Instagram Influencer Marketing: The Complete Guide

Instagram Influencer Marketing: The Complete Guide

Do you want to try influencer marketing? If so, you should know that the biggest forum for this practice in the United States is Instagram. Why? Because influencers and their followers love it. Not only that, but Instagram has a huge number of members, both in the US and abroad. Influencers also fill a nice gap in creating imagery, videos and Stories that are aligned with what Instagram users use the platform for.

To help you get started, I’ve prepared this brief guide on how to be successful with your Instagram influencer marketing. There are also many other resources on my website that you can find linked to on my influencer marketing page, some of which are linked throughout this post.

Why Use Instagram Influencer Marketing?

why use Instagram influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is quickly becoming a major market force. Despite being a relatively new way to reach consumers, statistics and industry data are finding that influencer marketing is highly effective. One reason is that people listen to their peers more than companies. Another reason is that influencer content is able to break through the social media algorithms that challenge every brand and business.

Continued growth of influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is no longer a small, fringe corner of the marketing industry. In fact, an Adweek survey suggests that the influencer marketing industry will be worth $10 Billion by the end of 2020. It also demonstrates an explosive rate of growth. As I’ve said before, marketers don’t spend this kind of money for something that doesn’t work.

Continued growth of Instagram

On another note, Instagram itself is experiencing explosive growth. This means that the potential audience for Instagram influencer marketing is expanding rapidly. Instagram users represent a wide variety of ages, income levels, interests, and backgrounds. Which is to say, if there’s a niche you’re trying to reach, then you can find that niche on Instagram.

Instagram influencer marketing is effective

Not convinced yet? Consider this: Instagram has the highest engagement rates of any social network. This represents an average rate of 3.21% on Instagram, and 1.5% for all other networks. This means that Instagram users like, comment and share more often. From this, we can see that Instagram marketing is highly effective just because of the engagement rates.

Another reason why Instagram influencer marketing works so well is that people enjoy spending time there. In fact, there is a study which shows that 70% of Instagram users have used the platform to find out about brands and are willing to consume branded content. The lesson? People don’t just hang out on Instagram. Rather, Instagram has become a place where people learn about the products and services that they use every day. Looking at pictures works.

Finally, the benefits of marketing this way extends beyond Instagram. We know this because of a survey which demonstrates that in the US around 34% of daily users have purchased an item based on the recommendation of an influencer or blogger. This means that the Instagram users listen to others, but it also means that influence extends beyond just Instagram. Influencer here refers to more than just Instagram influencer marketing: it applies to all platforms.

Who are Instagram Influencers?

Who are Instagram Influencers?

It almost goes without saying that Instagram influencer marketing requires a company to engage influencers. But who are they, anyway? Briefly, influencers are people that are well-known on a social media platform or blog. However, they aren’t just well-known. Rather, they are trusted voices in a particular niche. Other people seek them out for advice on what to buy or which experiences are worthwhile. However, influencers come in different types.

I look at influencers being in two different categories:

  1. The traditional way of looking at influencers by follower count.
  2. The brand affinity model for leveraging influencers that I introduced in The Age of Influence

Influence by Follower Count

Marketers often classify influencers by their follower count. An influencer’s category changes somewhat over time, as an influencer’s following grows or they lose favor. However, the guidelines themselves are relatively consistent.

Note that the numbers given below are generally accepted numbers but that there is no one fixed definition.


Celebrities are influencers who have more than a million followers. While many offline celebrities are also celebrity-level influencers, this isn’t always the case. Furthermore, many people are celebrity influencers on Instagram, but hardly anyone knows them in real life. This rule is also true of other influencer levels.

Macro influencers

Macro influencers have between 500,000 and a million followers. Unlike their celebrity counterparts, they tend to cater to a specific niche. In other words, they don’t draw everyone to their profile page. Instead, they tend to have more common interests with the people they influence.

Micro influencers

With micro influencers, the follower count is between 10,000 and 500,000. At the lower end of this range, you can access niche markets that are too expensive to reach using macro influencers or celebrities. At the higher end, the influencer has a much broader appeal while also being cost-effective to engage.

Nano influencers

The last group is nano influencers, who have between 1,000 and 10,000 followers. These influencers will often work for just the cost of a product or service. They also have extremely high engagement rates, and, unless they’re just starting out, the audience tends to be very niche. Until recently, marketers didn’t work with them. However, they’ve proven to be extremely valuable, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Influence by Brand Affinity

influence by brand affinity

Next, let’s take a look at the classifications by brand affinity, which gives any company the ability to leverage influencer marketing in a more authentic and realistic way.

In this case, brand affinity is the level to which people have a connection to your brand. Depending on your campaign goals, cost constraints, and corporate policies, any of these can be useful.

Employees or Partners

This is obviously the closest level of affinity, because employees and business partners depend on your company for at least some of their income. If they’re business partners, then the connection tends to be even closer because they’ve invested money into the brand. Consider this type of influencer for corporate responsibility-focused campaigns or brand stories.


Here, people have made a purchase from your company. This can be a great class of influencer to use whether you’re a B2B or B2C brand, but it’s especially powerful for B2B. That’s because these brands like to hear about use cases, which works well for customer influencers.


These are the people who haven’t necessarily bought something from you recently but admire your brand. For instance, there are a lot of people who admire luxury cars or fashion but can’t afford to buy them. These users are great to engage, because they can compare your products with the ones they were using before. And the fact that they are either following your brand, have mentioned your brand, or tagged you in a post means that in one way or another you are on their radar.

How Much Does Instagram Influencer Marketing Actually Cost?

How Much Does Instagram Influencer Marketing Actually Cost? Canon calculator

The cost of Instagram influencer marketing varies based on several factors. However, there is an average. According to a survey by Later, 66% of businesses say that they pay less than $250 per post. Another 27% pays between $250 and $1,000.  However, as with anything marketing-related, there’s a range.

