Whether you call them influencers, advocates, ambassadors, or just “those people who like your brand and can do something about it,” working with these individuals can produce impressive results for your outreach campaign…if you manage them correctly. I recently attended a MarketWired webinar where several experts shared their best strategies and advice on influencer marketing. While they suggested plenty of interesting new media gadgets and hacks to try out, everyone agreed that the core qualities of a good influencer marketing program are honesty, availability, integrity and access. Some things just don’t change that much!

So what are the keys to a successful influencer program? Here are some tips from the experts.

Have a plan before you start: be clear about who your target audience is, how you are going to identify influencers and how you are going to engage with them. This helps keep you consistent and organized as the campaign gets more complicated

Hunt them down: don’t limit your search for influencers to just one medium. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are obvious choices, but don’t forget about Scoop.it, Bloglovin’, Vimeo, Medium, List.ly, Alltop and Topsy. Paid tools like GroupHigh, InkyBee, Mediahub and Little Bird are definitely worth the cost if you plan to use them regularly.

Be patient: focus on relationship building. If you ask an influencer to do something for you right off the bat, he or she has little reason to say yes. If you put time and effort into building a relationship with an influencer first, your chances of getting help increase dramatically. “I scratch your back, you scratch mine.” Ways to do this:

  • Invite influencers to participate in an “Expert Roundup”
  • Follow and retweet on Twitter
  • Review influencers’ books and podcasts
  • Share high-quality news, research,or insight without asking for anything in return

Build a community: figure out ways for your influencers to talk with one another and not just with you. One presenter in the webinar was running a fundraising campaign. She created a Facebook group for  influencers and encouraged conversations even if they weren’t about the campaign, knowing that it would make members more invested in the group and the campaign as a whole.

Information should flow both ways: keep up to date on what your influencers are doing and make sure they know what you are doing. We all have plenty of practice at keeping an eye on our influencers, but it’s just as important that they have access to information about you. That way your “ask” doesn’t come out of the blue. Ways to do this: Twitter, blog updates, RSS feeds and updates to influencer groups on LinkedIn or Facebook.