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, President and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations. He has overseen the company's rapid growth and expansion to the Inc. 500 list, as well as provided counsel to hundreds of companies, including members of the Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and Forbes 400. His work spans global interests, corporate entities, high-profile individuals, regional business entities, government agencies and academic institutions - both on routine public relations matters and extremely sensitive issues. One of the foremost public relations experts in the U.S., Torossian is known for his aggressive, results-focused orientation, as well as his close working relationships with members of the media, influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities. At 5W Public Relations, Torossian's client experience has included programs for Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, Barnes & Noble, Cantor Fitzgerald, IHOP, McDonald's, Evian, EDS, VeriSign, XM Radio, Seagram's, The Loews Regency, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, Marriott Hotels, Vail Resorts, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, the Government of Israel, and others. Referred to by The New York Post as a "publicity guru," by Fox News as a "high-powered PR CEO," by Tyra Banks as a "crisis management guru," and by CNN as "a leading PR expert," Torossian is regularly featured in and quoted by the media, including by CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, and others. CBS National News said "Ronn Torossian knows spin," and a New York Times feature story on Torossian referred to him as "The consummate hard-driving, scrappy NY publicist." Earlier in his career, Torossian was a Vice President/Group Director for one of The InterPublic Group's (IPG) largest PR agencies, where he was responsible for significant client growth and successful client programs, including work for Clinique, Fox News Channel, DHL, Hard Rock Café and others. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Torossian was named to the Advertising Age "40 Under 40" list, PR Week's "40 Under 40" List, is a regular lecturer at universities and conferences, a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of numerous non-profit organizations.