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When it comes time to identify influencers, the process can be rather tricky. The influencer market is incredibly popular. More than 90 percent of marketers who’ve used influencer marketing believe it to be very effective. Nearly half of all brands that have used it plan on spending more on it in the coming months.

Even as influencer marketing becomes ubiquitous, and brands discover its worth, one thing remains a challenge — how to identify influencers. In 2015, three-quarters of marketing and communications professionals stated that finding influencers was their biggest challenge. Fast-forward to 2018, and 60 percent of marketers would like to see “influencer discovery” (aka finding and identifying influencers) improved.

Part of knowing how to identify influencers involves knowing what makes a person an influencer in the first place. The other part involves knowing your brand and what types of influencers are a good fit for it.

What Makes Someone an “Influencer?”

How do you know when a person is an influencer? It can be easy to laugh and say that you know an influencer when you see one. But there’s more to it than that.

At one point, the common assumption was that people with lots of followers on social media were automatically influencers. After all, hundreds of thousands or millions of other accounts were following them.

While many influencers do have large followings, there is more to it than that. Perhaps the most important quality that makes someone an influencer is how much they are able to alter or sway the actions of others.

An influencer with 100,000 followers who can get 80,000 of those followers to do something (whether it’s clicking on a link or making a purchase) is more of an influencer than a person with one million followers who can’t convince anyone to do anything.

Influencers aren’t born, they’re made. They have in-depth knowledge of their industries or fields. Influencers also know how to create posts that will appeal to their audiences without coming across as overly salesy or promotional. Whether that industry is beauty, fashion, transportation, technology, or something else. Influencers have spent the time needed to cultivate their followings, building up a sense of rapport and trust with the people who tune in to what they have to say.

Best Practices to Identify Influencers

How does a marketer or brand know when it’s found an influencer? Unfortunately, confetti doesn’t rain down while trumpets blast from the heavens.

You can use a few best practices to help streamline the process of identifying influencers, and to help your brand find people who are an ideal fit for your current or upcoming campaigns.

Know Thyself

Before you start looking for influencers, it’s important for your brand to have understanding of who it is, who it serves, who it wants to serve, what it does, and so on. That way, you’ll be able to find an influencer who “makes sense” for your brand. For example, if you’re a B2B company that specializes in solving shipping issues for small businesses, finding an influencer who usually works with fashion brands doesn’t make sense for you.

Use an Influencer Marketplace (or other tools)

When it comes to actually tracking down influencers, you have a lot of options. You could searching on social media for an influencer or contact an influencer agent. An easy and relatively budget-friendly way to identify influencers is to use an influencer marketplace or a similar type of influencer marketing software. With a marketplace, you can connect with influencers in a particular industry or niche who are actively looking for partnerships. You’ll also be able to learn more about the influencers’ past projects, what their reach is, and what they typically post about.

Learn as Much as Possible About the Influencer

Whether you use an influencer marketplace or not, it’s imperative that you learn as much as possible about the influencer before you decide to work with them. You don’t want to work with an influencer who has skeletons in their closet or who has a history of posting offensive or inappropriate stuff on their social media profiles.

Get in Touch

It’s up to your brand to make first contact when identifying influencers. If you use a marketplace, most have tools that facilitate conversation with influencers through the platform. Another option is to direct message or email the influencer. Be sure to introduce yourself and explain what your brand is, what you’re looking for, and why you think the influencer is a good fit.

What to Look for When Identifying Influencers

Now that you know how to identify influencers, what features should you look for when you find them?

It’s not just how many people are following an influencer that counts. It’s also who those people are and how they respond to the influencer. You want to pay attention to the content and quality of an influencer’s posts.

Influencer Content

What does the influencer post about on a regular basis? Are they knowledgeable about a subject that’s relevant to your brand? DO they tend to create generic posts that don’t display a lot of knowledge or experience? Do they have any posts that could be seen as offensive?

Another aspect to look for is if the influencer has worked with brands similar to yours in the past. You don’t want to partner up with an influencer who’s already worked with your biggest competitor (unless you want to try what Sprint did by stealing the former spokesperson for Verizon — but that can be a risky move).

Content Quality

How good do the influencer’s posts look? If they’re taking photos or creating videos, are the photos or videos clear, easy to look at, or easy to hear (in the case of videos with sound)? Are words spelled correctly in the captions or other text connected to the post?

Influencer Reach

When an influencer posts something, what happens next? How many people comment or like the influencer’s posts on average? How many people end up clicking through the post or using the special link or code the influencer provided?

Influencer Professionalism

Whether the influencer has experience working with brands or not, you want to be sure they have a sense of professionalism. That can mean anything from responding in a timely fashion to your messages or queries to meeting deadlines set by your brand and turning in high-quality work the first time and every time.

Knowing how to identify influencers is key to your brand’s success with influencer marketing. Although it can seem as if there are millions of influencers out there, it might be the case that only a handful are the best fit for your brand.