the different options available, from “cold and cough” to “cold and sinus” to just “cold,” “fever,” etc. It is very important to make sure the product is visible with the influencers and that they are also interacting with it within their posts, especially since each influencer usually has only 2-3 posts during the campaign period and you want customers to be able to easily recognize it in the store.
  3. When a campaign starts at a concert or festival, the natural interaction between the influencer and the consumers is very positive. It certainly makes sense that people are more open to being influenced when they are where they want to be and are having a good time. Also, when brands show up at specific events, they become part of the experience at the event. These types of posts make the influencer more reliable to the consumer overall.
  4. To measure offline sales for an influencer campaign that wants to drive consumers to purchase at a specific retailer, you want your influencers to mention in their posts a store where point-of-sale data can be measured. Mentioning a specific retailer is extremely important for the setup, and if the client does not communicate this in advance to its measurement partner, it can cause a challenge with accurate offline measurement.
  5. Add a coupon for a product with a long purchase cycle and higher cost. Adding a coupon can help to break up longer purchase cycles, such as for a category like vitamins that is on a 90-day or more cycle, encouraging the customer to buy before he or she had planned. It is a great incentive that often works.  
  6. Use verified audiences for your campaign targeting. I continue to see the use of demographic targeting instead of purchase-based targeting to set up campaigns. This is much less impactful, as it does not target people who already buy the category. Instead, look at targeting lapsed buyers, current buyers and competitor buyers in the category or categories for influencer campaigns, as these are more precise than demographic targeting. And this way you won’t waste ad dollars targeting those who don’t and likely won’t buy.

While social metrics have long been used as part of the KPIs for influencer marketing programs, with Instagram now testing hiding “likes,” there is some discussion around social commerce and in-store purchase behavior becoming the new success metrics, as discussed in eMarketer.  

Ultimately, if you want to know if your influencer campaign was a success, you do need to be able to connect what consumers saw to what they bought in the store.

I am often asked if using a Matched Market Test for an influencer campaign would work. This method does not allow you to understand the impact of a specific tactic, for example, the creative or audiences when a campaign is national. However, if the campaign is set up with different creative or audiences in different test cells, you can certainly measure these components.

What about measuring nano, micro, macro, mega and non-human influencer campaigns without paid media? This is possible too – if the influencer marketing company can select the influencers properly and go dark in the control cells. We have measured several campaigns for which the influencers had to provide reviews without the support of paid media and clients sent “samples” to specific influencers for them to follow directions on how to create the content and provide reviews.

CPG marketers are seeing positive sales lift and return on ad spend, and many are continuing to grow their investments in influencer marketing every year. Given that measurement is now possible at the national, geographic and media market levels, as well as with outlets and specific retailers (for shopper campaigns), this marketing tactic is a no-brainer – if you do it right.  

Want to learn more about how to accurately set up and measure your influencer campaigns? Watch IRI’s latest influencer marketing webinar, read my blog post and/or contact me at