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Instagram Influencers for Consumer Brands

It’s no secret that most people trust a recommendation from a friend more than a sales pitch from a company. One study found that 92% of people report trusting the recommendation of another person — even one they don’t know — more than a pitch from a brand.

That’s exactly why so many brands are turning to social media influencers to help them improve their marketing. In doing so, brands partner with social media “celebrities” (of various degrees) to tap into their influence and promote their brand or product in an authentic way.

Download our free Influencer Outreach template

Instagram is one of the fastest growing platforms and is exceptionally popular among younger audiences. Its lifestyle-focused content and visual nature make it especially attractive to brands that want to align themselves with key strategic communities.

Some reports indicate that brands see more than 6.5:1 ROI on every dollar spent on influencer marketing. (That’s good--really, really good.)

Partnering with influencers can be one of the most powerful ways to reach your target market for a few reasons:

  1. It allows you to reach a large, established community even if you have not yet built a large audience on Instagram.

  2. It takes advantage of some of the social proof that the influencers have built, and creates a level of authentic endorsement and engagement with their followers.

  3. It’s social by nature--a well-executed campaign can spread far and wide from its seminal origins on an influencer’s timeline.

How to Create Value with Influencers

If you’re setting out to execute an influencer marketing strategy, you’ll need just that--a strategy.

You can work with influencers in many ways to create value for your brand, and ultimately the shape of the campaign will be determined by your goals and your creativity. But there are a few basic models for how to partner with influencers that can work.

1. Social mentions / product placement

If your brand is simply trying to gain exposure and grow favor among a particular audience, you can work with influencers as essentially celebrity endorsements--to help reinforce your brand.

With this approach, you may not ask the influencers to directly sell or market your products, but they can use branded photography and brand mentions to reach their audience and help bolster your name recognition. This can also help drive engagement across social platforms.

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2. Content offers or promotions

Aside from just a little product placement, you can ask influencers to plug a specific offer or a discount. It could be that you’ve got a white paper to download or a special deal for people who come from IG.

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Either way, you can ask them to not only give your product a shout out, but give their followers a specific call to action. You generally want to create a targeted landing page and then ask your partners to add the landing page to their profile and mention it in the post.

3. Direct product sales

Oh, so you want to go for the kill, huh? You can do that too.

Some influencers are willing to not just mention your brand or product, but actively try to persuade their followers to make a purchase. This has some obvious limitations--if you’re selling a car, you probably won’t generate a lot of direct sales from a single IG post. And it can come off as a bit overly salesy to an audience that is expecting genuine engagement, so be sure to tread lightly if you’re thinking about going for the hard sales pitch.

Types of Influencers to Target

Although industry definitions can vary from source to source, there are a few basic categories of influencers that may be the target of a partnership with your brand.

Mega-Influencers (Celebrities)

If your brand is looking for the biggest possible reach, there are many celebrities with massive follower lists that partner with brands to promote their products far and wide.

Think the Kardashians. These kind of influencers can often reach 5 or 10 million people. This can be great for brands that really want to make a splash--but it does come with some drawbacks.

The downside to this approach is that with such enormous social power, these influencers command prices that are generally only possible for the largest consumer brand. Secondly, their follower base is less targeted. Although they may reach 1,000,000 people with each post, only a small percentage of that number may be interested in your particular product or market. So while the reach can be big, the engagement may be lower. That’s why many brands choose to work with smaller influencers, with more well-defined audiences that are acutely targeted to their specific product.

Micro-Influencers

So-called micro-influencers have a smaller reach than traditional celebrities or people with millions of followers. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be an effective partner for your brand.

Although definitions are a bit fuzzy, most categorizations place a micro-influencer as someone with 10,000 to 100,000 followers. That kind of reach is certainly nothing to sneeze at, and a well-coordinated campaign can activate multiple micro-influencers within a certain community to reach hundreds of thousands or millions of people.

This is the sweet spot for many campaigns, as you can still achieve pretty massive scale but you also partner with influencers who are likely to get strong engagement rates.

Hyper-Micro-Influencers

Another approach is to target influencers with less than 10,000 followers. Obviously, there are many of these kinds of accounts -- from very popular individuals with a big group of friends to growing influencers who haven’t been around long enough to amass tens of thousands of followers.

Activating these kinds of people can be effective if you’re looking to market a hyper-local product or service. Maybe you don’t need to reach 500,000 people, but just 8,000 of the right ones. One huge advantage to thinking this small is that the engagement you receive is sure to be very authentic. Popular figures at this level still probably have a large percentage of real-life friends and family as the base of the following, so they’re likely to be perceived as more trustworthy and authentic than some of the bigger names.

And data backs that up. According to a study by Markerly, accounts with 1,000 to 10,000 followers have an engagement rate nearly twice as high as those with 10,000 to 100,000 followers.

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This can also be an effective way to test the return that you get from working with these kinds of influencers before jumping into a big partnership.

One downside that makes this difficult is that these people may not have apparent contact information or have experience working with brands. So, you may need to get creative in how you approach them.

How to Identify Instagram Influencers

You can identify influencers a number of ways within your target market. Go through the process of searching and finding influencers and make a list of 10-20 accounts that would be a good fit.

