Influencer marketing is definitely buzzing lately. Brands love it because it takes a non-promotional approach and allows them to align with thought leaders rather than directly target consumers. Non-promotional marketing might sound like an oxymoron, but it was born from evolved consumer preferences that shun paid ads.

With 86% of consumers suffering from “banner blindness”, influencer marketing provides the organic delivery that marketers seek. So how do businesses navigate this new form of marketing effectively? Here are five simple ways to make the most of your influencer marketing campaign.

1. Define Your Audience

Before diving into influencer marketing, you need to do some internal research. Have you already identified your ideal customer? If not, you’re getting ahead of yourself. Before deciding on which influencer would best align with your business, you need to define your audience.

Your influencer needs to be someone that your audience respects and trusts, but there’s no way of knowing who that person might be if you’re not even clear on who your audience is. Do an exercise where you identify your target customer. Defining age, gender, status, and location is a good place to start, but you’ll also want to expand on that and cover buying behavior. Who or what impacts how they discover and evaluate the products or services that they buy?

2. Choose the Right Influencer

The right influencer is more than just the right face or the right number of Instagram followers. You want to choose an influencer that takes their job seriously and is a believable ambassador for your brand.

I suggest building a list of potential influencers and then monitoring their activity and how they engage with their audience. To build a list you will need to either do some research or reach out to a company that connects influencers and brands.

Once you’ve drafted your list, begin your phase out process. Take note of how frequently they update their website or post on social. Do they respond to comments? What kind of information does their audience seek from them? Are they helpful or dismissive? Ideally you want an influencer that will represent your brand and treat your customers the way you would.

3. Don’t Jump to Paid Influencers First

If your business already has a large social following or a product that people want, you may be able to team up with a natural advocate without paying them. The relationship is mutually beneficial because your company gains the trust of the influencer’s audience and the influencer gains more exposure (and maybe some free swag).

When trying to identify potential earned (or unpaid) influencers, don’t limit your search to celebrities. There are thought leaders in each industry that have secured a large following simply for their articles or YouTube channel. If no earned leads are available, the next step is to look into paid influencers.

4. Collaborate, Don’t Dictate

Once you know who you are going to work with, keep collaboration in mind. Successful influencer marketing has a lot to do with identifying opportunities and building relationships. When the business just gives the influencer a fact sheet and suggested copy, they shouldn’t expect great results. The magic comes from collaborating. By creating exciting, organic content together it will be more authentic and resonate better with your target audience. If you just dictate, content will likely fall short.

5. Leverage SEO

When consumers are searching for your brand, they see user generated content as much as they see your own. Influencer marketing lets you have a say in what others are saying, so you want to make sure you are leveraging that content to be SEO friendly. If your influencer writes a blog post without including the right keywords or tweets without using the right hashtag, that content may never be seen by users searching for your company or industry. In your statement of work, be sure to include agreed upon keywords and hashtags that will be a part of the content your influencer posts.

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