It’s clear that technology has changed the way our society works – from the way we socialize and connect with others to how we make purchases and evaluate a variety of other life choices. While I still may be slightly apprehensive when handling any sort of banking transactions on my cell phone (holding my breath with one eye open, hoping I didn’t accidentally add any extra zeros), there’s no question that there’s a sigh of relief when I am able to research and book with a new doctor, pay my bills, re-order air filters (and other utterly exciting tasks) on the go. What’s most intriguing, as Rachel Botsman discussed during her TED talk, technology has brought about a new era of trust, and with it, a more transparent, inclusive and accountable society. Botsman discovered that we, as a society, are no longer putting our faith in institutions as we’ve done so in the past, but instead, increasingly relying on others – often even strangers. You’ve probably checked out Yelp reviews before trying a new restaurant or perhaps watched a customer testimonial on YouTube before making a new purchase. We’re essentially putting our faith in strangers, or more accurately “influencers,” who ultimately have an impact on our decision-making process. It’s not uncommon that consumer or business-to-business (B2B) brands leverage influencers in their particular market to help establish their brand’s image or further promote their product to potential buyers. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 84 percent of marketers plan on executing at least one influencer marketing campaign in the next year. When considering an influencer relations program to better market your company’s product, services or even an idea/vision to a new or existing set of target audiences, set expectations with your key stakeholders – there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Below are a few factors to keep in mind when building out a program. 1. Know why you want to build an influencer program. Don’t just do it to do it. Influencer programs often require a significant investment of time and money, particularly if you’re also looking into paid partnerships. Influencers can help you further market your brand and offerings, but first make sure that their existing brand aligns with your company’s business objectives and is the best use of your resources depending on the immediate priorities and needs. 2. Who are (my) influencers? Influencers can range from industry experts, such as relevant editors or journalists, professionals, spokespeople, social media users and bloggers in the industry – whether it’s financial services, healthcare or life sciences, to name a few – who are highly engaged and active in the public eye, speaking at events, participating in industry associations, providing reviews or commenting in the media. It’s critical to invest the appropriate amount of time to research the right types of influencers to fit your business needs as well as how you’d leverage the relationship(s). 3. Types of influencer relationships. To start, there are two main ways to engage with influencers: 1. earned, unpaid opportunities, and 2. paid partnerships or sponsorships. As trust is essential in a brand’s credibility and long-term viability, it’s recommended to have a good balance of earned opportunities, such as unsponsored media articles, and paid opportunities, including speaking sessions or sponsored blog posts. This will further your brand’s thought leadership and credibility in the space. 4. How to find the right influencer. Take the time to research and dig. The global brand PR group director at Coca-Cola shared that she and her team began hiring influencers 18 months before the campaign launch and started reviewing candidates three months before that. It’s important to know who your top influencers are in your market and among your target audiences, but also if they align with your brand’s mission and vision – now and in the past. For example, you’d want to avoid signing a brand advocate who has bashed a similar type of product, service, idea, etc. or who was a strong champion of a competitor. You just never know. Do you have any additional tips - do’s or don’ts - that you’d like to share with us from your experiences engaging influencers? We’d love to hear about your experiences!