If you’re on any social media platforms — and who isn’t? — you’ve likely seen influencer marketing in action. For example, maybe your favourite blogger shares a recipe using a specific product. The reach of influencers grows each year thanks to the increasing use of the internet. Even startups and small businesses benefit from influencer marketing in 2021.

The Digital Marketing Institute estimates that around 49% of consumers listen to influencers. A whopping 86% of women turn to social media to get advice before buying something. Generation Z values influencers’ opinions highly; 70% of them listen to influencers more than celebrities.

Why will influencer marketing in 2021 be so huge? The pandemic drove people to do more business online, including digital retail. People also use social media to stay connected with family, friends, and their favourite brands. They’re much more likely to trust the word of someone from their friends list than what a company says about themselves.

Influencer marketing can be your secret weapon. Here are the steps to making the most of your efforts.

1. Define Your Online Audience

Your online audience may be different than those you reach through a brick-and-mortar location. Take the time to sort through your e-commerce analytics to see where traffic comes from, which leads convert into customers, and where you have gaps.

Look at your competitors. Who makes up their audience? Is it the same as yours or different? And why? Influencer marketing in 2021 is about finding out where your fans hang out and reaching them often enough that they take notice.

Once you have an idea of who your customers are, take the time to create one or more buyer personas representing their wants and needs. Anything you do, including choosing influencers, should run through the filter of your buyer personas.

2. Utilise Professional Speakers

The competition for influencers on social media is fierce. Some won’t take on new clients, or they are very picky. Anything you release on your pages must also compete with slick, polished campaigns made by experienced marketers.

Hire those who have something to say about your industry. If you want the videos to go viral, find a speaker who already has a following and the ability to engage listeners.

Try to find topics that haven’t been overdone online. If it’s been the focus of 100 TED talks and multiple videos on YouTube, you may have difficulty getting traction from your efforts.

3. Find Your Influencers

Narrow down your list of possible influencers and pay attention to what they do online. What content do they create? Do they offer a mix of different mediums, such as videos, articles, and images? 

Keep a list of which ones you like and why. Watch what other brands they promote. Is yours a good match? They probably won’t take you on if they already represent your competition. Influencer marketing in 2021 is very much about team building and how you can help each other reach the next level. 

Once you have a nice list of potential ambassadors, study their followers and other details. Make sure anyone who represents your brand presents the image you want for your company.

4. Influencer Marketing - Consider Audience Relationship

About 48% of marketers feel that audience relationship is one of the most important factors when choosing an influencer. Keep in mind that micro-influencers with smaller audiences may generate outstanding results. And just because someone has a large audience doesn't mean people act on their recommendations.

Pay attention to how many of the person’s followers comment, like, and share their posts. If there isn’t much interaction, they may not be the best choice for you. 

Think through the tone of the posts. Some people share snarky comments. Others embrace a helpful attitude.

5. Engage the Influencer

Top influencers don’t take just any offer that comes their way. You should begin any relationship by first getting to know the person. Engage with their posts on social media by commenting and sharing.

Study former campaigns they promoted. Why do they appeal to you? How could something similar help your business? For influencer marketing in 2021 to work effectively, you must know as much as possible about the person’s followers and how best to reach them. What other campaigns were successful? How can you tap into the same type of impact when working with the influencer?

Look for a common purpose. How can you help the influencer at the same time they help you?

For example, you can grow their audience by introducing them to your current customers as a new brand ambassador. They can increase your customer base by sharing your brand with their followers. Look for the win/win in the relationship before you approach the influencer.

6. Embrace Disruption

Top marketers prepare for unexpected disruptions in the industry and stand ready to step in with solutions for consumers. The agility of your company can mean the difference between success and failure during turbulent times.

The COVID-19 pandemic is an excellent example of a disruption. No one saw it coming, but the companies that were able to shift and embrace the societal changes thrived.

The key to surviving disruption lies in knowing who you are as a brand. When you have strong core beliefs, you can adapt without changing the inner workings of your company.

How prepared are you for the next disruption? What if the influencers you work with today embrace a trend you disagree with at your core? Are you ready to find new representatives better aligned with your customer service philosophies?

It’s better to be over-prepared than overwhelmed. Think through every potential disaster and plan accordingly.

7. Influencer Marketing - Measure Results

How can you know whether you’ve chosen the right influencers to get the word out about your brand? They are the face of your company online, so you want to make sure you’re getting results from your money and efforts.

Make sure you create separate landing pages for each campaign. Using individual pages tells you immediately how much traffic each influencer brings.

Also, pay attention to where they send traffic from. Are most of the clicks from social media? If you’re getting organic traffic, they may not be as effective as you think they are.

Study engagement on the influencer’s page. How many people are commenting on posts about your product? Do they seem genuinely interested, or are you getting cursory likes?

8. Set a Budget

Even though digital marketing is less expensive than many traditional methods, you can still overspend and underdeliver. Set a budget aside specifically for influencer marketing in 2021. Decide how many different brand ambassadors you want and divide your funds accordingly.

You get what you pay for, so if you go for the free influencers who accept products only, you’ll likely get weaker campaigns. It’s best to give your influencers monetary compensation and have a contract, so there is no confusion over what you expect.

Powerful Forces for Influencer Marketing in 2021

There will be juggernaut moments in your business’s lifetime when certain efforts pay off with significant results. However, not everything you do will be so strong. You have to try new things, seek different people to market for you, and keep striving to improve a little bit each year.

With some focused effort and the right influencers, you’ll see traffic to your website increase. When you find an influencer who is a good fit and generates results, add additional campaigns to their schedule.

When you get few results, try something or someone different. It’s your company, and you have a right to have it represented the way you want. Track the results, give your campaigns a little time, and change what isn’t working.

Eleanor is the editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She’s also a freelance web designer with a focus on customer experience. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dog, Bear.