One of the most common questions I get asked from businesses is how to find Instagram influencers.
If you’re hoping to take advantage of the influencer marketing trend that I write about in The Age of Influence, one of the toughest decisions is in finding which influencers to use. While drawing up a budget is relatively easy, using the right people isn’t. After all, there are a lot of influencers out there. When considering influencer marketing programs, it’s important to think beyond the celebrities. Kylie Jenner, LeBron James and similar public figures are great for selling things, but they are also expensive. Should you choose to collaborate with someone of that caliber, it’s important to ensure their sphere of influence is appropriate for your products. Otherwise, you’re throwing away a lot of money.
Here, we’ll talk about how to find Instagram influencers in depth. Once you understand how to do it, your business is free to profit from influencer marketing. Keep in mind that some techniques are the same as other social networks, but others are more Instagram specific. No matter where you look, be sure to know your goals before starting any campaign.
Understand your target audience
Depending on your brand’s reach, the target audience can include a wide range of consumers. For instance, a car company might have a sub-compact model for those who have limited means, all the way up to a luxe sedan that’s loaded for the junior executive. Alternately, some brands have a niche audience, such as downhill skiing companies.
No matter the reach of your brand, any time you plan an influencer marketing campaign you’ll need a target audience. In addition, it’s important to understand that target audience. Therefore, the car company might decide to market the lower-cost items in their inventory. This is a great option around graduation time when new graduates might be looking for their first new car. Or, the company might decide it’s time to sell the prestige model during the holidays, when junior executives often get a bonus.
No matter the decision, you’ll want a thorough understanding of your target audience. That includes how much money they make, where they live, and the types of jobs they hold down. Maybe the targets are likely to have young children. Armed with this information, you’ll have a better idea of the type of influencer you need.
What personality type is your ideal influencer?
While many people don’t think about it this way, brands have a personality. You can call it “brand voice” if you want to, or marketing standards. But at the end of the day, they function similarly to a human personality. As a result, people with certain personalities or interests tend to gravitate towards different brands within the same market sentiment.
Think about it this way: Have you ever thought of a certain type of car as “going with” someone? Fun-loving women often like “cute” cars, while people with a big ego are likely to enjoy something more showy. It’s a phenomenon that manifests itself in a broad range of industries and price points.
Many marketing experts, therefore, recommend that the people who advertise your brand have a compatible personality. Thinking about how to find Instagram influencers with the right personality often proves critical to success. To start, consider the types of people who buy your products. This information can be gathered through customer surveys, looking at who likes your stuff on social media, or using several other techniques. Build personality into your buyer persona.
Ideally, you’re looking for someone whose personality matches your buyer persona. These are the people who potential customers are likely to resonate with, improving the impact of your influencer campaigns. To determine personality of an influencer, check out the content they produce and how they interact with followers. Then, think if your ideal customer would respond to people or be creative in similar ways. This is the type of person you’re looking for as an influencer.
START by looking at your own followers for potential influencers
Like so many other things in business, it sometimes pays to look for what you need in your own backyard. Remember, influencers are real people, and they have their own tastes within an industry. In other words, not all their product interests will have been formed by brands contacting them. Often, their interest in being an influencer began with something they’re passionate about.
So, one of the methods I’ve discovered on how to find Instagram influencers is by looking at my own Instagram profile. Potential influencers are often followers who have a large number of their own followers. They’ll post a lot of stuff about their chosen industry, and if it’s yours, you should listen up. For example, they might be following you because of that great product you launched a couple years ago. You’re your brand keeps their interest due to innovative products or superb services within their niche.
Once you’ve found someone like this on your profile, you’ll want to see if they are interacting with your content or posting pictures that feature your brand. These guys are already giving you some publicity for free, so it might be time to let them get paid for even better work. Not only that, but in this situation you might get better engagement than usual. After all, followers are used to seeing this influencer talk about your bran for free, so it’s got to be even better if they do a paid promotion.
Another way to do the same thing is by checking out your social listening reports. You might find that people with a large following are using your branded hashtags because they really like your stuff. Incidentally, this can help you find micro-influencers who are just starting out, and not just the established industry voices. Who knows? Maybe social media influencers are waiting for you to approach them.
Do relevant hashtag searches to find highly engaged Instagram influencers
Part of every effective social media marketing strategy is following hashtags. These can be branded hashtags, industry-specific technical terms, or even marketing slogans. No matter what kind of hashtags your industry uses, when learning how to find Instagram influencers you’ll need to master hashtag searches. Of course, many industries have a wide variety of relevant hashtags, while others are more restricted. A lot of this depends on the size of your industry.
When running these hashtag searches, be sure to take note of who is producing related content. While some of these people will be casual hobbyists and those with a largely academic interest in the industry, others are major influencers. One way to spot them is large numbers of followers and significant engagement. You’ll also want to see if they have any sponsored posts.
Another thing to check: are these people active in the wider industry? Thought leaders are especially valuable influencers. While not all of them have an Instagram account, quite a few have a significant following there as well as on more professional channels. It never hurts to consider an overall level of engagement.
