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Why Instagram Influencers Matter
Instagram influencers serve the same purpose as your friend who buys every new iPhone. They rave about how incredible it, show you all the new features, and explain why it’s better than anything else out there. You yourself have always been an Android person, but after enough praising, you think to yourself “I trust my friend, and he really loves it…. Maybe I’l give it a try.”
It is estimated that peer recommendations are trusted by approximately 90 percent of customers. This means that this form of advertising has one of the biggest impacts on the general public and their spending habits. So how, then, can you use Instagram influencers to better market your brand?
Below is a practical guide detailing how to find Instagram influencers that are actually relevant to your brand, how to develop relationships that benefit both you and your influencers, and 10 case studies demonstrating the successful use of Instagram influencers (and influencers from other social media platforms) across a wide range of different companies and brands.
The most organic and effective exposure comes from Instagram influencers who present an authentic and trusted voice to their followers. Therefore, it’s up to you as a brand to choose influencers that not only resonate with your brand/content, but that also will help you reach your target audience.
Here’s how to do that:
Decide if you want to use a handful of macro-influencers with larger followings, or several dozen micro influencers with smaller followings: with macro influencers you have the potential to reach more people, but that usually comes with a cost. With micro-influencers, you may still be able to reach the same amount of people combined, but you may not have to pay as much, or even any amount at all. You may just be able to get by by offering free product samples or a percentage of sales made. Some agencies have even found that engagement is actually higher with micro influencers.
Don’t pick someone simply for the fact that they’re trending or popular: the influencer’s audience, although large, might not be the most relevant for your brand. Choosing a trending makeup influencer to advertise your skateboard channel isn’t likely to resonate with the makeup influencer’s audience.
Research hashtags, tracked over weeks or months, to understand who is popular/trending/influential in particular niches: you can use tools like hashtagify or AiGrow to find popular and influential channels that are relevant to your channel/brand/product by hashtag or keyword. If not using the tools above, you can simply search by hashtag on Instagram and note the channels that consistently appear in the top 9 results. For example, if you are a dog food company, you could simply type “dog” into the search bar every day for two weeks and note the channels that consistently appear in the top 9 results.
Note how many sponsored posts already exist on a potential influencer’s channel: if an influencer’s content is nothing but product placements/sponsored posts, their audience may start to lose (or already has lost) trust in the legitimacy of the posts. Existing sponsored content isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, particularly if it’s evenly spaced out among non-sponsored content, but if for the past three months every post on a channel’s grid is sponsored, the channel’s followers may think “Oh, she’s doing another sponsored post… Skip.” This can be damaging to both your brand’s and the influencer’s reputation.
Pay more attention to amount of engagement on a potential influencer’s channel than the amount of followers: go through a potential influencer’s posts and note the engagement – likes, comments, reshares, etc. Use sites like ink351 to see the percentage of engagement on influencer posts compared to the number of followers they have. If a channel has 100,000 followers but only 2 comments on every post, what good is that for your brand? Even if a channel does have a decent amount of comments on each post, what do the comments consist of? Are they thoughtful comments or engaging questions, or are they just “Nice!” or “? ? “? Also watch for patterns like the same amount of likes on each post, as this can indicate the use of bots or fake accounts.
Reach out in every way possible: a simple direct message might work (especially if you use a tool like AiGrow), but if a potential influencer hasn’t already accepted a previous DM, you have to worry about your message potentially not being seen. Many influencers will have an email in their bio, and most of the time it’s there specifically so channels or brands like you can get in easy contact. Send an email, send a DM, and reach out in any other way possible to increase your chances of getting in quick contact.
Use professional 3rd-party services to connect you with influencers: while you can certainly do all of the above yourself, there are a number professional services dedicated to taking the work out of your hands and connecting your brand with relevant influencers. You can go and do your own research to find the best of these services for your needs, or you can read the very comprehensive and updated list put together by John Gordon from Tribe Growth.
Successfully working with your Instagram influencers
You have reached out to your chosen influencers using the suggestions above and they have agreed to work with you. Now comes the hard part: creating an effective partnership.
Here’s how to do that:
Run 2-3 week trial campaigns: before diving into a full-blown collaboration, test an influencer’s audience’s receptiveness to your content. Track important metrics like comments, engagement, and click-throughs to your channel/website. If you are a business, take note of discount code purchases (services like Shopify and Squarespace offer incredibly easy-to-use discount codes) and trackable links (i.e. Bitly). Care less about factors like follower growth. If by the end of your trial campaign the influencer is not producing the desired results, you can cleanly end the partnership there. Continue to record these metrics going into the full collaboration.
Establish a timeline: clearly establish with the influencer when each post is to be created. Create a Google doc and schedule the date and posting times of each post, crossing them out as they happen. When both you and the influencer understand the scheduling of the partnership from the very beginning, it can help avoid any false claims down the road from either party (“I thought we agreed to this time?”, “No, we actually agreed to this time….”, etc.). A posting schedule can also help you isolate the effects of specific posts on your channel. If you notice a spike in comments on Wednesday at 4PM, and your schedule indicates that this specific influencer posted at that time, you can correlate that influencer’s posting with the effect on comments. You can then begin to use this data to understand the best days and times for your influencers to post.
