Influencer Marketing 101: How to Select the “Right” Influencer for Your Brand

11/12/2017 10:31 am ET

With consumers getting wearier of traditional marketing every year, more and more companies are turning to influencer marketing to reach people in a more authentic, organic way.

By definition, influencers are “Individuals who have the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of their (real or perceived) authority, knowledge, position, or relationship http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/influencers.html.” Often, this means a social media personality, like a YouTube blogger or an Instagram celebrity. By working with influencers, brands are able to market their products to a very specific audience without traditional advertising.

Influencer marketing is a very powerful tool, but it can be difficult to get “right”. The campaign can’t be too planned or scripted. The influencer needs to have a good understanding of what it is that you do, and vice versa. But most importantly, you need to choose the “right” influencer to begin with.

All influencers are not created equal. If you want to get the most out of a campaign, you have to take your time and research possible influencers to figure out which one is right for you.

This is a process that will differ from company to company, but you can begin with these tips.

1. Know Your Target Audience

Some brands only look at the surface. For example, if they’re trying to sell a beauty product, they target a beauty blogger and leave it at that.

But things go much deeper than that. Not every beauty blogger or makeup vlogger targets the same audience. One influencer might be really popular with moms, another might be great with millennials, and some might target businesses, while others target consumers.

You should make sure that your target audience and theirs is the same. Be as specific as possible when looking for the right person.

The benefits of this are twofold. The obvious benefit is that your product or service will be directly marketed to the people who might be interested in it. But, more importantly, this will make it more likely that your influencer themselves is part of your target audience.

If the influencer is genuinely interested in your product or campaign, they’ll be more likely to take you on as a sponsor. Also, it will make it much easier for them to talk authentically about what you provide.  Authenticity is the cornerstone of any great influencer marketing technique.

2. Find Values that Align with Yours

When you choose an influencer to work with, they become a representative of you. For better or for worse, people will associate you with that influencer, and if they have a certain belief, people will associate you with that same belief.

That is why it is incredibly important for you to figure out where potential influencers stand on a number of issues. This will help you decide whether or not they are the right fit for you.

The good news is that this is a fairly easy task to accomplish. Influencers often share their views on things much more freely and easily than most brands do, because they are individuals as opposed to corporations with several layers. Taking time to scroll through their social media will likely reveal any opinions that they are known for.

You can find an influencer who may not speak up on issues, or you can find influencers who are vocal advocates of a community you want to support. It is important to know what you are looking for before you begin.

If your brand is particularly active in a community, make sure your influencer is too. This connection between the two of you will also make it much easier for their audience to like you.

3. Have a Goal

While influencer marketing is a powerful tool, you should not use it just because you can or because you think you should. You should know what you are trying to get out of it.

What do you most hope to gain? Visibility? Sales? Do you want to work for this influencer because they can become part of your story, or because they can become part of your consumer base? What can they, specifically, give you — and what can you give them, both in the short and long term?

Asking these questions now is important if you want to be able to measure the effectiveness of the campaign later.

Like any campaign, goals are important when it comes to figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Think of your influencer as a partner, not an employee, and work with them to generate the best results.

Having these goals in mind are the perfect way to find influencers who can help you to meet them.

4. Even if You Find the Perfect Match, Have a Crisis Plan in Place

At the end of the day, influencers are human — and they make mistakes.

So even if you find an influencer who is a perfect fit, who completely shares all of your values, who has a proven track record of being good at what they do, you need to have a plan in place if there is a mistake.

Crisis communications is important for any marketing campaign, but it’s critical when it comes to working with influencers. You need to prepare for the worst, even if you aren’t expecting it to happen.

Finding the perfect influencer shouldn’t be rushed. Take your time to weigh your options and figure out why you’re choosing someone before you reach out. If you can tell them why you think they’re a good fit, it will make them that much more likely to accept your offer.

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