Influencer marketing is expected to hit $10 billion dollars by 2020, according to Scotty Reiss, who learned of the impressive figure while attending CES, the annual gathering of consumer technology leaders.

Reiss, the founder of A Girls Guide to Cars, a content site that presents cars on women's terms, engages women in the car conversation by sharing content created by bloggers and influencers who women relate to and trust.

To be sure, marketing techniques have evolved over the years as consumer needs have shifted. Still, word of mouth and recommendations through the form of valuable content from trusted sources continue to reign supreme, even when it comes to buying cars. How can companies leverage influencers in their marketing campaigns? Do consumers put a lot of stock in what influencers have to say or is there doubt in their sincerity since they're being compensated to promote a company or brand?

Reiss relies heavily on influencers and has created a business in which she can harness the power of her influencers to share automotive stories across their blogs and social channels on behalf of auto brands. "By collaborating with influencers on both editorial and sponsored content, we present a trusted and familiar voice as well as an expert voice on automotive," she shares. "For auto brands, this is an opportunity to put relatable stories and information in front of audiences not in tune with traditional automotive media."

Reiss is quick to point out marketers and brand managers that 85 percent of car purchases are made by or influenced by women, yet most auto media targets men, and the majority of that content targets enthusiasts, a small fraction of the new car buying public. She's seized on a market need.

While Reiss works with influencers throughout the country, not all business or brands need to go wide with their influencer campaigns. In fact, in some cases, the more local the better.

For those who want to engage influencers in a campaign this year, Reiss offers five recommendations: 

  1. The campaign should be an extension of the company's larger marketing message and initiatives.
  2. Influencers can reach the elusive potential new consumer or they can reaffirm the passion and loyalty of current customers (thereby increasing a current customer's brand spend) or both. Having current customers engage on a campaign further engages potential customers.
  3. Influencers should either create content or reach audiences, or both. Marketers should be prepared to provide the missing element: either reserving a budget to promote influencer content to desired audiences or to provide quality content for influencers to shape for their audiences. 
  4. Marketers should consider influencers as a central tool, not a stand-alone solution. A collaborative strategy with influencers that includes Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, blog content, live stream and more are critical to ensuring that the strategy works.
  5. Anticipated results should be derived from the goal. Awareness (the easiest), brand lift (the most powerful), and consumer action, such as a click to the brand's site, (the most difficult to achieve) are typical goals. Brands should be sure their goals are realistic, and the strategy progressive. If brand awareness is low, then a goal of clicks to the site is not realistic. Consumers need to be educated first. 

"Influencers are generally paid by the assignment, from free product to several hundred dollars for a project to a day rate for attending an event," adds Reiss via email. Since there are no standard pay scales, each influencer sets her own rates and sometimes those rates can be unrealistic. 

"To ensure that the outcome is what a brand wants, the offer to influencers should be a fair one, all expectations, timeline and any other details should be clearly spelled out in a contract," Reiss recommends, adding that influencers typically get a contract or letter of agreement for all assignments they take on.

At the end of the day, a business needs to consider why they're engaging in an influencer campaign and make sure it works for all parties involved. It's best when they look at their work as a collaborative partnership and to take the time to determine whether the influencers you choose will represent your brand the way you'd want them to and to give them the tools they need to do the job well.

"Vet them as you would any other potential partner," Reiss suggests. "Ask for references, look at their followers and how they engage. Is this the person you want representing your brand?"