By Joe Gagliese, co-founder of Viral Nation, Inc.

Social marketing is quickly growing as an effective way to reach audiences across many platforms. Frequently, companies shift their focus from traditional advertising in hopes of reaching a specific target. Many worries, however, lie in the final stages on the campaign in terms of tracking, measuring and reporting.

My experience in co-founding an influencer marketing agency has allowed me to differentiate between real and fake social engagement. We've encountered a number of brands that work with influencers expecting colossal results and end up disappointed when influencers with a million followers generate less-than-impressive engagements and conversions.

How do I know if my campaign is successful? What do impressions really mean? Have we reached our objective? It is important to outline any objectives at the onset of your campaign. Whether it's brand awareness, growing social media engagement or conversion to sales, these factors need to be addressed. When it comes to social marketing, it's difficult to guarantee sales. However, there are other means of measurement that can indicate a change in behavior or attitude toward a brand or product, which can lead to conversions in the long run.

First, let's address how to measure social engagement.

What's Real?

Interactions are defined by engagement metrics such as video views, likes, comments, shares, reactions, clicks, screenshots and more. Unlike impressions, interactions indicate the decision to react to what the user sees, whether that entails clicking a video to view it on YouTube, liking a photo on Instagram, sharing a post with friends on Facebook or retweeting a message on Twitter.

The completed action is indicative of a response to something that denotes a real engagement. Included within the interactions umbrella, clicks are perhaps most representative of changes in behavior. With the proper tools, you can actually track demographic and geographic information from a single click, which can help with determining the success of your current campaign as well as more efficiently targeting your audience in future efforts. Furthermore, pairing your tracked link with dedicated discounts and promo codes with each influencer can even indicate purchasing actions.

What's Fake?

When using interactions as a unit of measurement for social, it is important to understand whether or not the engagement is organic or generated by social media robots. Relying on hashtags to gain attention can attract bots, which provide no value to your campaign. There is a way around this, however: When leveraging influencers, choose someone who reaches and engages with your target audience.

First, determine if the engagement is organic, and then ensure your target is aligned with their followers. Here is how to execute this two-step process: Engagement levels alone are a prime indicator of "real" or "fake" followers. You may be inclined to choose an influencer with the largest reach or highest number of followers. However, a large portion of these followers may have been purchased. Consequently, their follower-to-engagement ratio could be well under five-to-10 percent if, for example, a user with 100,000 followers receives fewer than 5,000 likes and comments on a post. This is not an effective use of your time and money.

Beyond the engagement levels, research demographic, geographic and psychographic behaviors of your influencer's followers to make sure you're reaching the right people. You can reach out to an influencer marketing agency with the tools to extract this data, or send an email to the influencers themselves who can provide you with these insights. Your target audience may be women ages 25-35 years old in the United States. That said, a 30-year-old female influencer living in New York may actually have a large following in the UK, for example.

Don't assume that influencers' follower bases are carbon copies. Conducting thorough research, choosing appropriate influencers, and generating authentic content is not an easy task and requires special resources to be completed effectively. Reaching out to a digital social agency with analytical tools can bring your social campaign to the next level and ensure your engagements are derived from an organic audience.

Joe Gagliese is the co-founder of Viral Nation Inc. and an industry thought leader on all things social and influencer marketing.

Published on: Oct 13, 2017