Scott Cook, the founder and CEO of Intuit, said “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is—it is what consumers tell each other it is.”

This shift in this consumer-brand power balance can be, in part, attributed to the high levels of engagement on social platforms. Peer recommendations are playing a much larger role in purchasing decisions and, consequently, the pertinence of the brand influencer is growing. Given the importance of peer recommendations and the popularity of social media, a widely asked question among marketing teams has been: How do we find our best brand influencers?

To put it into perspective, influencers are social media users who have an established credibility and audience. These are users who can persuade others by virtue of their trustworthiness and authenticity. Influencers are not brand evangelists or brand advocates, who may be your biggest cheerleaders, but do not have the power of credibility (e.g. follower scale) to extend messages very far beyond their immediate circles.

In order to identify top influencers, you need to take into account the following.

1. Your Influencer must be relevant to your customers.

Every day, there are millions of social media users posting photos about the brands and products they love. At the highest level, you want to choose influencers based on the niche content that they produce—content that is highly relevant to your brand. Essentially, look for influencers in your vertical and make sure it’s a contextual fit. But in order to find your best influencers, you will need to take it a step further. Ask yourself: Who is this influencer’s audience? How does this influencer brand him/herself? And, does this align with my brand’s target customers and messaging? Customers follow influencers on social media because the influencer embodies a self-identity or lifestyle that reflects a higher-order value proposition for the follower.  When choosing your influencers, make sure that your brand and your influencer’s brand aligns.

2. Your Influencer must appear to be authentic.

The reason consumers trust influencers is because they view them as authentic sources of information. Therefore, the more sponsored content an influencer posts, the more their status is diluted. Essentially, you want your influencer to look authentic, not promotional, or else they lose their value. Influencers in crowded verticals may work with many brands and products. But the best ones do this discreetly. Genuine mention of a brand may be subtle, but it is much harder hitting for validating your products to prospective customers.  Continue to keep this in mind once you are ready to leverage your influencers, even if you are the only brand that your influencer works with, soft promotional touches drive the best results.

3. Your Influencer must be active and post frequently.

The more active an influencer is on social media the further your brand name will be spread. There is distinct correlation between how often a blogger posts and the rate of return visitors. It often takes multiple returns to turn a prospective customer into a customer. On the flipside, bloggers who do not post consistently see high rates of follower turnover and fewer profile visitors. Look for indicators that your influencer is active on social media—monitor for number of likes, comments, and shares. The success of your brand’s reach depends on the how effectively your influencers engage with their own followers.

Social media influencers are the modern-day word of mouth. When you find and leverage your best influencers, you reach not only their audience, but their audience’s network as well. Influencers with a loyal pool of followers can increase brand awareness and drive traffic to your product pages. Traditional outbound marketing is a thing of the past—and influencer marketing is becoming one of the most effective ways to reach new customers.

This piece was originally posted on the Pixlee blog.