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The number of people searching Google for the phrase influencer marketing has more than tripled over the last year. Many companies have discovered that influencer marketing can be a cost-effective way to build brand awareness and drive online conversions.

If you want to grow your business through influencer marketing, five best practices will help you get excellent results.

1. Set a Clear Goal

Although there are some unique aspects to working with influencers, this strategy is still a marketing activity. Getting the best return on your investment from this marketing channel requires having a clear goal.

Before you start reaching out to influencers, decide if your goal is to build brand awareness, promote a specific product, grow your email list or something else.

2. Start with One Platform

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the different options for collaborating with influencers. Instead of trying to do everything at once, choose one platform and start with it.

Instagram is a popular choice for fashion brands. Snapchat can work great if you’re targeting younger potential customers. And working with bloggers is an excellent choice if you’re interested in getting SEO benefits from your influencer marketing efforts. From mom bloggers, to health and fitness, there’s an endless world of bloggers that you could reach out to. All you need to do is send them an email, ask if they would be interested in your brand, send them a complimentary sample of your product to review on their blog (and share on their social networking platforms) to help promote it to their readers and followers.

3. Look Beyond Follower Counts

The most significant mistake companies make with this type of marketing is only looking at people with big follower counts. One issue with this approach is it’s easier than ever to buy fake followers. Another problem is the most prominent influencers may charge more than what they’re worth to a small or medium business.

Instead of follower counts, your evaluation of potential influencers should focus on how much engagement they create and whether they reach your target audience. That can help you identify “micro-influencers.” These influencers are highly engaged with their smaller audiences and tend to charge very reasonable rates, or are willing to help promote your product for free (if they like it).

4. Give Influencers Freedom

Micromanaging is another mistake companies often make when working with influencers. Providing brand guidelines for influencer partners is fine. What you don’t want are strict rules that prevent an influencer from being authentic.

Influencers understand their audiences better than anyone else. Giving them the freedom to choose how they share your product with their followers will yield the best results.

5. Build Long-Term Relationships

As a small or medium business, it’s essential to invest time in finding the right influencers. Once you do see an influencer who is an excellent fit for your brand, it’s worth building a long-term relationship with them. By finding multiple opportunities to collaborate, you will be able to maximize the amount of value you get from their audience.

When done correctly, influencer marketing can be a potent channel. By setting a clear goal, starting with one platform, looking beyond follower counts, giving influencers freedom and building long-term relationships, you’ll be able to grow your business through influencer marketing successfully.

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