Influencer Marketing: Why EMV needs to go…

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Having spent over a decade now working in media measurement, I’m increasingly asked by clients for my view on using the latest vanity metric du jour, Earned Media Value (EMV), to measure influencer campaigns. For those unfamiliar with the metric, it’s provided by a number of tools as an attempt to provide a dollar value to ‘earned’ social media content (eg this Instagram post mentioning us is ‘worth’ $500).

The concept may sound familiar – EMV is essentially a born-again version of Advertising Value Equivalents (AVE) from the old PR world, which attempted to provide a cost equivalent to buying that medium or reach through advertising. It’s recently raised its ugly head again as influencer marketers look to justify their efforts and prove their impact.

Thankfully, AVEs have (finally) been dismissed as meaningless and misleading metrics by all respected measurement bodies, but I’d like to explain why I believe their new incarnation as EMVs also has no place in a forward-thinking influencer programme.

  • Fundamentally, the reason you’re doing influencer marketing is because you know authentic brand recommendations from trusted individuals carry significantly more weight than an advert – so why undersell yourself by comparing with this old metric?
  • EMV is a black-box metric with each vendor having its own methodology for calculating. This not only makes it hard to compare, but also to understand – how am I supposed to improve on this KPI and my brand performance if I don’t know what it is?
  • The dollar value is incredibly misleading as it has no connection to ultimate ROI or sales. Ask yourself, how has this post valued at $500 brought $500 of value to my brand? 
  • Obviously influencers do sponsored content and so it is possible to put a dollar cost against an Instagram post for example. But just as no-one has ever paid rate-card prices for buying media in the offline world, the same also applies online. An influencer’s fees can vary massively based on how much she wants to work with that brand, what the campaign is, and ultimately what’s in it for her.
  • Just as every campaign has different goals, so should the KPIs and measurement. Sometimes you may be looking for awareness if it’s a new product launch, sometimes you may be looking for engagement amongst key niche groups etc. How does a blackbox dollar number fit into your goals and help you measure this performance?
  • EMV is also a purely quantitative metric. It doesn’t take into account the sentiment of a post, other competitor mentions in a piece, or whether your key messages are there. Suppose an influencer posts a negative review of your product – would you still count this as being worth $500? Finally, EMV also doesn’t take into account your target audiences and whether or not these have been impacted.

EMV has become popular because it provides a simple answer to a complex question. The reality is that there isn’t one simple magic silver bullet KPI that can be applied to all brands, industries, and even individual campaigns. This is why we built a measurement framework, based on the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication’s framework and adapted it to influencer marketing to help brands set goals in advance and then measure their performance periodically, whether after a campaign or more regularly as monthly benchmarks.

EMV is usually used as a rear-view mirror tactic after campaigns, a way of showing “look, didn’t we do well?”, or to show how a brand is benchmarking against a competitor. As ever, the most important thing we can take away from a measurement exercise is how can we learn from this, and how can we adapt our strategies and tactics next time round to ensure we perform even better?

And now if you’ll excuse me, as the value of this blog post is apparently $375, I’m going to go and treat myself to a nice spa break. Oh, wait.

Bio: Sam has over a decade’s experience working in digital media and media measurement, and is currently the specialist in the European beauty sector at Traackr. He is externally accredited by the Association for the Measurement and Evaluation Of Communication (AMEC).

Want a better influencer marketing metric? Try VIT. Learn more in this article comparing VIT to EMV

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