How to Select Influencers that Drive Sales

Dovetale Dovetale Sep 25, 2020 · 11 mins read
How to Select Influencers that Drive Sales
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The holy grail of influencer marketing has always been connecting sales and creativity. While there isn’t a silver bullet, we’ll breakdown some of the most important metrics that have driven sales for our customers using Dovetale.

There are a couple of ways to think about direct sales and marketing with influencers. Some teams play the long game. They develop strong relationships, give creative control to influencers, and create strong advocacy moats around endorsement that eventually leads to sales. I’m generally inclined to say that if you’re a direct-to-consumer brand you should always be building relationships with influencers even if you’re not planning to do sponsored activations or engagements. That’s because they have a direct communication line with your potential customers. That being said, there are so many questions marketers have. How do you measure sales? How do you optimize for influencers that will drive sales? How do you model lifetime value as a result of an influencer derived sale? In this post, we’ll construct a framework that will help you narrow down results and ensure you’re looking at the right metrics when selecting influencers to prospect.


Any great process has to involve a standard way of measuring results. In this case, we’re talking about dollars and cents, but there are also derivative ways to measure sales. We’ll focus on 3 methods: affiliate sales, sales/ post reach overlap, and surveys.

Affiliate Marketing is pretty basic. Your marketing team will send a dynamic tracking code or link to an influencer allowing customers to receive a potential discount and a commission. When an influencer drives a sale you will know because the tracking link will report back any affiliated sales. Teams can use tools like Dovetale, Refersion, Everflow, and ShareASale to track these types of interactions.

Sales and post reach overlap is a much more crude way of quantifying sales, but it’s still possible. This approach feels more like data insights and research than a definitive way of measuring sales, but it’s still effective to some extent. Here’s how it’s done. Teams take their sales data and overlap it with their reach data on social media including labels when influencers have posted for you. If you see a spike in sales during the period of the post, it’s likely a result of an influencer post. The tough part about this method is that when you’re posting with more than one influencer in the same period, it’s tough to see which one drove the sales. Perhaps it’s also the combined effect of having them all post at once. You won’t know unless you run some experiments.

Surveys are also pretty crude, but the industry has relied heavily on this method for years. Teams need to be diligent and organized, ensure they are representing data appropriately and following up at the right time. There are several execution strategies for surveys such as running ads with surveys in them or getting a cohort of people that represent a statistically accurate sample size. This method takes a lot of time and money compared to others but can deliver more insights and help with the process. If you’re planning to do a survey, it’s recommended that you survey the cohort before and after they have been exposed to the ad. Ask them questions about the creative, the brand, and if they are more likely to purchase now. In general, survey’s are tough to get right, so if you’re not familiar with the psychology around them, test questions with friends and check out some of the resources online around good survey construction.


Now that we know how to measure results, let’s dive into how to select influencers that drive meaningful sales.

Finding the Right Platform

The first thing you’ll need to think about is where your buyers are. For example, if you’re selling a video game or gaming-related product, you might think that YouTube or Twitch is a great destination and you would probably be right, but from our research, we have found that only low-cost products show direct ROI on Twitch. This makes sense because gamers are already subscribing and tipping nominal amounts on Twitch. Meaning, they are receptive to paying for things under $20. Compared to YouTube, where the audience is a little bit older and the content is more evergreen, it’s easy to see why YouTube is the king of influencer marketing. YouTube is always a good default for any brand collaboration since it indexes well on Google and people generally look up product revues, recommendations, and guides.

Instagram is great for content at scale and particularly for fashion clients. If you’re looking for sales resulting from influencers we would recommend connecting your store directly to Instagram. Instagram Shopping is a nice way to reduce friction during the buyer experience and will help improve your return on investment.

If you know exactly what your audience looks like, Twitter can be a helpful platform, but buyer audiences aren’t really there compared to Instagram. Think of Instagram as a mall. You go there to hang out with your friends and when you pass by a window with something you like, you can jump into the store and buy it. The buyer psychology hasn’t changed, it’s just digital now. Twitter on the other hand is more like reading a newspaper. Not to say Twitter/ Newspapers/ Newsfeeds are ineffective for advertising, quite the opposite actually. If you’re impulse buying or have a product that could be purchased on a whim Instagram is probably the best place to focus your influencer marketing.

At Dovetale, we’ve seen some influencer activations on Facebook, but mostly for emerging markets and in combination with Instagram. Generally, CPG and DTC do well on Instagram + Facebook, but more advertisers are moving their influencer work to Instagram and TikTok after YouTube of course. TikTok is a great platform for influencer marketing, but one complaint has been how quickly content passes by. TikTok has the advantage of a new social platform because there isn’t as much competition and therefore it is easier to go viral. That being said, affiliate marketing still hasn’t been proved at scale on TikTok yet. Not to say that it can’t work, we just don’t have enough data. So, if you’re looking for a sure bet, start with YouTube, then engage Instagramers. After that, depending on your segment Twitch, TikTok, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and others are great ways to grow and optimize your programs. Some added questions to think about when choosing a platform are:

  • Is my audience older? (Facebook)
  • Does my audience have low disposable income?
  • What category of product am I selling and where is there a large concentration of that audience?
  • Is my product expensive? Can people impulse buy my product?

