It could be the key to taking your business from humble startup to household name.

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Last year, according to a study by Marketing Hub, the term “influencer marketing” showed a 325 percent increase in searches per month, and more than 200 new platforms and influencer marketing-focused agencies joined the market. In the first quarter of 2017, influencer marketing was responsible for 28 percent of online customer-acquisition, and 67 percent of businesses said they planned to increase their influencer marketing budget over the next 12 months.

Every niche you can think of has influencers that direct those who follow them, which is likely part of the reason why startups with aggressive marketing campaigns are going from ground floor to nationally recognized seemingly overnight. But as straightforward as influencer marketing may appear, it can be a complex landscape to navigate, requiring a strategic plan and optimization to make it work.

Related: 5 Ways Most Marketers Misunderstand Influencer Marketing

How many different types of influencers are there?

As noted, there are influencers for every niche you can think of — food, fashion and beauty, video games, fitness, business, finance, direct sales, couponing … the list goes on and on. Within those niches, there are different types of influencers, like celebrities, news personalities, analysts, bloggers and even people who are considered thought leaders or “sensations” (think: YouTube personalities).

Just a few of the most followed influencers of 2018 include: Huda Kattan, a makeup artist and beauty blogger; Zach King, a social media magician; Tai Lopez; an online business self-help leader; Kayla Itsines, a fitness influencer and cofounder of The Bikini Body Training Company; and Deb Perelman, a self-taught home cook. For every niche, hobby, or quirk there’s a slew of influencers already creating content around that subject.

What makes influencer marketing so important?

Thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to get information out about your product. It’s also easier to publish any information you please, even if it’s not true. Consumers are well aware of the misinformation out there and wary of the content and claims they come across. They put less trust and stock in ads and even use ad blockers en masse, which has dampened the success of many marketing campaigns.

With influencer marketing, you can address all those issues in one. Influencers’ followers trust them and the products they promote. When they help you market your products, you build trust with consumers and get your products in front of them regardless of the ad blockers they may have. In a Collective Bias survey, 30 percent of consumers out of 14,000 respondents reported that they were more likely to purchase a product promoted by a non-celebrity blogger, and almost 40 percent of Twitter users have reported that they’ve made a purchase because of a Tweet from an influencer.

Related: 8 Do’s and Don’ts of Influencer Marketing

The benefits of influencer marketing

You build trust quickly. Influencers’ followers are there for a reason — they view them as an authority in their field and trust what they have to say about the products they recommend. When you use influencer marketing, you build trust with your audience quickly through your influencer(s). In a survey commissioned by Olapic, 44 percent of female respondents reported that seeing the product in use helped them trust an influencer, and 41 percent of males reported that the influencer’s expertise helped them build trust.

You increase brand awareness. Raising brand awareness can be a long-term project, but influencer marketing reaches further and happens more quickly. Anyone who reads your influencer’s blogs or watches his or her videos will at least become familiar with your brand, if not purchase from you at one point or another. Influencers can help you build an army of brand enthusiasts (and repeat customers).

You target the right audience. Influencers are typically specialized; for example, Jaclyn Hill is a YouTube and social media influencer in the beauty space, but her content is focused on makeup rather than hair. Anna Wood is an influencer in the business development space, but she focuses on female empowerment. Influencer marketing allows you to narrow your target audience and reach its members effectively.

You boost your SEO. The point of SEO is to get quality, credible content about your brand on the web to boost your search rankings. With influencer marketing, not only will you appear in the content you generate, but you’ll also see rankings from your influencer’s content, boosting your SEO and getting more engagement, expanded reach and more unique, but credible, links.

You save money. Influencer marketing does come with a price tag, but it’s usually surprisingly budget-friendly and offers a fantastic ROI – A 2015 Tomoson survey reported that businesses were making $6.50 for every $1 that they spent on influencer marketing at the time, but as influencer marketing has grown in popularity, the ROI is likely higher now in many cases. If you’ve got a small marketing budget, don’t count influencer marketing out — it could be the marketing strategy that brings you the best results.

Common influencer marketing mistakes to avoid

Despite its many benefits, influencer marketing is a complex landscape, and brands often make mistakes that cause them to have setbacks. Here are two of the most common influencer marketing mistakes to you should avoid:

Choosing quantity over quality. Some influencers have a lot more followers than others, but their content may not be the highest quality, or may not be the best fit for your brand. Instead of looking at the number of followers, examine their content and engagement to determine which influencer will give you high-quality results.

In fact, a 2017 HelloSociety study found that micro-influencers, or accounts with less than 30,000 followers, actually drive 60 percent more engagement. Audiences trust that when micro-influencers post content, they deeply care about it and have put time and effort into cultivating the right social post. Additionally, with smaller audiences micro-influencers can spark more personalized interactions, which can also drive the value of engagements up.

Choosing the wrong channels. Although every business should be on Facebook, Facebook may not be the best channel for a B2B business to implement influencer marketing. It’s important to look at all the different channels available and find an influencer who actively uses the same platform your audience is using.

For example, if you’re a blockchain-based startup looking to grow awareness among investors and the crypto community, building up an influencer community on LinkedIn or forums, like Reddit, will allow you to establish deeper ties to your niche audiences.

Related: 5 Reasons Why You Need to Take Advantage of Influencer Marketing

Final thoughts

With consumers turning to influencers they know and trust to give them reliable information, influencer marketing has experienced a dramatic rise in popularity and will continue to be successful. That’s why it’s important for every business, especially startups, to take advantage of the power of influencer marketing — it could be the key to taking your business from humble startup to household name.

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