You’ve been marketing your brand on Instagram for a while now, and you’re confident that you have the basics covered.
You’ve mapped out a cohesive Instagram marketing strategy to ensure that your efforts are actually moving the needle for your brand. You’ve done research on the best hashtags to use for your business. You’ve even switched over to a business account.
What now? With those nuts and bolts under your belt, what else can you do to make the most of Instagram and reach a wider audience?
If you haven’t already tried your hand at Instagram influencer marketing, there’s no time like the present. Influencer marketing is an incredibly powerful tool that could be just the secret to take your brand’s Instagram presence up a notch.
Why Instagram Influencer Marketing is Effective
According to Linqia’s The State of Influencer Marketing survey, a whopping 94% of respondents who use influencer marketing believe it to be an effective tactic.
But, why? What makes influencers so powerful? Well, there are a few reasons why influencers can heavily contribute to your marketing success on Instagram.
First, Instagram influencer marketing provides the opportunity to organically reach customers that would have otherwise been totally untouchable. When you consider the fact that the usage of ad blockers surged by 30% in 2016, consumers are becoming increasingly tough to reach.
Instagram influencer marketing gives your brand the opportunity to get out in front of those people in a way that’s more natural and conversational, and far less pushy and salesy.
Secondly, Instagram influencer marketing doesn’t just enable you to reach those people—it also helps you convert them into customers.
In fact, 81% of consumers state that social posts from friends and peers (ahem, influencers!) directly impact their purchasing decisions.
Needless to say, those conversions can have major benefits for your brand. A 2016 study from TapInfluence and Nielsen Catalina Solutions discovered that influencer marketing generates 11 times the ROI of traditional digital marketing.
There are plenty more statistics and studies out there that illustrate why influencer marketing is such an effective tactic on a variety of platforms. But, what about Instagram in particular?
As it turns out, Instagram is one of the best networks you can use for your influencer marketing efforts.
2016 research from SheSpeaks pointed out that Instagram was the second most popular social media platform for influencer marketing—right behind Facebook.
But, as Instagram’s active daily users continue to increase (while Facebook struggles to keep up, particularly with the younger generation), we can venture to guess that statistic is dated and that Instagram is bound to take the top spot for influencer marketing—if it hasn’t already. Believe it or not, Instagram influencer marketing doubled in 2017 alone.
Working With Influencers: The Dos
Now that you’re adequately convinced of the power of Instagram influencer marketing, that’s not all you need to know. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the do’s and don’ts to ensure you approach and collaborate with influencers in the best way.
Let’s kick things off with some best practices you should implement when working with Instagram influencers.
1. Think About Your Messaging
Influencers will play a role in your overall marketing strategy on Instagram. That means that—in order to really maximize that opportunity—you need to be clear on your goals and your messaging before ever starting that relationship.
Doing so will help you find the right influencers for your brand (more on that in a minute!), while also ensuring that they create the right type of content that actually serves your purpose.
It’s tempting to think that you’re trapped in a box when it comes to Instagram influencer marketing. If you’re a health and wellness company, you need to work with fitness and nutrition influencers, for example. Or, if you’re a cosmetics brand, you need to approach the beauty influencers.
However, things don’t need to be so black and white. Ask yourself a couple of important questions:
Is there a specific campaign you’re aiming to use influencers for—whether it’s a launch of a new product, promotion of an upcoming event, or something else?
What overall message are you attempting to get across through those marketing efforts?
For example, HP Australia utilized influencers to promote their new HP Spectre laptop.
Partnering with influencers in the technology space would’ve been an obvious fit. However, HP wanted to add to the sleek and stylish vibe of their new product. To do so, they flipped the script and worked with fashion influencers instead.
See? It wasn’t the most obvious fit. But, going that route added greatly to their overall goals and messaging for that specific product launch.
Take the time to think through those items for yourself, and you’ll have a much easier time finding the right influencers and providing them direction on the type of content you’d like to see.
2. Find the Right Influencers
There are thousands and thousands of influencers on Instagram—which is awesome, but it also makes it challenging to zone in on the right ones that would be the best fit for your brand. It often fits that old “needle in a haystack” cliche.
