There’s no doubt about it: influencer marketing is one of the hottest ways to reach new and potential customers in today’s digital world – especially if those customers are Gen Z and Millennial shoppers.
And though TikTok, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are great platforms for leveraging influencers, none is more powerful or popular than Instagram, the veritable king of influencer marketing.
Still, Instagram is home to more than 2 billion monthly active users. How do you know which ones are “influencers”?
More importantly, how do you find the influencers who can reach your specific target audiences on Instagram?
In our recent post, How to Find the Best Influencers for Your Brand, we explored all the steps brands and advertisers should take when searching and vetting influencers for any platform. In this post, we’ll dive into many of the same recommendations, but through an Instagram-focused lens.
“Influencer Marketing allows brands to build authentic relationships with voices that can serve as extensions of their brand. That being said, those Influencer partners need to align with the values, tone, and principles of the brand, and it’s our job to spend the time finding the right fits.”
— Crystal Duncan, SVP of Influencer Marketing at Tinuiti
Be Honest, Open and Transparent about Who Your Brand Is
While it’s very important to know who your audience is, it’s also important to know who you are. The importance of authenticity is only increasing on Instagram and beyond, particularly as people become more accustomed to influencer content.
In short—the public can spot a partnership that doesn’t ‘make sense’ instantly. They’ve been viewing and engaging with influencer content on Instagram for years now, and they don’t respond well to posts and videos that are incongruous with why they’re following someone to begin with.
Take the necessary time to identify some primary brand strengths, qualities, and differentiators, and ensure they’re in alignment with your overall, public-facing brand messaging. This will not only help you in determining the best influencers to work with, but also which elements of your brand or product you want each of them to focus on.
While the list will vary from brand to brand, some questions you might want to answer—and areas you’ll want to focus on in this stage—include:
- Do we make any notable charity donations?
- Have we won any awards that shoppers would recognize, and/or would offer them assurance that we’re a quality brand?
- How environmentally-friendly are our products, our manufacturing processes, and our shipping methods?
- Are our ingredients and/or materials ethically sourced/produced?
- In what ways do we truly shine against the competition? (ie. wider product selection, more affordable options, higher quality, broader appeal, free shipping, larger delivery area, etc.)
- What does our brand stand for?
- What about our products turns first-time customers into repeat customers?
- What specific products, or product categories, are our ‘bread and butter’?
- What areas are we planning to focus on more heavily in the near future? (ie. new product launches, updated versions of existing products, non-product based business changes on the horizon, etc.)
For all of these considerations, you’ll need to work closely with your internal team to ensure everyone is in agreement, and that you’re aware of everything already in the works. You don’t want to risk building an entire Instagram influencer strategy focused on a product your brand may be discontinuing in 6 months, while you do want to be aware of any exciting updates that may impact your influencer plan of action.
Keep In Mind: Poorly planned influencer partnerships can damage the reputation of brands, and the influencer themselves. By doing your research before proposing a partnership—and having the necessary discussions internally to confidently determine which influencers are a good fit—you’re showing respect for an influencer’s time, and the work they’ve put into building their following.
Determine Your Instagram Influencer Campaign Goals
While influencer marketing has historically functioned largely as an awareness marketing tactic, influencer is a mature marketing maven now, with the necessary chops to tackle the full funnel.
That said, perhaps increased awareness is exactly what you’re hoping to achieve through influencers. Or maybe awareness sounds great, but you really need to reach new audiences, and be able to tie some conversions to this campaign as well. Whatever your goals are, they must be identified before deciding which influencers you want to work with.
Sharing your goals with the influencer can be important in helping them craft their content, but first and foremost, it helps you in determining which influencers’ style and reach, and the information they’re equipped to provide, best corresponds with your campaign goals.
Know Who You’re Trying To Reach
As with any marketing campaign, it’s important to both determine and understand your target audiences before diving in.
- What are their likes and dislikes?
- Where do they live? Are they quite literally ‘all over the map,’ or concentrated in certain areas?
- How old are they?
- What is their marital or familial status?
- What are the most valuable, and relevant-to-your-brand demographics they fall within?
You want to find influencers who share the same target audience or audiences – at least partially – so diving deep and really getting to know your customers is crucial.
In determining why shoppers would choose your brand, some of your target audiences are likely to be uncovered. For example, if you sell stylish, durable laptop bags, you might discover that three of your key audiences are college students, frequent travelers, and commuting office workers. Those findings are based on who predominantly uses stylish laptop bags, but what is it about your brand in particular that makes people add to cart? The more questions you ask (and answer!) yourself before you send the first message, or write an influencer brief, the smarter your IG influencer strategy will be.
What type of Influencer represents who your brand is?
Now that you’ve determined who you are as a brand, what your campaign goals are, and which audiences you want to reach, you’re ready to tackle finding the right Instagram influencers to bring it all to life.