1. Use Instagram search for accounts and hashtags

The most obvious way to find influencers on Instagram is to use the in-app search feature. You can search for specific hashtags or topics. Try typing in the topic you’re looking for in plain text and the suggestions will likely identify relevant accounts and hashtags for you.

For example, if you’re a culinary brand looking for influencers who post cooking photos, you might search for “sous vide” cooking and find that #sousvide is a fairly popular hashtag.

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2. Identify niche and related hashtags

Next step: Go down the rabbit hole.

Each time you search for a specific hashtag, you’ll be able to see a list of related searches across the top of the results. You can use these to explore different but related topics that may lead you to more influencers.

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In addition, when you click into a photo under your target search, you can look at the other hashtags used on each post. This will give you a good idea of what tags are being used by the influencers within this community and help you find more influential accounts.

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3. Find related accounts

When you identify a strong influencer that you want to target, you should also check to see if there are related accounts that may be good for you to target.

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Click the down arrow next to their name to see a list of related accounts. Sometimes these may not be relevant -- it may show other brands or major media -- but it can often lead you to similar accounts that might be good targets for your campaign.

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4. Search for blogs and find their Instagram account

Not coming up with anything through the Instagram search or want to find some additional accounts? Try turning to good ol’ Google and finding related blogs.

Most blogs will list their social accounts on their website, so if they have an Instagram, you can identify them this way as well.

Engaging Influencers (Step-By-Step)

1. Build your list of targets

You’ve probably just spent a few hours crawling around the depths of Instagram, searching for influencers. (It’s easy to get lost in there.)

It’s advisable to find 2 or 3 times as many accounts as you actually plan to work with. Some people may not respond and others may ask for a fee that’s outside of your range. For each one, take notes of their contact info--some will list a website or email directly in their profile, others may need to be contacted through IG (we’ll get to that in a moment).

Grab a copy of our free Influencer Outreach template.

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2. Define your campaign

Before you message a single influencer, you’ll want to first work with your team to figure out what you’re trying to do. Are you hoping to just drum up awareness and brand lift? Are you hoping to drive immediate sales?

Make sure that your list of influencers aligns with your ultimate goals.

Then, make a list of what assets your team will need to create and start to think how you will work with the influencer directly. Will you just be sending them product and asking them to incorporate it into a photo? Or does there need to be a bigger partnership where you’re art directing the actual photos? Have all of this figured out beforehand -- even if you don’t know exactly what the final outcome will look like, you want to have some general guidelines established.

3. Set your metrics

How are you going to measure the success of your campaign? Will it be traffic to a particular landing page, use of a discount count, or increase in followers?

Define the metrics and what success looks like early so you can get the whole team on board.

4. Reach out to the influencers

Okay, you’ve got a list of awesome people and a well-defined strategy. Now it’s time to start executing.

You can contact influencers in basically one of four ways:

  • Reach them via their email address or Kik, if it’s listed on their profile -- this is pretty straightforward

  • Find their contact info on their website, if they have list a blog or personal website

  • Send them a direct message through IG (beware that these can be easy to overlook, so if you only send a DM, you may not get a response for days or weeks)

  • Comment on their photo and ask to connect -- ask them to provide an email address where you can reach them about partnership opportunities

In your initial message, you will probably want to gauge their interest and ask for pricing information, but don’t jump into a full sales pitch. Keep your message short and simple.

Here’s an example:

Hey Paul,

I work for XYZ Knife Co and came across your profile on Instagram. You’ve got some great shots on there.
We’re looking to work with a few influencers in the culinary space to help spread the word about our awesome knives. Would you be interested in partnering with us?
Regards,
Ken Knifeseller

Don’t overthink it. Don’t oversell it. Don’t talk money. Just see if they’re interested in the opportunity first.

5. Negotiate and set terms

Once you’ve done the outreach and gotten responses from interested parties, you’ll want to get to the meat of the proposition. Figure out the pricing and set the terms of the deal -- what are you expecting the influencers to do, exactly?

The cost of influencer marketing can vary pretty wildly. There’s not a single great resource on what you should expect to pay, but reports estimate that a sponsored tweet from a celebrity, for example, can run between $250 to $20,000.

You should be prepared to probably spend a few hundred dollars for anyone with close to 100,000 followers, but this can vary. And not every campaign needs to be a direct pay to play. Some influencers may be willing to shout  you out simply based on the fact that they like your brand or in exchange for some free product. Don’t be afraid to negotiate -- there are a lot of influencers to partner with, so don’t feel like you have to take the first offer that’s on the table.

6. Launch the campaign

Now comes the fun part. Once things are all ratcheted down and approved, you can launch your campaign and see the response.

Don’t forget to look back at your campaign definition and metrics of success to gauge how well you’ve done. Try to nail down every dollar spent and attribute every dollar earned or follower gained. This gives you a way to measure the ROI of the campaign.

At the end of the day, influencer marketing can be an incredibly effective strategy for consumer brands looking to either raise their brand profile or drive direct sales and engagement.

With a proper plan and some solid research and targeting, you can reach a huge audience with a modest budget, as well as see high levels of engagement and lift.


Kelso Kennedy

Kelso Kennedy

CoFounder @RedStampAgency - Time Magazine's 2006 Person of the year. He likes Business, Technology, Hockey and Life.

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