When it comes to influencer marketing, the focus is less on the target audience and more on the influencers who reach the target audience. Influencer marketing is an indirect way of reaching thousands of more people than you might achieve on your own.

Influencer marketing combines traditional marketing methods, such as celebrity endorsements, with new trends in social media outreach. In the past, a local or national celebrity promoted your product for you. Today, an influencer might not be a celebrity in the traditional sense but has a significant social media following of a specific audience.

However, there are some considerations if you want influencer marketing to work for you, rather than merely spinning your wheels.

1. Know Your Target Audience

Before approaching an influencer, understand your audience and who they are. Once you have a firm handle on your typical buyer, it’s easier to narrow down influencers who reach that demographic.

In a survey of more than 100 marketers, researchers found one of the top reasons marketers use influencers is to reach millennials and centennials. If your target audience mostly consists of a younger crowd, you’ll want to seek out influencers with a heavy presence on sites such as Instagram.

2. Interact With Your Influencer and Their Audience

You can’t jump on an influencer’s page and start promoting to their audience at random. Taking over someone’s page without permission aggravates the influencer and anyone who follows them. Instead, spend time interacting with the influencer and getting to know their audience. Share their content on your page. Interview them and share info on them with your audience. Develop a relationship, and you’ll be better able to see how the two of you might work together.

An excellent example of this type of relationship-building is on Dr. Eric Berg’s YouTube page. He recently interviewed Dr. Joseph Mercola, a longtime natural health doctor who has a significant following. Instead of asking Mercola to promote him, Berg reached out and invited Mercola for an interview. The information they discussed is valuable to Berg’s audience, but on the influencer side of things, Mercola is likely to share a link to the video with his audience and introduce them to Berg.

3. Create Viral Videos

Another way of working with influencers is creating videos of value to their audience. They’re more likely to share a video if it speaks to their fans. Make your video stand out from all the others by being upfront and authentic. Tell a story that changes the watcher’s viewpoint instead of just presenting information.

4. Prepare Your Sales Team

Even though influencer marketing usually is more of the slow-exposure, trickle-in variety, there are times when an influencer gives a brand a shoutout, and the business suddenly gets swamped with orders. Prepare your sales teams for an increase in sales and ensure your customer service is stellar. Make sure your sales team has collaboration and communication in place and track sales with internal data and analytics.

5. Find the Unique Value

Each product or service has a unique value for consumers. Think about the problem your product solves and how that relates to the audience of the influencer you’re working with. You must present the value of your product, so they feel an emotional connection and as though you can solve the problem for them.

FIJI Water teamed up with a fashion blogger influencer named Danielle Bernstein. They also worked with trainer Eric Johnson to draw in people who care about working out and being healthy. When you’re working out, you need to stay hydrated, so FIJI water is a natural choice. The campaign features photos of Bernstein in workout gear with a bottle of FIJI Water and eight-minute workout videos.

6. Share the Influencer’s Content

Develop a relationship with the influencers you’d like to work with by sharing and commenting on their content. If the content is valuable to your readers, go ahead and share it on your brand page. If the influencer posts something that ties into your industry, add a comment. Be careful not to make it spammy, but contribute something of value to the conversation.

Sharing influencer content also expands the content you have available for your readers, and the influencer may give you a nod and share something of yours at some point. Just remember influencers are reasonably picky about what they share, because their readers trust them, so make sure your content is of the utmost quality.

7. Budget for Influencer Marketing

In a survey of professional marketers, researchers found 37 percent have a dedicated budget for influencer marketing. Hiring an influencer to give the nod to your brand can represent an investment. These are people who’ve often spent years building a strong following in a particular market. They know their value and are highly selective about what partnerships they take on.

Even though you might not see an immediate return on investment with influencer marketing, the brand exposure grows your business over time.

8. Send out Samples

Another useful tactic is reaching out to the influencer and asking if they’d like a free sample of your product. There shouldn’t be any strings attached to sending the sample. However, if the influencer loves it, they may write a review and mention the product.

You are still paying the influencer in a roundabout way by providing a free product, so the influencer may need to disclose they received the item as a free sample. However, if the influencer has a reputation for honesty and transparency, their readers will still take note of their recommendations.

9. Track and Communicate

Track the ROI of the influencer campaign. While it’s difficult to measure the ongoing, long-term impact, you can certainly see how many likes a post about your brand gets or how much traffic goes from the influencer’s post to your landing page on your website.

Communicate with your influencers about what works and ways to improve any future collaborations. Keep in mind, some influencer audiences may seem like a good match, but then fail to create results. Keep the influencers working well with your target audience and replace the ones that aren’t working.

Recommendations Work

Who are you more likely to listen to when choosing a product — the business itself or a third party recommending the business? Recommendations, even online from someone we don’t personally know, are more powerful than a business singing praises about itself. Influencers add value by recommending you to their highly targeted audience of buyers. Spend time this year on influencer marketing and watch your business gain new customers and brand recognition.

About the Author: Lexie Lu is a freelance designer and writer. She enjoys researching the latest design trends and always has a cup of coffee nearby. She manages Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.