With so many different options available for online advertising, with instant results (think Google AdWords), why are more marketing teams evaluating the opportunity of influencer campaigns? Impacting sales takes more effort that simply directing a consumer to click and arrive on a landing page; it’s a connection that brands must make with consumers, to create a favorable impression. One that ultimately results in a purchase decision.
How to Pick the Right Influencers for Your Brand
Finding influencers is easier than choosing the right ones to work with. To make the most out of your businesses’ investment in strategic influencer marketing , evaluate each potential endorsement, and then pick the right influencers, using these ten criteria.
1. Portfolio of Work
Working with an influencer takes time, capital investment and creative strategy. Working with an inexperienced influencer (regardless of the value of their online audience) can be risky for established brands or start-up’s. Evaluate the portfolio of endorsement work that an influencer has done, and review feedback from other brands who have worked with them, before starting a campaign.
2. Demographic of Social Media Followers
Digital marketing provides results when businesses are clear about their market, and the demographic  of the audience they wish to reach. The influencer will be able to provide metrics including geographic location, age and gender to confirm that the advocacy they will provide, will reach the target audience.
3. Quality of Content
What kind of content does the digital influencer create? Are they “how to” videos and blogs? Are they podcasting to reach a diverse audience and grow their followership? Grade the quality of the graphics they produce and other marketing collateral they use when mentioning brands they are promoting, and decide if that quality aligns with your brand persona.
4. Persistency of Communication
How often does the influencer communicate with his or her followers on social media? How regularly are they producing engaging content that entertains, and informs their audience? The average active social media influencer will post no less than five times per week on average, and has a track record of creating regular conversation with followers, to retain engagement levels. Quiet accounts result in an a low ‘listen’ rating, which provides little value for brands.
5. Follower Engagement
Advertisers need to access a large social audience, but also one that is actively involved in the influencer’s channel. If you are a brand paying for endorsement of your product or service, you want it to be seen by people, or the investment (and it’s usually a substantial one) won’t provide any return for your business.
Be skeptical about pages or social network followers that demonstrate low engagement. Does the channel receive replies, retweets or ‘likes’ daily? That is the first indicator of a robust engagement rate. Pay close attention to the pTAT score  (people talking about this), and question any influencer that has a large following, but low response rate. In cases of low engagement, two things are probable: a) the content is poor and disinteresting to the followers, and they’ve stopped listening and b) there is a good chance that a large percentage of the followers may be inactive, or fake followers.
6. Advertising Costs
Is the influencer willing and available to work with your brand repeatedly, over a sustained period? Many advertisers have learned the hard way, that a one-time mention from a leading influencer has less impact on sales, than periodic repetition and endorsement. If they are available to advocate for your brand, they will be willing to engage in a long-term campaign strategy, and provide metrics to measure the efficacy of reach for promoted posts.
7. Reciprocal Benefit for the Influencer
It is important for marketers to understand that the product or service must also align with the influencers established persona, and the expectations of their audience. Inappropriate matching of influencers to products can happen (think Kendall Jenner and the recently failed Pepsi Cola  commercial). There must be a strong connection between the influencer and the brand, for the endorsement to be plausible and effective.
8. Use of Persuasive Messaging
Look at the conversational tone that is being used by the influencer. Do they TELL their followers to buy the product, or do they share in more natural, effective ways, the attributes that they love about your brand? Consumers are sensitive to the “hard pitch” when it comes to social selling. An experienced influencer finds a balance between being a brand advocate and promoting in an authentic way that does not offend their followers, by avoiding pressured-sales communication tactics.
9. Suitability for Brand Advocacy
Influencers must contractually agree to avoid endorsing competitive products, or brands that many not align (i.e., explicit content) with the culture of your organization. As beneficial as it is to expand brand awareness through influencer marketing, the influencer can also do damage to established brands, by representing products that are offensive to some consumers.
10. Authenticity of Social Media Followers
Beware bought followers! Both celebrity and micro-influencers know that brands will measure their potential against the number of followers that they have on popular social media networkers, like Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. Anyone can buy hundreds of thousands of followers in less than five business days, and for a nominal expense.
While bought followers help to dishonestly elevate the perception of social influence and impress advertisers, they offer virtually zero value to brands. How can you tell if an influencer has bought followers? You can utilize software like FollowerCheck , which provides a report on authentic and bot or fake account followers. Another good service for checking valid vs. fake account followers for Twitter is BotOrNot .
Consumer attitudes toward display advertising  began to shift in 2015, and with the use of adblocking plug-in’s, marketing teams must invest more heavily in viral content opportunities, including the use of celebrity and micro-influencers, to expand promotional reach.
For more valuable insights that support the value of strategic influencer marketing, read “Attitudes to Sponsored and Branded Content (Native Advertising)”  by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.
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