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Since the modern origins of marketing emerged in the 1950s and the concept of branding was born, success has - for the most part - always been dependent on the marketers ability to create influence. Yet since 2016, brands, publishers and agencies alike are talking about ‘influencer marketing’ as though it’s the rise of a new radical set to remodel the industry entirely. Maybe so, but as 2018 unravels, the questions is: Is this a force for good or bad? The jury may still be out on what lies ahead for the influencer, but as they say, there’s no smoke without fire. If this is a strategy you want to adopt this year, the focus is on ensuring your flame will burn the brightest. Here are a few sparks from us on how to make the best start. ##Don’t overrule objectives: Whether you’re looking to work with a YouTuber, Instagrammer or otherwise, avoid getting blindsided by the figures. For instance it’s easy to focus on followers or subscribers and lose track of the message you want to deliver with your content but, when identifying the types of creators you’re looking to work with, be sure to use your marketing objectives as a constant reference point. Always examine your audience, the platform, the character in question, your chosen medium (i.e. a guest blog post, a photo shoot, or a short film) and then plan for rolling the content out. Once these elements have been considered, you can review your list and look at prioritising your selection before beginning your outreach. ##Quality content prevails: The internet has become an exceptionally noisy place with both individuals and organisations vying for the digital real estate on your mobile and laptop screens - articles, imagery, videos, memes and so on. Everyone is in competition online and attention is sparse, so how do you cut through? The answer is quality, it always has and always will be. Whatever the message may be, don’t create content simply for the sake of it, create content to inspire, excite or provoke. If you invest time in developing a concept, identifying your influencer [as referred to previously] and collaborating closely on the project as it unfolds, you are more likely to develop content which will stop people in their tracks. Something to remember here, influencer marketing isn’t just about reaching new and more engaged audiences. It’s two-fold. As the opportunity for influencers in practise has grown, it has become apparent that we’re looking at the next generation of creators too - after all, that’s how they built their audience to begin with, right? Look at these prospects as partners in your business and the quality will only increase further. Nurturing a relationship with a creator like this could prove to be one of your most valuable assets. ##Action authenticity: Unfortunately it’s not all positive. There are growing concerns about the transparency of influencers and how brands are using them. As illustrated above [linked in the first paragraph], almost half of the participants in a study by Prizeology of 2,000 UK shoppers said they felt influencer marketing was “damaging” to society. The research also shows that several influencer campaigns have been spiked by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority in the last 12 months and that they are “readying for a crackdown on brands and platforms that fail to signpost this type of content”. Though this is a troubling sign, the solution is plainly in how authentic you chose to be with your marketing efforts. And it’s important not to claim to be authentic, but instead let it flow through your output, reflecting your message and resonating with your audience. Firstly, finding the right influencer is key. By this, we mean selecting someone who aligns with your values and vice versa. This way you can be very open with your audience about why you’ve partnered with this individual specifically, what they can expect to see from the partnership going forward and why it will benefit them. Secondly, trusting the influencer to create content and distribute it in their style first and foremost is essential, and ultimately that’s why you’re working with them. Avoid taking too much control and making it about your product or service instead of being about the audience’s needs or interests, this will be obvious to see and could risk being skipped almost immediately. Lastly, think about your customer and ask yourself, ‘what would they really want to see from us?’. Simplifying things in this way can have a profound effect on the authenticity of the material you create as it helps you get to the point and bypass any waffle or unnecessary sales talk, which consumers are all to wary of these days. Put yourself in their shoes throughout the process and you won’t veer of track. ##Final Word As with all areas of marketing, remember that this is just one component in a mix of activities carried out to better tell your story, but it’s an exciting space because of how new it is. Influencer marketing isn’t traditional in the slightest so you have to think and act differently to how you’ve done things before, but there’s a huge opportunity to communicate with both existing and new audiences, and it’s all there for the taking - if done right. For the most part, Influencer Marketing still appears to be in its infancy but we all know how quickly things can change nowadays so stay nimble, think ahead and craft a story that will stand the test of time. This certainly isn’t a ‘quick win’ strategy so be prepared to invest time and effort into making this work. But if you use these points as starting blocks, further tailor your approach and pursue a series of interesting influencers (or content partners!) then you could surprise yourself with how your brand affinity and credibility become even more clear to your customer. And this will only take your business that step further. Join the **Digital Marketing Leaders Summit** to gain more insights, please visit the website [here](https://forwardleading.co.uk/summits?topic=Digital+Marketing#search ).

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