This story was co-written by Maite Velez-Couto

There has been a lot of controversy in recent months surrounding the value influencers bring to brands. At the heart of the conversation? The issue of transparency and their actual impact to the bottom line.

The truth of the matter is that with the right strategy, marketers can successfully leverage influencers’ power. In fact, according to a recent study, businesses are making an average of $6.50 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing.

The “Seekender,” rbb’s current integrated marketing campaign for Hampton by Hilton and our blogger campaign #MomsEscape for Dreams Resorts & Spas, which won Gold Adrian awards, are perfect examples of effective brand-influencer partnerships.

Without oversimplifying the process, here are three main guiding rules we embrace when working with influencers that always lead to success:

1. Quality is King

Big numbers don’t always equal success in the influencer game. Engagement does. Attracting 1,000 likes on a post and no comments or shares is a telling sign that consumers aren’t as interested or moved by what the influencer has to say. So pay attention. For each campaign, we create a customized ranking system that evaluates influencers by specific criteria, not just the numbers or reach.

Affinity with the brand’s personality and target audiences is also paramount. For Hampton by Hilton, rather than focus on traditional travel influencers, we identified advocates that spoke to a particular group’s primary reasons for traveling – food, music, sports – to bridge the gap and reach a broader audience of like-minded consumers.

2. Think Partnership

Many make the mistake of limiting influencers’ role to content creation for social media, when instead they should have a larger part in the marketing mix. Giving them a bigger platform to align with the brand will make the engagement much deeper and meaningful, making the overall message consistent. A few channels/mediums to consider for inclusion are controlled media, using their persona or content for advertising, etc. Many influencers also bring great added value benefits…think database access for direct marketing, joint promotions, event opportunities, traditional media inclusion and more.

3. Show Value

It sounds simple, but many forget to set clear goals to measure success. Social shares, contest participation, click-through rates and earned-media value are a great start, and revenue generated is the ultimate pay-off. Setting up individual trackable links and special booking codes, while having proper measurement tools in place will help. Using this strategy is how rbb was able to track a 12 percent overall increase in bookings year-over-year for Dreams Resorts & Spas during its #MomsEscape campaign.

Ultimately, all influencer partnerships should be approached as mutually beneficial business relationships. Both parties have to come to the table with measurable goals, be open to negotiate and work smart across the way. By understanding the business purpose behind the campaign, you’ll reap the rewards your client wants, while fostering an ongoing relationship with a conduit to connect your brand with countless consumers.