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When to Take Your Influencer Marketing from Spreadsheets to Automation

Two women transitioning their influencer marketing from spreadsheets to automation.

Marketers using influencers for the first time don’t need a full stack of automation tools. In fact, most influencer marketing programs start with spreadsheets. 

But how do you know when it’s time to go from spreadsheets to automation? Identifying this breaking point is easier said than done. 

In this article, we’ll discuss how you can establish your influencer program on spreadsheets and prepare for the day when you need a more robust influencer relationship management platform like GRIN. 

The GRIN marketing team recently launched its 0 to 100: Getting Started With Influencer Marketing series. In the first chapter, Ethan Frame from MVMT Watches and Katya Allison from GRIN discuss the critical first steps to take when setting up one’s influencer program.

According to Ethan, he started with MVMT in 2015 (a couple of years after the company’s inception) and “started managing some of the podcasts, search and display, affiliate channels, and this new budding category called ‘influencer marketing.’”

“We were pretty much just kind of sending out product [to influencers] to get content because we were poor. We had no money – we were bootstrapped.”

With the help of influencers on Instagram, MVMT noticed immediate results. By the time Ethan arrived, he knew that the company’s influencer program needed organization and direction.

MVMT represents one of a host of startups that scaled their business through the success of influencer marketing. But developing a mature influencer program requires a somewhat altered approach to other marketing methods. 

And like many of his marketing peers, Ethan reached a point when spreadsheets were no longer practical. That’s when MVMT made the critical decision to invest in influencer relationship management software, and Ethan hasn’t looked back on spreadsheets ever since.

Starting Out with Influencer Marketing

Successful influencer programs hone in on two things – relationship management and performance tracking. 

Resilient influencer relationships have the potential to increase your current revenue streams drastically. Additionally, keeping careful tabs on campaign results allows you to experiment with different approaches until you’ve built an immensely lucrative program.

What are Influencers?

Influencers are social media power users that have carefully curated an online community revolving around a particular industry, lifestyle, or set of values. Not only do they deliver reliable product/service recommendations, but influencers also possess a bit of celebrity status among their followers.

But most influencers are not actual celebrities. Many live relatively normal lives. Regardless of an influencer’s background, they all have impacted thousands with their social media creativity.

The chief advantage that influencers possess over other marketing tactics is that they are authentic and objective. Even as influencers endorse a particular product or service, audiences feel that the influencer cares more about shared values than they do about money or the brand.

Instagram has been long-hauled as the chief social space for influencers. But TikTok is quickly becoming a leading influencer channel, alongside YouTube and Twitter. 

Brands that partner with influencers work hard to nurture relationships with their influencers. The best influencer campaigns refrain from micromanaging their influencers. That’s because influencers are exceptionally creative when it comes to promoting a brand authentically.

How Much Do Influencers Cost?

There is no standard budget for influencer programs. If your business is working on a shoestring budget (as MVMT Watches had done in their early years), you will most likely be looking to send products or samples to influencers to test.

For lower budget programs, your best bet is to partner with Nano or Micro Influencers. Nano Influencers (1,000-10,000 followers) and Micro Influencers (10,000-100,000 followers) cost less than Macro, Mega, or Celebrity Influencers. They may even agree to work with you solely based on testing your product or service.

But if you have a larger budget and need wider reach, Macro (100,000 plus followers) and Mega Influencers (1 million-plus followers) might be a better fit. These influencers frequently are celebrities, professional athletes, or industry leaders. 

As your influencer program grows, you will be able to create the perfect mix of all influencer types with a dialed-in budget that you know will deliver the most substantial ROI.

What’s It Like to Partner with Influencers on a Marketing Campaign?

Influencer outreach begins with an email or direct message over social media. You will want to keep your outreach email concise and direct. In this stage of your campaign, you are looking for influencers to express interest in your brand.

For outreach email ideas, check out our Influencer Marketing Email Templates.

Once you’ve collected a team of influencers (these are your activated influencers), you can begin discussing your vision for your upcoming campaign.

Because influencers are experts at their craft, you will want their input. Allow them to offer suggestions or critical information about members of their audience. 

