Which would you trust more: a recommendation of a new restaurant from your best friend or an ad for the same restaurant? If you're like most people, your best friend's endorsement definitely carries more weight. And that's the basic idea behind influencer marketing.

As social media has become a part of our daily lives, people have started looking more towards other individuals to inform their purchasing decisions rather than brands and traditional advertising. At the same time, social media has increased the reach and impact of bloggers, tastemakers and thought leaders. Influencer marketing is driven by these conditions, using key leaders to spread a brand's message to their audience rather than the company marketing directly to consumers.

While influencer marketing is still a relative newcomer to the marketing arsenal, it's gaining ground as an essential element in marketing plans. Recent research from eMarketer shows that 67 percent of marketing and communications professionals worldwide reported using influencers for content promotion, and 59 percent stated they used influencer marketing for content creation and product launches. If you aren't among those numbers, here are four things you should know about this promising channel:

1. It's impactful. Word of mouth recommendations, as with our restaurant example above, have always been a powerful driver of sales. So it should come as little surprise that influencer marketing would have a similar impact. In a recent study by Augure, 75 percent of marketing professionals consider influencer marketing effective in lead generation, and 76 percent viewed it as an effective tactic for customer loyalty. And a McKinsey study found that influencer marketing generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.

2. It overcomes ad fatigue. From billboards to buses and banner ads to the back of public bathroom doors, advertisements are everywhere. Estimates place average daily ad exposures anywhere from 200 to 5,000, but the actual number doesn't matter as much as the fact that people are growing tired of ads and are increasingly tuning them out. Influencer marketing and other forms of native advertising combat this ad fatigue by placing brands within organic content, creating a more enjoyable and attention-grabbing ad experience for consumers, and a more effective promotion for advertisers.

3. It requires the right influencers. Much like using targeted channels for traditional advertisements, influencer marketing requires finding the right influencers. Context is key. While a fashion blogger might have a million followers on Instagram, if your product isn't related to fashion or your audience isn't big on Instagram, that influencer isn't the best fit for your company and your customers or prospects. Once you find the right contextual fit with an influencer – a mom blogger who agrees to feature your new line of organic kids snacks, for example – their social following and reach as well as their ability to move their audience to action should also play a big part in your decision to partner with that individual.

4. It doesn't cost a fortune. You don't have to have a celebrity-sized budget to engage in influencer marketing. In fact, a recent survey from The Keller Fay Group shows that, even if you did have the funds to spend on a celebrity endorsement, your budget might just be better spent on influencers – with 82 percent of survey respondents saying that they were highly likely to follow an influencer's recommendation. Currently, influencer marketing still provides a great value to marketers looking to embark on such campaigns. While many influencers do charge fees, others may agree to write reviews or promote your business on social media in exchange for free products or services from your company. But as we have seen with other new advertising opportunities that emerge, often as their popularity increases, so too does their price.

Happy Marketing!