Influencer marketing: The only article you needPeople want and consume more content across more channels than ever before. Influencers, especially in the social space, play a critical role in how the conversations around brands are coming to life and shaping customer experiences and connections.

If a brand takes the time to build authentic relationships with industry influencers, the organization can leverage them to reach new audiences and further build credibility and affinity to help prospective or current customers move down the path to purchase.

Thinking about utilizing influencers to drive your marketing strategy? Read on for helpful tips to consider as you get started.

What is your endgame?
Taking time to first think through and understand intended outcomes will allow your organization to develop and implement the most optimal strategies.

How is your company structured? What is it that you sell? What is your organization looking to accomplish, and how would working with influencers in the social arena drive results for your brand?

For example, a young company might be looking for general brand exposure and awareness. A retail store wants foot traffic and increased awareness around promotions and flash sales. Fast food chains and beverage companies want to be chosen among the numerous options available. Equipment manufacturers, like many of our clients, want to showcase their products in action, and how the products played a role in productivity and performance.

Before your company vets influencer candidates, identify the campaign goals and audiences or demographic you’re going after. What target audiences does your company wish to reach and how would your company benefit from their influence and channels?

To get in front of the right customer base, you’ll have to work through the right influencers in the appropriate channels.

What makes someone an influencer?
Influencers are identified experts with authority and credibility. They are well-connected to their fans and other influencers. They are likeable and relatable storytellers with reach and relevance. The products they use and showcase are a part of their day-to-day operations or lifestyle — and contribute to their livelihood.

Most importantly, they are trusted sources sought after for their information, instruction, and inspiration related to your industry.

While the most successful influencers meet the above criteria, other qualifications could be added to this list that are in line with your organization’s unique campaign objectives.

Influencer outreach strategy

Your company may have an influencer wish list in mind or you may just be getting the search started. Influencers may be reaching out to you. In other cases, you might have to actively go out and begin the conversation. Here are some tips for finding the best influencers for your brand.

1. Do your research
Look for influencers among your existing fan base and see who is already promoting your brand. These people are more interested and likely to work with you in authentic ways. Celebrities have massive reach and that comes with a price tag, but is their connection to your product believable? Consider working with micro-influencers already established in your niche industry. Review and condense the list as appropriate and finalize your plan of attack for initial communications.

2. Begin the conversation
Engage with and follow your list of potential influencers. Comment and like their posts. Determine if there is a preferred format for outreach regarding partnership opportunities. Tailor a message and be honest about what you’re looking for. Show them that you’ve done your research and feel they are a great fit because of X, Y, and Z. Be sure to ask if they have any unique goals and objectives and think about ways your brand or company could provide benefits to them as well. See if you can set up time to chat about your business models and create a custom strategy together that will deliver results.

3. Define the relationship parameters
What are you asking them to do? Will this entail product placement or monetary sponsorship? Establish frequency and expectations around language, review, incorporation of links, and reporting metrics you’ll need to calculate ROI.

4. Follow proper guidelines and consider branded content and social media management tools
There are FTC guidelines in place governing the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising. Simply put, influencers must tell their audience when they have been paid or given something of value by a business partner when they reference that partner or its products. Some platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, offer influencers and their partner companies branded content tools to clearly establish the partnership as well as provide better ways to work together and view data or metrics.

5. Create and cross-promote content
Arm your influencers with suggested tools and hashtags and ask them to promote your products in the most organic ways possible. Application images, demonstrations, product placements, and the use of hashtags are all critical to move the needle. How can your brand cross-promote or showcase the influencers, in return bringing them new eyeballs and followers? Think outside of just social. Consider integrated communications strategies to drive maximum exposure.

6. Calculate your ROI
Companies can no longer donate products and then sit back and just hope for exposure. Today’s influencer marketing strategies require social and digital best practices be followed. Work with your partners to establish clear metrics for success and measure against them.

7. Maintain and nurture your relationships
Relationships are an investment on both sides, so it must be mutually beneficial. Think of them as an extension of your team with the same goal to collaborate and produce the best results together. Provide additional value by introducing them to other industry brands or potential sponsors. Likewise, see if they can provide you referrals and introductions to other influencer friends.

If you feel that influencer marketing could benefit your overall strategy in 2018, make sure you’re following best practices and staying on top of the latest trends and tools to ensure success.

About Erica Turner

Public relations director Erica leads her team in content creation, media relations, and influencer marketing efforts. When she isn’t working, you can find her chasing after her two growing kiddos. Chat with her about all things PR or Orangetheory Fitness at ericat@2rm.com.