Influencer marketing, as perennially popular as it has been, has always been a bit of a mystery. Yes, the tactic obviously works well or so many brands would not employ it. However, the lack of transparency and standardization within this segment of the digital marketing industry can be problematic, as can the fluidity of metrics and the varying degrees of vagueness that influencer metrics contain. With so many question marks, some brands find themselves wondering actually how effective are their influencer partnerships. Is there trouble on the horizon?

One factor to consider in this thought process is the fact that our youngest consumer generation, Gen Z, is growing up quickly. Also of note is the fact that they tend to favor a slightly different set of platforms on which to consume media. While many brands have found buckets full of success with influencer campaigns on platforms such as Instagram, what happens when or if that platform changes its methodology or when users stop flocking to it in droves?

With the rise in popularity of other platforms such as SnapChat and TikTok among younger users, brands are forced to add more strategies into their overall marketing plans. There is also a learning curve associated with these platforms, as older generations generally have a harder time understanding the best ways to use newer technology. This is a cross-generational fact, and it’s always presented challenges to marketers.

Another qualm facing influencer marketing is a lack of transparency and standardization within the industry. And as social media platforms continue to shift their algorithms — Instagram, for example, has tested removing likes from user posts, which would set the influencer industry on fire — this will continue to cause potential problems.

Many influencer marketers have trouble analyzing the returns on investment. For example, an influencer may make a post on Instagram for a brand that garners 100,000 likes. However, there is no way to tell how many of those 100,000 users who clicked “like” actually

  1.   Read the caption,
  2.   Looked at the product mentioned in more detail, or
  3.   Purchased the product.

Most influencers will make use of discount codes that can more directly track conversions from, at the very least, a specific referral source. However, even with the integration of product tags and links in stories the ability to track traffic and conversions is challenging for marketers.

While the industry may very well never standardize itself — is this even possible, with the constant shifting in algorithms and user behavior? — it’s important for a marketer to have a clear objective and a way to measure the returns for that objective before a campaign even begins. While there may not always be enough information to truly connect every dot, marketers managing influencer campaigns should be armed with enough information to at least understand the effect the campaign is having on brand visibility or awareness.

Brands are continuing to shell out hefty amounts of their budgets to invest in influencer marketing. The industry itself is highly successful, even if no one can truly pinpoint exactly how successful. But as long as brands continue to invest in influencer marketing, those strategizing and executing the campaigns should always be seeking ways to measure effectiveness and plan for future investments.

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Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.