Influencer marketing has become one of the most widely used strategies across all industries, with 84% of marketers planning at least one collaboration this year; but many are still experimenting with what works and what doesn’t, and how to get the most out of their campaigns. Whether you’re new to influencer marketing or simply want to maximize your return, here’s how to approach your campaign with an ROI-focused mindset.

Step 1: Determine your goals.

You can’t measure what you can’t define.

Although conversations around influencer marketing often start with a perceived need to “get influencers” for a campaign, rushing to engage top bloggers without defining your goals can shortchange your efforts and skew your overall results. Not only will you have no clear metric by which to measure your success, but you will also have to base many decisions on guesswork, since your goals are what inform your strategy. Before starting your influencer search, ask yourself what outcome you want to see. Not sure what this means? Here are a few examples.

You might want to:

– Boost awareness of your brand

– Change perception of your brand

– Boost customer affection for your brand

– Introduce your brand to a new audience

– Increase sales of a particular product

– Create content for Instagram and other social channels or EDMs

We recommend starting every collaboration with a specific objective in mind, so you can make the best use of your budget, select the most suitable influencers and more accurately measure your results.

Step 2: Choose your approach.

Guided by your goals, decide how to approach your campaign. Instagram posts by influencers might be a good option if you’re looking to boost brand awareness, but if your goal is to increase sales of a particular product, you will approach your campaign quite differently. Smaller, niche influencers whose attentive followers are likely to act quickly on a shopping suggestion will likely perform better for you. Moreover, channels like blog posts, which make followers feel like they’re getting an exclusive tip, can be more effective than Instagram for encouraging immediate purchases. If your goal is to strengthen brand loyalty, meanwhile, an influencer event where you can go beyond your product and tell your brand story can make the greatest impact. Here are just a few tactics to consider as you plan your campaign:

– Social media content: Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube

– Live content: Snapchat, Instagram Stories

– Blog posts (ask to be included in an influencer’s newsletter)

– Contests and Giveaways

– Influencer events

Step 3: Put your strategy on paper.

Before you post your collaboration, write down your objectives, including expectations. A clear vision will ensure smooth communication between you and your influencers, while preventing misunderstandings about the number and type of posts you expect, the kind of content you hope to receive, and how you would like your brand portrayed. This exercise will not only help you communicate more effectively with influencers, but it will also help you select the ones that best fit your brand by allowing you to visualize your collaboration.

As part of our managed collaboration offering, we help brands prepare guidelines for each collaboration type and each influencer so there are no surprises, and we recommend that brands do the same. Setting guidelines ahead of time is particularly important for collaborations involving fluid channels like Snapchat and Instagram Stories, where tracking methods are less clearly defined than they are for regular Instagram posts or platforms like Facebook that offer clear metrics.

Step 4: Select influencers that fit your brand.

As anyone who has run an influencer marketing campaign can attest, finding the right influencers takes diligence. It’s not just a matter of finding influential bloggers; it’s finding ones that speak to your potential customers. We recommend giving yourself enough time to look carefully at aesthetics, engagement rates, Google Analytics, and content type to find the best fit for your brand. This is where visualizing your collaboration in advance really helps: Does a candidate dress naturally in your brand’s style? Do his or her followers show enthusiasm through likes and comments for looks that mirror your brand’s?

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how large an influencer’s audience is if those followers are unlikely to become your customers. However, an influencer with just 10k dedicated followers can prove incredibly effective if aesthetically you’re a good fit.

Step 5: Measure your results.

Measuring your results is crucial to both maximizing your ROI and understanding how you can improve your next collaboration. This is also where having clearly defined goals becomes invaluable. If your goal is long-term engagement and brand loyalty, your immediate sales won’t tell that story. Likewise, if your goal was brand exposure, simply looking at your reach won’t tell you how many followers took notice of your brand. We recommend assessing a number of factors to determine the success of your collaboration, including the boost your own social following receives, increased traffic from an influencers’ social channels, brand mentions on social media, and of course, online sales.

From our Collaborations Results Page, you can easily see the social media impact, web analytics, reach, and sales data for each influencer appointed across all major social platforms. It also shows the Cost per Engagement (CPE) for each influencer and across the whole campaign to give you both short-term and long-term insights.

Step 6: Strengthen your relationships.

Influencer marketing is an investment in relationships, which makes this last step as important as analyzing your results. Taking the time to follow your collaborations with honest feedback — including gentle guidance if an influencer doesn’t meet your expectations and genuine appreciation if one goes above and beyond your requirements — will pay great dividends in the future. An attitude of gratitude might just land you an extra organic post.

This article was originally published on the Shopping Links blog.