influencer search how to search for influencers with a magnifying glass

How to Find the Perfect Influencer for Your Business on Instagram or Anywhere in 7 Simple Steps!

One of the biggest challenges we face when forming an influencer marketing strategy is figuring out who to use. Log onto any of the social networks, and you will quickly find a lot of people selling a lot of things with a target audience that can include any number of your desired demographics. Of course, not everyone is a suitable influencer for your brand, and for any number of reasons. They might not fit your buyer persona well, could be in a different niche, or have the wrong specialty. To help you launch an effective influencer search across numerous social media platforms, I’ve compiled this list of tips and tricks.

1. Know the Type of Influencer Campaign You Want to Run

Know the Type of Influencer Campaign You Want to Run

Before beginning an influencer search and compiling your dream influencer list, it is imperative that you have a specific goal in mind. Even within a niche or demographic group, some people are better at one kind of collaboration than others or may use a social platform better suited to your particular campaign. So, your first step should always be to determine the sort of collaboration that you are seeking. There is a wide variety of possible collaborations, so let’s look at a few ideas.

Product placements

Product placements are the classic endorsement of a product or service within third party content. It’s one of the oldest forms of advertising on video-based platforms or mediums. In fact, the first example was a silent film in 1927 that featured a chocolate bar. For influencer marketing, this technique could be a branded Instagram post featuring your product.

Here’s the thing: some influencers are more artistic in this way than others. While most Instagram-based influencers are perfectly capable of producing this sort of content, many are better at doing other things. Given the same influencer, you might prefer to have them do a different type of collaboration. So, when doing your influencer search, it’s important to look for people who are good at product placements specifically, and have a solid engagement rate within those types of posts.

How-to videos

Both Instagram and YouTube are excellent places to post how-to videos. And while company-produced tutorials are great, often an influencer-generated one is better. Not only does it inject the influencer’s personality into the influencer’s content, but they sometimes have fresh uses for it in order to more thoroughly intrigue their follower count. Take something like an eyeshadow palette, for example. Designs using this sort of product can range from simple to highly complex. Brand-generated tutorials will probably showcase basic techniques, but an influencer can show how she uses the product to achieve her unique style. You’ll see a similar phenomenon with fashion and hobbies, among other things.

Unfortunately, not every influencer offers video content. And if they do, some aren’t as good with IGTV as they might be with still frames. While that person might be great for a Story, your influencer search should bypass them if video is your goal. Combing through influencer platforms can help determine the types of influencer marketing campaigns specific influencers are more likely to succeed in creating. 

Giveaways or contests

Contests and giveaways have been a part of marketing for decades. After all, they generate a lot of publicity for a little money and are lots of fun. Many brands nowadays are choosing to run this type of content with the help of a social media influencer. Rather than relying on a corporate talking head or nameless actor, using influencer platforms makes the contest more appealing. Plus, it offers you access to that person’s social network/sphere of influence.

Keep in mind though, this kind of collab takes some personality. If the influencer is uninteresting in person, they might not be able to pull it off. He or she might be fine for a product placement, but not a contest. Content creators who are able to infuse their work with plenty of personality and pizzazz are more likely to successfully bring a decent audience size into a giveaway in order to make the collaboration worth it for the company or brand giving the product or service away. Obviously, there are many other types of influencer collaborations. But these influencer marketing examples demonstrate that different types of campaigns call for a different type of influencer. Nobody is good at everything, so your influencer search should focus on people who do the particular campaign type well.

Further Reading: 16 Compelling Influencer Marketing Examples to Inspire Your Next Campaign

2. Define the Right Influencer for Your Brand

Define the Right Influencer for Your Brand

Before starting your influencer search, it’s important to know what sort of person you are looking for. In this case, I’m talking about personalities and demographics rather than content specialty. This is important for two reasons. First, you want to find someone whose content matches the brand personality or voice that you’re aiming for. Second, you need someone who will fit your customer demographics fairly well. Let’s unpack each of these and how they interact with influencer profiles.

Match the brand personality

Is your brand offbeat? Bohemian? Button-down businesslike? A little bit of more than one of them? You should choose an influencer who largely matches this description, whether you utilize micro – influencers or influencers with massive followings. For instance, a lot of B2B brands are going to look for the button-down guy. You don’t want corny and inappropriate jokes, right? Likewise, a brand of organic vegan wonder food is more likely to go with a fun-loving bohemian type who just happens to run a food blog.

Consider demographics

Not all brands appeal to everyone. In fact, that can be said of most of them. Let’s take fashion, for example. There are retail stores that sell clothes which are mostly for younger adults, such as college students. The way they’re cut and the funky details are unlikely to appeal to someone who’s older and…well…has developed a beer belly. And although a luxury menswear brand might have younger customers, it is more common for a middle manager to buy that $1,000 suit than a younger man. As with personality, choose  the social media profiles you utilize accordingly.

3. First Start with Google

First Start with Google

As the saying goes, “people talk.” They talk about the cat videos, but they also talk about that great contest that some influencer was hosting. Over time, these kinds of comments can get indexed by Google. But there’s more to it: many influencers like myself run a blog in addition to their influencer work or, in my case, consulting practice. It’s part of our marketing and helps build relationships with leads or clients and can make influencer outreach a snap.

Besides the indexing of blogs and social media pages, there’s also the discussions that might go on in forums utilized by audience demographics you are eager to tap into. Plus, with people comparing notes about the latest collaboration or endorsed product, those names will inevitably come up. As an added plus, you can see a lot about an influencer’s reputation (including rumors about or reports of fake followers) and personality through a Google search. Don’t neglect Google.

