Influencer marketing is a growing component of many brands’ content marketing strategy. Social media and blogging have granted us access to an influx of people wielding social influence (read “real” influence) over their followers’ opinions — and ultimately buying habits — across industries including tech, fashion, parenting, food and beyond. Many brands engage with influencers to advertise their product to that individual’s significant following, whether that be via Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr or a blog.

Connections and Social Influence

Importantly, the best influencers are considered trusted and organic sources of information. An influencer publishing a “sponsored post” is committing to more than just a business transaction; they want to create relatable and valuable content that will establish a connection with their followers and not feel like an ad. Accordingly, they will (or should) only collaborate with brands that will resonate with their audience. As a marketer, it’s your duty to do some research on what would make for a cohesive fit between your brand and influencer.

As with any aspect of marketing, you have a budget to allocate. Imagine you spent all budget advertising to the wrong demographic; here it’s just as important to select the right influencers to support your campaign. The biggest following does not automatically translate to the best conversion, so here’s what to consider when selecting an influencer:

Target audience

Micro or macro, ultimately, it’s not the numbers but rather the people your influencer’s content is hitting that matters. Make sure the audience you’re directing this content toward is an audience you have reason to believe will be receptive to your product. Three niche influencers with 10,000 followers each may be far more effective than one influencer with a million followers who are far less invested.

Brand fit

Ensure your brand’s ethics mesh well with your influencer(s) to avoid a culture clash. Spend time looking through previous posts. Does your brand message fit the style? For example, do you want to be represented by a politically outspoken blogger, or by a PETA activist? The answer may be “Absolutely, yes!” but make sure your values align to avoid friction down the line.

Consumer accessible

What exactly are you marketing, and why? If you are promoting an app launch, for example, it makes sense that your influencer’s platforms have responsive design, making the content accessible on mobile devices for simple conversions. Other considerations: If your product has a higher price point, cramming every detail that justifies this into 140 characters for a Twitter shout-out may not be the most effective platform. On the other hand, a detailed review by an established blogger may be a better fit. Think about your platform of choice and whether it lends itself to your marketing cause.

Who else are they affiliated with?

If the influencer has already promoted your nearest competitor in the past year, it may not be worth proceeding further. While you should always do your own homework, a good influencer will also let you know of this potential conflict (and a savvy marketer will include a no-competition disclosure in their contract). After all, influencers and brands want to build relationships, and transparency ensures everybody will want to work together again and again.

Influencer Marketing – One-Off or Consistent Messaging?

Influencers tend to be part of a larger holistic content marketing strategy; they exist as a supporting element of a campaign, rather than a campaign unto itself. They help your current message resonate. With studies showing that the average attention span of an internet user is now just eight seconds, the consumer has power in their scroll. Brands need to ensure that their content is easily digestible, but also that it is not going to be missed. ideally, someone with significant social influence will post multiple times across channels to ensure that people do not miss the message in their rapidly changing news feed to avoid being buried.

Autonomy

Is your influencer open to revisions? As part of their social influence strategy, influencers will typically want to retain creative control over what they are publishing. Understandable, since in the end, it’s their audience and their name behind the message. However, it is essential to confirm that the content they produce is not at odds with your brand and that your call-to-action is valid before anything goes live. There is a fine line between dictating your brand message through the content and nudging an influencer in the right direction. Be on the right side of this line!

Influencer Budget

Some influencers will work in exchange for a product or simply because they really believe in the brand. Others will charge more than you’re expecting. Allocate a budget for your influencer program before all else. This will help determine the number of influencers you can work with and what can be created for your brand with them before costs spiral. As with most things, pay less and you’ll likely get less. Think about your campaign goals, and be sure to measure the effectiveness of your influencer campaign against KPIs to gauge success.

Overall, it pays to make sure your relationship with any influencer is organic, relevant and engaging. Aim for a collaboration that’s beneficial to both parties – a rising tide that raises all boats.