Marketers are used to carefully controlling their messages, crafting finely honed copy and taglines that convey a desired feeling and action; but in the age of a new sharing economy, this well-intentioned control can lead to missed opportunities. Today’s most successful marketers embrace the co-creation of content and accept that their message will be delivered differently.

This can be a really difficult step for many brands. Some have purposefully and successfully grown their business with a strategy that has involved tight control on their brand message and a deliberate avoidance of ‘digital’. Some luxury brands have only recently experimented with an e-commerce presence.

It’s hard to play catch-up and stay relevant without a digital existence and an understanding of how to engage. It’s important to know where your customers are and to make every effort to be there. It’s time to relax the reigns. You don’t have to release full control but instead find a number of social influencers who you can trust and work closely with them. Provide them with the boundaries for your message and let them share that message organically with their audience. It’s all about co-creating the content and then curating that content to ensure you’re sharing the best and most suitable in order to amplify what others are saying about your brand.

Burberry’s Art of the Trench campaign, launched during social media’s infancy in 2009, is a great example of this. The curated microsite, which allows users to upload and comment on people wearing Burberry styles, provides enough direction to elicit the desired looks from contributors, but leaves a great deal of latitude for personal expression. The result is content that feels genuine, and this can have a real impact on sales. Burberry’s e-commerce sales increased by 50% in the year after the microsite launched, and the effort has been so successful that it continues today, expanding to the Middle East last October.

As Burberry demonstrated, sharing won’t work if you try to control every aspect of your message and how it is delivered. That would still be advertising, and I doubt you will find many influencers who want to play the game with those rules. Be comfortable and confident in your product and let your customers and social influencers create the content that will propel your business forward. The statistics are in your favor when you give the power to your consumers. A study by digital analytics firm comScore showed that viewers are 28% more likely to become customers after seeing influencer-created content in addition to advertising. Furthermore, 70% of consumers say they trust peer-generated content or reviews over brand-produced material. Consistent messaging, backed up with experience across multiple channels is the key to your future marketing success. Your customers will love it and your influencers will feel valued.

Accessing the right influencers to help promote and share your brand message can be one of the most challenging steps in your influencer marketing journey. More and more online marketplaces and agencies are emerging to help brands connect with the right social influencers. Many will offer ideas and suggestions of how social influencers and brands should collaborate, but the true value will be realised when they work more closely together to create something special that will resonate well with their collective audience. It all starts with audience. The most successful collaborations are created when the influencer’s audience is the right fit for the brand.