It’s Friday night and your epic evening includes the couch and a YouTube video, where your favorite influencer mentions a new food-delivery app. Ten minutes later, you download the app and order food but don’t use the special URL or promo code. Historically, marketers would be unable to attribute your purchase to the video you just watched because you behaved in an “immeasurable” way outside the bounds of last-touch attribution metrics.
For too long, YouTube influencer marketing has been measured incorrectly — or, at least, terribly incomplete; it’s typically measured like a digital channel, where only direct link clicks (vanity URL, bit.ly or promo code) are measurable. This has left many user actions untrackable to even the most powerful brand measurement teams.
To make “untrackable” user behavior trackable, my agency commissioned a study from Jumpshot observing a pool of 149,608 anonymized users through clickstream data to see how users interacted with brand integrations run by three brand partners. We found that about 75% of conversions resulting from brand YouTube influencer marketing campaigns were not being tracked.
Can you guess how this happened? That person watching a YouTube video on Friday night either went straight to a search engine and purchased directly through the brand’s site or went to a third-party marketplace like Best Buy, Amazon or Target to make their purchase. “But what if they saw another ad that persuaded them?” you might ask. This study doesn’t merit the attribution of these conversions to multi-touch measures across the sales funnel, as most user actions occurred within the first 20 minutes of watching the video.
While this reveals even more validation for brands already using YouTube for influencer marketing, it also shows opportunity for brands that aren’t yet tapping into the platform.
How do you know if influencer marketing — especially on YouTube — is right for your brand?
Many marketers practice influencer marketing in some form, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should. If you answer “no” to any of the following, then your brand probably isn’t ready for influencer marketing:
• Have you optimized every single one of your other marketing channels (SEO, email, PPC, blog, ads, etc.)?
• Does your brand have flexible legal and regulatory controls over your creative and messaging?
• Are your branding and creative teams willing to give up control to an influencer?
If you said “yes” to all of the above and can say yes to everything on the following checklist, YouTube influencer marketing might be a good fit for your brand:
• Does your brand need to be explained in more than two words?
• Have you optimized static images that just don’t seem to be working as well as you thought?
• Is storytelling a key element to your brand strategy?
To those who said yes to the above, keep reading.
Why should I consider YouTube for my influencer marketing campaign?
Within the industry, YouTube is recognized but greatly underestimated. The industry is flooded with information about influencer marketing on Instagram. Many marketers mistake this as a sign to put their influencer budget behind Instagram alone, even when the platform is almost three times as saturated with influencers (830,000+ influencer accounts) as YouTube (347,000+ influencer accounts).
And Jumpshot data found that when it comes to ads on YouTube, influencer marketing conversion rates (2.7%) are five times higher than traditional pre-roll and mid-roll ad conversion rates (0.5%).
One of the reasons I believe there are fewer influencers on YouTube than Instagram is because of the time investment. A 14-minute video involving creative, unique storytelling that audiences can watch beginning to end as they would a show are much harder to produce than a static image or 60-second video muddied by algorithms. YouTube can be a great platform for brands that want to tell longer-form stories through creativity that appeals to specific niches of followers.
That said, I’d recommend brand representatives tapping into influencer marketing avoid taking complete control over creative. Audiences know when brands are selling to them, even through the voices of their favorite channel on YouTube. Let the creator do their thing. Ask them how you can support their video with more materials and let them use your product or service in a way it was not intended — simply, let go.
Our analysis found that for every transaction through a direct link, there were three more untrackable conversions. How can brands use this information to help optimize their campaigns?
Understanding your true conversion value is critical. If you don’t understand the power behind your channel, you’ll be unaware of when and how to optimize and support the channel.
Say you run an AdWords campaign in December. You keep it going through January but also decide to run a YouTube campaign with one influencer at the beginning of January. You see conversions from AdWords tracking in December and a similar level of conversions coming from your YouTube campaigns in January. You believe both channels are working effectively, maybe slightly below ideal. Then, all of a sudden in the middle of January, your AdWords conversions jump.
Your data analytics team tells you it’s time to put more budget behind AdWords, but your knowledge about the trackability of YouTube influencer campaign conversions tells you that those extra conversions are likely happening as a direct result of your YouTube campaigns, and the user is simply searching after watching and then purchasing. You now know that a consequential boost in AdWords budget isn’t necessarily the answer and that it might be more effective to use your budget to optimize your YouTube campaign.
Influencers are deeply connected and in tune with coveted audiences. Their true power comes from being seen as trustworthy and relatable by their audiences. As a result, it can be a powerfully effective tool in any marketer’s toolbox.
As more people look to YouTube to produce and consume entertainment, it’s imperative that marketers engage with the platform intelligently. Around 65% of influencer marketing budgets are set to increase by the end of 2019 alone, and influencer ad spend is projected to reach $15 billion over the next three years. With concrete data pointing to YouTube influencer marketing’s effectiveness, now is the time to optimize, and if nothing else, test. It beats a Friday night watching videos on your couch.
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