Many people these days have grown apathetic, if not downright cynical, towards traditional advertising. In a world saturated by advertising, it is not surprising that consumers at present hardly trust the claims of marketers. But this attitude toward traditional advertising usually gets eroded when family members or friends recommend a product or service. These days, a trusted recommendation is considered more credible compared with an advertisement. It is no wonder that according to a study made by Netpop, nearly eight out of 10 social media users use such platforms to get information as well as recommendations about products and services from their immediate networks. Because of these changing dynamics, advertisers now do not discount social media in influencing consumers with their purchasing decisions. They now understand the power of social media as well as various Internet solutions to indirectly advertise to their customers. Introducing influencer marketing Influencer marketing, in its basic sense, involves marketing a certain product and or service to people who tend to have a sway or clout over the things other individuals purchase. This kind of market influence or clout generally stems from the reputation, popularity, or expertise of a person. It is quite similar to the traditional word-of-mouth marketing, but influencer marketing does not strictly rely on explicit product or service recommendations. The field is rapidly growing as people are shying away from traditional careers and looking to become more independent and mobile, which further fuels demand for information about becoming an online influencer in the first place. Influence may come from a huge range of places. Anyone or even a band or place could become an influencer. For instance, celebrities are usually tapped to market products and services since they are highly trusted, respected, and visible. Every time a celebrity uses or endorses a product or service, the product or service also gets exposure, and in many cases, the respect and trust that are usually associated from an endorsement of a celebrity. Bloggers are also considered important influencers since many people see them as authentic and thus, have good loyal followings. When a product or service (say, a laptop or a project management software solution) is recommended by a blogger, especially someone who is regarded as an expert in the tech industry, his or her views are seemed more trustworthy compared with traditional advertising. This type of marketing is relatively unique since it appeals to the influencer’s needs than that of the customer, which has been the approach in traditional marketing techniques. This marketing might include inviting the influencer to check out a product that has not yet been released in the market, or inviting him or her to visit the company personally. How small businesses can use influencer marketing How can small businesses use this form of marketing? Well, small businesses can tap inexpensive online strategies in order to connect with influencers. For instance, a great example of an inexpensive influencer marketing campaign would be a new restaurant encouraging its patrons to post their reviews online. A business conducting landscape architecture projects could start an instructional gardening blog. After all, clout is just as powerful and enticing the local aspect as influence is on the national level. For larger companies that have the budget to tap top influencers, they can develop good influencer marketing campaigns that stretch across various platforms. For instance, they could form long-term partnerships with famous celebrities or even other brands to help them in their product positioning strategies. Here are some of the ways for businesses, small and big, to identify influencers to help them with their marketing campaigns. Identify your brand’s most relevant influencers: Some digital tools such as Appinions and SocMetrics make it easy for brands to look at the social media landscape and analyze the top influencers based on demographic data such as category and geography. Establish relationships: Try to establish relationships with influencers before you ask them to endorse your product or service. Even a simple message on an influencer’s Twitter or Facebook account explaining your company’s vision as well as products and services may encourage a new influencer to help your company. Do not forget other social networking sites: Sometimes companies think only of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook when they look at the social media landscape. But other sites, such as Instagram or Snapchat have millions of users and growing at faster rates. That is why businesses should not forget other social networking sites that can provide significant influence for them. Starting an influencer marketing strategy When making an influencer marketing plan (whether you are a small business or a huge global enterprise), the first step is to set objectives and goals for your campaign. In most cases, the objectives for influencer marketing are not really about increasing sales for your products or services but more on generating buzz and boosting public awareness. After you have established your marketing goals and objectives, you will then have to identify the right influencers for your product or service by looking at target markets and demographics. This is where Google and Facebook can help you with their online searches, which can help you see which individuals or groups that have influence over your target audience or consumers. For instance, a search for laptops would return online results for laptop blogs, computer reviews, as well as enthusiast websites. There are also market research firms that would offer services to help brands look at their customers and the top influencers in their industries. You will need to study the number of influencers you want to target. From there, you can identify the influencers who can best attain the goals and objectives of your campaign. Afterwards, you can start analyzing where your sector’s influencers gather their followers, and the kinds of messages they spread to them. Carefully analyzing the influencer’s preference will make it easier for you to reach out to them later. When you are ready to get in touch with the influencer, you can communicate with them through their social media or other means. The objective is to establish an organic relationship, a relationship not entirely based on endorsing a product or selling a service. Influencers treated with respect and trust by brands may become sincere advocates for the brands they write about, not just mere peddlers of products and services.