Brands reap benefits
While it can be difficult to quantify the results of an influencer campaign, some metrics can be tracked.
Case study: Maine Office of Tourism
The state's tourism office recently conducted a social media campaign using five Instagrammers with marketing firm BVK's help. Read More
Schmidt said the most important measurement is "to make sure that their audience is engaged, that their followers are really going to understand the message and the message is really going to speak to them."
For example, a recent influencer campaign that the Maine Office of Tourism ran through BVK garnered "literally tens of thousands of likes, shares [and] comments," many from the influencers' followers, who expressed a desire to visit Maine, Schmidt said.
Hecktic Media worked on an influencer campaign with a mobile photo-sharing app called Trover for about 18 months, identifying a variety of influencers who spoke about using the app.
"During that time ... their engagement increased by 10 times overall, and they credited that [campaign] for a lot of the other press that they also got, where they were featured in Forbes and whatnot," Heck said. "A lot of that came because of the buzz created by the influencers themselves."
Bouskill and Corbeil of ThePlanetD.com have seen quantifiable results of their work by, for example, driving up things like signups for American Express cards (they are brand ambassadors for the company) and tour bookings.
With Quark Expeditions, Corbeil said, ThePlanetD.com readers got a 5% discount on trips, enabling Quark to track the efficacy of their campaign. The last trip the duo did with Quark was two years ago, and the company is still getting referrals from ThePlanetD.com, she said.
"Not only is it about raising brand awareness, because that's a big part of it from a promotional side of things, but also from a booking side of things," Bouskill said.
Addis said influencer campaigns give brands a better chance to fish where the fish are.
"Everybody tells me this is uncharted territory for them, this is new, because it's hard to get the budget approved for this kind of new media when traditional media is tried and true and everyone knows it," she said. "But you can just get so much further, I think, with these platforms when people aren't watching TV commercials as much. ... You have to reach them on the platforms where they are spending their time."
Employing a similar line of thinking, Beebe posited that social influencers are the new networks.
"They're really our new version of an ABC, an NBC, a CBS," he said. "They bring everything to the table that a network does if you look at it from the basics. They bring their creativity, their production, they bring the ad sales portion ... they bring the distribution and the audience. And that's exactly what a network would have sold or sells to brands today -- all those things."
The difference is that social influencers are reaching a new audience, Beebe said.
"They bring, really, a two-way conversation," he said, "and I think the most important thing your digital influencers bring is really that 'being authentic.'"