Finding the Right Person

Storytelling and content are where most teams should start. Great content is shared and decisions are made based on recommendation and authenticity in the influencer marketing game. So, ensuring influencers can create great content for your product should be where you begin your journey in influencer selection especially if you’re trying to drive sales. Platforms like Instagram have a lot of talent and therefore less room for uniqueness. Ideally, you find influencers that are unique, love your product (or will love it if introduced), and can tell a compelling, honest story about why this is valuable to them. If they can demonstrate authenticity and value they should be able to drive conversions especially if they have a larger devout audience.

Here are a couple of tips:

  1. Pick influencers that have talked about your brand organically. You can easily find out which influencers have mentioned your on Dovetale by searching for those that have tagged yours on Instagram.
  2. Formulate a thesis for up to 10 different people and double down on the top performers.
  3. Find influencers that have done affiliate campaigns before, research their comments and engagements on those particular posts. Hint: look for people that have used the keyword “code” on Dovetale’s Discover tool.
  4. Find out which customers are purchasing from you that already have large followings.

The Best Metrics

Every successful influencer marketing team we’ve met has their own golden metric(s). Most people use engagement rate to predict success, however, there are a variety of other metrics teams can use to predict success further.

Sponsored Post %: Oversaturation can reduce buyer urgency. Depending on the account and content, this could be a red flag. Generally, teams look for influencers that have lower percentages of sponsored posts.

Comments: Looking at existing sponsored posts and the comments can give you and your team a glimpse into what to expect. Are people mentioning anything around purchase intent? Are they saying negative things about the creator or product?

Demographics: If your buyers are in the US and Canada, it makes sense to find influencers with strong engagement metrics in those areas.

Follower Growth Percentage: Smart influencer prospecting teams know that up and comers are cheaper, have less sponsored activations, and drive more engagement. Teams that look at this metric often have a lot more success because they find unique content before anyone else.

Followers: Of course, depending on your budget, negotiation skills, and/or relationship development skills picking your sweet spot is going to depend on how desired your product is and what your budget is. Generally, there are diminishing returns for sales when brands work with influencers above a certain follower range. Our recommendation is to work with influencers under 150K followers when you’re scaling influencer affiliate marketing.

Bots: This one is pretty straight forward. Looking for irregular activity and large manufactured audiences is a red flag and won’t drive conversions.

Touchpoints & Pairings

Teams should think about their influencer sales in combination with other marketing initiatives. In order to select influencers that drive conversions, you’ll need to think about other marketing programs you have going on right now. Here is a non-comprehensive list of marketing campaigns that can affect your influencer marketing:

  • Retargeting. Be careful not to overwhelm audiences with targeting and influencer marketing as it leads to mistrust.
  • Geo rollouts. If you’re partnering with localized influencers and spending in the same demographic there could be a compounding effect. Make sure to look for increased rates during these times.
  • Ad channel cross targeting. If you’re doing any sort of cross targeting, your influencer selection will likely change. For example, if you’re collecting an audience on Snapchat and retargeting them on Instagram you can double down on Instagram in order to ensure conversion or partner with someone on an experimental channel like Twitch to see if there is interest.
  • Video ads. If you’re running video ads, you have a unique opportunity to partner with influencers that create good video content. Video content generally produces higher ROI’s so look for influencers that post a healthy percentage of videos in their feeds if you’re looking at Instagram.
  • Quizzes and buyers’ guides. If you’re looking for conversions and sales. Quizzes need to be directly related to your product. For example, Bright Cellars incorporates their quiz and algorithm into their sales process to find you the perfect bottle of wine.
  • Direct mail. Aligning your influencer marketing and direct mail campaigns work pretty well with direct to consumer companies. Including samples and unique codes can see a compounding effect if done properly.


Picking influencers is just as important as the tips and data science behind buying behavior. Influencer ads in the first 30 seconds of the content perform 70% better than other parts of the content. Help your partners understand how important it is for consumers to see the brand quickly. This little trick will help most video-based influencer content.

Last-Minute Tips

We have many customers that focus on selecting the right partners and drive significant sales because of it. Some of the brands we work with sell over $10,000 in products in their first week just by selecting the right people to partner with on their affiliate programs. With enough diligence, you can scale your program as well. Here are some last-minute tips:

  • Encourage your affiliates to let their audiences know about code expiry dates
  • Have Affiliates encourage their fans to save their codes in their notes somewhere
  • Think about what other marketing channels you can pair with your influencer content to drive sales and conversions during the period.
  • Incorporate your influential customers as affiliates

Hope that was helpful!

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Written by Dovetale
Dovetale helps brands big and small create scalable Communities that drive revenue