Once you’ve agreed to terms, you are ready to manage your first influencer marketing campaign.

Upon launching your campaign, you will need to establish influencer-specific tags, such as promo codes and referral links. These tools allow you to track campaign performance. 

You should remain in contact with your influencers before, during, and after a campaign. Diligent interactions with your influencers allow you to further track performance and troubleshoot influencer posts that may not have performed as well as you had hoped.

The more often you work with influencers, the easier it will be to develop deeper relationships with them and tweak your tactics for improved results.

What Kind of Results Should I Expect from an Influencer Marketing Campaign?

While influencers will undoubtedly increase sales, there are numerous other key performance indicators (KPIs) to keep on your radar.

For example, influencer marketing can drive traffic to your website. This KPI will improve your site’s SEO and create future customers.

Another common objective in influencer marketing is increased brand awareness. Influencers can enhance the value of each consumer touchpoint and shorten the buyer’s journey.

The average ROI for influencer marketing today is substantial – more so than for most other marketing channels. 

“Influencer marketing campaigns see a 6.5 times return on investment. That is, ‘businesses earn $6.50 for each dollar spent on influencers.’ These numbers are even higher for above-average influencers.”

But tracking influencer ROI requires you to look beyond that $6.50 and notice additional conversions, such as link clicks, swipe-ups, social media likes, ongoing user-generated content, and email subscriptions.

The more you can track, the better you will be able to measure your influencer campaign results.

Influencer Marketing Management with Spreadsheets

Influencer marketing is a data-driven marketing channel. If you don’t keep track of information, you risk losing enormous ROI.

First, you want to keep tabs on influencers. This step includes identifying potential influencers that might be a good fit for your brand and your activated influencers.

Next, you’ll need a way to measure engagement metrics. Automation tools like GRIN can extrapolate those numbers for you. But in the initial stages of your influencer program, you can calculate engagement metrics yourself.

Just because an influencer has a high follower count doesn’t guarantee that they’ve nurtured authentic relationships with their followers. Vanity metrics such as likes and follower counts can be manufactured in this day and age.

By dividing an influencer’s audience interactions (number of comments, shares, etc.) by the number of followers, you can identify those influencers most likely to generate the highest ROI. Consider using the formula below.

Engagement Rate = Post Engagements / Number of Followers

Lastly, you can use spreadsheets to record and compare influencer campaign results. After each campaign, you can reset your objectives, test new approaches, and measure your progress.

How to Set Up Influencer Marketing Management with Spreadsheets

Now that you have an idea of the kind of information you’ll need to track in spreadsheets, let’s discuss how to set up a spreadsheet infrastructure for your influencer program.

A CRM Framework

When creating your influencer relationship management (IRM) spreadsheets, it is helpful to think in terms of a CRM framework. That said, traditional CRMs do not integrate well with influencer marketing. 

Using spreadsheets to customize your own influencer CRM, you’ll save money and be sure to track all the data vital to your influencer program.

Monitoring Influencer Prospects and Outreach

Recruiting influencers is more effective when you keep track of who you’ve contacted, when you contacted them, and more.

Depending upon your industry and preferred social channels, you may have to reach out to several influencers before you get a response. Additionally, some influencers may not respond to your emails or direct messages right away.

Your first spreadsheet should assist you in keeping track of your influencer prospecting. Be sure to include columns for the following:

  • Influencer name
  • Email
  • Source (how you found the influencer)
  • When you made contact
  • How many times you contacted them
  • Whether or not the influencer responded to outreach
  • Primary social channel(s)
  • Gender
  • Influencer category (Nano, Micro, Macro, or Mega)
  • Industry (fashion, health and fitness, arts and crafts, etc.)
  • Engagement rate

As a disclaimer, the list above is not exhaustive. Common sense will often dictate whether or not you need to add columns to your influencer outreach spreadsheet.

Managing Activated Influencers

As you build your team of active influencers, you’ll need a spreadsheet to organize additional details for each. Among these details are:

  • Influencer handle (social media name)
  • Product code
  • Referral link
  • Attributes unique to the influencer
  • The team member assigned to manage each influencer relationship
  • Product sent or services offered for the influencer to test
  • Mailing address (if shipping product)
  • Shipment statuses

Again, this list is not exhaustive. You should frequently ask your influencers what they need to be successful. Err on the side of recording more instead of less. 