In an article about Instagram influencers for Social Media Week, author Gareth O’Sullivan explains that there’s some criteria you should keep in mind when finding the right influencers. These include:
- Shares high-quality content on a regular basis
- Authentic and interacts with their audience
- Sticks to a specific theme and style that relates to your brand
- Has a large following that is both active and engaged. A good like and comment ratio is ideal.
Obviously, it’s simple to tell whether or not an influencer has a large following—that number is directly at the top of the profile. Figuring out engagement, however, can be a little more complicated.
To help with that, use a free tool like Phlanx Engagement Calculator. Simply enter the Instagram handle of an influencer, and you’ll be met with their engagement score—as well as the average number of likes and comments they get on each of their posts.
Here’s a peek at what that looks like, using my own Instagram handle as an example:
When it comes to actually finding influencers to work with, there are plenty of online platforms, tools, and agencies you can use to separate the wheat from the chaff (way more than we could possibly mention here). Here are a few favorites amongst marketers:
If you want to go the free route? There are ways to do that as well—including just a plain, old-fashioned Google search.
However, the best method is to use Instagram to search for various hashtags that are relevant to your brand. The research results will have the top-performing posts toward the beginning. Click through those, and you’re bound to find some Instagram users with large, engaged followings that you could reach out to.
3. Build a Mutually Beneficial Relationship
Whether you’re planning to work with two influencers or 200, the age-old advice of building solid relationships holds true. The more you can foster a bond between your brand and Instagram influencers, the more successful you’ll be.
That means skipping the cold call approaches that involve blanketing the world in the same generic, “We want to work with you!” emails and direct messages. Influencers—particularly those who get a lot of interest from many different brands—are sure to ignore those.
Instead, take the time to do your research and get to know that influencer. Begin following him or her on Instagram, and like and comment on any new posts. That way, when you finally do reach out after some time, you’ll already have established some name recognition.
When you do get in touch with an email or a message, keep the following things in mind:
1. Make it Personal: Remember the same form letter isn’t going to work for everyone. Begin your message by including a personalized detail—which could be as simple as something you noticed on that influencer’s Instagram account:
Loved your recent post about your trip to the Maldives. I hope you had an awesome time—the scenery looks unreal!
2. Explain Your Brand: Influencers likely aren’t going to agree to work with a brand they know nothing about, and you don’t want to make any assumptions that the influencer is already intimately aware of what you do. Make sure you explain your brand in enough detail so that the influencer can decide whether or not it’s a fit with what he or she typically promotes:
I’m reaching out on behalf of 123Fit, a stylish fitness tracker for busy professionals. At 123Fit, we’re all about healthy lifestyles—but, that doesn’t mean we like the look of those clunky fitness tracker bracelets! So, we set out to revolutionize wearables in the fitness industry and spent years developing our sleek design that looks just like a real piece of jewelry.
3. Talk About Your Campaign: Explaining your brand isn’t enough. You likely want to work with this influencer for a specific initiative, so make sure that you make that clear as well:
We’re releasing a brand new tracker design in rose gold on March 1, and are working with various influencers to spread the word ahead of the launch.
4. Explain Where the Influencer Fits in: This is where you can appeal to that influencer’s ego and share the details of why you think he or she is a great fit for your particular campaign:
With that said, we love the content that you post on Instagram. Your balance of both fitness and fashion perfectly embodies our brand.
5. Make the Request: This is the point when you get specific and explain exactly what you’re looking for from that influencer. That will be important information to help them decide whether or not this is an opportunity that works for them:
I’m wondering if you would be interested in promoting our brand new fitness tracker on your Instagram account. We would ask that you post one Instagram photo ahead of March 1. If you’re interested, I can pass along additional details about the content style and the messaging.
6. Emphasize Value: The best relationships are mutually beneficial, which means you can’t be the only one getting something out of this arrangement. In your first message, make sure you highlight what the influencer will get for agreeing:
If you’re interested, we have a budget of $300 per sponsored Instagram post. Additionally, of course will send you a complimentary rose gold fitness tracker and will share your post on our own account.
Cap off that message with a friendly “goodbye,” encouragement for them to ask any questions, and the details of how to get in touch with you, and you’ll hopefully have a reply from that influencer sooner rather than later.
4. Empower Influencers With Information
Nothing will destroy a relationship with an influencer faster than making them waste time digging for the information they need to create a quality post for your brand.
