In days gone by, the only form of “word-of-mouth” marketing took place between people in everyday conversation. Emails and phone calls definitely changed the way we communication, but the biggest game changer has undoubtedly been social media.

While starting out as places friends could share about their lives, social media has become a crucial marketing tool for all brands. Instagram, for example, has 800 million monthly users and more than 80% of them follow business accounts, according to Sprout Social.

Even better than business accounts are the accounts of influencers—bloggers, media personalities, and others who are able to share products and services directly with fans through their accounts. 70% of teens trust influencers more than traditional celebrities, and 86% of women use social media for purchasing advice, says The Digital Marketing Institute.

Find your influencers

According to a study done by McKinsey, marketing-inspired word-of-mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising, and these customers have a 37% higher retention rate.

Whether these people have become influencers by being popular or knowledgeable about the industry, or a mixture of both, they can serve as powerful ambassadors for your company and product.

Get started by identifying your niche in the market.

Influencers are already experts at this. They built their audience by being relatable and approachable. Many of them leveraged a niche interest into a platform for related products and services.

Find out where your audience looks for help making decisions. You could send out a brief poll or survey asking your clients who they follow online, or showing them a few of your top options and asking who seems more authentic. You could also keep an eye on how your followers on social media interact with other brands and influencers.

There are 4 things you need to consider when shopping influencers:

  • Reach: The amount of followers isn’t everything when looking at influencers. Local, lesser known influencers, called micro influencers, could be a great decision for a company that focuses on small businesses. Don’t forget to check for fake followers!
  • Relevance: Make sure you’re contacting influencers that are relevant for your industry. Sure, it might be nice to get a top influencer to share an ad for your business, but if the target demographic is wrong, it’s unlikely they’ll make the impact you were hoping for. This can be an expensive mistake!
  • Resonance: Besides the people itself, companies also need to ensure their brand content will resonate well with their followers. When hiring anyone, it is imperative to ensure they will represent your company well. Not only should their followers be a part of the target market you’re looking to hit, but you should feel good about the person being a representative of your company.
  • Audience Engagement: It’s one thing to have followers but if there is limited engagement, it’s a bad sign. You want the audience of the influencer to become your audience as well, so make sure there’s strong interaction in the comments to make a good investment.

Communicating with Influencers

It’s important to engage with influencers with respect and professionalism. Timeliness and setting clear expectations are both examples of the courtesy required when engaging with anyone, including your influencers.

From the first time you approach them, reach out privately and personally, demonstrate you’ve done your research, and have a compensation plan and budget in mind.

After they agree to a partnership, open yourself up to their experience and insights. They have their own brand and will have a good idea on how to organically integrate your sponsorship into it.

The best ads will not replace the voice and brand that the influencer uses already, but rather allow influencers to open up a dialogue with their audience. This also means companies will need to be willing to give up some creative control.

The Future of Influencer Social Media Engagement

Word of mouth marketing may look a little different than it has traditionally, but the idea is the same: people like hearing good things from trusted voices.

Influencers are more revered than the average person, but more approachable than celebrities. They can directly and intimately reach your target audience.

Influencer marketing is only going to increase in the upcoming years. Get started and be ready!

Parker Davis
Parker Davis is the CEO of Nexa, a leader in the virtual receptionist and technology-enabled answering services industry. He believes that the application of data analytics, investment in technology, and fostering a positive company culture together create highly efficient and scalable growth companies. In 2016, Nexa achieved record revenues while also being awarded the Top Companies to Work For in Arizona award. Parker is also the Managing Partner of Annison Capital Partners, LLC, a private investment partnership. Follow him @callnexa and on Facebook and LinkedIn.