4. Then Search on the Social Network You Want to Influence

Besides taking those names from Google and checking their social profiles, your influencer search should include looking on the network itself. Looking for influencers by searching the individual networks has the added bonus of finding people who aren’t on the first couple pages of search engine results. This will especially be an issue for micro and nano influencers who haven’t yet created a lot of buzz beyond their small spheres of influence. With that in mind, here’s how to search different social networks to locate your ideal influencer.

Be curious about your own niche

First, think about the relevant hashtags that you might already be employing for your corporate social media accounts. These could be branded keywords, or they could be generic. Think outside the box: if you were looking for info about your product, what keywords might you use? How about the competition? General information about your niche? Write these down and go through them one by one as a simple and easy influencer marketing tool. Take note of who shows up frequently under these hashtags, and you will get a list of potential influencers–and a solid list of where to start developing relationships with influencers.

Use influencer-related hashtags

Depending on the nature of your influencer search, there may be an Instagram hashtag that can find influencers quickly. For instance, Sydney Australia has a hashtag for fashion influencers. There is also a generic #beautyinfluencers hashtag that could yield thousands of influencers. These are a great start, although a very generalized tag will get you a ton of results. Chances are, you’ll want to apply filters, including sorting influencers by location or social channels. 

Keywords are great, too.

Besides hashtags, which are only effective on certain networks, there are keywords. For instance, on YouTube and Facebook the use of hashtags is less widespread, while tags are essential on Twitter or Instagram. With YouTube and Facebook, keywords will often be more effective to locate popular content and potential influencers. As part of your influencer search, be sure to comb through top results for relevant keywords. If you see someone who talks about a given subject a lot, there’s a high chance that he or she is an influencer. This approach may yield better results than an influencer database.

5. Search Through Your Own Followers

Search Through Your Own Followers

Remember, part of an influencer’s “job” is keeping track of industry trends and other items of interest on their social media channel and within their niche. As a result, they probably follow a lot of the brands within that industry, whether they have done a collaboration with them or not. Influencers have to start somewhere, and that somewhere is building an audience. They work hard, but don’t get paid for it until they have enough of a following to monetize that influence. Part of building an audience involves researching, then talking about their niche. Who knows? You might find out that several influencers are following your brand, as sort of a built-in influencer marketing guide. They might even be pitching your products for free. If they’re doing this, think about their potential for a paid promotion to develop a piece of content for your brand. Chances are, they have their own fully-fleshed-out, engaged audiences and plenty of content creation behind their name.

Too many followers?

If you have a lot of followers, look for the ones who are interacting with your content. These people represent a segment of your social media following that have a level of brand affinity. In other words, they typically like your product, your ideas, or both. Over time, you will get a good idea of which category they fit into. If someone has strong brand affinity, then they are a star influencer campaign waiting to happen. Sometimes all it takes is keeping the influencer in mind and asking them for the opportunity.

Just starting out?

If your brand has recently launched, or is new to social media, you probably don’t have many followers to sift through. With that said, your brand probably has a high engagement rate. For newer brands, you probably can sift through a larger number of followers. This is true at minimum in the sense of follower percentage. People like fresh faces on platforms–at least if they have something to say in the pieces of content they are producing.

Further Reading: The 15 Types of Influencers You Need to Know for Effective Influencer Marketing

6. Find Influencers Who Promote Your Competitors

Another way to improve your influencer search is to find out who follows your competition. This is valuable for brands of all sizes, but it is especially true of smaller brands. With smaller brands, the influencers might not have found the brand pages yet. No matter how good your launch team might have been, it still takes time for the word to get out. Larger brands can still benefit from looking at who supports their competitors, just in a different way. For them, it’s more about scoping out the competition. And if they can win over a competitor’s ally, so much the better to improve growth rates and develop a loyal audience.

7. Consider Using an Influencer Search Tool

Consider Using an Influencer Search Tool

Finally, you don’t have to perform your influencer search without the proper tools. Manual searching may be necessary, but it’s a time-consuming task. That’s why there are so many software programs and other tools out there which can help. There are several different kinds of discovery tools that employ different approaches to effectively search influencers.

Social listening tools

One can argue that social listening tools are essential for any social media marketing effort. After all, these tell you what people are saying about your brand. They also can be programmed to see what is being said about your industry, or even about your competitors. In the process, be sure to make those reports part of your influencer search: if they talk about you or your competitors a lot, they might be relevant influencers.

Further Reading: The 15 Best Social Media Scheduling Tools (2024 Edition)

Blogger outreach tools

Bloggers were some of the original social media influencers. Most of them started out because they enjoy writing about their interests. Even though bloggers aren’t the most “fashionable” of influencers, they’re as effective as ever. Outreach tools are a great way to find out who is monetizing that influence.

Influencer discovery tools

Unlike some other types of influencer marketing tools, these are purpose-built for an influencer search. In a nutshell, they keep track of who is who in the influencer world. With a few clicks of a mouse, you can find potential influencers who are appropriate to your brand.

Other influencer marketing tools

If you’re into influencer marketing at all, you probably have a few tools at your disposal. These can include influencer marketing platforms, coupon exchange sites, and even analytics tools. Yes, even your analytics can help you find out who is interested in your stuff. Maybe the numbers will show you some untapped buyer segments, as well.

Further Reading: Your Guide to the 66 Best Influencer Marketing Tools to Empower Your 2024 Digital Marketing

Find Your Influencer Today!

Especially when starting out, conducting an influencer search can seem daunting. Fortunately, with the proper tools and a little know-how you can quickly turn that mass of followers and analytic data into a nice influencer base. Then, it’s just a matter of striking the right deal with the right person.

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

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  1. What a lovely, comprehensive piece. I’ve considered working with influencers for some retail campaigns, but I’d never really gone through the process of selecting one to suit the brand. This is extremely helpful, so thank you.

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