Influencer marketing is about to have its biggest year yet. And if you feel like you’ve heard that before, you have—because influencer marketing keeps growing and breaking its own records, making every year its new best year yet.
eMarketer forecasts estimate that the number of companies using influencer marketing will climb to 72.5% in 2022, with a corresponding spend of $4.14B. To be certain, that’s a sizable number of influencer campaigns slated for the year ahead, and a considerable chunk of change fueling them.
So with nearly 3 out of 4 companies leveraging influencer marketing, how can you find the right brand influencers for you in a sea of competition for the top talent? The first step is remembering the for you part of the equation.
Table of Contents
- Determine Your Target Audiences and Goals
- Find Influencers
- Make Sure They Pass the Vibe Check
- Review Your Own Followers
- Check In on the Competition
- Vet Your Potential Partners
- Make the First Move
- Take Time to Review Influencers’ Work
- Fall Down a Rabbit Hole
- Consider an Influencer Platform to Run your Programming
- Run the Numbers
- Let an Influencer Marketing Agency Handle Everything
Before you can decide which influencers will best help your brand reach and resonate with your target audiences, you have to determine who your target demos are, as well as your primary campaign goals. Why are you leveraging Influencers?
“For every Influencer Marketing campaign, you need to start with the “Why?”; what are you trying to achieve by leveraging these partners? If you don’t start with a strategy that answers this question, you’ll be building on a foundation that isn’t solid.”
— Crystal Duncan, SVP of Influencer Marketing at Tinuiti
And remember—you can cast more than one influencer net, so your strategy can focus on more than one goal.
Just as you do when crafting ad campaigns or email copy, or writing content for your website, consider the variety of customers drawn to your brand, and the differing aspects of your products that drive each demographic.
It’s likely you’ll need to work with more than one influencer to reach all of those audiences, though there may be some overlap that helps some of those individual nets be wider than others.
Let’s dive into an example…
Example Product to Promote: Stainless steel water bottle
Price Range: $28 – $42
Product Characteristics: Durable, lightweight, available in 3 sizes, wide color selection, built-in carabiner, priced in line with comparable offerings from similar brands
Brand Characteristics: Portion of proceeds donated to clean water charity initiative, generous return policy, committed to safe working conditions and fair pay for all employees and suppliers
Influencer Campaign Goals: Increased brand awareness in your primary space, promote newly launched products, reach additional relevant audiences
Considering all the characteristics of the brand and product, some valuable target demographics might include:
- Hikers / outdoor enthusiasts
- Runners / walkers
- Environmentally-conscious shoppers
- Values-driven (ethical) shoppers
- Parents of K-12 students (some schools now ask that students bring their own water to minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19 at a shared water fountain)
Not only will the influencers you’ll want to work with vary in reaching each of these demographics, but the aspects of your product you’ll want them to highlight will vary as well.
- For influencers you’re working with to reach a large audience of parents, you might want them to focus on the variety of available water bottle colors and patterns, and the lightweight nature of the product
- For hiking or fitness influencers, focusing on the durability and built-in carabiner will be important
Provide influencers guidance on which elements you want them to focus on, but remember that they are their own business, as well. Most influencers will require that they’re given creative freedom to bring the content to life in an authentic way that preserves their own brand integrity.
There are a variety of ways to search for Influencers, and many Influencer marketing tools and companies that can help in the sourcing part of the process.
A few things you should keep front of mind when searching your Influencers include:
- Remember that you’re not only trying to ensure your Influencer meets all the target audience criteria, but that their audience does as well!
- You can search Influencers (and/or their audience) by a variety of their personal characteristics, including: location, age, family status, platform, or following size, among others
- You can also search for Influencers based on what they have talked about and posted about, including the products or industries they have discussed in the past. This is highly relevant when working with Influencers in very competitive industries like beauty or fashion
“In Influencer Marketing we need to consider an influencer’s characteristics & demographics, but a larger priority is the Influencer’s audience makeup—we know that their audience is who we are trying to reach with our messaging, so we can’t forget to review who is following our Influencer to ensure they are the right fit.”
— Hope Herline, Influencer Marketing Strategist at Tinuiti
Don’t Forget About #Hashtags
Hashtags are a digital researcher’s best friend, helping you unearth content from Influencers, creators, and everyday social media users with ease. Looking for keywords or hashtags in your Influencer sourcing tool, or even just through social platforms, will be helpful.
