Some could argue that word-of-mouth is the original social media platform. We care a lot about the opinions of those nearest and dearest to us, which is why personal recommendations carry such weight in our decision-making process. Social media has taken the concept of word-of-mouth to a whole new level, characterized by the frequency, immediacy and influence we come to expect from our favourite social platforms. For business owners, engaging online is a must to build awareness, expand your audience and ultimately drive sales and one of the most powerful ways of creating digital connections is through Influencer marketing.

There’s been a lot of buzz around Influencers lately, but how exactly do we define these elusive entities, and how do you target the right Influencers for your brand? There’s a huge misunderstanding online when it comes to the term “Influencer” since many who bear this label are really just popular. Influence is the ability to actually persuade someone into taking action.  Simply put, Influencers are normal people who have an above-average impact on a group of consumers active in a specific niche demographic. An Influencer doesn’t necessarily just have a large following on social media, they have the right following: namely, your target audience.

First determining your target audience and then identifying the people that they connect with is key before trying to track down an Influencer to engage. Tools like Snapfluence and Klout can help you determine who is most actively engaged with your target audience. Another trick for finding Influencers is looking to those who are already in your network and following your activity. While perhaps not on the same scale as some Influencers determined via a tool like Snapfluence, the people already engaging with your brand can be powerful promoters within their own personal networks.

Influencers have built trust within their online community and are seen as thought-leaders. One of the best ways to engage an Influencer is to provide him or her with a compelling story surrounding your product and service, and define the action you’d like their audience to take once your product or service is shared.  It’s important that your story be authentic, since people who follow Influencers resonate with their personal brand and the messages they share.  An Influencer’s ability to craft and curate compelling content is what sets them apart and helps fuel their digital community-building. As such, Influencers are a great resource for helping develop content, but remember: Influencers are highly passionate about their niche interests and the information they share with their followers. Make sure you communicate your expectations clearly and recognize the importance of genuine connection and relationship building.

Influencer marketing can help you reach a larger audience within your interest area and as an added bonus, encourages the creation of user-generated content (one of the most powerful forms of promotion online.) When developing an Influencer marketing campaign, prioritize posts that inspire community engagement. Leveraging the power of the Influencer’s network in helping promote the creation of user-generated content builds awareness while creating new connections. Branded hashtag campaigns, photo sharing and liking the content created by those in your network are powerful ways to share your brand and build your digital audience.

Influencer marketing can empower your brand and help grow your following organically. The trust that Influencers have built within their digital networks can be leveraged to promote your products or services in a way that’s authentic, and resonates with your target audience. Once you’ve identified the right Influencers who speak to your target audience, giving these key figures the opportunity to tell the story of your brand to their followers will drive engagement and encourage others to connect with your brand, which is the ultimate goal.