Check your competitors’ followers
Think of this one as a sort of reverse market research. Depending on the industry, your company may have significant competition, and there isn’t always enough business to go around. Or, it could be that everyone is doing well, but there’s room for improvement. By checking up on competitor’s followers, you might be able to identify influencers who are interested in your industry.
If you find a great influencer that isn’t interested in your social media page, there are a number of ways to interest them. For instance, you can try one of my techniques for working with influencers. These include giving away samples or free trials of your product or service to influencers. Often, there is some way to contact these people away from Instagram, or you can send them a message. Alternatively, you can follow them and see how long it takes for the influencer to check out your profile.
Do relevant Google searches
Sometimes, the answer isn’t easy to find on Instagram itself. Instead, running Google searches is a better way to find what you need. Knowing how to find Instagram influencers in more than one place is critical to long-term success, even if you already have relationships with some of them. Every time you add an influencer to your team, there’s the potential to reach new people with your brand message. More than that, the followers themselves have people who will see when something is interacted with.
One way to use Google is by searching for a specific niche on Instagram. For example, I might type “top marketers on Instagram” or “Japanese social influencers.” These searches will give me a list of profiles that I can check out. I’ll be able to run analytics on these people, and find out who has the type and level of engagement that I am looking for. Furthermore, I might find that a particular influencer is interested in Japan or enjoys Apple products. These types of affinities are useful when trying to build a relationship.
Besides the identity of influencers, if done right the Google search might tell you where they work. Or, it could turn up the other things they’re interested in. All of this information can help you determine not just if they’re an influencer, but if they’re the type you want to work with. Remember, personality and lifestyle can be very important.
Use influencer marketing tools or influencer marketplaces
One of the good things about influencer marketing is that the industry is starting to mature. Unlike the early days, marketers now have a host of tools they can use for finding and working with influencers. Some of them will even be the key to your problem of how to find Instagram influencers. Why? They take most of the guesswork out of influencer marketing. This is done one of two ways: with discovery and management tools, or by providing a marketplace.
First off, there are the influencer marketing tools. I’ve done an extensive blog post on influencer marketing tools before. Several types of tools exist. Social listening and blogger outreach tools are a great way to see who’s talking about your industry. Discovery and marketplace tools let you see who is interested in doing sponsored work and then reaching out to them. In addition, there are other tools that do narrower tasks to facilitate your campaigns.
Second, there are the influencer marketplaces. Here, you can easily meet influencers in your industry to make a deal. Depending on the marketplace, a varying amount of work is done for you. However, most of them will do a minimal amount of vetting to ensure that the influencers aren’t using fraudulent techniques to get business. Keep in mind though, the more a marketplace does for you, the more it’s likely to charge you or the influencer (or both). Also, these marketplaces are a place to start and, in some cases, facilitate the business deal. You’re still responsible for choosing the “right” influencer.
Remember to check the performance of Instagram influencers you find and vet them for fake followers & engagement
Sadly, there’s a lot more to influencer marketing than finding someone who’s interested and making a deal. It’s never any good to just turn over a bunch of cash only to find out that you’ve been cheated. Worse, cheating takes a lot of forms. Some people are so desperate to either become an influencer or increase their fees that they’ll buy fake followers or engagement. Or, they’ll hype themselves as awesome only to have poor performance in the end. Remember, the whole idea of influencer marketing is to have a win-win business relationship. They’ll get paid, and you’ll get more customers or brand awareness (or both).
Fortunately, there are many ways you can reduce your chance of being cheated. For instance, on my blog there are several hints that can help you find out if that Instagram influencer has fake followers or if they are genuine. One way is by seeing if the followers “make sense” in terms of geographic location and interests. Or, you can see if they have “real” names for their handle. Followers with engagement of their own are more likely to be real, as well. Going with your gut isn’t a bad idea, either.
Another enemy of influencer marketing is fake engagement. Instagrammers who have a lot of followers but little engagement will sometimes try to buy some. This is done in an attempt to look more attractive to brands. Alternatively, some people like to look popular as a way of boosting their ego. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter why they cheat: it’s bad news either way.
Fake engagement can take several forms. For instance, these days a lot of influencers participate in “pods.” These are groups of people who all engage with each other’s posts, whether they’re good quality or not. While influencers don’t pay each other in cash, it’s the epitome of “scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.” To combat this, check and see to what extent engagement is coming from the same people who are also influencers.
No matter what form the fake engagement takes, it’s always bad news. Fake engagement drives up the price of influencer marketing, and reduces return on investment. While the influencer marketing industry is starting to police these issues through detection (and boycotts), there’s still a long way to go. Any time there’s money to be made, some people will try to cheat.
As with any skill, learning how to find Instagram influencers takes time. Fortunately, you aren’t alone. Many marketers are getting better at the techniques, and we’re always happy to help. In fact, many of us are influencers ourselves, myself included. Once you’ve gotten started, you’ll be able to see that influencer marketing is well worth the effort and expense.
What’s your favorite influencer discovery technique? Let me know in the comments below.
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Hero photo by Guilherme Stecanella on Unsplash