By Jodi Harris published October 11, 2016

An 8-Step Process to Use Influencers to Elevate Your Brand


Anyone who’s followed a popular celebrity on a social site like Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat can recognize the benefits of getting an influencer to share his or her passion for a brand. In terms of visibility, credibility, and impact, few content promotion techniques rival its power for persuasion.

Since 2014, when the CMI team put together its first guide to influencer marketing, the technique has become more popular, more accepted by consumers, and more profitable for brands. But these campaigns also are carried out on a more complex playing field, thanks to factors like transparency regulations, increased noise, and overall erosion of organic social media reach.

Considering just how much has changed over the last two years, we felt it was time to revisit the influencer conversation. That’s why we’ve created an updated guide — Influencer Marketing: The Latest Strategies, Templates, and Tools — with new tips, examples, and industry-leading advice to help content marketers get more value from their influencer relationships without getting overwhelmed by all the options.

We’ve broken down the process into eight distinct steps that will enable you to plan and execute an influencer program from scratch or pick up a few new tricks that will help make your existing efforts more effective. Our new guide also provides handy reference charts and downloadable templates you can customize to fit your team’s specific content marketing needs and goals.

Here’s a brief preview of some hacks and helpers you’ll find in the new guide:

Making the case for influencer marketing

Influencer marketing programs can be overwhelming, particularly when company leadership isn’t fully convinced that their teams need to devote additional time and resources to promoting the content they’ve created.

Yet, influencer marketing does more than just increase the reach of your brand content. For example, considering a Nielsen’s study that revealed 92% of people trust brand recommendations from individuals (even if they don’t know them), working with high-profile professionals can enhance enterprise-wide efforts to strengthen your company’s credibility and trustworthiness.

92% of people trust brand recommendations from individuals even if they don’t know them via @Nielsen. Click To Tweet

Not to mention that influencer programs have a strong potential to help generate better-qualified leads and increase marketing ROI. According to a Burst Media study analyzed by eMarketer, brands saw an average ROI of $6.85 for every dollar invested in influencer marketing.

Brands saw an average ROI of $6.85 for every dollar invested in #influencermarketing via @eMarketer. Click To Tweet

Finding and working with the right influencers

Of course, one of the most critical factors in any influencer-marketing program is your team’s ability to find the right people to work with and set the stage for a successful long-term collaboration. It also may be the most challenging part of the equation, as it involves multiple tasks, including:

  • Becoming familiar with the notable voices in your industry
  • Vetting potential partners to identify those who share your brand values and perspectives, and who will resonate with your target audience
  • Engaging top candidates and soliciting their participation
  • Negotiating specific terms, fees, and deliverables
  • Seeding, tracking, and managing their efforts on an ongoing basis

You might find it helpful to break the process down into individual steps, then use some expert-recommended techniques to further streamline your efforts. One tip that Aaron Agius has shared for approaching influencer discovery is to use keyword-based searches to uncover notable names that pop up in relation to your chosen topic. To do this, start by typing this query into a Google search field: [your industry] + “blog” (or “site”). Then, use advanced search operators to expand or narrow your results. Consider adding the top resources to your consideration list for further vetting; but bear in mind that it may be tough to get the attention of the experts at the more popular sites, as they are likely to get a lot more inquiries than those from sites that are a bit further down the list.

Use keyword-based searches to uncover influencers related to your chosen topic says @IAmAaronAgius Click To Tweet

Nurturing and scaling your efforts

Once you’ve put your pool of influencers in place, you will want to do everything you can to keep them interested in contributing to the success of your content over the long term. For example, rather than solely focusing on enlisting their help with distribution, you might consider proposing a creative collaboration that will benefit both parties.

Your influencer program should also be able to grow and improve as it starts to realize its potential to drive increased content success. This includes exploring additional ways to leverage the rapport you’ve built with your influencers and squeezing greater value from your existing collaborations.

For example, if your influencers are contributing posts on your blog, consider rounding up some of the top performers and turning them into a quarterly e-book series. Another option might be to create an anthology from the testimonials your influencers have posted on social media, and share it with your sales team to help with their lead-nurturing initiatives.

Analyzing and optimizing your program’s success

Even if your influencer marketing program takes off from the start, it’s important to continuously track and monitor its performance. As industry trends, influencer popularity, and consumer behaviors can shift as time goes on, having the right analytics will enable you to identify potential trouble spots and course-correct before your efforts can lose too much ground.

Not sure what signs to look for? Our guide includes a handy chart (shared below), which outlines metrics to track for some of the most common content marketing objectives, as well as additional tips and templates you can use to report your findings to key program stakeholders.


Click to enlarge

For a detailed walk-through of the full eight-step process — plus more than a dozen tips, tools, and stellar brand examples — download Influencer Marketing: The Latest Strategies, Templates, and Tools.

In addition to downloading the Influencer Marketing guide, subscribe to the free CMI newsletter for daily tips, trends, and more to help your content distribution and promotion.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Jodi Harris

Jodi Harris is the Director of Editorial Content & Curation at Content Marketing Institute. As a content strategy consultant, Jodi helps businesses evaluate their content needs and resources; build infrastructure and operations; and create compelling stories to be delivered across multiple media channels and platforms. Follow Jodi on Twitter at @Joderama.

Other posts by Jodi Harris

  • Michael Becker

    Awesome article, Jodi! I have to say (after managing the influencer marketing programs with two companies, now) CMI’s guide is very actionable. Earned media coverage — including influencer advocacy — is hard “earned”, but so much more valuable than other methods when executed correctly!

    • Jodi Harris

      Thanks Michael. I appreciate the feedback.

  • Mayank Dhanotiya

    Influencer play a very important role in marketing by follow this article , I will try to develop my work strategy.

    Thanks for sharing a great post !

  • lucyorloski

    Nice post. Thx for sharing information

  • Bill Widmer

    I love influencer marketing because it’s all about building relationships. Too many marketers these days are just trying to stuff their stuff in your face without caring about connecting with you as a person. The online world needs to be more personal! Social media needs to be about social, not disruption marketing!

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  • Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Jodi,

    Nice tips! Amazingly, I open so many doors with power brokers by leaving a few blog comments. I recall 2 years ago when Chris Brogan tweet endorsed my first 2 eBooks. I commented on his blog for a few weeks, put out helpful content – and eBooks – and the guy tweet endorses me….without me even asking him to do so!! Crazy, the power of helping influencers out, and how it can come back to you in an awesome way. Thanks for sharing!