YouTube Influencer Marketing: Why It’s Worth it & How to Calculate ROI
To fully understand the potential of influencer marketing on YouTube and why it is worth it for brands to prioritize in their marketing mix - we need to look at where it came from and why it was started in the first place. In YouTube’s own words, their mission is ”...to give everyone a voice and show them the world. We believe that everyone deserves to have a voice and that the world is a better place when we listen, share, and build community through our stories.”
YouTube is the original platform for creators and storytellers. Its sole mission, unlike social platforms, is to provide a place for people to share their video creations for public consumption. It became so successful at its mission, that it became the second most popular search engine in the world; second only to its parent company, Google.
So when asked about the “value” or calculating the ROI of influencers on marketing on YouTube specifically - we have to look at what sets it apart from other platforms frequently used by influencers.
Introduction to YouTube Influencer Marketing
YouTube influencer marketing - often called creator marketing - is the practice of brands partnering with influencers on the platform to create video content and promote their brand or products to YouTube users. The brands and the creators agree on a fee for the partnership which usually includes both monetary compensation and free products or exclusive access used to create the content.
In 2022, US marketers spent just shy of $1B on influencer marketing on YouTube* - approximately 20% of the entire amount spent by US marketers on influencer marketing on all platforms combined.
Benefits of YouTube Influencer Marketing
Partnering with influencers on YouTube is not nearly as seamless as running branded video ads on the platform. So why do so many marketers choose to produce content with creators either instead of or in addition to ads? It’s because of the unique benefits that brands realize from these partnerships.
- 3rd party credentialing and credibility
- Borrowed equity
- Organic brand and product discovery
- Personal testimonials and recommendations
- Higher engagement rates
- Higher views and VTR
Challenges to Calculating the ROI of YouTube Influencer Marketing
While the benefits are many, calculating the direct ROI of influencer marketing on YouTube is very challenging for a number of reasons.
One study found that for every directly attributable conversion that a marketer could track through a bit.ly, vanity URL, or promo code - there were three more conversions resulting from the user going directly to the brand’s website, searching for the brand on a search engine and then purchasing on the brand.com or purchasing it through third-party marketplaces (like Amazon, Target or Best Buy)**.
The same study also found evidence that YouTube influencer marketing drives 2-5X more traffic directly to brand sites than previously measured. The range exists because brands in industries with longer sales cycles typically have a higher number of sessions prior to conversion relative to brands with shorter consideration periods**.
Establish Clear Marketing Goals & KPIs
The challenges associated with calculating a direct ROI should not dissuade you from establishing clear marketing goals and KPIs however. There are a number of best practices and measurement approaches that include proxy metrics to help brands better quantify their return on investment. 10 years ago many brands relied solely on anecdotal evidence to prove value. They would correlate the timing of specific influencer partnerships with an uptick in sales or declare success if a video went “viral”.
Today there are many new options to measure success and a custom influencer measurement framework should be established to align with your overall marketing KPIs and the metrics that most accurately indicate impact.
Measurement remains one of the biggest pain points for influencer marketing. The lack of a standardized measurement system across platforms and agencies has long hindered marketers’ ability to prove the return on investment (ROI) of their creator campaigns. In June 2022, the Association for National Advertisers (ANA) released the first set of guidelines for influencer measurement, including recommended metrics for measuring upper-, middle- and lower-funnel campaigns.*
While each brand will have a set of custom metrics tailored to their business, we recommend the following approach to measure the impact of YouTube creator marketing across the funnel:
- Total Reach
- On-target Reach
- Incremental or Unduplicated Reach
- Branded Search Volume
- Referral Traffic
- Social Sentiment
- Promo code
- Vanity URL
- Affiliate Programs
All of these metrics can be captured using a combination of the following types of tools:
- Native YouTube Reporting
- Website Analytics
- Social Listening
- eCommerce Analytics
- Search Analytics
Determine the Costs of YouTube Influencer Marketing
When negotiating a partnership with a YouTube influencer, we recommend you factor in a few types of costs:
This is the amount of money you will pay the influencer for their time, money, and effort to produce a video that features your brand. If the influencer is creating a dedicated video sponsored by your brand, this fee will be higher than if your brand is featured among other brands in the videos (ie a round-up).
Product & Shipping
Since one of the best ways to partner with an influencer to create authentic content about your brand is for them to experience your brand first-hand - it is critical that you ship them an assortment of your products. This is your time to shine - so it's best to provide some of your top products as well as an elevated unboxing experience. This should include custom gift wrapping and a personalized note.
This isn’t needed for most YouTube creator partnerships, but some productions require the influencer to travel to a shoot or a branded event. If you want the influencer to travel, it is customary to cover their travel costs.
Influencer Agency Fees
Most brands engage an influencer agency to help them conduct the outreach to YouTube influencers and manage the contracting and payments. These networks charge a fee on top of the base influencer fees. When you work with a network, they will provide you with an “all-in” price that includes the creator fees, travel, and agency fees.
One of the biggest mistakes that marketers make when calculating the ROI of influencer marketing is to directly compare it to the performance of paid media channels. While a brand’s paid media benchmarks can help establish some guardrails for success - they should never be compared to YouTube influencer marketing directly.
Arguably the biggest difference is that the cost of the creator partnership includes both content creation and distribution. When a brand runs paid media to distribute its advertising, they are not factoring in the cost to create those assets into its paid media reporting. Therefore an apples-to-apples comparison is not feasible.
Another difference is that the video asset will live on YouTube organically in perpetuity and continue to rack up views over time. There is not generally a flight date associated with creator videos like there is with paid media campaigns. This asset will continue to pay dividends to the brand long after it is posted.
With these key factors in mind, we recommend establishing your own influencer marketing benchmarks by platform and viewing it as its own unique type of marketing. Oftentimes, while the initial investment in a YouTube creator partnership is more than that of partnerships on Instagram and TikTok, the Total Views and CPV will be far more efficient than those platforms. There is also the added benefit of the positive organic search impact that is unique to YouTube alone.
If you use the recommended approach to full-funnel measurement above to create your own influencer marketing benchmarks, you should be well on your way to calculating an accurate ROI for your brand.
Advice from the Experts
“While many of the similarities between Radio DJs, Podcast hosts, and YouTube creators are not always top of mind for marketers, we believe that all three of these types of creators have an incredible ability to influence consumers and drive measurable business results. For YouTube specifically, we believe the real value lives in the unique storytelling capabilities of video that sits on top of the world’s second-largest search engine - that efficiently drives discovery of both brands and products”, said Kurt Kaufer, Chief Growth Officer, Ad Results Media
Wrapping it up
At Ad Results Media, we firmly believe in the power of creator-driven marketing and are here to help develop a custom approach to your YouTube influencer marketing programs. Reach out to our team of experts today for a consultation.