- Is it a cool and trendy college student?
- A tech-savvy businessman?
- A middle-class mom of three in the Midwest?
- A thrifty DIYer?
Figure out what types of people stand for who your company is and what you do, and finding the right influencers will be immensely easier.
Note: Though an influencer will likely do their best work for a long-term brand they call a partner, you don’t have to commit to anything serious right off the bat. Consider engaging an influencer for a one-off post first, and then evaluate the results. If there seems to be promise, extend the agent to two posts, five posts or 10 – whatever fits your budget best.
Seeing how many followers an Instagram influencer has is an important start in determining their fit for your campaign objectives, but be sure to look beyond that number to see how many of those followers are actively interacting with their content, and scan for any signs of fake followers. This will help you in determining their follower to engagement ratio—the number of total followers they have in relation to how many are liking, commenting, or sharing.
In addition to considering their overall engagement, hone in on their sponsored content specifically to see how that fares. Also, consider what types of sponsored content they’re creating (ie. video posts, single photo posts, photo carousels, Instagram Reels, Boomerangs, etc.), and if audience engagement seems to hold steady regardless of format, or if some formats perform better than others. This will help you determine which format you want a given influencer to employ for your campaign.
You can also look at their followers list to verify you share similar audience interests. You’ll also want to make sure the content of their posts jives with your brand vision and voice. Have they shared anything that goes against your values or would alienate certain customers?
Tip: In addition to seeing how many of their followers interact with them, be sure to see if they’re returning the favor. When someone comments with a direct question, do they typically respond? Harness one of the overarching benefits of Instagram, and social media in general—unparalleled transparency. Outside of their direct messages, you have full visibility into the content they create, the reactions it receives, and how involved they are with their followers.
“Followers don’t mean everything—while it’s great that someone has vast reach, we also want to understand deeper metrics about their channel (engagements, conversions, views, etc.) and their audience, as their audience is who we are really trying to reach.”
— Hope Herline, Influencer Marketing Strategist at Tinuiti
Search hashtags related to your services and products themselves, as well as related hashtags folks might use when using those products in real life.
For example, if you want influencers to help promote your makeup brand’s new eyebrow pencil, in addition to searching product-focused hashtags (ie. #eyebrowpencil, #browpencil), you’ll also want to search use-case and lifestyle-focused hashtags that are less specifically tied to the tangible item, and more closely tied to the desired outcome it offers, or situation in which it is used.
Continuing with the #eyebrowpencil example, other hashtags that might help in uncovering influencers include: #eyebrowsonfleek, #eyebrowsonpoint, #browgamestrong, and #browgoals.
- What accounts are using those tags?
- Do any have large followings that could potentially fit your brand?
Start with more broad, general hashtags, and then dive down deep with more detailed, long-tail ones. The more specific and related to your brand and products, the better. You can also search the “#sponsored” or “#ad” hashtag to find already active influencers who might be willing to work with you. Influencers are legally required to prominently disclose paid partnerships, so these hashtags should be included in all of their sponsored content.
Mine Your Followers
You can also check out people who follow both you and your competitors on Instagram. Are any of them movers and shakers on the platform? Is anyone asking you directly in your comments if you offer influencer partnerships? Don’t be afraid to mine that data to your advantage, working smarter instead of harder. If they’re already familiar with what you have to offer, or are actively looking for an opportunity to work with you, it could be a match made in heaven.
Stalk Your Competitors
In addition to checking out your competitors’ followers, you can also see who has tagged them in recent posts by going to their profile and clicking the furthest right icon. This will show a gallery of all posts the account was tagged in.
Just click the name of the user who posted the photo, check out their profile and see if they’ll be a good fit for your brand.
It sounds basic, but even a simple Google search can help. Want to find an Instagram influencer for your skateboard store? Type in “top skaters on Instagram” or “top skateboarding Instagram accounts to follow.”
There are an abundance of helpful round-up style articles out there that highlight the best accounts and users in all sorts of industries, and as influencer marketing grows, you can expect the top Instagram influencers results to be fresh. Chances are there are some for your sector, too. After all, there are 2 billion monthly active users.
Use an Influencer Platform
There are lots of tools out there that will connect you with already proven influencers in all sorts of categories and industries. Many even help you measure and track your influencers’ impact, as well as pay them directly through the platform. Do your research; what do you need out of a tool? If you just need search and discovery help, there are tools that do that, as well as tools that offer an end-to-end solution. Be smart and know what you need before doing the research!
Just keep in mind: these tools do come with a fee (usually monthly), so be sure to budget for them if you plan to use them. It’s important to check out the individual platform reviews and get first hand demos of the technology for a more in-depth perspective, but these influencer platforms are an excellent foundation to find the right partnership for your brand.
Here is a brief list of some popular influencer platforms to consider:
Influencer Marketing Services
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published by Tara Johnson in June 2018 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.