Originally published on Forbes.com by Forbes Agency Council on July 26, 2018.

Word of mouth has always been a highly effective form of marketing. That’s why influencer marketing has become such a popular strategy in the social media age: Nearly 80% of marketing decision makers plan to invest in this strategy in 2018.

As the popularity of micro-influencers continues to grow, the landscape is becoming increasingly more competitive for businesses to secure highly valuable influencers that align with their brand. Luckily, there are a few tried-and-true methods for effectively engaging with the influencers you want. Follow these tips from members of the Forbes Agency Council to start reaping the benefits of influencer marketing.

Members of the Forbes Agency Council weigh in.

Members of the Forbes Agency Council weigh in.


1. Connect Over Their Passion For Your Brand Or Cause

The most effective partnerships stem from identifying someone who already has a passion for your brand or cause. Collaborating with someone who connects to your message in a personal way adds a depth of authenticity that makes a tangible difference — not only for the audience but for the influencer themselves. Engage in a way that shows it’s who they are that you value, not just what they deliver. – Maria BudetZubi Advertising

2. Offer Value For Their Followers And Brand

The most successful influencer marketing efforts are those that benefit all parties (and not just financially). Approach the influencer with ideas and opportunities for them to better serve their followers or offer shared content that would align with their brand. By making it a win for your brand, the influencer, and their followers, you will realize a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship. – Korena KeysKeyMedia Solutions

3. Look At Their Audience Demographics And Engage Accordingly

One of the biggest mistakes brands make is obsessing over follower count instead of finding influencers that resonate with their audience. The best influencers are influential, not famous. They have an audience that is interested in the space you’re in, and composed of the right demographics. There are thousands of these influencers, so identify multiple options to engage with all of them. – Gil EyalHYPR

4. Research And Understand The Influencer’s Personal Philosophy

It is easy to forget that, behind the million likes, there is a person. Understanding who the influencer is and their personal philosophy is critical to reaching out and engaging with an influencer. Doing your due diligence as a brand will allow you to engage with an influencer in a human way, increasing your chances of creating a partnership. – Mario Xavier CarrascoThinkNow

5. Implement Influencer Tiers

Influencer campaigns are sometimes viewed as “one and done” marketing opportunities. However, we’ve found that influencer relationships are much more beneficial when we implement a tier system. For example, Level 1: work on a social post together. Level 2: work on a blog post together. Level 3: work on affiliate revenue. Viewing these opportunities as a long-term relationship is a win-win for all. – Brett FarmiloeMarkitors

6. Show You Care About Their Brand Before You Reach Out

Your relationship with influencers should be genuine. Follow them in advance, engage with their content and show that you are truly interested in their content. No one wants to feel like they are being used for their followers. Invest time in building a relationship with the influencer at the beginning and they’ll know you’re a trustworthy and worthwhile contact. – Lisa Arledge PowellMediaSource

7. Treat Them Like You Would A Journalist

Research and know their brand, what type of content they cover, and tailor every piece of communication to that specific influencer rather than email blast 100 of them with the same message. Only approach them with content or opportunities that are related or of use to their audience. – Kathleen LucenteRed Fan Communications

8. Check Their Schedule

If you’re in a big city, they may be traveling there for a speaking event. Buy a ticket to their event to show that you’re supportive of what they’re doing and try to make a face-to-face connection. From there, you can work to build the relationship and schedule a phone meeting. Meeting the person in real life will help you get past their gatekeeper and onto their busy schedule. – Bryan Citrin, Chiropractic Advertising

9. Approach Them As The Expert They Are

Engage an influencer as an expert in their field. They may not have a fancy degree or certification on the topic at hand, but they live in a world that your brand would like to understand and interact within an authentic way, so in that sense, they are the expert. – Jonathon NelsonModern Promos

10. Set Clear Expectations

Influencers respond best when the “ask” is very clear, concise and specific. They want to understand what you’re looking for and how they (and their audience) can help those efforts. This includes the exact program details, the timing of live content, the messaging to be included, what, when and how they will be paid, and if there are any metrics they need to provide along the way. – Danielle WileySway Group