7 Factors Brands Need to Consider Before Hiring an Influencer

A great influencer for one brand could be a painful fit for another but a little bit of homework can avoid problems.

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By John Boitnott

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Social media and content marketing are valuable tools for reaching customers, but most brands have a limited reach. Once a business's profile is in place, that business will start to communicate with many of the same people repeatedly. To truly boost its bottom line, a business must find ways to regularly reach new customers.

For many brands, this means turning to influencers to help get the word out. Generally defined as online personalities with a large or very devoted group of followers, influencers have the ability to get a message out to many people at once. But brands make a mistake by focusing solely on the number of followers a person has. Here are seven features your business should look for in an influencer that will help you really target the right one.

1. Compatible followers.

Sheer numbers mean little when it comes to conversions. In general, it is true that the more followers someone has, the more engagement their online actions may generate for various brands they discuss. However, an influencer can have hundreds of thousands of followers but if their audience wouldn't be interested in your brand, it's probably a waste of time to market to them. Identify influencers whose audience matches your own target demographic, even if those influencers have fewer followers than others.

Related: How Influencers Should Be Compensated by Brands

2. Celebrity status.

In the world of the Internet, "celebrity" comes in a variety of forms. A celebrity who interacts on social media has a reach much broader than someone who doesn't interact much, especially if that celebrity has a large number of fans in another medium. There are movie and TV stars, of course, but reality show stars are also celebrities and they often actively engage with fans online, so they end up with more engagement. Music stars who engage with their large followings can also be highly effective when promoting events like music festivals. Popular YouTube posters and bloggers can also have a large online following that could be beneficial to brands. Often a business has better luck approaching an Internet celebrity than actors, musicians or reality show stars.

3. Content of posts.

Before contacting an influencer, carefully peruse his or her posts to determine if the content posted regularly is a good fit for your brand. You'll likely find some social media influencers portray an online image that isn't compatible with your own vision. Browse through an influencer's past posts and review them to make sure you won't have any surprises after your partnership launches.

4. Social media outlet.

Each brand has an ideal social media outlet, whether it's the image-based content of Pinterest or the short-form videos found on Vine. Instagram influencers are significantly different than Twitter "power users." While Instagram is almost completely visual in nature and speaks to a younger demographic, Twitter skews older and is perhaps best well known as a way to share news-related items, often about business, sports or entertainment. Identify the best outlet for your brand and find an influencer who has mastered that platform.

5. Audience engagement.

When done correctly, social networking encourages two-way communication. A good influencer for your brand not only posts interesting content, but he or she also interacts with others online. This regular engagement means followers are more likely to pay attention to recommendations.

Related: Facebook, Twitter or Instagram: Determining the Best Platform for Mobile Marketing

6. Past brand activity.

As you research an influencer's past content, pay particular attention to past brand efforts. How did the influencer handle promoting other products? Your research will not only help you weed out social media users who won't give your brand the push it needs, but it will also give you a great reference point when you contact the influencer. You'll be able to say, "I like what you did for (Brand X) and would love something similar for my product launch."

7. Results.

Once you've identified your influencer and the work has begun, you must measure your results. Research a variety of analytics tools like Google Analytics, Buzzstarter, and 33Across and find the one that best fits your influencer-based marketing efforts. Over time, you'll be able to clearly define your successes and missteps and shape future influencer searches based on them.

Influencers hold a great deal of clout when it comes to reaching people online. When used effectively, brands can reach a large number of people at minimal expense. By learning as much as possible about each influencer you approach, you'll be able to find the perfect fit for your own brand.

Related: The Psychology of Influencer Marketing

John Boitnott

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor

John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.

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