A client asked why I recommended paying more money for an influencer on YouTube with 1,000 subscribers than someone with a massive and more engaged following on Instagram. Both influencers had similar audience demographics, but I insisted we pay more for the YouTuber who is smaller.
The answer is simple, potential profitability and sustainable company growth.
If a client’s goal is a short burst of sales and to get branding then the Instagram influencer would be more valuable. This client’s goal is profitability, scalability and company growth. That is why the YouTube influencer won.
Below you’ll learn how our agency looks at the platforms and the factors used to determine where money and product goes when the goal is revenue growth and financial stability. I also include some tips at the end on how to evaluate the influencer as well as some tips mixed into the section by channel.
Note – If the goal is branding, to create buzz, or to build awareness (think of needing an online reputation fix or getting 1,000 new customers in a couple days to make investors happy) then the chart below is NOT the correct one to use. This post and chart is for companies looking to grow and build sustainable revenue with influencers.
Which Influencer Platforms Are Worth Spending Money On?
Here’s a pretty chart I spent a bunch of money on. If you like the infographic then please share it or use the embed code to place it on your own website or blog.
It is the foundation for the checklist our agency uses when working with influencer campaigns and the client’s goal is long term company growth, profitability, and a positive ROAS.
The value scale uses 1 as the lowest value and uses 10 as the highest value. To get the number we use multiple touch points including if the platform:
- Has a clickable link
- Has a content shelf life over 1 week
- Has an infinite shelf life
- Can have content go viral 1 year later with ease
- Offers a search engine that is used (algorithmic results)
- If that search engine requires freshness or not
- If that search engine has an ad platform that shows volumes and engagement
- Has an ad platform to boost content or advertise against content
- Keeps content in existence for more than 2 months or deletes it
- Provides analytics
- Bonus if there is historic data
Here’s our thought process behind why each platform got ranked the way it did.
But first, here is a call out from the YouTube section:
The key is to build a relationship and not treat your influencers like they work for you. Once you both respect and appreciate each other, that is when the real value comes in and your company can scale with their help.
Instagram is a 4. The content has a very short life, there are no easy to click links (unless the influencer is doing stories which disappear pretty quickly) and you likely need to provide a coupon which lowers your margins. If the code gets submitted to coupon websites then it is likely going to fire sales back to the influencer breaking your tracking, data and reporting.
Engagement and post relevance is also important with Instagram influencers.
If the person gets a lot of real engagement (not pods) on product pitches (not lifestyle shots) then there is more value for your company growth wise. Their audience isn’t just there to emulate and be inspired by them, they want the products the influencer is promoting too. That is value adding revenue wise for a brand.
Overall Instagram is not a go-to for revenue campaigns with a goal of company growth. Instagram is amazing for branding and you can get some sales in the first few days so don’t count Instagram out.
YouTube gets an 8 on the Value Scale. There are massive amounts of generic and branded searches that can influence your customers (brand + review), most of the content has a short shelf life up to 1 or 2 weeks but if optimized properly can last for years.
If the YouTube videos produced by the influencer are not review videos (your brand + review in the title, description and as the theme) and the YouTube videos are properly optimized for solutions that have search volumes, the shelf life has roughly infinite potential making it incredibly high value.
YouTube can have a video go viral across other social platforms which drives backlinks to your channel and your website and can be a valuable PR tool. This boosts SEO and media traffic and company visibility. YouTube videos appear in many Google searches driving tons of new exposure especially when you cannot optimize in SEO for these phrases with your website.
YouTube also offers an easy-to-use ad platform which shares search volumes and can track revenue. This plays well into helping your YouTuber influencers optimize.
The downside is the influencers get very particular about optimizing their videos. Many want to do reviews of the brand vs. solution oriented videos. The key is to build a relationship and not treat your influencers like they work for you. Once you both respect and appreciate each other, that is when the real value comes in and your company can scale with their help.
