marketingWhen it comes to small business branding these days, influencer marketing is trending, and for a good reason. With pervasive social media channels in addition to traditional media outlets, consumers respond to influencers more than ever. Honing into and collaborating with those doing the influencing can be extremely effective and save you a lot of work and expenses as they drive your message home for you.

Here are some ways small businesses can master the influencer marketing process.

Who are Influencers?

It depends on your industry, but influencers can include bloggers, journalists, professional organizations and associations, celebrities and business peers. It can be anyone with credibility and influence (thus the term “influencers”) who has a platform for spreading his or her views to your market.

The key, of course, is picking the right one’s for your business. That doesn’t always mean choosing someone with the highest number of followers but rather the ones most trusted and respected by the audience you’re trying to reach.

Types of Influencer Marketing

Inspired: This is the holy grail of influencer marketing. It’s when an influencer organically decides to endorse or promote your product or service because they like it. It’s free and can be incredibly powerful.

Hired/Paid: Because you can never guarantee inspired influencer marketing, you’ll likely need to pay influencers to spread the word about your business for you. Sometimes this means supplying free products or services to bloggers and journalists; other times it means hiring someone to do a paid campaign for you.

Whatever you choose, the ROI can be significant. One study found that on average for every $1 spent on influencer marketing, businesses earn $6.50, with some earning much more.

Why It Works

Even as paid spokespeople, influencer marketing tends to feel organic to the customer. Everyone likes word-of-mouth recommendations, and while influencer marketing goes beyond that, it has much the same effect. People aren’t doing business with you because you’re telling them to; they’re doing it because someone they trust told them it’s a good idea.

It’s more effective than ever today because social media provides more and more platforms for influencers to use and drive home your business message to a wider audience than traditional marketing can often reach. One tweet from an influencer consumers trust can potentially have more power than a television commercial.

With a direct recommendation, consumers feel in-the-know, and it’s then your job to support and reinforce those positive impressions.

The bottom line: If you haven’t utilized influencer marketing yet, it’s time to consider it. It could be just the boost your business needs.