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By Kaitlyn Lambert, Account Executive

Influencer Marketing is an emerging practice that’s being executed by brands to varying levels of success. What makes this practice especially unique is that it sits at an intersection of digital, PR and traditional marketing, making it difficult to navigate for some brands entrenched in traditional methods of marketing and advertising, but brands willing to make the plunge, and who have done so strategically, have been rewarded in this new frontier.

So you’ve decided to join the influencer marketing movement, and you want to start engaging influencers- what do you do next? Creating a comprehensive and well-researched approach is essential to running a successful campaign, and brands wanting to dive-in without doing the work up-front will likely be disappointed with their results. There are some basic guidelines that need to be established before you jump in if you want to see success.

1. Define your goals 
What are you looking to get out of an influencer campaign- sales, brand recognition, social likes, media attention? Having clear defined goals from the outset is essential to building the right strategy and running a successful campaign. When it’s not clear what success even looks like, there’s no way you’re coming out of an influencer campaign feeling like you’ve achieved your goal. Having clear KPIs will help you to measure the success of your campaign and make adjustments to your strategy post-campaign.

2. Rein-in expectations
You want to set ambitious but realistic goals. An influencer campaign can increase conversation and brand awareness and can positively impact sales of your brand, but it’s not going to be a fix-all solution or take the place of your current marketing tactics. It’s best used alongside traditional digital marketing, PR, and advertising.

3. For best results, be prepared to spend
Unpaid, earned partnerships are increasingly rare. Many influencers make their income solely out of brand partnerships, so expect to pay for their time, content, and audience. Influencers will charge based on their audience size so if you’re looking for reach, expect to pay more for it. Audience size is not the only metric you should consider, you’ll also want to look at engagement rates for potential partners. With the influencer marketing industry growing, there have also been a growing number of influencers artificially inflating their audience numbers and taking advantage of brands who skimp on the research. This is often done by purchasing bots to follow their social media accounts and engage with their content. There are some free, helpful, tools that can help tip you off to influencers like this. Followerwonk, for example, will show you where a user’s Twitter followers are located. If you’re seeing an account with a lot of followers in an area that doesn’t make sense, it’s likely that those followers are bots that were purchased.

4. Understand your audience
Who is your target? This is the question you ask yourself before starting a PR campaign or creating a new advertisement, so why should an influencer campaign be any different? Look at your target demographic and find out who they follow on social media or whose opinion they value. A pitfall of many brands is that they start out just looking at popular social media accounts. Focusing on your customer might lead you to influencers with a smaller reach, but one that targets your demographic more effectively, and often more economically.

5. Create an influencer guide and contract
You’re going to need a standard contract for your influencer partners. Having a standard contract prepared ahead of time is going to save you time and stress once you start engaging with potential partners. It’s helpful to have guidelines set early-on on matters like whether or not your partner is able to work with competitive brands, your length of partnership, if your brand owns the influencer’s branded content and can repurpose it, and if your brand can review and approve content before an influencer posts. You’re also likely going to want to prepare some sort of style or messaging guide that details how a partner should or shouldn’t talk about or show your product.

Once you’ve done your research, defined your goals and budget, and created the necessary materials, it’s time to look for the right influencer partner for your brand. Having your ducks in a row before approaching influencers will allow you to do so with confidence and should put you on the right path to success with your new influencer campaign. Post-campaign, take time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t and use that to form a better strategy in the future.

Influencer marketing isn’t going anywhere, so if you haven’t started engaging with influencers, it may be time to rethink.