Bloggers (with niche authority)
Bloggers that are niche tend to attract a highly relevant audience, but don’t always build as large of an audience. Their social footprints tend to be hyperfocused bringing in quality traffic from Pinterest, IG, FB and they can optimize in traditional search engines like Google, Bing and YouTube. Many will also have newsletter lists to drive short term boosts in sales as a bonus.
Niche bloggers have a major advantage with SEO. They can rank for “The best….” and question based searches more easily than you as a store or service. This is because they are an independent third party who can be trusted to do an honest or unbiased list, product comparison or review. This ability gives niche bloggers with authority a really high value score if they’re willing to optimize properly.
You don’t want bloggers to do a review of your brand unless if your goal is building long term business. Brand reviews optimize for people that already know about you. Brand + review blog posts can help conversions in the mid-funnel of the customer journey, but they don’t bring you top funnel traffic. That is the catch.
If the blogger is willing to work with you on everything from keywords to code fixes like schema, internal links and tagging, they are an 8 on our list. If they are not willing to work with you on these items, then they are a 4 or 5 depending on how authoritative their blog is. More often than not I give them a 5 rather than a 4 because there is a good branding aspect to working with many of these bloggers.
Bloggers (no niche authority)
Bloggers that have general lifestyle content (recipes, kids products, books, frugal living and everything under the sun) have value. But they do not add as much as the niche sites, especially if they do not have as much ability to rank in the search engines for phrases in your industry.
Their audience is going to be less relevant to your products and services because it is a mix of content, but you can still get sales. If the site has a ton of authority then they could likely show up for massive queries like gift terms. This is where the value is.
Non-niche bloggers with authority have the ability to bring in the generic phrase traffic which may be lower converting but much higher in volume. If these bloggers are willing to work with you on everything from content to code, then they are a solid 6. If they are not then they drop to a 4.
Second tier tubes (PornHub, WeedTube, etc…)
The volumes here (excluding the porn sites) are much lower than YouTube, but the niche content makes the traffic highly targeted. The regular subscribers and viewers are on these channels for a specific purpose making the influencer incredibly valuable to your company. The most important thing is to evaluate the actual reach of platform.
Video platforms tend to keep content live for a long time and feature old content longer. They also factor in new content giving influencers with a mix of old and new content a chance to dominate and get continuous traffic. Numerous second tier tubes have “related videos” that can drive a ton of click through from the most popular. This gives both your influencer and you a big opportunity to succeed. But there is also a freshness aspect on many video platforms meaning the growth can and will likely slow over time or within the first couple weeks.
Because of the long shelf life of content and hyper-targeted purpose of the audience, tubes and video platforms get a 5 for low traffic platforms and 8 for high traffic platforms.
Although the ad platform is coming along nicely from what I hear, the life of a snapchat story is 24 hours. Then it supposedly “disappears”.
Because the content disappears you have to hope the audience shops immediately and that you can keep the customer coming back for years on end. Customer loyalty for your brand is the most important thing here. If you have a one and done product or service then you must make a profit after influencer fees on the push. Many times you’ll also need to provide a coupon code to track sales which reduces your margins on at least the first purchase.
With the short lifespan of the content and the need for a long customer life, snapchat gets a 2 if your goal is to grow a sustainable stream of revenue. However snapchat can be amazing to build buzz and branding. If that is your goal then don’t count it out.
This is a very interesting one. There is a massive audience, but that audience may be too young for your products or to own a credit card and be able to shop. The audience may also be overseas and foreign vs. able to buy and use your products. But the fans are loyal and will likely take an action if the influencer has influence.
Unlike snapchat, TikTok videos can last indefinitely, but they are limited to 15 seconds with the ability to connect four together for a 60 second play time. Videos can be rediscovered and shared on other platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram giving them more reach.
