I Failed at My First Influencer Marketing Campaign on YouTube – But I Learned a Valuable Strategy

This is hard to admit: I failed at my first influencer marketing campaign on YouTube.

But boy, did it look great on paper. I had found the perfect influencer: He was a tech guy with 50,000+ subscribers and had multiple videos with more than 60,000 views. His price was a little high, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have my product featured in his next video.

We cut the deal, I sent him the product and a few weeks later he published his video. I thought it was fantastic. He followed my directions, promoted the product well enough and delivered his video right on time. The next few hours and days I constantly visited his video, excited to see the explosive growth in views, engagement and clicks to my link that was strategically placed at the beginning of the video’s description.

But nothing was happening.

The video failed to gain any traction.

Every frantic refresh over the next 24 hours led to the sober realization: I had failed. The video netted just over 1,000 total views.

What had happened?

I had only ever viewed the homepage of his YouTube channel. I never took the time to dive into what lied beneath.

Looking Past the Highlights

The homepage of a YouTube channel can be a lot like a friend’s Instagram feed: only the highlights, the perfect picture that can artificially inflate what their day-to-day life is really like. On a channel’s homepage, you often see three features:

  • An eye-popping cover photo
  • A well produced channel trailer or featured video
  • Curated playlists of its most popular videos

For example, here is a look at the channel homepage for 5secondfilms:

5secondfilms

And their curated playlists below the channel trailer:

5secondfilms-playlists

At first glance, there are some incredibly desirable metrics:

  • 400,000 channel subscribers
  • 150,000+ view channel trailer
  • Multiple videos with millions of views

But let’s head a little deeper, to their “videos” tab, and get a look at the performance of all of their videos in chronological order starting from most recently published:

5secondfilms-videos

This tells a completely different story. I see videos with more modest view counts. What is up here? Is 5secondfilms a sheep in wolves clothing?

No, they are a popular YouTube channel that creates engaging content that can go viral – but the majority of their videos don’t. I’d be thrilled to get a video with 30,000+ views, but their cost could be drastically altered by the picture their channel homepage paints. It’s important to be aware.

Weighting Views

The “videos” page of a channel is the best place to start determining the value of an influencer you are considering partnering with. From this page, I look for three factors that can give us a reasonable valuation for a partnership: mode, viralness and frequency.

Mode

Averaging an influencer’s views can lead to skewed numbers due to outlier videos with far more views than their other videos. To quickly get a baseline on how an average video from the influencer might do, eyeball the mode: the view number range that shows up the most. Returning to the 5secondfilms page, their last 12 videos have the following view counts:

  • 30,705
  • 47,021
  • 37,179
  • 41,056
  • 39,027
  • 39,286
  • 45,219
  • 50,085
  • 44,516
  • 107,147
  • 66,263
  • 11,407
  • 12,170
  • 233,558
  • 123,220

There is variance in these views, but the number that stands out the most is 39,000 to 45,000. The majority of their last 12 videos are in this range. This is a quick way to estimate the baseline number of views a video might get. It’s not perfect, but it is better than spending hours solving standard deviation equations.

Viralness

When videos fluctuate in views compared to the mode, it often is not that hard to figure out why. A quick look at two of the outliers:

cinco-de-mayo

This video came out on May 5th, Cinco De Mayo. The subject matter was relevant and topical, which most likely helped to contribute to the spike in views.

kickstarter

This video appears to be an advertisement for a Kickstarter campaign, and probably a departure from the traditional content of the channel. These types of videos will see far fewer views. Remember this when negotiating videos with influencers, it is important your product fits with their content and audience.

Frequency

YouTube videos have a shelf life beyond their initial run. It will vary from topic, but it is possible that a video becomes a relevant result for a popular search and will see its view count increase long after it was posted. When analyzing view counts of a channel’s latest videos, but sure to pay attention the frequency of the posting. A video posted 2 weeks ago will most likely have fewer views than a video posted 2 months ago, but might be on it’s way to being a better-performing video.

Determining True Value

If I could go back in time and use these tactics to analyze my first-ever influencer marketing spend that I highlighted above, I would have found multiple red flags. I would have seen that my “perfect” influnecer’s view mode was around 5,000 and not the 60,000 I saw on the homepage of his channel. I would have found that his videos had reached 60,000 views were reviews of the iPhone 6 that were all released in late September 2014. The iPhone 6 was released on September 19, 2014.

How did I not see it then? It seems so obvious now. His true value was probably around 5,000 views per video, with the potential to be more if I was able to place my product in a video of his about other trending tech topics. I paid for inflated numbers and saw little ROI compared to my initial spend.

I do want to note this is of no fault to the influencer himself. I didn’t properly understand my spend. As influencer marketers, it is our job to be aware of what we are getting into. I’ve read so many articles about how influencers are overpriced – maybe their authors were just like me in 2014, they didn’t fully understand what they were buying.

Scalable Solutions

When I share this strategy with my friends in the industry, I always hear the same question:

How is this scalable?

It’s a great question. It can be time consuming to develop a list of potential influencers and research their past videos and views.

Here at InfluenceLogic, we specifically developed software that allows you identify influencers and review their video data at scale. This software includes a few helpful algorithms that allow an easy look at how volatile an influencer’s performance may be.

  • Engagement Score – A measure of engagement an influencer gets on their videos
  • Consistency Score – A measure of an influencer’s recent videos and how likely they are to have similar view counts

We’d love to show you how we can help. We are always interested in talking to potential influencer marketers and see how we can help. Drop us a line if you are interested.

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