Provide your influencers with as much creative freedom as possible: you’re collaborating with these influencers because they have already established trust with the audience you’re trying to target. According to thenextweb, nearly as many people trust recommendations from influencers (49%) as they do their own friends (56%). An influencer’s audience doesn’t know or trust you. If all of a sudden an influencer’s audience sees a sponsored post that is completely different than what that audience knows and enjoys, that audience/influencer trust is weakened. Let the influencer do whatever they do to sell your brand in a way that resonates with their audience.
Provide only enough guidance so that the influencer understands your intention: having said all of the above, simply ask to see any content before the influencer posts it and provide feedback if need be. Some influencers may actually prefer that you provide most of the creative ideation (scripts, screenplay, etc.). An easy middle ground is to provide your influencers at the very beginning of the partnership with a Mood Board of existing content that is similar to what you want. Even when first establishing the partnership, ask questions like “Could you create something like this in your own style?” and refer your influencers to the Mood Board. This can save a lot of back-and-forth down the road.
Specify the information you need included in each post: a post showing your product but with no captions or hashtags is next to useless. Leave most of the creative copy to your influencers, but if you require any hashtags, tags and/or captions (“Use discount code x for 15% off!”, “Check out the link in the bio!”, #companyname, etc.) specify that your information be as close to the first word of the caption as possible (ideally it will be the first thing viewers read). You want to make sure that your influencer’s audience gets all of the necessary information regardless of how they view the content (desktop feed, mobile feed, etc…).
Present your collaboration as an equally beneficial exchange: presenting your partnership as equally beneficial rather than “we want you to promote our product” serves practical purposes beyond just being ethical. The first reason is that influencers are more likely to get back to you in the first place if they feel like they’re getting something from the exchange. The second reason is that when an influencer feels more like a partner in the exchange rather than a tool, this sense of responsibility provides an incentive to create the best content possible. Simply put, the three easiest ways to incentivize an influencer are exposure, free product and money.
- Exposure: if an influencer’s channel is smaller or of equal size, offer to repost your influencer’s sponsored content on your own channel to give them exposure. This gives your influencers an incentive to create as much content as possible in the hopes of having it posted on your channel and seen by your audience.
- Free product: if you are trying to advertise your business, offer to provide your influencers with free product in exchange for posts illustrating the use of your product. As explained above, let your influencer’s advertise your product in whatever way they think best resonates with their channel.
- Money: When working with larger influencers, exposure and/or free products likely won’t be enough of an incentive. Be prepared to spend anywhere from $50, to $500-$50,000, to $1,000,000 in some cases. Some larger channels may provide you with a price kit detailing the cost of different types of collaborations (1 post on Instagram, 3 posts on Instagram and promoted across all social media platforms, a dedicated 1 minute use of your product, etc.), while others will ask you for your budget. In cases where cost is negotiable, a safe initial offer is a percentage of sales made through a provided link or discount code (or a combination of both). For example, if an influencer agrees to place a discount code in the their bio or in the caption of a sponsored post, you would pay them a percentage of any sales made through that specific discount code.
Of course, you could do a combination of these incentives. An influencer may refuse to do a sponsored post for free product, but they may accept if you offer free product and a percentage of sales made through their discount code.
Ask for the rights to use your influencers’ content on your own channel: with permission from your influencers to repost their content on your own channel, you are provided with a consistent stream of quality content with very little work on your part. Reposting your influencer’s content on your channel also gives your brand a sense of trust that otherwise would takes years of operation to achieve. When potential followers or customers visit your page and see all of these people praising your brand, their willingness to follow or potentially even purchase your product is increased.
10 Cases of Influencer Marketing Done Right:
This phenomenon could explain why the marketing departments of big and small companies alike, over 66% some studies indicate, are turning to people like Instagram influencers to market their brands.
Here are 10 cases, ranging from smaller personal channels to larger professional brands, successfully demonstrating the use of both Instagram influencers and influencers from other social media platforms:
- Casey Neistat and Emirates Airline
- Fashion company PrettyLittleThing
- Whisky company Diageo
- Boxed Water and The ReTree Project.
- Tea company Flat Tummy Tea
- Watch company MVMT
- Clothing brand Madewell
- Naked Juice and Kate Lavie
- Photographer Elisa Swopes
- Subaru and the Meet an Owner Campaign
Have a success case of your own? Please share in the comments!
In the meantime, to help speed up perhaps the most time consuming part of influencer marketing – reaching out to all influencers individually, try out AiGrow’s automated DM feature. Customize your DMs based on who you’re reaching out to (new followers, old followers, followers of your competitors, and any custom list of specific users), hit start, and let AiGrow start reaching out to potential influencers for you.
Start building relationships with influencers and growing your brand in no time by signing up for free today.