By Nancy Marshall, The PR Maven®

Everything You Need To Know About Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is all the rage. It is a form of social media marketing that leverages endorsements and product placements from famous personalities and businesses to change hearts and minds.

Think Kylie Jenner endorsing a new face lotion on TikTok or Roger Federer tweeting about that new Rolex in his watch collection. In many ways, influencers are often trusted more by everyday consumers than brands themselves since people can form strong connections with the people they follow online (even if they never meet them). Look at it this way: Soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has more Instagram followers than there are people in the United States and Russia combined, making his thoughts, feelings and endorsements massively consequential—and uniquely marketable.

Influencer marketing can be a valuable tool in your toolbox, even if you work with lower-level influencers than famous athletes. At the very least, such marketing should be a consideration, based on your business and budget.

Before you jump on the bandwagon, ask yourself: Is influencer marketing right for your brand? To answer that question, you need to have an innate understanding of your brand’s target audience and how to reach those people online.

There are three “R’s” to consider before joining forces with an influencer:

1. Relevance: Is the content that the influencer shares relevant to your brand?

2. Reach: Does the influencer reach an audience large enough to add value? And is that audience legitimate and engaged?

3. Resonance: Will your content be meaningful to the influencer’s audience, making a potential collaboration mutually beneficial?

If all of the boxes are checked, then influencer marketing can make a ton of sense for brands looking to expand their reach and strengthen their bottom line. Even influencers with relatively few followers can bring value if they are relevant to a specific niche that is important to you. The reach is what matters: If a travel influencer matters to 10,000 dedicated fans, that audience may still be large enough to make a significant difference.

My agency groups influencers into tiers based on fame and audience reach: mega, macro, midtier, micro and nano. Of course, the larger an influencer’s audience, the more expensive it usually is to collaborate with them—mega- or macro-level influencers can cost millions of dollars. Ronaldo, for instance, earns nearly $2 million per Instagram post.

But not all hope is lost. The lower rungs of the influencer ladder can still be beneficial to your brand. As long as you trust the process of maximizing the impact of your influencer marketing, the outcome can be very rewarding for you.

At Marshall Communications, we begin the influencer search by identifying creators with a strong online presence that also aligns with your brand. It’s important that influencers are engaging with real, motivated followers, not paid-for bots. We then develop a “most wanted” influencer list and start communicating with them through engagement—such as liking or commenting on their posts.

Some influencers work with an agent who can share their rates for sponsorship, while others can be contacted directly to start a conversation. Rates vary depending on whether influencers create custom content for your brand or you provide the image and copy that they need to post.

Do your homework early on in the process. Influencer selection can be a very time-consuming and expensive process since your brand needs to be aligned with the right creators. You need to work with reliable people who add value, and that takes time and effort from a research perspective. Just to get the process right for our clients, we may even work with partners who can provide lists of possible influencers within certain budget parameters.

When you nail the process, that’s when you generate a return on investment. There is ROI associated with influencer marketing, as long as you’re strategic and your tactics match the overarching strategy. It is crucial to have clear goals outlined in advance of an influencer campaign so the objectives and parameters of success are clearly understood. Set your expectations properly so there are no surprises or second guesses down the road.

At the conclusion of an influencer campaign, you can determine the outcome with details like impressions, likes, shares, comments and unique URL clicks. Depending on the campaign, your goal may be an uptick in sales or even just increased public awareness and education. It all depends on your business and your budget.

Remember the three “R’s,” and influencer marketing can work for you. Doing your homework early will save you a headache later on, when all you want to feel is excitement about ROI.

This article originally appeared on the Forbes Agency Council CommunityVoice in March 2023.