"Influencer marketing is one of the most simple and effective ways to target Millennials and Gen Z on social media," says Kieran Mathew, the founder of Amplify Solutions, one of Canada's faster growing marketing firms. At 21 years old, Mathew has unique insight into reaching these sought-after demographics.

"The average 20-year-old sees over 15,000 marketing messages a day, making it incredibly difficult for brands to stand out," Mathew says. "Instead of attempting to create a campaign which differentiates you from the other 14,999 brands viewed, use an influencer and enter a smaller, more easily influenced market."

Working with an influencer--or a micro-influencer with an even small-but-engaged niche following-- allows you to connect to highly targeted potential consumers through a familiar name, face and brand. And while you could technically use social tools to buy targeted ads to those same followers, Mathew says, it wouldn't be the same. "Consumers are far more likely to take the time to view and engage with a post made by someone that actively chose to follow than that of a corporation."

But influencer marketing isn't as simple as sending free products to a celebrity and hoping for a positive post in return, so Mathew shared some of his process for ensuring you maximize the ROI of your next influencer marketing campaign.

1. Get Clear On Your Brand & Goals

Mathew suggests first spending some time to get clear on your brand identity, purpose and values. What do you stand for? What's the "why" for your product or service? What do you want to convey or accomplish with your influencer campaign?

The answers to these questions are important because you'll want to find influencers who embody the spirit of your brand; not only will the right influencers be more likely to work with you if your goals are aligned, but their followers will be more likely to believe the partnership makes sense and to trust the recommendation of your product or service if it's something the influencer would truly be excited to use.

2. Define Your Target Audience

Before selecting an influencer, you need to establish clarity on who exactly you are trying to reach. Mathew suggests asking a few key questions to get to know your audience better: "Who do you hope to reach with this message? Who will be most likely to listen and take action? Who do your consumers aspire to be?"

3. Identify The Ideal Type of Influencer 

An influencer with a large following and high engagement won't earn you sales if their post engages the wrong audience, Mathew cautions. The ideal scenario is to find an influencer who aligns with your brand values and captures the ideal customer for your product or service.

"You can use software like Demographics Pro to track if the influencer is reaching your target audience," Mathew says.

4. Find The Right Follower Count

Marketers often focus exclusively on audience size and miss an opportunity to engage a smaller but more deeply engaged audience through micro-influencers.

"Influencers who have amassed a large audience are frequently approached by brands for new campaigns," Mathew says. "Ensure you do not overspend by finding influencers that reach your target audience, but have not yet attained celebrity status."

"The higher the following, the more expensive the campaign," Mathew says. "You will find that under the 20,000-follower point, influencers are willing to complete campaigns for free products or event-based opportunities."

5. Check The Feed For Ad Saturation

The last step, before engaging with an influencer is to have a scroll through their feed to see if there's really room for your promotion. Not only do you want to make sure the influencer hasn't already endorsed or worked with a competitive product or brand, but you want to be sure their feed still feels authentic, so your promotion will be well-received.

"Find influencers that do not regularly post advertisements for higher return on your campaign," Mathew says. "Return is going to be a lot lower on an influencer's page if it is full of ads, because the audience will gradually tune out the brand messages, even if engagement on the post remains high."

Published on: Jun 22, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.