While you've been busy fine tuning your website, updating your blog and running social media campaigns, a more powerful form of marketing is going on around you (and has been for a long time!).

If you haven't gotten wise to influencer marketing for your brand, it's about time you did. According to research by BrightTalk, 80 percent of digital marketers feel that their lead generation efforts are falling short of the mark. Which means if you're spending valuable dollars but not yielding the results you want, it's time to switch up your tactics.

Influencer marketing is becoming so effective because the millennial market is notoriously hard to sell to. With around two thirds of them now using adblockers, many of your traditional advertising methods are going unseen. Millennials are also increasingly resistant to corporate rhetoric. So even if you get your message right and deliver it with compassion, you won't necessarily convince a cynically-inclined younger audience.

A glowing write up on a product page probably isn't going to be enough to provoke a sale. Today's consumers need to know what other people think of your product or service. They're extremely astute before parting with their cash. 90 percent of consumers read online reviews about a business before visiting them. And as many as 88 percent of these trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. You're going to have to open up your product to criticism and feedback.

Our need for online validation from our peers has grown with the rise of the sharing economy. With nervous consumers needing to see that others have slept in beds in stranger's apartments and lived to tell the tale! The level of risk may be lower when it comes to trying your product, but ignore the importance of consumer reviews and you'll lose out to a competing seller.

Strength in numbers

Strength in numbers couldn't be more fitting than when applied to influencer marketing. After all, influencing people isn't about luck or magic, but based on actual science and the power of the crowd. Influencer marketing works best after you build a large community around your brand. The more people who have bought your product and commented on it, the higher your chances of swaying other users. Most people have pack mentality ingrained and mimic behaviors that make them feel like part of a group.

How do you start to build up your online community? By interacting on social media and growing your fan base. It can take time to target and convert the right kind of followers that may turn into advocates for your brand. But there are technologies popping up to help make this easier.

Likewise Marketing, for example, is a platform that allows you to = expand your following on Instagram, engage with your audience and increase conversions.Their targeted tool connects with the right followers for your brand and can contact up to 50,000 targeted users a month. Instagram has over 700 million active monthly users, is a favorite with millennials, and has the highest engagement rate of all social media platforms. This makes it the perfect starting point for your influencer marketing efforts.

Turbo-charge your engagement

Influencers typically have a high engagement rate for their posts because they're followed by like-minded people and actively engage with their audience. Many influencers reply to each and every comment and call out followers by name. This makes them powerful endorsers for your brand, because their followers respect their opinions and know their comments will spur a like, share, or mention.

Once you start applying this same level of engagement with your followers, you'll be thinking like an influencer and start attracting people to your brand who can help promote it. One of the best ways to connect with known influencers in your niche is to start an organic relationship with them. This won't happen overnight, unless you're willing to pay for product endorsement. But millennials demand transparency and can smell a fake from 100 yards away.

A more powerful type of influencer campaign is where they genuinely like your product enough to sing its praises. So, follow their posts and engage with them, click, like, comment and share. If you don't have a lot of time or budget to dedicate to social media, tools like Likewise Marketing can turbocharge your engagement. Not only do they reach out to the right kind of people, but they approach them in the same way as their friends would and interact with attractive content. You can automate the process, from building a following to keeping them engaged.

An authentic relationship

Many influencers get paid a lot of money for endorsing products and brands. But this can blow up in a company's face. Just ask Pepsi about their controversial ad with Kendall Jenner. It's always better to build an authentic relationship first. Almost 70 percent of companies admit to rarely paying their marketing influencers, or not paying them at all. It's not because of a budget deficit or tightening of the purse strings. It simply works better when an influencer is really on board naturally. You can always offer up your product for review in exchange for giving them a free sample. This is a smart and easy way to generate positive feeling without offering money.

Influencer marketing is still relatively new, and new and popular people are popping up on social channels like Instagram all the time. Make sure you follow trends in your industry and know who's hot right now, so you're not turning up to parties late and pedaling yesterday's news. If you can make influencer marketing work for you, you'll see potentially explosive results and find the way to reach your elusive millennial target.