While you never want to limit their creativity (more on that in a moment!), you should be prepared to empower them with the need-to-know details for their post.
Where would you like to be tagged—in the photo or in the caption? Is there a hashtag they should use? What is the name and the specifications of your product? When and where is it available? Is there a discount code they should be promoting?
Having all of that ironed out ahead of time will save both you and the influencer a ton of headaches, and also empower him or her to answer any questions and truly be an informed advocate for your brand.
TIP: Before you launch an influencer campaign, consider creating a short video or guide that contains all of those details—so your influencers always know exactly where to get the information they need.
Working With Influencers: The Don’ts
Those best practices will help you establish some solid bonds with influencers in your niche and industry.
But, what about what not to do? Here are three things you should absolutely not do when collaborating with Instagram influencers.
1. Don’t Limit Their Creativity
There are reasons that you want to work with those influencers. They’re masters of their crafts, and they know the types of content that best engage their audiences.
It’s smart to arm them with information and appropriate expectations. But, don’t take that to mean that you can limit their own creativity. Give them the breathing room and flexibility to create content that serves your brand but also fits their own aesthetic.
Not only is this important for getting the very best content out of your agreement (seriously, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what influencers come up with!), but it also improves your relationship and increases the chance of that influencer wanting to work with you again.
In fact, in a Crowdtap survey, 77% of influencers said that they’d be more likely to partner with a brand more than once if that brand gave them some creative freedom—it was the top factor on the list:
2. Don’t Neglect the Rules
Think there are no rules when it comes to using Instagram influencer marketing? Think again. The FTC monitors social media to ensure posts are complying with guidelines and regulations.
Yet, very few are good at following those rules. Research shows that 93% of celebrities on Instagram have broken FTC guidelines.
You’ll want to do your own research to ensure you’re up to speed on all of the various rules and regulations you need to abide by. However, Ana Gotter provides a great breakdown in her post for AdEspresso:
- Influencers must actually try or use a product or service before promoting it.
- Influencers need to disclose their relationship with the brand. You’ll see this done in a variety of ways, including using hashtags like #sponsored or #ad.
- Influencers should be honest. If they had an awful experience, they can’t say the opposite—even if they’re being paid.
- Brands shouldn’t use influencer campaigns that don’t allow influencers to disclose a partnership or relationship with the brand—such as paying people to “like” their posts.
- Disclosures of partnerships should appear before the fold (which means before the “click to read more” button would appear). The disclosure should appear prominently within the first few words of the caption if influencers aren’t using the sponsored post feature.
- Disclosures should be both easily noticed and understood.
That’s a solid overview. But, remember to roll up your sleeves and do your own digging to ensure you’re complying with the rules.
You don’t want to end up in any hot water. So, make this your golden rule: When in doubt, just ask.
3. Don’t Obsess Over Numbers
When you’re looking for Instagram influencers to work with, it’s tempting to only focus on the ones with the largest followings.
However, keep in mind that number isn’t everything (particularly when buying followers is a real thing). And, micro-influencers (generally considered to be anyone with fewer than 100,000 followers) can also make a huge impact for your brand.
As Dhariana Lozano explains in a post for Social Media Today, there are three solid reasons that micro-influencers are just as worthy of your attention:
- Niche Audience: They tend to focus on a more specific audience and, as a result, have much higher engagement rates.
- Connection: Because they don’t have an overwhelmingly massive following, their audiences tend to view them as more genuine and feel a greater connection with them (which can also increase engagement!).
- Availability: Those influencers with millions of followers are being approached by brands all of the time. Micro-influencers will be thrilled with the opportunity to collaborate and build their own presence (and, bonus, they’ll probably be cheaper too!).
Making the Most of Instagram Influencer Marketing
We’ve covered a lot in this post—including the impact of Instagram influencer marketing, how to find and reach out to influencers, and how to improve the relationship with the influencers you do find.
We’ll cap things off with one final note: Instagram Influencer marketing is powerful, but it’s still up to you to maximize it to your advantage.
When an influencer creates a post, make sure to share it to your own account. You’ll get curated content for your own feed, while also strengthening that relationship by demonstrating to that influencer that you both are in this together.
In short, utilizing Instagram influencer marketing is a win-win. So, get out there, find some influencers, and prepare to take your Instagram presence to the next level.