- Make a list of some basic, relevant #hashtag searches to start with, and add to your list by making note of what other hashtags the content you surface is also using. Continue your search by diving into those hashtags as well in a ‘wash, rinse, repeat’ fashion
- Be sure to consider the hashtags that apply to your product or service itself, as well as related hashtags, including goal-focused and lifestyle-focused hashtags, and use-case hashtags
Example: You want to find influencers to promote a stylish pair of walking sneakers
Some relevant hashtags to search that can help you find social media influencers to partner with:
Leverage Google’s Horsepower
As a search engine, Google is first and foremost a noun, but it has also earned ‘verb status’ over the years thanks to how popular and powerful that engine truly is.
What was once “search it on Google” has evolved to simply “Google it”—and Googling it is one of the simplest ways to begin searching for influencers in your niche.
That said, Google’s search results are expansive, and working with influencer marketing tools for the research process will help you cut through the clutter, and make better use of your time.
Also be mindful of the types of language followers use in the comments to determine if an influencer’s general ‘vibe’ and energy aligns with your brand.
- Do their followers note that they are sweet or funny?
- Do their followers appreciate their excitable personality?
- Do they perhaps have an edgier, punchier style, eliciting comments like “you always keep it 100!”?
None of these are necessarily positive or negative unto themselves; it’s simply about finding the right fit for your brand.
The most impactful influencer for your brand or product might be right under your nose…or, more specifically, within your followers list.
First and foremost, influencers are people with their own likes and interests. If they are already familiar with and following your brand, chances are good that they’re a genuine fan, or at least have a high level of interest.
“Brand fans are some of the best Influencer partners you can find—they already love your product or company, and aren’t afraid to tell people about it. By tapping into true brand fans, you’re going to see the magic of Influencer marketing, because their recommendations will be authentic, engaging and trustworthy.”
— Crystal Duncan, SVP of Influencer Marketing at Tinuiti
Connect directly with followers (or other users who have posted about your brand) whom you’d like to pursue an influencer partnership with by directly messaging them through the platform on which you discovered them, or reaching out via any links or press email addresses provided within their bio.
Be open, honest, and detailed but brief in your outreach, letting them know how you discovered them, your proposal, and clear next steps. Many popular influencers and content creators receive hundreds of messages each day, so be sure you take all necessary steps to not get lost in the shuffle.
In addition to researching your own followers and organic brand ambassadors, take a peek at what your competitors are up to, as well.
Some questions to answer include:
- Are there any popular influencers liking or commenting on their posts, or already partnering with them?
- Have they experienced any influencer missteps you can learn from in your own outreach and campaigns?
- What types of influencers and influencer content seems to resonate best with their audience?
- What types of content are their followers asking for more of?
Vetting your potential partners is a crucial part of the process; remember, these Influencers are going to serve as an extension of your brand, so you want to ensure they are voices you want to be associated with.
Vetting Influencers consists of 3 main things to review; most of the vetting can be done through the same tools you used to find the Influencers, and additional research can be done through a simple Google search.
You’ll want to search their past content for any paid partnerships with competitors you want to avoid. There isn’t a hard and fast rule on how far back you should go in researching competitive partnerships—it really depends on your product, industry, and what that landscape looks like, so it should be determined on a case-by-case basis.
If you’re in an industry like food, CPG (consumer packaged goods), travel or restaurants, for example, competitive separation isn’t as necessary because consumers in those spaces often purchase from multiple brands.
This is key; you need to go through your potential partner’s social channels to ensure they don’t have content about anything your brand would consider inappropriate. This can include, but isn’t limited to: violence, illegal activity, language, etc.
A big thing to note: Our recommendation is to always search all of an Influencer’s channels, regardless of what channel you are partnering with them on. For example, if you are purchasing a TikTok video from an Influencer, you should still vet their Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and blog to ensure they don’t have any skeletons in their closets on those channels.
This is where you can bring in everyone’s favorite search tool…Google! In this step, you can do some research to see not only what influencers are saying, but what others are saying about them.
In addition to reading any of the top results for their name itself, also search their name alongside some common keywords that carry a negative connotation. In example, if the influencer’s name is Pam Smith, you might search:
- Pam Smith scandal
- Pam Smith backlash
- Pam Smith canceled
- What did Pam Smith do
- Why are people mad at Pam Smith
“Vetting Influencers is one of the most important things you can do during your search— you want to ensure these partners don’t have any skeletons in their closet as they are going to be a voice for your brand. You should always vet across all of their social platforms for a number of red flags including, but not limited to: fake followers, overly-sponsored pages, inappropriate language and/or content.”
