How To Find Instagram Influencers For Your Marketing Campaign
In a study published by independent technology and market research company, Forrester, brand engagement rates on Instagram (2.26%) are significantly higher than any other social platform including Facebook (0.22%) and Twitter (0.03%). Coupled with its 1 billion active users (over half of which are 18-29-years-old, and 41% 24 years-old or younger), Instagram has proven to be a high-ROI marketing channel for many brands. This explains why the Instagram influencer marketing industry alone is projected to reach $2 billion by 2019.
Though Instagram does present traditional advertising options, running Instagram ad campaigns can be costly (as much as 6 to 7 figures per month). This can make it challenging for the average brand to reach Instagram's diverse and engaged audience at a reasonable cost. Alternatively, brands including Mercedes-Benz, Olay, Chase Sapphire, Budweiser, and Revolve have sought to capitalize on Instagram marketing by partnering with top Instagram influencers for cost-effective, high-reach, and engaging sponsored posts for both branding and direct response marketing. In order to execute these campaigns, brands must first know how to find the right Instagram influencers for their campaigns.
11 Tips For Finding Instagram Influencers
Running a successful Instagram influencer campaign starts with identifying the appropriate Instagram influencers. Without the know-how to do this effectively, marketers risk time-consuming searches that could lead to working with the wrong influencers, ultimately putting their ROI on the line.
Below are 11 tips on how to find Instagram influencers for brand marketing campaigns:
Listen to your target audience
Perform a niche, organic Google search
Search relevant and/or trending hashtags on Instagram
Find previous influencer sponsored content
Filter through known influencers’ followers/following
Ask current influencer partners for a referral
Use free tools to find influencers on other channels
Leverage talent networks
Review influencer content quality
Reach out to influencers
Work with an influencer marketing agency
1. LISTEN TO YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE BY KEEPING TABS ON WHO & WHAT THEY FOLLOW ON INSTAGRAM
First and foremost, you need to listen to your audience. The reason you’ve chosen to work with influencers is that they’re able to reach and engage your community authentically. If you have an established Instagram brand account with a following who is representative of your target audience, monitor how they engage with your Instagram content. Which posts do they “like” most, or which posts prompt them to comment positively? You can also look into what influencers they follow by peeking at their following list.
Additionally, stay alert for those who are mentioning or tagging your brand on Instagram. You may discover that influencers or brand advocates are already promoting your business to a loyal and relevant following. These Instagrammers will be more prone to working out a formal partnership with your brand. By understanding who already supports your brand online and what your audience responds well to, you can quickly narrow down on a short list of Instagram influencers.
2. PERFORM A TARGETED GOOGLE SEARCH & LEVERAGE EXISTING LISTS FROM REPUTABLE SOURCES
Though this may seem an obvious step to finding Instagram influencers, there are a few tips that can make a standard Google search yield impressive results. First, dial in your search terms by industry. Instead of searching "top Instagram accounts," try searching "top 20 fitness Instagram influencers." As can be expected, the first search yields general and broad results:
Though the results from iNews, Wikipedia, Rollingstone, and Business Insider look promising and reputable, a deeper look at their lists produces many mainstream Instagram accounts including celebrities, such as actors, athletes, and rockstars — unattainable or irrelevant for most brands looking to partner with social media influencers and drive tangible ROI.
To find both relevant and reputable lists and sources, try a more targeted search that pinpoints the influencer channel and category. Searching "top 20 fitness Instagram influencers" returns more refined results for influencers on Instagram within the fitness industry:
Not only are the top results from reputable industry sources (with targeted lists from Refinery29, Harper’s Bazaar, and Mediakix), but they also point to more attainable influencers compared to their celebrity counterparts. Not to mention, the results are more specifically tailored to brands, products, or services within a specific industry.
3. SEARCH RELEVANT HASHTAGS VIA INSTAGRAM’S DISCOVER TOOL
In many cases, brands that decide to dip their toes into the influencer marketing pool are probably already familiar with running social media campaigns, many of which incorporate branded or campaign-specific hashtags. Ever since Twitter initiated the trending hashtags, the pound symbol has functioned as a way to discover new, relevant content.
Begin by searching hashtags that are related to your brand, product, or service. For instance, if you’re looking for nutrition experts, type in hashtags like #livegreenhealthy. Once you find an influencer’s post, see what other related hashtags they’ve used to find other avenues to related content. On Instagram, you can even “follow” hashtags so that if a trending one is of particular interest to your brand, you can keep a pulse on who’s using it in your feed. This comes in handy when studying your target audience or identifying potential influencer partners.
4. LOCATE PREVIOUS INSTAGRAM SPONSORED CONTENT & REVIEW PERFORMANCE
Despite influencer marketing being a relatively new addition to advertisers’ repertoires, it’s been around long enough that anyone can locate sponsored content from prior influencer campaigns. This can be done by searching for posts with the tags #sponsored or #ad, or you can skim through influencers’ previous posts to find ones that mention or tag another brand.
If your brand already has a wishlist of influencers in mind, it’s likely you’ve seen examples of their sponsored content before. Be sure to search for fresh sponsored content and review closely for evidence of how the collaboration performed to ensure a partnership with said influencer will be a natural fit.
