The Motherhood’s CEO, Cooper Munroe, recently spoke in New York City at one of the first and only conferences dedicated fully to influencer marketing: Influencer Marketing Days.

Top marketers, digital strategists and brand experts shared best practices, insights and ideas on how to optimize influencer marketing campaigns. Take a look at some of our top takeaways from Influencer Marketing Days:

The Power of Micro-Influencers + The Need for the Human Touch

Micro-influencers – generally defined as those who have about 1,000-100,000 followers – were a hot topic during Influencer Marketing Days. And for good reason: experts in the influencer marketing space agree that micro-influencers often can offer better ROI for brands. That’s because they’re highly engaged with their audiences, eager to work with brands and can drive significant impact in a cost-effective manner.

We all rely on hard metrics to measure success of any marketing effort. When it comes to influencer marketing and micro-influencer engagement, though, many presenters encouraged brands to look beyond vanity metrics and understand the value of the content that’s being produced, as well as the engagement levels that can indicate purchase intent (Kim Westwood, ShoppingLinks.com; Gil Eyal, CEO HYPR).

According to Eyal, there are more than 10 million micro-influencers on various social/online networks. So how can brands efficiently tap into them?

We couldn’t agree more with Joe Gagliese (CEO, Viral Nation) when he said that brands should work with agencies that know the influencers, rather than picking them at random.

Why is this important? When done correctly, influencers can be the most powerful form of brand ambassadors. If you work with someone who hasn’t been thoroughly vetted or who is practically a stranger, you risk putting your brand’s reputation on the line.

Targeting brand- and audience-appropriate influencers requires a deeper knowledge of the influencer that can only exist by fostering those relationships. It’s why we believe in taking a human (vs. automated) approach, too.

Authentic Partnerships = Deeper Trust

Did you know that a Nielsen study found that 92 percent of people trust recommendations from friends and family more than all other forms of marketing? (Ryan Stern with Collectively shared that insight.)

Deena Zeynk, Director of Influitive Center of Excellence, echoed that: 83 percent of buyers trust recommendations from their peers – not brands. Yet, brands tend to underinvest in promoting customer voices. In fact, the top three areas of company spending are on their website, on digital commerce and on digital advertising.

Real people – like one’s peers and influencers – inspire real trust. In fact, word of mouth is 50 times more likely to trigger a purchase than an ad, as our CEO Cooper shared in her presentation.

Kevin Knight, CMO of Experticity, said it well: “If influencer marketing is about reach, then expert-powered marketing is about trust.” In Knight’s presentation, he shared a quote from Facebook’s co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg that we love: “A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.”

Understand Consumers’ Path to Purchase

It’s no secret that a brand’s spending and decisions are largely shaped by what drives their bottom line – sales. Cooper shared that businesses make an average return of $6.50 on every dollar spent when it comes to influencer marketing.

We loved hearing other presenters’ statistics on where influencers, social media and online platforms fit into the customer journey:

It speaks to the growing importance and power of influencers that there is a conference dedicated to the industry (two years and counting now!). Were you at Influencer Marketing Days this year? Tell us your takeaways in the comments!