My colleague, Ali Skahan, attended Social Media Week back in May and shared that one of the key takeaways was that influencer marketing has become block and tackle for many brands. I can vouch for this firsthand given recent programs I’ve executed for clients.

Younger generations will be the largest contributors to consumer spending in the next decade and they trust influencers more than traditional advertising and celebrity endorsements. For them, it’s about personalization and authenticity, so it’s no wonder they take cues from influencers who have a genuine affinity for a brand, product or service.

This is where things get interesting. Influencer marketing budgets are increasing, just as some are taking issue with influencers getting paid by brands. Smart campaigns overcome skepticism by finding the right balance of brand versus influencer. Add this to constantly changing algorithms and now Instagram testing out hiding likes, and there have become so many variables to consider before diving into or evolving your influencer marketing.

How do you know you’re getting the most out of your investment? Is a specific influencer the right fit for your brand? What practices have you put into place to ensure a win-win collaboration?

Here are a few guiding principles that should always be part of influencer marketing campaign development:

Do your homework. Look at an influencer’s content and quantitative metrics, but do more. Review content to understand an influencer’s personal values, ability to think outside the box and other brand relationships to help determine if they align with yours. Do other prominent influencers follow them? Do they contribute to consumer publications of note? Does a quick search result in a favorable reputation? Know as much as you can before even engaging.

Live collaboration. Influencers tend to run their businesses via email and social messaging. While having everything in writing is a must, you can’t chance anything getting lost in translation. Phone calls with influencers are a crucial step that can be overlooked. You might have found out a lot from doing your homework, but nothing can take the place of live discussion and collaboration to really get a feel for if an influencer is the right match or to make sure your vision aligns with theirs.

Think long term. Influencer partnerships are often transactional, but long-term relationships can have so many benefits. A good influencer will choose who they want to work with, and you might lose out if you think only short-term. The longer an influencer works with a brand, the easier it is for them to come across as being authentic and genuinely supportive of the company, not in it to make easy money. Utilizing established relationships takes away the potential risk you face with first-time influencer engagements.

What do you want to accomplish? Knowing what you hope to achieve and having agreement internally before you embark on an influencer marketing program should be at the forefront of all conversations. So why am I ending with this? I’ve seen clients and brands get caught up in the idea of influencer marketing and the power it has, but ultimately not see the success they are looking for. I can’t overstate the importance of defining what a win looks like and using it as your north star.

Influencer marketing can be the most effective way to deliver your message to a consumer audience.