​Influence is the power to affect people or things. A person that exerts influence has the ability to shape opinion, policy, behaviour and affect change. When we think of influencers, we think of sports personalities, reality TV stars, or music artists. The David Beckhams, the Kim Kardashians, the Ed Sheeran's, but influencers can also be fitness gurus, gaming addicts, beauty bloggers, make-up experts and anyone of importance within a given industry.

Influencer marketing allows brands to partner with individuals to promote their service offering. Businesses focus on key leaders to endorse opinions about their brand/products, which is then shared on social media platforms to help spread viral conversations online.

Online platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Tumblr are oozing with opportunities for businesses to reach their target audience through – yes you’ve guessed it – influencers, who bridge the gap between customers and businesses because they are already known and trusted figures. It’s tough for businesses to engage with their audience, so partnering with an influencer who already has a massive online following can hugely extend a business’s reach, particularly when their product/service is endorsed by someone who their target audience admires.

Social media has enabled anyone with a smart phone to voice their opinion, and if they do it well enough, they can gain a substantial audience. Last year alone a 6-year-old made over £8 million a year publishing toy reviews on popular video sharing site YouTube. Popular vlogger Zach King gained 21 million followers on Instagram posting magic tutorials and crazy challenges, and Johnny Ward, who started blogging about his travels as a budget backpacker, ended up with a successful media company. The internet is overflowing with success stories and how-to guides in becoming a full-time influencer.

According to Forbes, brands are shifting towards paying these influencers to promote their products and services because they deliver 11 times the ROI compared to traditional digital marketing, and 49% of people suggest that they depend on influencers for their purchase decisions.

As we dive deeper into the year we are expecting to see an overall increased amount of time spent on social platforms, with big brands digging in and committing to a much larger investment in social media marketing. The Drum recently spoke to Anand Narayanan, Head of Digital at Panasonic UK. He discussed the importance of having a mission and also their marketing strategy for 2018. “Influencer marketing will change to become more of an intrinsic part of the marketing strategy. This could mean taking quotes from an influencer and using it in advertising or using their photos and videos in some form of paid media”, he said. Brands struggled to connect with their audiences with traditional advertising tactics, so expect influencers to take off even more this year.

Every industry has its own potential influencers. It’s not just the CEO and the movers and shakers, but more and more it’s the digitally savvy; it’s those who are able to use existing platforms and quickly shift to new platforms, it’s about those who aren’t afraid to stand up and make people listen.

If you're wondering how to begin such a conversation, take a look at these five points for The Perfect Way to Wrap up an Influencer Brief.

Influencer marketing is not just a trend; it’s a billion-pound emerging industry.