The Secret to Influencer Marketing ROI

Influencer Marketing holds the promise of exponential ROI, but many brands are left wondering if they get any return at all.

Based on our study of over 20,000 brands we’ve codified the strategies and metrics that drive influencer marketing success.


What we find is that the difference between winners and losers is a strategic one – winning brands approach influencers less as buyers, and more as mentors.

Brands which act as buyers operate in a transactional way, bringing nothing but money to the negotiating table.

Brands which act as mentors bring as much non-monetary value as they can. This starts with being confident in themselves – having a strong account ecosystem and content strategy that influencers are more likely to want to be associated with.

Mentor brands do three more things which differentiate them, and make successful influencer relationships more likely:

Firstly they meet influencers in ways which set them up for a healthy relationship. Specifically they avoid transactional platforms, which naturally lead to transactional relationships.

Secondly they invest in their relationships through helping influencers improve their content. Brands can analyse an influencer’s proposition, audience and content, and draw on broader market knowledge to make recommendations on how to improve.

Third and finally these brands measure quality, both in influencer screening and performance assessment (more on this below).


Mentor brands enjoy dis-proportionate returns because they spend less and get more. Not only are their campaigns more successful and authentic, but they leave influencers wanting to work with them again in future.

Through this process the brand becomes a stronger and more credible mentor. Money you can spend only once, but investment in knowledge and authority as a brand pays back again and again, in each new influencer conversation.

There has been a lot of coverage recently on the issue of fake followers. All brands would prefer that they didn’t exist, but this problem primarily affects the transactional end of the spectrum. Fake followers have little impact on the quality metrics which mentor brands rely on (below).

Measuring quality: Influencer screening

The first step of influencer screening is to define a scope. Considerations might include category, geography, size and #topic (e.g. influencers involved with Coachella).

The example below shows major Fashion influencers. This includes standard metrics on the left, and specific screening metrics on the right.

Taking the example of bellahadid we can see that she has strong earned engagement of 19M, but there are three causes for concern:

  • Comments per Like of just 0.35%. This indicates a superficial level of engagement from her audience.
  • Many different brands mentioned (27). Additional brands would achieve progressively less cut-through.
  • A “Grip” of previous partnership of 81. This means that her partnership posts perform an average of 19% worse than her normal posts, indicating a lack of value for her partners, and the likelihood that her audience is tuning out from these posts.

By contrast this data shows that kendaljenner’s fame is well justified. She leads on four of the metrics and doesn’t work with too many brands. When she does work with brands she delivers acceptable content, to partners like Off-White, Chopard and Hairfinity.

Measuring quality: Influencer performance

All mentions are not equal. If a mention is buried in a list of other mentions consumers are unlikely to notice it.

Therefore rather than looking at just inbound engagement, we recommend that brands look at Weighted Engagement. This divides engagement by the number of other brands mentioned, to give a more accurate picture of impact.

For example the chart below shows inbound engagement for Lancome. It shows that in mariale‘s posts mentioning Lancome only 18% of the weighted engagement goes to Lancome, i.e. that Lancome is just one of 5 brands mentioned:

This is an example of a multi-brand post from mariale, which Lancome should take care to discount proportionally:

NEW VIDEO 😍🎉 with thoughts you have at TARGET 😂🙈🎯 up on my channel 🎉🎉🎉 and here are the details for this make up look: ✨ @smashboxcosmetics primerizer ✨ @colourpopcosmetics liquid highlighter ✨ @smashboxcosmetics studio skin foundation 3.0 ✨ @lancomeofficial teint idole ultra wear concealer ✨ @itcosmetics perfect lighting magic wand ✨ @lauramercier translucent setting powder ✨ @benefitcosmetics Brow pomade 5 ✨ @urbandecaycosmetics Primer potion ✨ @toofaced clover a girl best friend palette ✨ @eylureofficial X @nikkiphillippi Lashes ✨ @tartecosmetics amazonian clay blush ✨ @buxomcosmetics big tease voluminous mascara ✨ @hudabeauty Winter highlight palette ✨ @maccosmetics lipstick retro matte liquid lip ✨ @kissproducts nails 💅🏻💅🏻💅🏻 #makeup #makeuptutorial #makeupartist #toofaced #toofacedcosmetics #udcosmetics #urbandecay #benefitcosmetics #urbandecaycosmetics #lauramerciertranslucentpowder #lauramercier #smashbox #smashboxcosmetics #smashboxsquad #tarte #mua #makeupbyme #hudabeauty #huda #maccosmetics #lancome #colourpop #colourpopcosmetics #buxom #buxomcosmetics

A post shared by Mariale Marrero (Mar) 💕 (@mariale) on

By following these principles any brand can become a more knowledgable mentor, and so improve their influencer ROI.