The explosion of social media over the past few years has been mind-boggling. Facebook now counts more than 2 billion active users, monthly. By 2015, Twitter users were posting 100 million GIFs per year. Instagram now counts more than 40 billion uploaded photos since its release in 2010.

With this atmospheric rise, companies have struggled to keep up and make sure their marketing efforts are effective in this rapidly changing medium. One of the most interesting, and potentially valuable, social media marketing strategies is using influencers. As social media continues to evolve, these influencers remain important resources for 2018 and beyond.

Finding an influencer isn’t easy, however. Identifying a trustworthy person that matches your brand, connects with your audience, and strengthens your campaigns is fraught with potential pitfalls.

Here are four things you can do right off the bat to make sure your influencer campaign is a success.

Do a social background check

Let’s start with an easy one. Nowadays you can never be too careful when picking a person to associate with your brand. Before you get into any of the other social insights discussed below, be sure that your influencer doesn’t have any offensive posts, any associations that might turn your audience off, or anything worse in their history. This step doesn’t take long and it can save your company a lot of grief in the long run.

Recognize audience segments

You would never develop a campaign without thoroughly knowing the audience. The same is true of choosing an influencer. Get to know the age, gender and other demographics of the people talking about your brand on social media.

Once you know your basic audience segmentation, the next logical step is doing the same for potential influencers’ audiences. If these segments don’t mesh, there’s no way an influencer campaign can be successful. This may seem basic, and it is, but many companies mistakenly go by gut feeling on these first two steps, rather than taking the time to do the analysis.

It’s simply not enough to say, “I think we appeal to women between 30 and 40, and we think this influencer appeals to the same people.” Even being slightly off on this step can cause a campaign to fall flat. Just as importantly, this step can identify markets that you didn’t know existed, opening new doors for campaigns and influencers.

Find audience commonalities

Getting the basic first two steps out of the way sets companies up for this all-important third step: identifying common interests between their audience and the influencer’s. Segmentation is one thing, but identifying common interests can really make a campaign.

Social media analysis tools can help identify these common affinities. For example, if people discussing your brand or product on social media are most interested in fashion, basketball, travel, restaurants and flavored water, and your potential influencer’s audience is discussing travel, fashion, basketball, restaurants and wine, you probably have the basis of a great campaign. If your followers and the influencer’s followers are discussing vastly different topics, then you likely don’t have an organic match to build from.

Search for shared values

The last step in finding a great social media influencer match for your company can turn a moderately successful campaign into one that crosses over and really connects with potential customers. Sharing common audience interests is great, but finding an influencer that already personifies your brand’s values should be the ultimate goal.

Social media analysis tools now enable companies to accurately identify things as complex as actions and scenes in photographs, in addition to faces, objects and logos. Use these tools to delve even deeper into potential influencers. To continue the example from above, social media insights might lead you to a photo of someone drinking your brand of flavored water at a hip restaurant or fashion event. Knowing this person uses your brand without being paid adds authenticity to your campaign. This is something that is appreciated by social media users and can’t be faked. It’s also perhaps the most important thing for helping a campaign sustain interest and deliver results.

Navigating the complex world of social media influencers is intimidating. The right influencer can make a campaign successful beyond what you thought possible. The wrong influencer can damage your brand significantly. Using social media analysis and these four tips gives your company a leg up in identifying the perfect influencer for your brand.

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