In the social media business, everything revolves around keeping your followers engaged. Revenue streams like sponsorship and advertising depend on metrics: share of voice, number of followers, activity volume, and other measures of influence. Excited followers translate into better statistics and more effective monetization.
Quality content is important, but without owning your data you risk slowing your channel’s growth. Data is the surest path to understanding followers. To engage them, you first need to know who they are and what appeals to them about your brand.
Marketing execs are looking for influencers
Social media influencers are undeniably the future of advertising. With the flood of product choices available both online and in brick-and-mortar stores, consumers can get overwhelmed. They want a personal recommendation from someone they feel they can trust.
Social media influencers have come to fill that role. As long as influencers choose their advertising and promotions carefully, consumers respond to their endorsements. 71% of consumers report that they’re more likely to make a purchase based on a social media recommendation and that a negative review by an influencer turns them off a product.
The beauty industry is a great example of this trend. 86% of the most-viewed beauty videos on YouTube were made by influencers instead of the brands themselves. The watch-rate has risen more than 65% year over year and shows little sign of slowing down.
Channel loyalty and trust creates a profitable environment for companies. For every dollar spent on influencer marketing, businesses see an average ROI of $6.50. Results like this inspired 86% of marketers to use influencer marketing in 2016.
It all adds up to one truth: companies want to sponsor influencers. They’re searching out voices to carry their message to consumers. To attract them- and their money- you need to demonstrate that you have the knowledge to be that voice.
Owning data is key
Data is the most neglected resource influencers have. Everyone tracks hit counts and pageviews, maybe broad follower demographics as well. Numbers like this
don’t tell you much about your followers, though. All you know is that someone liked your page or started a video. Modern analytics can tell you so much more about how your fans interact with your content.
Consider that new page like. There are stable, proven analytics available to answer important questions about that follower right from the start, including:
Who is this person?
How did they get to your page?
What did they do there before clicking follow?
Is there a post that nets the most new follows, or one that makes people unfollow?
How many of your followers recommend your page to their friends?
How long on average does a follower remain a follower?
Social media sites offer a variety of useful analytics. YouTube has been expanding the data they collect on viewing habits. Facebook allows page holders to track activity by day of week and time of day. Instagram measures hashtag performance and engagements per follower. These metrics provide valuable insight into what excites your fanbase.
When you rely entirely on tools offered by social media, however, you aren’t truly “owning data”. There are three major reasons this is a risky idea.
1. You’re at the mercy of social media platforms.
Ask any YouTuber and they’ll have horror stories about technical glitches. Maybe it was videos failing to appear in a subscriber’s newsfeed, or maybe they were unable to set customized thumbnails for a week. Either way, these glitches negatively impacted their channel.
Now imagine that happening with your data.
Even when there are no technical issues, data may not be available. It sounds unfair, but social media platforms are under no obligation to share the data they collect from your followers with you. Data has been called the “new gold”, and owning data is a primary source of income for social media platforms. Influencers have to be content with the narrow slice of data social media does offer and be prepared to lose access to it if the platform changes their policies.
2. Cross-platform social media data is hard to handle.
Nearly every influencer operates across a number of platforms. The data you have will be coming in from different sources; you’ll have to go individually to each platform for any available data and correlate it yourself. This is tedious and not very productive. That time could be spent working on new content instead of gathering data by hand.
3. The rules of the game may change at any time.
“Adpocalypse”was an example of that. All of sudden, influencers who had spent years building their business on top of a third-party platform such as YouTube, were left with no income – for a period of time.
The lack of data shared by social media holds creators back from truly knowing their followers. Social media platforms are great to reach and grow an audience, but to monetize. More and more influencers and resolving this with their own personally-branded app. An app gives you full ownership of the data your content creates. You can decide what metrics matter to you and set up your dash to present it in one accessible place. As a bonus, ad payouts and other revenue streams from an app go straight into your pocket.
Data leads to engagement (and monetization!)
Companies want influencers who know their audience and are connected to them. The relationship with followers is what attracts advertisers, so build that relationship and the money will come.
Like any relationship, the creator-follower connection is nurtured by listening. You don’t have to scroll through every mention and comment, though. Data is the best way to “listen” to what your followers are telling you. Start by creating a follower profile that includes not only demographics (who your fans are and where are they from) but behavior.
When are they most most active?
How much of your fanbase is cross-platform?
What kinds of posts get the most activity?
Do people tend to close a video or leave your page at a certain point?
How many followers do you interact with through replies and likes?
What’s the return on fan interactions?
Who are your most engaged fans? How long do they watch your content for?
Once you have a handle on your audience, you can create content tailored to their interests. If 40% of your new followers one week came from an acapella duet series, you can promote those videos more aggressively. If you’re targeting Facebook fans with a “recipe a day” post but find it performing better on Instagram, it might be a good idea to restructure the campaign to take advantage of that.
A follower profile helps avoid pitfalls, too. Say a fast food restaurant approaches you to be a brand ambassador. The data shows your followers are deeply invested in healthy living and the highest share rates come from fitness tips. Taking the restaurant on as an advertiser could damage your reputation among your most dedicated followers (unless, of course, the advertiser wants to promote new healthy menu items).
As an influencer your reputation in one of your greatest assets. Data will keep you steady in the balancing act between making money and engaging followers, so keep your eye on it.
Companies are actively looking for influencers with a dedicated follower base who trust their judgement. Own your data, use it to understand and serve your audience, and you’ll be a solid position for successful monetization.
In short: study your followers like it’s your job – because at your level, it is.