Influencer marketing has exploded in popularity in recent years, and for good reason.

Working with online influencers is a valuable way to improve brand awareness, improve your SEO, increase customer trust in your brand and strengthen the online engagement with your social media channels.

But as social media constantly evolves, it can be difficult for new business owners to know where to start. To help, here are the key things you need to know in order to work with influencers to promote your brand.

Who do you work with?

The first step is to identify influencers whose audience matches your own. You can start by checking out who your followers follow or who else regularly posts content with the same hashtags you use.

Take the time to research blogs and social accounts that align with your brand. Follow the people you find in order to get a sense of their tone and style.

In addition, though you want to make sure they have a robust following, engagement is critical and often more valuable than an impressive looking number of followers. Unfortunately, there are influencers who buy followers or utilize other tactics to inflate their number, particularly on Instagram.

To evaluate a potential influencer, look at the number of likes or comments their Instagram posts receive and find their engagement rate. A strong engagement rate on Instagram is 3%-5%. On Facebook or Twitter, it’s 0.5%-1% (yes, really).

Build a relationship

Before reaching out to the influencer, look for ways to bring their attention to your brand organically. There are many possible ways to achieve this, but the three most common ways are:

  1. Engagement

Once you’ve found a handful of influencers you might be interested in working with, engage with them.

Like and comment on their posts. After a while, they’ll likely check out your online accounts (so make sure they are strong to make a good first impression). They might even begin to engage back.

  1. Influencer gifting

Everybody loves free stuff and influencers are no different. If you market a product, send it to your target influencers.

Wrap it up nicely, include a handwritten note and give without expectations. If they talk about your gift on social media, that’s a bonus. Remember: this is a no-strings-attached way for the influencer to gain first-hand experience with your product.

  1. Media events 

Events offer an exciting way to engage with influencers and provide an in-depth experience to your brand. It’s also a highly useful way for brands that can’t mail their product or service to influencers.

Own an ice cream shop? Invite your target influencers to a make-your-own-sundae meet-up. Opened up a Virtual Reality cafe? Ask them to join you in experiencing the latest technology before anyone else.

Ensuring your influencers have a more hands-on experience with your brand will strengthen any work they complete for you in the future.

Decide what you want

Influencer campaigns have higher success rates when you have specific goals you are trying to achieve. Plenty of campaigns have fallen flat when there’s no clear objective for working with an influencer.

Are you looking to increase sales? Grow your social media following? Need fresh content for your brand? All are valuable goals and possible to obtain through influencer marketing. But make sure you don’t include everything and the kitchen sink in your goals – that can be just as detrimental to the campaign as not setting a goal.

When you have your goal in mind, determine how you may best achieve it through an influencer campaign. Do you need to utilize the influencer’s blog, or would an Instagram post suffice? Will a giveaway provide the brand attention you’re looking for?

There are a lot of ways you can work with influencers, and deciding how will ultimately depend on the goals you are trying to achieve.

Be specific in your ask

When it’s time to propose a campaign with an influencer, be specific in your expectations.

Let them know how many blog posts you’d want and a general idea on the topics you’d like them to write on. Call out the number of Facebook posts, Instagram posts and Tweets you need to see. Set out timelines for when these items need to be published and when the campaign needs to wrap up.

Being specific will help the influencer understand what you want and how they can achieve it for you. Don’t forget to include your proposed compensation for their work, and ensure your compensation matches what you’re asking them for.

From there, you can start to collaborate with the influencer to ensure the campaign meets both of your needs. Be sure to track the engagement their work receives and pay attention to the traffic they draw to your website and social traffic.

This data will help you evaluate the success of the campaign and make informed decisions for future influencer marketing strategies.

Written by: Megan te Boekhorst, Communications and Public Relations Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada