Getting started in influencer marketing can be scary. Where do you start? Do you look for influencers or do you let them come to you? Do you get aggressive or do you play it coy? The reason this sounds like dating is because it kind of is. Just like with finding a man (or woman), finding the right influencer requires a ton of work. Not only do you have to like them overall, you need to make sure their values and goals align with yours. Are they trustworthy? Do they have any weird moles on their back? What’s their morning breath like? TELL ME EVERYTHING.

Social media influencers come in many different shapes and sizes but the good ones share certain qualities; they are credible, they have a lot of followers, their brand is unique, they are influential, and they engage.

Credibility

If your friend lies to you, it (should) take a lot to gain that trust back. The same goes with influencers. For this reason, they’re incredibly careful about what brands they’re partnering with and how they’re promoting their products or services. Transparency is key. They build and maintain trust among their followers by being honest, keeping promises, and demonstrating authenticity.

Credibility is created different ways. It can happen simply by showing up. If an influencer posts on a consistent schedule and provides valuable, useful information, their followers will start trusting them as they would a friend. It can also come from external factors. If you’re a health professional or fashion stylist, your credentials outside of social media make you an expert in your field. This alone will have people trusting your word.

Branding

Regardless of whether an influencer has licensed their name as a business or not, they are indeed a brand. An influencer’s unique voice, follower count, knowledge and creative style are all part of their total package.

Recognizing a person’s content from a quick glance means they’re branding themselves correctly. Whether it’s the way they edit their photos, their captions, the placement of the text overlays or the photography style, it all contributes to their brand. These things allow followers to identify and differentiate them just like they would a regular brand.

Influence

I know it’s out of left field for an influencer to have to be influential, but here we are. Influencers must have a certain level of persuasion to be considered useful. By being able to convince their followers to take action, their entire list of followers become potential consumers. And that’s exactly what brands are looking for.

If someone has a zillion followers on Instagram but aren’t able to make them want something, they’re completely useless to marketers. Having the skill to inspire followers to take action is one of the most important aspects of being a successful influencer.

Followers

If someone has 45 followers, that’s a pretty good indication that they’re probably not influencers. That isn’t to say though that influencers can’t have small but heavily devoted followings. When an influencer has a very targeted niche, they often don’t need a million followers to make a difference. For this reason, consider your budget and goal and work from there.

Influencers with less than 10k followers will often work for little to nothing as they grow their brand. If you choose to work with someone who has less than 50k followers, look into who’s following them, what they’re into, and how engaged they are. Doing your research will allow you to get the best return on your investment.

If you have the budget, a larger net will of course catch the most fish. But still, if you’re willing to pay big bucks for a higher follower count, make sure the followers are real and engaged.

Engagement

As humans, we crave attention. If influencers aren’t giving their followers the love they need, they’ll likely turn to someone who will. While this may seem dramatic, it’s the truth. Failing to engage with their audience through comments, likes, and follows will have their followings feeling disconnected and unappreciated.

The influencer game is one that is won taking the long route. By coddling their followers and making them feel important, they’re building relationships and creating loyalty.

 

One of the main problems with influencer marketing is that it’s easy to fake. While social media platforms like Instagram are trying to improve the situation, followers, likes, and comments can easily be bought. Consequently, it’s important for brands to really consider the influencer’s analytics. If you’d rather be doing something more fun than studying analytics, check out apps like Rep (plug!) who will do it for you. This free marketplace connects influencers with brands and gives you all the boring numbers in one pretty, coherent package.