As you get more experienced managing your influencers, you’ll be able to identify which spreadsheet columns are superfluous to successful influencer relationship management.

Tracking Performance

Your final spreadsheet should help you track and measure campaign results. Among these key metrics are:

  • Influencer budget or cost
  • Date of the campaign (or date range)
  • How often promo code and/or referral link was used
  • Sales attributed to each influencer
  • Number of authentic engagements per post
  • Nature of engagements per post (likes, shares, comments, etc.)

It may also be helpful to include a notes section for each influencer and campaign. For example, you may have troubleshot a campaign with a particular influencer and experienced a notable boost in results mid-campaign.

At What Point are Spreadsheets Not Enough?

If, at any point in this guide, you’ve thought, “Wow! That’s a lot of information to keep track of,” then you’re correct.

In the early stages, using spreadsheets will do wonders to help you establish your influencer program. But once you are managing scores of influencers over several different campaigns, you’re going to reach the spreadsheet breaking point.

When your influencer program becomes too much to manage over spreadsheets, it’s time for your brand to invest in an IRM platform. Influencer-specific software like GRIN will automate most of the critical tasks listed above, saving you time and money.

When You Don’t Have the Internal Bandwidth to Manage Your Influencer Program

Keeping track of influencer spreadsheets can take hours. Each team member will only be able to manage a limited number of influencers before your influencer relationships begin to cool.

Influencer automation software will allow each team member to manage an exponentially higher number of influencers effectively. In some cases, one influencer marketing manager can oversee the entire program with the help of an IRM platform like GRIN.

When Your Programs Move Across Different Social Channels

If you’re like most brands, you can achieve more substantial ROI by using influencers from multiple social channels. 

Spreadsheets work well if you initially stick to one or two social media platforms. But once you’re ready to branch out, the right IRM software will allow you to scale your program smoothly across three or more social channels.

When You Scale Your Influencer Network to More Than 25 Influencers

Every influencer program is different. That said, most of our GRIN users agree that once you are actively managing 25 influencers, your spreadsheets may no longer be the best way to track information. 

When You Need to Add and Vet New Influencers to Your Influencer Community

As you gain experience recruiting and managing influencer relationships, you’ll want to employ new ways to vet new influencers. If you’re doing this manually, it often means that you’re spending hours performing “deep dives” on individual influencers.

When you’ve reached this stage, the right IRM software will provide you the same information without your team performing manual “deep dives.”

For example, GRIN will automatically track engagement rates and sort/filter influencers by type, industry, size, and more.

When Communication Surpasses the Spreadsheets and Gmail Threads

If you’ve been communicating with your influencers over email and social media direct messaging, it will be easy for information to fall through the cracks.

IRM tools like GRIN integrate with social media channels and your email inbox. That means that your influencer communication is centralized in one location.

When You Need to Fulfill Shipments and Make Payments from One Platform

Spreadsheets do not integrate with the latest in e-commerce software (like Shopify). In contrast, the leading IRM automation tools do.

When you find that your spreadsheets are not enough to help you fulfill shipments and send payments, it’s time for you to invest in influencer automation software.

When You Need to Consolidate Communication and Information onto One Influencer Management Platform

In addition to all the other details listed above, there are a host of other critical tasks and information that keep your influencer program afloat.

An IRM platform like GRIN, for example, provides templates for outreach emails and campaign briefs. It will also track your influencer posts, as well as follower responses.

Manually creating these templates and tracking the data will start to overwhelm you once your program is in full swing.

Conclusion: Identify When Influencer Marketing Software is Necessary to Scale

Scaling your influencer program isn’t just about increasing the number of influencers you work with. You are going to want to improve the quality of your influencer relationships. 

Influencer automation software gives you tools that spreadsheets can’t, and you will also have more time to approach your influencer campaigns with greater intentionality.

The point at which your spreadsheets make life too difficult to scale your influencer program is when you’ll know that it’s time to upgrade to IRM automation software.

This article originally appeared in the Grin.co blog and has been published here with permission.

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