Word of mouth has always been the holy grail for marketers, and this rings even more true in the social media age when good and bad reviews spread like wildfire.

Consumers once relied on friends when making purchasing decisions, but they now increasingly look to influencers to help them decide where to spend their hard-earned money, with 49 percent of individuals highly valuing influencer recommendations.

Influencer marketing isn’t a new phenomenon; brands have long used celebrity endorsements and sponsored partnerships to attract customers. However, today’s influencers are more organic, building followings based on the content they produce — whether that be blog posts, video tutorials, or reviews on YouTube. Influencers’ audiences trust them and view them as real people — more so than a traditional celebrity like Angelina Jolie, who feels inaccessible.

Niche influencers also have greater reach than traditional media partners. If a fashion company runs sponsored content in a major magazine, it can expect to reach between 1 million and 3 million subscribers per month. In reality, the brand can increase those numbers several times over by instead working with online influencers.

Brand-influencer collaborations are particularly effective. When Tarte Cosmetics teamed up with vlogger Bunny Meyer to develop a makeup collection, her nearly 8 million followers were ecstatic. Meyer’s audience was eager to support this accomplishment and couldn’t wait to get their hands on the products. The presale of the collection sold out within a few hours.

Companies can earn significant ROI through influencer relationships if they approach them correctly. Here’s how to get influencer marketing right:

Work with Influencers Who are Appropriate for Your Brand

Finding the right partners requires time and research. Just because a vlogger has millions of followers doesn’t mean he or she is the right fit for your campaign. Tools such as BuzzSumo and Followerwonk can help you identify a wide range of experts who hold sway with your audience. Be sure to follow them across their social media channels to observe their interactions before reaching out.

Look for people whose content is relevant to your products and who demonstrate strong engagement with their audiences. High search rankings are good indicators that people have real clout within their spaces. At Beautycon Media, we curate our influencers very carefully. Each influencer we work with who launches new editions of our subscription box need to have the right tone and audience for our brand. We meticulously research influencers’ engagement metrics, the number of brands they’ve previously partnered with, and how they interact with their fans.

Once you’ve zeroed in on the personalities who have the best rapport with their fans, identify how you can help amplify their brands. Influencers want to know that the relationship will be reciprocal and benefit their business as well.

Send Products to Your Partners for Review

After you’ve selected your influencers, send them your product, and ask for honest feedback. Create a step-by-step guide for how to use each item, and make your team available to answer any questions your partners might have.

Whenever Beautycon Media launches a new box, we send boxes to hundreds of influencers. Each package has detailed unboxing instructions printed on the lid, so our influencers never feel at a loss when documenting their experiences. They’re so excited to be included in our community, and the content they create in response to that inclusion perfectly encapsulates the honest and organic connection we want to foster with our audience.

Specify in your agreement that influencers must showcase your products in a video, but don’t dictate the format. By all means, send supplemental materials or a suggested outline, but remember to grant them creative control — they know what will resonate with their audiences and what will not.

Capture and Promote Influencer Content

When you’re working with influencers, you need to know their audiences as well as you know your own. It’s not enough to have these partners create content for your brand — you need to amplify that content to optimize your exposure.

Determine which times of day are best for boosting their blog posts, videos, and Instagram photos. Our team studies our influencers’ audiences, so we can retarget them effectively. For example, when we notice that their followers are particularly active on Facebook and Instagram, that’s where we focus our budgets. We can convert them from viewers to subscribers at significantly lower costs than if we were simply investing in SEO and standard social advertising.

Also, be sure to develop a social media schedule for sharing influencer content. Research shows that 53 percent of business owners acknowledge the importance of a content distribution strategy, but less than half actually have one. Share your content proudly and frequently, and never be shy about repeatedly posting the same links. Twitter offers you a prime window of only 18 minutes, and Facebook’s algorithm changes almost constantly, so you want to make sure each and every piece of content gets viewed by as many individuals as possible.

Promote your influencers on your company’s social media channels, and feature them on your website. This not only generates goodwill with your partners by enhancing their profiles, but it also maximizes your marketing spend. The more popular they are, the more likely you are to hit your target KPIs. Madewell regrams photos from brand advocates like fashionista Jules Denby, while ASOS dedicates a section of its website to its “Insiders.”

Empower Content Creators to Speak in Their Own Voices

Trust your influencers. They understand their audience members’ personalities and know how to present your products to them.

Micromanaging your partnerships with influencers will actually counteract the power that you want to tap into. Besides, people know when someone is reading from a script. I’ve seen too many comment threads bashing brands because of stiff, false-sounding partner messages. You’ll earn greater ROI if you let influencers do what they do best.

You can also invite your partners to add a personal flair to your products. When Bunny Meyer helped launch our spring box, she worked closely with us on item selection — including a babydoll key chain based on her personal doll collection.

The keychain branded the box as Bunny’s unique compilation, and it became a huge hit on social. By giving the influencer a say in the creative process, we created a more meaningful connection with her fans.

Influencer marketing works because it’s authentic. If you choose the right individuals to work with your brand, you’ll reach people who are natural customers for your product. You can create an ecosystem based on value and relevance — and that’s good for your brand, your influencers, and your customers.