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Screenshot from Tahaphoto’s website

Photographer Taha Muharuma documents the soul of the city through street photography, portraiture a

Just how much influence could an influencer influence if an influencer could influence?

In an era of constantly emerging digital platforms and hyper targeting niche audiences, marketers are increasingly looking to influencers – subject matter experts in a given field with a large or dedicated following – to tap into potentially lucrative markets and demographics.

Working with influencers as a campaign strategy isn't a new idea – remember when fashion brand Lord and Taylor seeded 50 Instagrammers with the same dress, which then promptly sold out? Find the right influencers and you can create demand and desire in a matter of clicks.

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As a tactic, influencer engagement has proven its effectiveness, allowing brands to not only leverage an individual's proven ability to create great content, but also to access the influencer's solid, authentic and pre-existing audience; one that is eagerly waiting to double tap those photos appearing in their feed and find the brands behind them.

The concept of influencer relationships isn't new – but the way smart brands are approaching them has shifted. Leveraging an influencer should no longer be seen as a single component of an overall content strategy. True influencer engagement is about offering really good content.

In reality, influencers offer significant value beyond their established audience. With the right relationships, brands can partner with influencers and have them act more as content strategists and campaign partners rather than merely content creators. It's the difference between finding a partner, rather than a new broadcast outlet.

We recently hosted a lunch and learn with tahaphoto – a local Toronto Instagrammer – to get an inside look at this partnership strategy from his side of the table. He offered some key takeaways to ensure both your brand and the influencer come away with a valuable (and effective) experience:

Recognize their value increase

The influencer is now playing a role we once turned to reporters to fill: they offer a trusted opinion, and are positioned as the vital link between brand and consumer. Their goal isn't to sell you something, they simply want to show you what they think is noteworthy – and this is what a consumer is going to buy into more so than a branded sales pitch.

The whole point of your influencer partnership should be to empower the content creator to share an opinion that is relevant to your overall strategy, while giving them the opportunity to build trust with their audience on behalf your brand. Their real value is their credibility.

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It's not about a high following; it's about the right fit

When looking at potential partners it shouldn't only be about the numbers. Obviously you want to work with someone who has reach – but consider why (and how) they grew their following. Ultimately, it's finding the right fit and taking the time to build a solid, long-lasting relationship with them. These influential social players have spent years growing and fostering their audience, meaning they're going to be careful about what content they're serving up to them.

They're looking out for their own brand as much as they're looking out for yours, so anything you do together needs to be a fit from both sides in order to create a mutually beneficial relationship.

When executed properly, these partnerships allow you both to succeed – and herein lies the key: When you approach an influencer as a partner, you're ensuring quality over quantity, and this is what consumers are seeking from your business in the first place.

They (really) understand their audience

Influencers aren't valuable because they understand when to use the Sepia filter; they're valuable because they implicitly understand their audience. They had the luxury of growing their influence over time in a test and learn environment. They've spent months (years?) to get to know what works and what doesn't – which is more time and more risk than your brand will ever be able to take on its own. They know what content is going to generate great conversations, and that's the content they're going to create. Harnessing this insight is a huge value-add to your overall strategy.

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Next time you're looking to partner with an influencer, look beyond the number of likes their photos are getting to ensure their content aligns with your overall brand goals. An influencer status is meaningless if it doesn't influence your brand in the right way.

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