To take it one step further, look at who else engaged with the sponsored post to see if any other influencers “liked” or commented on it. In most cases, influencers have built vast networks with similar influencers, so their sponsored and organic content will likely attract the attention of fellow influencers.
5. COMB THROUGH KNOWN INFLUENCERS’ INSTAGRAM NETWORKS
Speaking of influencer networks, you can also filter through the followers of influencers you’ve already identified to locate new ones. Despite being a more manual process, this strategy proves to be an invaluable way to stumble upon similar influencers to ones you’ve already identified. Just be careful not to careen down a rabbit hole by allotting a fixed amount of time to this task. Otherwise, you may find yourself buried in the depths of Instagram.
Likewise, check who your identified influencers are following. To quicken the search through thousands of Instagram followers for a given account, scroll through and look for the “verified” checkmark or for handles that are cleanly spelled. Don’t feel compelled to scroll through the entire list of followers. Use your best judgment to maximize your efficiency.
6. ASK INFLUENCER PARTNERS FOR A REFERRAL
This is yet another great networking tactic that brands should lean on when they’ve already established long-term partnerships with other influencers. Having strong rapport with influencers will often mean they’re more inclined to refer you to other influencers they know or work with. If you’re confident you have a solid, healthy relationship with an influencer, reach out directly for a referral.
Since current influencer partners already understand your company’s messaging and goals, they’ll likely know who else within their influencer network would be interested in partnering with you. And generally, they are going to be more than happy to fulfill your request. This opens up the door for more direct and trusted influencer discovery.
7. USE FREE TOOLS, LIKE SOCIALBLADE, TO CROSS-REFERENCE INFLUENCERS FROM OTHER SOCIAL PLATFORMS
In the quest to find high-reach Instagram influencers for sponsored content, it's helpful to know the top social media influencers from other platforms including blogs, YouTube, and Twitch. SocialBlade is an incredible, free resource that provides continuously updated rankings (top 10, 100, and 500 channels) from multiple platforms including Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch. The tool also gives you insights into audience size, user demographics, followers to following ratio, and other important channel statistics.
While Instagram may be a newer platform compared to blogs and YouTube, it has quickly burgeoned into the most popular influencer channel. Oftentimes, established bloggers and YouTubers will also have adjoining Instagram channels—a direct result of having already amassed vast amounts of followers and viewership on other platforms. So, if you come across influencers whose primary channel is YouTube, chances are they probably have a successful Instagram account as well. Be sure to cross-check influencers across platforms so you don’t miss out.
8. LEVERAGE INFLUENCER TALENT NETWORKS
Sometimes, reaching out to talent networks can produce viable Instagram influencer connections. Influencer talent networks, such as Digital Brand Architects or Gleam, often have hundreds of available influencers who are on the lookout for collaboration opportunities. Talent managers are normally eager to help and will strongly suggest their own influencer clients with the caveat that managers take a percentage of the payment. You can also get summarized influencer bios and channel follower stats, and the option to contact the influencers directly (see tip #10).
9. REVIEW INFLUENCER INSTAGRAM CONTENT FOR AUTHENTICITY & ENGAGEMENT
While finding Instagram influencers is a laborious process, you need to do your due diligence to ensure those you’ve identified have a track record of genuine partnerships and productive engagement. Efforts will be futile if your brand sponsors an influencer who’s bought fake followers, doesn’t comply with FTC guidelines, or comes across as inauthentic in their messaging. Audiences have become attuned to detecting content that’s not genuine, so this step cannot be emphasized enough.
Once you’ve identified and vetted Instagram influencers, the next step is outreach. Some Instagram influencers will have an email in their bio description or within free influencer databases, so you can email directly. If no contact information is immediately available, you can try direct messaging them through Instagram. Present the potential opportunity, but keep it vague so you can ask for their email to follow up with more details. While this method may seem intrusive, it can lead to fruitful influencer relationships when you craft a thoughtful, concise message.
Keep in mind that influencers are often inundated with inquiries. To increase your chances of catching their attention, engage with their content in advance of reaching out by liking and commenting on their Instagram posts. Ensure you follow them on Instagram and show a vested interest in their work so they can be confident that you’re serious about becoming a partner. Influencers can usually distinguish whether or not the email sender has done their research, so don’t jeopardize your opportunity by blasting cold emails or messages that aren’t tailored.
11. WORK WITH AN ESTABLISHED INFLUENCER MARKETING AGENCY
Perhaps even more important than knowing how to find Instagram influencers is knowing which Instagrammer will perform and produce bottom-line results for your brand. Though high-reach usually correlates with price, it doesn't always correlate with high campaign performance. Established influencer marketing agencies who specialize solely in vetting the best Instagram influencers for each industry can provide case studies and documentation to support a track record of successful campaigns. For brands with the budget, agencies can give you direct access to viable Instagram influencers.
Working with the right influencer marketing agency not only facilitates the often arduous process of finding Instagram influencers but also ensures best industry practices when it comes to workflows between brands and influencers, adherence to sponsored content FTC guidelines, and optimized campaign management and reporting.
You can save time and start your campaign immediately with our Fashion Influencer & Style Blogger List featuring over 200 vetted and verified influencers and explore the ins and outs of a successful influencer marketing campaign in our ebook “How To Work With Celebrities & Influencers To Grow Your Brand".