— Hope Herline, Influencer Marketing Strategist at Tinuiti
Is there a content creator whose work you genuinely appreciate, and you’d love to work with them at some point in the future? Leave a comment now, share something they’ve created, or simply give them a shoutout (being sure to link back to them or tag them when you do).
Consider something as simple as ‘Friday Favorites,’ where you share content from and tag 5 of your favorite accounts/posts from that week each Friday. People love appreciation and acknowledgment, so just be honest and authentic in your own posts, and see if you can forge a genuine connection that might lead to a partnership.
Even if nothing organic comes of it, if you do decide to make a formal proposal in the future, they’ll already be aware of you.
Because a primary part of successful influencers’ jobs is creating an array of sponsored content, you only have to go as far as their social media profiles to begin your research.
Influencer marketing is unique in its inherent transparency; leverage the opportunity to review prospective influencer partners’ posts and video content, and the response it receives from followers.
Also, be sure to check out their profiles across all channels on which they’re active. It can be normal for there to be some disparity in how many followers they have across different channels, particularly if they’re more active on some than others, but you’ll want to be sure their personality and the content itself is consistent. Are they the ‘same person’ on TikTok that they are on Instagram?
We’ve all inadvertently fallen down countless internet rabbit holes over the years, starting out researching how to fix a leaky bathroom sink, and landing at a video exploring the history of indoor plumbing.
But this time, the fall is intentional.
- Begin by identifying 2 or 3 popular influencers in your space
- While reading their posts and watching their videos to learn more about their voice and the style of content they produce, be mindful of any other influencers they might mention, jotting down their names to research later
- Also review the comments their followers leave on their organic and sponsored posts; you may find they mention similarities or differences between this influencer and another in the space (ie. Love your review of this lipstick, and the swatches! Between your and Bethany’s review, I’m sold!)
- Once you have a list of mentioned influencers to research, dive in and repeat, reviewing their content and comments in a similar fashion
Tip: Be mindful of any common themes you note in the comments, as well; these can help you identify certain deeper demographics a particular influencer is popular with, when that might not be immediately apparent from a quick review of their content itself.
Continuing with the example of a beauty influencer, do followers tend to comment on how they appreciate this particular influencer’s take because they share a similar hair type, skin type, or skin tone? If your product lineup focuses on any of the considerations mentioned (ie. you have a hair care line for fine or thinning hair), and you note that many of an influencer’s followers have comments about similar hair concerns, you know this influencer can help you reach the right audience.
There are an increasing variety of Influencer outreach executional platforms available to help in researching, vetting, and connecting with relevant, interested influencer partners.
A brief list of some to explore include:
It is important to remember that an influencer is a person, and as such, their potential impact can’t be fully measured and estimated by past engagement, including likes, shares, and comments. Perhaps the energy they bring to a particular campaign will earn incredible reach, or perhaps your product or service just won’t land with their audience, despite general relevance.
That said, certain data is still valuable and important to consider, including:
- Follower to engagement ratio (how many followers they have in relation to how many of those followers like, share, and/or comment)
- The influencer’s audience insights (ask them to share any insights they have, including their top audience demographics, and account and past campaign statistics—reach and impressions are a good start)
- Any data they have on conversions or sales they have driven in the past; many Influencers won’t have access to this data, but if they do, it is like striking gold! You can understand exactly how much product they can move prior to moving forward into a contract.
And if the numbers aren’t the best, but you still think there’s value in the partnership?
Barring any red flags, go for it. Data-driven strategies are important, but so are your instincts and experimentation. Running the numbers doesn’t have to mean that you won’t pursue a partnership if their follower counts and engagement rate (likes, comments, views, and more) aren’t as high as someone else, but it can heavily influence the price you’re willing to pay, and/or the results you project for the partnership.
Maybe their overall engagement rate is low, but of the people they do spark interest in, they have a high conversion rate. Or they could be amazing Content Creators, which allows you another avenue to purchase UGC-style (user-generated content) assets for owned and/or paid tactics.
Some influencers may simply make better partners for some KPIs over others, and that’s OK! Not all your campaigns have the same goals or outcomes, and your influencers don’t have to either.
Last but not least, you can offload the whole process to someone else, namely a team of experienced, connected experts in the field—like Tinuiti.
As we’ve explored, there’s quite a bit that goes into finding the best influencers for your brand, and finding them is just the beginning.
When you partner with an influencer marketing agency like Tinuiti, we take all the heavy lifting off your plate. Learn more about our full-funnel influencer marketing services here, and reach out to chat with an expert for more information!