Expert Tips for Mobile Influencer Marketing Budgets and Best Practices

Photo by Erik Lucatero on Unsplash

Influencer marketing isn’t a fad, it’s the future – or at least that’s what the finding of a new report from OpenInfluence suggests. After surveying 150 brand marketers, the team found that 64% planned to grow their influencer budgets in 2023, and 13% were dedicating at least $1 million. But even with impressive numbers behind the budgets, 29% of people still said selling creator marketing to upper management is tough. So we turned to Marion Balinoff, a performance-driven influencer marketing expert, for advice on how to get buy-in from managers and drive performance for influencer marketing for apps.

Hesitancy about influencer marketing for apps

Influencer marketing may not be new, but for many companies, it’s still uncharted territory, especially in the app world. “Everybody knows about influencers and creators, they know they get paid a lot, and they know it must be profitable for some advertisers, but they don’t really know how,” says Balinoff. “This is very different from traditional UA in terms of KPIs, pricing, and measurement and unless companies have an expert internally, that’s not an area on which marketers can be autodidactic.”

The app world is also incredibly KPI driven. Installs – and many other success metrics – are easily measured and for many, it’s hard to see how influencers can fit into that picture. “Influencer Marketing has never been as trackable as traditional UA campaigns on Google or Facebook,” Balinoff says. “But ever since IDFA, marketers are realizing they can’t track everything as they used to and I think that’s one of the reasons marketers are now turning more and more to influencer marketing.”

Making your case for mobile influencers

The key to success for almost any company initiative is buy-in. It isn’t all about power-points and projections, though. In fact, Balinoff suggests that the process starts long before you launch a campaign.

“Back when I was working full-time in a gaming studio, I personally spent months advocating – not to start launching influencer marketing campaigns but to allocate product resources to take our campaigns to the next level,” she says. “The game director didn’t believe it would be worth his team’s time and effort; he was the person I needed to convince. I wanted them to create a character based on an influencer, which would require a few weeks of development, and to accept having an influencer in the game.”

That’s an even tougher sell than simply putting a bit of marketing budget behind influencer campaigns. So how did she do it? The secret is starting small and incrementally increasing the ask.

“I started small, trying to prove the added value of having content related to the influencer. First, the influencers offered a character they chose from the game to the audience. Then, we named a character after an influencer. After that, we changed the colors and name to an already-created character. From one campaign to another, performance increased, up until the point they agreed to fully customize a character based on the influencer. Performance was so incredible, the Product team was then asking me when I could plan the next collaboration.” 

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. When you start small and are flexible, you can build credibility over time. “Whether you want to start testing influencer marketing or you’re trying to get it to the next level, back yourself up with data and examples from competitors,” Balinoff says. “I know this isn’t always easy to find, so you can always ask an influencer marketing expert!”

Tips for making the most of mobile influencer marketing budgets

So you’ve got a healthy budget for influencer marketing, now what? Well, there are a few things Balinoff wants you to take into consideration.

  • An increased budget doesn’t always mean better performance. “Seeing good performance while spending X doesn’t necessarily mean you can increase your spend and your performance will remain the same, exactly like in user acquisition. You may not find more influencers that fit your requirement, agree to your price, and are willing to advertise your app. This means you need to diversify, and potentially explore other platforms (YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Twitch, etc) or other countries, where your LTV allows you to acquire users profitably.”
  • ROI is the guiding star. “Regardless of the CPI or CPM, what matters is how much do the players the influencer brought spent in this app. When I want to understand why it performed or not, I’ll take a look at the CPM, the CVR (from views to installs), and the LTV. The idea is to understand if the reason you weren’t profitable is only that the influencers were too expensive, or if it’s because they brought good quality traffic (ie. good LTV) but not enough of it (i.e. bad CVR), or the opposite, they did bring a lot of traffic (i.e. good CVR) but poor quality (i.e. low LTV).”
  • Pick your influencers carefully. “It’s obviously important to look at the influencers’ individual performance but you should analyze it on a ‘vertical’ level (i.e. Lifestyle, True Crime, Gaming, Cooking etc). Because, and it happens often, two influencers that, on paper are exactly identical in terms of audience demographics, content, and engagement rate, might end up performing completely differently. And we won’t be able to know why for sure. So look at the data on the vertical level to understand if this performs for your app or not. I tend to decide that a vertical doesn’t perform when I’ve worked with 10+ influencers and less than 30% were profitable.”

3 tips for a successful influencer campaign

With your budget in place, it’s time to launch – but if you want to make sure your campaigns work and – maybe even more importantly – are measurable, here are some of Balinoff’s best tips.

  1. If you want to be able to differentiate organic traffic from influencer traffic, one of the easiest ways to do this is to have all your influencers go live at the same time. This will, hopefully, hopefully, generate a spike in your organic downloads and with the help of uplift analysis you will be able to attribute the additional installs to your influencer campaign. (You may also consider giving out a special code for in-app freebies through your influencers to help track performance.)
  2. With Tip #1 in mind, be sure to hire enough influencers to see a potential spike, and depending on your daily organic installs, that can vary tremendously. Then, you would assume the behavior of the organic users you attributed to your campaign is the same as the users that were tracked, which then allows you to estimate your profitability. 
  3. Working with smaller (aka less expensive) creators is interesting because it allows you to limit the risk and diversify your spending, but they might not be able to generate enough tracked installs individually for your assumptions to be statistically significant. That’s a decision you need to make based on your risk tolerance and how flexible your company is on performance reporting. 

Still not sure about influencer marketing for apps? 

Influencer marketing for mobile apps is still so new that there are no official and easily accessible benchmarks of performance or conversion rates – unlike traditional UA, where nearly every company puts out a benchmark report every year. “I think the best way to find some data is to attend conferences where experts are speaking or reaching out to them directly,” says Balinoff. The bottom line is, you will never know if influencer marketing can work for you until you try, and while the field may be new, there are experienced experts able to help you navigate this new territory.