When Impressions Were King

Rumpled CFOs from time immemorial (or at least 1960) have raked their fingers through thinning hair trying to understand the value of “awareness campaigns”. CMOs, chin forward, lay out a dizzying buffet of data designed to fill you up fast, so you keep your seat, feeling guilty at whatever-it-was you just ate. Relief was on its way, though.

In 1994, AT&T had the first display ad with a clickable link, ringing up a whopping 44% click-through rate. At 9:05am the next day, delighted CFOs dashed down fluorescent halls waving the Wall Street Journal article under the nose of the skeptical CMO.

The end of the Great Impression had begun. Now what?

What’s The Difference?

It might be instructive to define the difference between reach, impressions, engagement, and conversion:

  • Impressions: potential views of a post from all of an influencer’s platforms
  • Reach: potential views from one platform – followers
  • Engagement: confirmed views, eg. Likes
  • Conversion: action on a post (eg. link click)

An important consideration of moving from an impressions or awareness KPI to  engagement is the inverse relationship of engagement rate and followers count.

We often tell clients that it’s “quality versus quantity.” High quality influencers, especially those in a niched mid-level sweet spot, typically have high engagement rates. But using them might mean missing your awareness goal of millions of eyeballs. 

This can be a profoundly important calculus to your campaign because you may be able to activate a mid-level influencer whose absolute engagement is higher than a big (expensive) macro influencer. And with a targeted mid-level influencer, you’re more likely to project to an audience who’ll be receptive to your campaign.

And for what it’s worth, here’s how we count engagements by platform:

Make sure to clarify this with your provider so you know what you’re getting and you can defend it to your boss! This is especially important because platforms are continually adding and sunsetting features.

The Platforms

Speaking of platforms, you may already realize they’re competing with you–and they act like it. With the exception of YouTube, gaining API or automated access, is nearly impossible. And even if you were to get access to Instagram or Facebook’s APIs, notifying you of changes is less important to them than remembering to charge their Tesla.

And remember platform popularity has a shelf life. Read Andrew Chen’s “Law of Shitty Clickthroughs” for some historical perspective. It does feel like Facebook and YouTube have pocketed the market though, doesn’t it? Staying on top of platform popularity, new features, and data access is critical for your subject matter expert status.

What Can You Measure Now

Bought into the end of the Impression Era? Great! So what can you do now? If you’re not using engagements as your key performance indicator (you will soon), prepare to lose the confidence of your internal or external clients. The “quality versus quantity” is an argument we’ve never lost.

Next, conversions. At this point, conversions are a nice-to-have metric. But here’s the important bit of information: every campaign we’ve had in the past three quarters had a conversion link and metric. You’ll of course want to use a shortened link for each influencer so you can track who did what for you. Make sure you check this daily unless you have your own shortener and unfettered access to that data.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Based on the demand we see, Instagram is at the top of the mountain, arms spread wide as if they own the world, which I guess they do. But like those beautifully composed and exuberant traveler posts, the edge is never far away. YouTube will continue to quietly dominate video, especially for complicated and expensive consumer purchases like phones and cars. Facebook, the kindly aunt of social media, is keeping it fresh with foodies and cooking, with some videos earning tens of millions of views. Snap? While anyone can add a link to a snap, getting wide distribution is tough. They’ll continue to excel with brand stories, which are easily the brand’s most effective way directly to a Gen Y or Z’s eyeballs.

How do you see the platforms evolving?



MATTR is the only full-service influencer marketing provider with detailed audience insights from PersonaMesh™. We go beyond demographics into psychographics such as values and interests so that your influencer campaigns align with your campaign targets.