Who do you look to on social media when you want advice about a potential purchase?

Sure, the Kardashians of the world have the ability to influence people's purchases across the globe, but those kinds of megacelebrities are few and far between. What most consumers—especially Millennials—truly crave in their relationships with social media influencers is something that more closely resembles what they get from their friends.

Approximately 94% of consumers say that friends are more effective than celebrities in regards to endorsing products, and more than 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from a brand that eschews celebrities in its ads in favor of real customers.

The key for marketers is to seek out local influencers who have built their followings organically. They've taken the time to gain influence with their audience through word-of-mouth and the power of networks. That results in a greater level of trust that's transferred from the brand to the consumer.

Know that turning to hyperlocal influencers can be damaging to a brand when it's done haphazardly. But when approached with care and caution, this strategy can create new opportunities for you to engage your customers and harness the power of word-of-mouth advertising in a controlled setting.

Trust is the cornerstone of influencers' online relationships

When the time comes to choose influencers to partner with, you should consider their relationships with their audience members.

Trust is the engine that drives this alliance, so look for influencers who respect and understand the primacy of trust. Just as your salespeople need to understand their customers' needs to be effective, influencers need to understand what their followers want to gain from the relationship.

So how do you logistically go about your search for the right influencer?

Your first order of business is determining what your overall goal for the partnership is. That goal—whether it's to introduce your brand to a new population, enhance the reach of your content, or nurture qualified leads—will have a big impact on the type of influencer you select.

To build your shortlist of potential influencers, you can turn to several different tools and databases that specialize in connecting brands with compatible influencers. Several new software databases such as Little Bird or inPowered have made a splash on the scene recently, but you can also look to marketplaces that act as brokers between your company and influencers.

Effective influencers don't sacrifice authenticity 

Without authenticity, influencers have very little to fall back on. Their followers won't easily forgive acts of inauthenticity—and it's near impossible to convince followers they've regained their integrity.

Because of that, the most successful influencers understand that they can't afford to partner with a brand that would sacrifice their sense of authenticity—no matter how many zeros are on the paycheck. Not every brand fits with every audience, so to maintain the authenticity they've worked so hard for, influencers need to partner with compatible brands.

So once you've narrowed your list, do some serious research. Track influencers' interactions with their followers on social accounts, looking for signs that indicate they have the potential to reach your desired audience and their followers are amenable to your brand.

After you've identified potential partners to approach, ask them whether they'd like to find out more about your product or do a review before you propose an official transaction. Doing so demonstrates that you care about working with influencers who can connect you with the right audience and that you understand their responsibility to their followers.

Unlock the power of social to curate a hyperlocal experience

The rise of Facebook Live, Snapchat Stories, and Instagram video has proven that social networks and video are a potent combination.

Successful local influencers are keenly aware of the power of this tool, and they're experts at using it to craft a hyperlocal behind-the-scenes experience for their followers.

People love to feel like they're connected and receive privileged information as part of a group. The most innovative influencers make their local audiences feel like they share experiences with them and inhabit a common sphere of social activity.

That connection doesn't have to be relegated to the online realm, though. Brands can use their influencers' social clout to encourage turnout for local events, which can then be broadcast live across social platforms to eager followers who couldn't attend.

Ultimately, influencer marketing is still a new industry, though it's poised to change dramatically in the coming years as social media platforms rise and fall in prominence and introduce new methods for brands and influencers to interact with their audiences.

When you strike gold and find the right influencer, remember that you can't just close the book on your influencer marketing strategy and assume it will always work. The savviest marketers will continually re-evaluate the influencer atmosphere in order to remain relevant and engaged with their customers.

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Forget the Celebs, Reach Out to Hyperlocal Influencers Instead

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image of Sarah Clark

Sarah Clark is the president of Mitchell Communications Group, an award-winning PR firm that creates real conversations among people, businesses, and brands.

LinkedIn: Sarah Clark