Because of the die hard fans, longevity of the content and ability to share to other platforms, TikTok gets a 5 on my scale. If you can guarantee the audience is a match for your customer base and fans will source or reference the influencer’s content months later, then the platform moves up to a 6 or 7 because the influencer is doing something mention worthy. This rebuilds the exposure. The short play times and need for coupon codes is why it doesn’t go 7 and higher consistently on the value scale.
Facebook is only a 5. Organic reach has crumbled over the years and the shelf life of new content is up to 5 days from my experience. Facebook groups have more value because they tend to be more engaged than a FanPage, but they are also behind closed doors so it is harder to get feedback and learn from the group’s comments.
One of the largest benefits to Facebook is the targeting of the ad platform and the older more affluent skew of the audience. You can more easily reach people with disposable income and bring in longer term customers.
The ad platform can bring new life to your previous promotions once the shelf life because content can be recycled. This “boosts” Facebook from a 4 to a 7 on our scale. You can also gain exposure for multiple media types like text, images and video.
However the ability for Facebook to close a group or a page and without warning takes it down from a 7 to a 5. If Facebook’s algorithm would help show a page or group’s content more frequently and increase the shelf life to show for a week, it would move up higher. And if the risk of losing the entire audience overnight wasn’t always looming it would be a solid 7.
I struggle with Twitch. The audience is there to be entertained and learn about gaming. I have seen sales come through in some niches, but it is hit or miss. It is hard to place links and the streamer needs to mention you with a tracking code multiple times to build awareness. They likely also need to have and demo the product to verify they use it.
The content currently lasts 14 days or 60 days before it is automatically deleted giving it another downgrade on our value list. Twitch gets a 3 or 4 depending on how much engagement and loyalty the streamer has.
Pinterest influencers are interesting. The ability for massive volume is there and there is some intent to shop. The shelf life can easily be a year for quality audiences and Pinterest staff have said at conferences that Pinterest domain authority is a factor. If you have high level and trustworthy influencers sharing your website, this can lead to overall success for your company on Pinterest. Pinterest is a 5 to a 7 depending on actual influencers engaging with your website and specifically within your niche.
Bonus tip – When choosing the influencer, look at the board you will be placed on. Check to make sure there are board subscribers and look at the 20 most recent pins. If these pins are not getting engagement and taking off then this is not where their exposure and audience are. You should request to be on the boards with engaged and active subscriber bases.
How to Evaluate an Influencer for Long Term Revenue Growth:
Now that you know how we look at the social networks, it is time to find out who has engagement.
Here is what we look for.
- Pick three somewhat older posts, shares or pins at random that are not reviews and are at least 2 weeks apart.
- Reviews can show up for “brand + review” in Google, Pinterest, YouTube, etc… and inflate numbers because they are a touch point for that brand. This touch point is not the influencer’s audience, it is the brand’s audience and not the influencers subscribers. That is why you should not use reviews as your choices.
- Check the date the content was published and make a note of the total engagements (comments, likes, views, shares, etc,,,)
- Check back 3 days and 1 week later and look to see if the content is still picking up more engagements. This means the algorithms like it and it could be replicated for your company.
Now you have an estimate of the shelf life of the influencer and their platforms so you can plan your strategy. This can also help you to plan how long a coupon code should be live to track sales and how to long to wait before reporting sales back to your boss, your clients or the influencer.
One important thing to remember is you may have someone that has influence across multiple platforms. When this happens you’ll want to weigh the value of the accounts on each and then combine them.
Someone with smaller followings on the platform you are focused on may have the ability to optimize really well elsewhere and can be much more valuable than predicted. These people are likely 2X or 3X the value of someone with a massive following on a churn and burn platform like Instagram or Snapchat.
And that is how we look at influencers for long term growth and consistent revenue. But again, the shorter platforms do serve a purpose. Sometimes you need to fend off bad PR. Other times you need to create buzz or get quick bursts in sales. For these campaigns SnapChat, TikTok and Instagram are amazing and their influencers are some of the best you can work with.