This post first appeared in Anthony Bullick’s Daily Post column

Influencer marketing is a phrase that has exploded in popularity over the last few years – with the industry set to be worth $9.7bn in 2020.

For many businesses, particularly SMEs, the main questions are: will it help us and how do we carry it out?

The term influencer marketing became mainstream thanks to the likes of Joe Wicks aka The Body Coach (food and fitness) and Zoella (beauty), and essentially refers to someone who has built up a loyal following across social media.

To help decide whether it should be included in your strategy, it’s important to break down the different types and categories to understand the landscape.

Firstly, influential content creators come in all shapes and sizes with varying specialisms, audiences, follower counts and brand voice.

When identifying suitable third parties to approach, avoid looking solely at vanity metrics such as number of fans, comments and likes. One of the questions to ask is ‘have you got any examples of your outputs working on similar campaigns’? – they should be able to show you the impact of partnering with them.

In addition, those with large followings may request payment. If budget is a factor, focus on micro-influencers, who typically have between 1,000 and 100,000 followers. While the audience compared to macro-influencers is smaller, it can often be more engaged and therefore provide you with greater outcomes and return on investment.

Researching niche subjects will also likely lead to better results. For example, if you are targeting travel influencers, consider breaking this down further to someone who focuses on outdoor holidays or adventure breaks.

While the spotlight tends to fall on B2C sectors such as tourism and food, B2B companies can also find success with influencer marketing.

Remember – the term influencer means someone who can sway another person’s decision making or opinion.

For example, if you are targeting PR agencies, can you collaborate with the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) to provide added value or an event? Is there a prominent PR blogger?

The key to any influencer marketing is building a strong relationship with the content creators. Personalise any approach and take time to understand their individual brand. For example, don’t ask them to try out your new surf board if they have a fear of water.

Also, when discussing possible content opportunities, bear in mind they have built their reputation and market position based on their tone of voice and approach. Therefore, don’t request anything that falls outside of their ethical guidelines or beliefs to ensure their messaging is consistent to resonate with their audiences.