Once again, let’s look at the cost of Instagram influencer marketing by follower count and brand affinity. The difference between the two will give you a good feel for how varied the costs might be for any particular influencer.

Cost of an Influencer by Follower Count

When you think about it, this is the easiest way to set prices for Instagram influencer marketing is by follower count. Here, you’ll want to think about a cash price plus any extras, like free product. Any giveaway items would be on top of that, since the influencer doesn’t keep them.

These days, the most common rule of thumb on Instagram has been $10 per 1,000 followers. That being said, there is no rule that you have to stick to that. And, of course, there are many exceptions. For instance, celebrities often charge much more than this, sometimes $100,000 or more. On the other end, a nano influencer might be happy to accept free product and nothing more. In other situations, the brand might provide free product plus a commission through discount codes or affiliate links.

If you’re curious, check out my post on Instagram influencer calculators to see what tools recommend you pay specific influencers.

Cost of an Influencer by Brand Affinity

The beauty of working with influencers who already know, like and trust your brand is the flexibility in which you can structure a collaboration with them.

Therefore, depending on their level of brand affinity, influencers can be rewarded in a variety of ways.

Do you want to encourage employees to pitch your company on Instagram? Well, cash might not be the best way to do it in this case. After all, they’re already drawing a salary from you. However, there are other ways to reward them. For instance, consider giving them some company swag. Letting them wear a special polo shirt or jacket is a cost-effective reward that lets them keep bragging long after the promotion is over.

Another option would be to give free product to a brand fan. Remember, these influencers often don’t have the money to buy your product outright, or it might not be available in their area. In this case, you are allowing this person to see how your product lives up to your expectations in real life. Plus, they can use the freebie as part of the Instagram influencer marketing campaign.

How to Find Relevant Instagram Influencers

How to Find Relevant Instagram Influencers search for using magnifying glass

Finding the right people for Instagram influencer marketing can be a challenge. After all, even after you find people in the right niche it’s important to avoid the ones with fake followers. This is a major concern: According to CNBC, fake followers cost brands over a billion dollars in inflated influencer fees.

Fortunately, there are some great ways to find great people for influencer marketing.

First, there’s always the manual search. To do this, look at your social media accounts. Look for followers who have large numbers of followers themselves and talk about your niche all the time. Many of them will be relevant influencers. Just be sure to properly vet them for fake followers and the potential to be a liability.

Your other options for finding influencers involve third party sources. For instance, there are a lot of influencer marketing tools out there. Some will handle only limited parts of the campaign like influencer discovery, while others are total Instagram influencer marketing solutions. Or, you can use influencer marketplaces. These will help you find the right people, and then support the campaign on various levels. Some will even do most of the work.

Further Reading: Shopify Collabs: The Definitive App for Ecommerce Influencer Marketing

How to Collaborate with Instagram Influencers

Now that you have found the right influencers, what options exist for collaborations? In brief, there are three major options, but the possibilities are limited only by your imagination!

First, they can amplify your content or give a shoutout. In this situation, the influencer will casually mention something that you’ve posted on your website or social media accounts. Or, they might mention that you’ve sent them some cool stuff and talk about it.

Second, posting and talking about your product is a highly effective way for them to do Instagram influencer marketing. This can take a few forms, but tutorials and product reviews are great options. For this kind of collaboration, the goal is often customer education in addition to boosting sales.

Finally, the influencer can make new content for you. An example is modeling a new outfit or posing with the hottest car. The intent isn’t so much to educate the consumer as make a more traditional advertisement. Many companies tap into their customer base not so much for content amplification but for content creation as studies show leveraging user generated content can be extremely beneficial for your marketing.

How to Properly Disclose Your Instagram Influencer Marketing Sponsored Posts

For better or worse, the days of unregulated product placements is over. In recent years, the FTC has published rules that require you and the influencer to reveal when you have paid for a piece of content. While the complete rules can be found on the FTC website, you should always ensure that hashtags like #ad and #sponsored are used. There are a few more options, as well. These rules are enforced, and violations have led to fines.

Please also check out my own post for further reading on FTC influencer guidelines.

How to Measure the Results of Your Instagram Influencer Marketing

How to Measure the Results of Your Instagram Influencer Marketing

Now that the Instagram influencer marketing campaign is over, it’s time to measure the results. Below are some common ways in which marketers measure the activities of the influencers that they work with.

Measure engagement / hashtags / click throughs

In this case, you’ll make use of analytics and social listening tools.

Engagement is measured primarily with likes, shares, and comments or their equivalent in other platforms. Hashtags are measured using social listening tools, while click throughs can be numbered using cookies and unique URLs.

This one’s pretty easy. Discount codes and affiliate links are easily logged through your website, and the results can be tabulated for the marketing department. In addition, sales will get a good look at how Instagram influencer marketing affects conversion rates.

With influencer created content, compare cost and effectiveness

Keep track of how much money the content is costing your company overall. This should include commission or content fees, freebies, and staff resources. Now compare the cost and effectiveness of influencer-generated content with your internal content or agency expenses.

Once you have determined the extent to which your Instagram influencer marketing was successful, you’ll want to compare numbers on an influencer by influencer basis. If an influencer didn’t provide great value for money, then you should consider making adjustments the next time. After a while, the ROI will improve as you work more and more with higher performing influencers while always bringing new influencers aboard to replace under-performing influencers.

Instagram influencer marketing may seem daunting when you start out. Fortunately, by applying the knowledge in this guide, your brand can join the thousands that are already reaping the benefits.

Have you been using Instagram for influencer marketing yet? Would love to hear about your experiences!

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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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