By Anna McDermott, Marshall Communications Content Creator

Influencer marketing is all the buzz lately but, as with so much of social media interaction, it can be daunting for a small business owner to try to do it. Good news — it’s actually pretty easy and the Marshall Communications Report is here to help.

Magnifying Glass over social iconsYou already know what your brand is — and who you want to target in traditional marketing — but word-of-mouth and personal recommendations are seen as far more credible to consumers as are paid ads. Since 84% of consumers trust recommendations from family and friends about products, you also want top influencers (people who are popular, and have large and active audiences) marketing for you on social media platforms because they love your brand. This is where engaging with influencers is important. Influencers are changing the marketing landscape and it’s time to use it to your advantage.

In order to find the best influencers for your brand, you need to decide who to engage with. There are three broad categories of influencers:

  • Celebrities, who have millions of followers and can often be paid to promote products on their social networks.
  • Experts/opinion leaders – these are professionals, like journalists, who are widely acknowledged as trustworthy sources from whom to seek information on specific topics.
  • Influential consumers, such as popular bloggers.

Since the average small business owner can’t pay to have Justin Bieber Tweet how much he loves your product, it’s best to select influencers from the other two categories. There are three important criteria to use when choosing which influencers to engage with: Relevance, Reach and Resonance.

Relevance: is the content the influencers are sharing relevant to your brand?

Reach: determines the number of people you could potentially reach through the influencer’s follower base who would bring value to your business.

Resonance: is defined by engaging with a valuable audience through relevant content.

There many services you can pay for to help you find influencers, but you can also use ones that have some degree of free service, like Alexa or Klout, to vet social influencers. Generally anyone with a Klout score of 50 or more is worth engaging with. They are an established expert in their field and people know it. You can even Google and search hashtags on social platforms to help you get started.

Start small. Pick five people to engage with (you won’t be able to do it well with more than this) and then comment or like things the influencer posts. Retweet, share their Facebook posts and occasionally ask them direct questions. Remember to “listen more, talk less” on social media platforms. This is not the arena for a hard sell. Work on establishing a relationship — your name will become increasingly more recognizable. Over time, your interactions with the influencers start to carry more weight and that’s when you will begin to see the benefits of this approach to marketing.