Today, most consumers research brands and products long before they ever make a purchase. Instead of relying on the advertising efforts of brands themselves, consumers rely on product reviews, as well as the advice of friends, trusted advisors and social media personalities to help them with their buying decisions.

An increasingly powerful method for reaching consumers during the research phase of the buying process is called influencer marketing. Using a blend of social and content marketing, a popular third party—or influencer—vouches for your brand, establishes trust and credibility, promotes your products and helps you build a social media following.

Sounds like something you should start doing, right? Well, here’s how you get started.

Create an Influencer Marketing Strategy

Your first priority is to come up with an influencer marketing strategy. As part of this process you need to ask yourself some questions:

  • Who is our target audience?
  • What are our goals? For example, brand awareness, social media followers, product promotion, increased sales, or something else?
  • How can an influencer help us reach these goals?
  • What will success look like and how will we track our progress?

Pick an Influencer

Next, decide what type of influencer you need to meet your goals, drive success and reach your target audience. Seek out people who can actually help you and who you likewise can benefit.

Consider the following when selecting influencers:

  • Do they have the personality and experience to help us fulfill our goals?
  • Are they in a niche specific to our target audience?
  • Will people in their audience benefit from our brand, product or service?
  • Will they have the necessary reach and credibility within their audience to achieve our goals?
  • How can we make this a mutually-beneficial relationship?

You can find influencers through Google searches, social media monitoring with hashtags, looking through databases or connecting with influencer networks and marketplaces. You can also set Google alerts to get a sense of who is doing the talking in your industry.

Get Your Influencer Onboard

Influencers are busy people. They’ll help build trust for your brand and boost followers and leads, but only if it makes sense for them from a time and money perspective. To get an influencer on board, incentivize them to write about your brand with the following:

  • Send them free products and ask for their reviews.
  • Ask them to upload pictures of themselves to social media with your products.
  • Host contests or giveaways for content creation.
  • Be on social media platforms where influencers are talking and get involved in their conversations.
  • Share a target influencer’s work on social media. These individuals are monitoring their social media accounts for interactions, reaches and shares. If you share or comment on their work, you may get their attention.

Analyze Your Influencer Marketing Success

After you’ve engaged your influencers and they begin creating content for you, start measuring success via the analytical and tracking tools on social media platforms. These tools help you gauge whether your influencer relationship is helping you achieve your marketing goals, providing valuable insight about how your target audiences are actually engaging with your content and on which platforms.