Influencer marketing is the practice of working with influential people online to spread the word about your products and services through social media. Yet running a successful influencer program involves more than asking influential people to give a positive review of your brand or product.  To be successful, you need to know these ten best practices:

1. Understand your goals – The first step in building a successful program is to outline the goals. Influencers share stories with their audience that spread the word about products and services, but you have to know what you want to achieve to be successful. Ultimately, all companies want to make money, but consumers buy products after they are made aware of a need, discover the different products available in the market, build a preference and then ultimately purchase. To be effective, you must know where you are looking to reach customers. Influencer marketing is best for:

  • Building awareness
  • Building credibility
  • Creating connections
  • Building loyalty
  • Driving customer action

2. Identify the right influencers for your program – Finding the right influencers for a program is challenge. You have to know how to identify people that will help you achieve your goals. To start, you need to understand:

  • Who is their audience? Influencers and their audience do not necessarily have the same demographic. Make sure that the audience is as relevant to your goals as the influencer.
  • How are they engaged with their audience? Influencers that create relationships with their audience are the most influential. Look to see that they communicate with their audience, comment on their questions, and share their readers’ thoughts.
  • Do they write about topics that are relevant to your audience? Influencer content must be inline with the values of the brand and fit with the message that the brand wants to put in front of consumers.
  • Do they create high quality content? High quality content is content that is interesting, engaging, thought provoking and sharable. Make sure that influencers do not have too many advertisements on their site and that rich, fulfilling content is their primary focus.
  • How frequently does the influencer publish? It is important to look at how many times per day, week, or month influencers publish content. With too many posts, brand content can get lost in the feed, and when there aren’t enough posts, readers may not visit the site often enough for the program to be successful.

3.     Determine what social platforms to leverage – Different platforms have different uses. Pinterest is great for visual content, blogs are perfect for posting engaging content, and Twitter is excellent for bite-sized chunks of information. It is important to consider the original goals of the program and match the platform accordingly in order to share across as many sites as possible.

4.     Develop a relationship with the influencers – Influencers are people and relationships are important to them. Taking the time to develop a relationship with them will keep you top of mind when they are pursuing branded opportunities. One-off emails or a phone call asking an influencer to be part of a brand program doesn’t always work. It is critical to build a mutually beneficial relationship where both parties benefit from working together.

5.     Recognize that influencers come in all shapes and sizes – The number of people that an influencer can reach does not necessarily determine their power to influence. Niche bloggers can often have far more influence than one with thousands of followers because their content is more targeted. Consider the difference between these two bloggers. Blogger #1 is a parenting blogger with 10,000 unique visitors to their site per month. She writes funny stories about her own experience with her three children and offers great tips on parenting. Blogger #2 is a parenting blogger with 1,000 unique visitors to his site. He writes about raising his child with severe peanut allergies and creates recipes and shares products that are safe for children with life-threatening allergies. In this particular instance, a company promoting peanut-free granola bars would have a more effective program by working with the niche blogger because the content would be more relevant to the target audience.


6.     Provide guidance, but empower them do their job – People become influencers because they experience and a valuable frame of reference. They create interesting, relevant content every day that people come back for and share with their friends online. To do influencer marketing well, you have to enable influencers to be creative in order to develop meaningful content that is going to resonate with their audience. They know their audience better than anyone, so they know what kind of content will work best. Brands can provide guidance, but should refrain from over-editing, dictating what the content should look like, or writing posts for the influencer. Authentic, engaging content works best for the reader, so it works best for the program.

7.     Recognize them for their work – Brands must recognize influencers for their work. They should be compensated in some way because they took the time to create great content on behalf of a brand. Great posts can take hours and influencers have spent time building their audience, which benefits the brand. While most influencers would prefer to be paid in cash for their work, they will also feel recognized with prizes, gift cards, points, or products. It is important to make them feel valued so they will continue to work with you in the future.

8.     Redistribute the content – Influencers create great content on behalf of a brand, so it should be shared and distributed in as many ways as possible. Put that content on your websites, Facebook pages and Pinterest boards to get as much visibility as possible.


9.     Pick the right success metrics – Depending your goals, it is essential to establish Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) to determine the effectiveness of the program. Too often, marketers focus on how many people read or clicked on content (impressions) and forget their original goal. If the goal is to create engaging content that sparks conversation and builds trust, impressions may not be the best thing to measure. While still an important metric, impressions alone do not fully convey how valuable the conversation was to the readers. The value of influencer marketing is the content that is created. The content is more trusted than brand content because influencers are more trusted by their audience. The relationship that they have developed over time and the engagement that an influencer has with their readers is the real value to the brand.

Engagement can be tracked by measuring social actions on the part of the reader. How many comments did the content get? How many times was it shared, liked, re-Tweeted or Pinned? Once it was shared, how many times was it shared again? A successful program can be one that does not reach the most people, but one that engages the right people – the ones that will buy your products and services.

 10. Use tools to manage the process – Influencer marketing is easy to do if you know which influencers to use, have a compelling value proposition for them and can manage the process efficiently. One person can effectively manage five influencers through spreadsheets, emails, and phone calls. However, if the goal is to use hundreds or thousands of influencers to market a brand, you have to automate the process. There are software tools available to help identify influencers, determine who is the most influential for any given social media platform, and measure the results. There are also agencies that maintain relationships with influencers directly and act as intermediaries between them and the brand customers. But, to effectively scale influencer marketing, you need a tool that can manage the entire process from beginning to end. It has to be able to help you identify the right influencers, communicate with them from one platform, have immediate visibility into the content, and produce accurate, real-time measurement of a programs success.