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EMV: pros and cons for influencer marketing campaigns in 2024

Earned Media Value — EMV — has long been a preferred metric for quantifying the success of influencer marketing campaigns in monetary terms. But with the development of e-commerce and social commerce which offer more tangible metrics for campaign evaluation, is EMV still a relevant indicator for calculating ROI? In essence, EMV is an estimate of the amount of money that would have been spent on a traditional media campaign with the same impact. It was devised during the early days of social media and influencer marketing when the predominant objective of campaigns was building brand awareness. Back then, EMV was the tool by which to measure ROI success or failure.

Coins and Banknotes

But as social media and influencer marketing has matured, new, more concrete metrics have emerged by which to measure the impact of campaigns. E-commerce and social commerce, for example, provide marketers with a means of directly linking influencer campaigns to sales and conversions through promo codes and tracking links.

And in addition to likes and comments, marketers now have a range of engagement metrics such shares, saves, plays, and views to evaluate impact. Digging deeper, it is also possible to evaluate the sentiment behind engagement metrics for greater understanding of how the campaign and content was received by the audience.

Strategies that involve payment per post or a series of posts, and measuring engagement still dominate the industry, but as influencer fees rise and new platforms and formats force marketers to make budgets work harder, pressure to link influencer activities to tangible ROI is more intense than ever.

For that, analyzing the customer journey holistically, from awareness creation through to purchase and everything in between is a must. And in this case, is the aggregated EMV result still relevant? Read on to find out.

What is Earned Media and why do we need to put a value on it?

Earned Media refers to the visibility or exposure that a brand gains outside paid media advertising via a third party. In practical terms, earned media encompasses the impact of actions like word-of-mouth, consumer reviews, media coverage, or blog mentions.

In Influencer Marketing, engagement metrics such as likes, comments, clicks, or shares on an influencer post or campaign are considered to be earned media.

Earned Media Value aims to assign a monetary value to the aggregated sum of engagement metrics generated by an influencer post or campaign. Kolsquare, for example, provides the EMV for influencer posts, as well as aggregating it to provide an estimated EMV for the campaign as a whole.

Assigning a monetary value to earned media enables marketers to distinguish and compare earned media results to paid and owned media activities.

Why is EMV so contentious?

EMV is calculated by placing a monetary value on indicators marketers are already tracking, such as likes, comments, shares, impressions. Its credibility issues stem from a general misunderstanding of who calculates the value of indicators, how it is calculated, and what it then tells us about the impact of a campaign.

Confusion also reigns because there is no single standard for setting the initial indicator values upon which the calculation of EMV relies, and values can vary according to individual market conditions.

This means brands and tech platforms can customize EMV settings to suit their own purposes. In addition, social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube do not set or validate values for engagement metrics on their platforms.

All this leads to confusion and misunderstanding of what EMV represents, especially when marketers attempt to compare campaigns without having a uniform baseline.

That said, US marketing firm Ayzenberg Group’s Earned Media Value Index is recognized as the first index on the market, and widely accepted as a global industry standard.

Used by Kolsquare to calculate EMV in its platform, the Ayzenberg Index algorithm incorporates media buying data, reporting analytics of Fortune 500 companies, and third party research to arrive at values for individual metrics that are updated regularly in line with market fluctuations.

Thus, Kolsquare calculates EMV for KOLs and campaigns as follows, using the Ayzenberg Index as the base value:

EMV = The number of likes X the value of a like + The number of comments X the value of a comment + The estimated impressions of a post / 1,000 X value of 1,000 impressions

EMV: what does and doesn’t it tell us about the impact of an influencer marketing campaign?

EMV assigns an aggregate value to the KPIs you’re already tracking — likes, comments, shares etc. In doing so, it’s attempting to measure the nebulous concept of the ‘brand awareness’ generated by an influencer or influencer marketing campaign.

Being able to assign a monetary result to brand awareness generated by a social media campaign enables marketers to justify investments and activities. For C-level managers less likely to be across the day-to-day workings of an influencer marketing campaign, analysis of EMV from one campaign compared to another helps to inform decision-making.

“Often people who’ve worked in American companies love this KPI because it speaks the same language as advertising; you’ve got €50,000 – €100,000 a year for influencer marketing and EMV is great because opposite that, it shows you’ve earned X-amount with your campaign. Where it is useful is not to use it as a one-shot metric but to compare how well different campaigns have worked,” Omnicom PR Group Head of Digital and Influence Anne-Laure Barieraud told influencer marketing professionals at the Influencer Marketing Klub in Paris recently.

“[But] in the last 10 years we’ve done a better job at proving that influencer marketing works. More qualitative KPIs can tell us if we’ve had an impact on purchasing behavior, on the audience and perception of the product. It goes further than EMV.”

Those who dispute the value of EMV as an indicator argue it is popular because it provides a simple answer to a complex question, allowing marketers to draw concrete conclusions when there may not actually be any.

Detractors also argue that EMV does not measure the variety and tonality of interactions, or consider the difference between a spontaneous message and an advertisement.  

“Moreover,” warns the French Union of Public Relations Specialists, “this method consists of artificially attributing a market value to the spontaneous reactions of an audience. It’s the digital equivalent of the Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) which tried to assign a market value to an item by comparing it to the value of advertising space.”

EMV: one metric among many. Use it wisely

But EMV is just one indicator in a range of many that can be used to draw conclusions about the performance of an influencer or influencer marketing campaign. Its value as an indicator resides in how it is applied to the reporting and analysis process.

As with any influencer marketing campaign, the first, crucial step is to establish your campaign goals; if sales or conversions are the goal, EMV is perhaps not the most important indicator for measuring performance.

But if generating awareness and reach, or competitor benchmarking and analysis is the goal, EMV can be a useful aggregator.  

Secondly, and equally importantly, transparency around the baseline calculation of EMV is paramount. As is ensuring all team members — internal and external — are working off  the same baseline values and calculations. Anything less will render comparable analyses unreliable.  

So to EMV or not to EMV? Let’s give the last word from Kolsquare Founder and CEO Quentin Bordage.

In an ideal world, one day the industry will have a standardized method for calculating EMV that is validated by the platforms,” he says. “EMV is not perfect, but it’s the only relevant aggregated indicator. Valuation of engagement can be challenged and personalized, and calculation should be more transparent in the market to allow comparison.”

About Kolsquare

Kolsquare is Europe’s leading Influencer Marketing platform, a data-driven solution that allows brands to scale their KOL Marketing strategies and implement authentic partnerships with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders). Kolsquare’s technology enables marketing professionals to easily identify the best Content Creators profiles by filtering their content and audience, and to build and manage their campaigns from A to Z, including measuring results and benchmarking performance against competitors. Kolsquare has built the largest community of influencer marketing experts in the world, and offers hundreds of customers (Coca-Cola, Netflix, Sony Music, Publicis, Sézane, Sephora, El Corte Inglés, Lacoste, …) the latest Big Data, AI and Machine Learning technologies to drive inspiring partnerships, tapping into an exhaustive network covering 100% of  KOLs with more than 5,000 followers in 180 countries on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. As a Benefit Company, Kolsquare has been pioneering Responsible Influence by championing transparency, ethical practices, and meaningful collaborations to inspire change.

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