As influencer marketing continues to grow in popularity, more and more businesses are wondering how to find Instagram influencers who are the right fit for their brand.
It’s a great question. With consumers becoming savvier than ever, Instagram influencers will be crucial to driving sales.
Unlike traditional top-down advertising campaigns, Instagram influencers can speak to their audiences as trusted peers, inspiring the kind of authentic word-of-mouth engagement that turns viewers into loyal customers.
Yet being able to find Instagram influencers that align with your brand isn’t as simple as looking at the number of likes under their posts.
Here are 5 things you should consider before deciding whether an influencer is the right fit for your brand:
1: Decide Why Your Business Needs Influencers
Before hurriedly scrolling through your feed to pick out a handful of top influencers, you should first take a step back and ask yourself what outcome you want to see from your influencer campaign.
Rushing to find Instagram influencers without first determining your desired outcome might actually impeding your marketing efforts. For example, if you haven’t decided which metrics you’ll be using to measure the success of your campaign, you’ll be taking shots in the dark when it comes to planning your collaboration.
Starting a campaign with a specific objective in mind will not only keep both you and your influencers goal-focused, but it will also help you stay on-budget, on-time, and on-brand.
2:It’s All About the Story
Finding the best influencers for your business depends on more than just comparing audience sizes.
Just as every brand has a different story to tell, so do influencers. And if these stories don’t line up, the content you produce will seem inauthentic, and audiences will be quick to spot this.
Just take a look at the backlash Pepsi faced after its controversial collaboration with Kendall Jenner last year. This is the price that businesses can pay for missing the mark when it comes to brand-influencer fit.
The most high-profile influencers can create pages of curated shots and thoughtfully crafted captions, but if there’s no brand alignment or emotion between the influencer and your potential customers, then you’ll see very few conversions for your time and money.
So how can you go beyond follower count to find Instagram influencers that align with your brand values?
One of the easiest ways to vet your Instagram influencers is to use third-party tools like Fohr Card or Social Blade. From audience size to followers to following ratio, much of an influencer’s audience demographics can be discovered through these types of tools.
At this stage, visualising your collaboration in advance is an invaluable exercise — again, this is where having a clear plan for your influencer campaign becomes a necessity.
Taking the time to ensure you have good audience alignment beforehand means an influencer’s sponsored posts will appear more genuine, and your potential customers will be more receptive and engaged with your product.
3. Micro vs. Macro-Influencers: Why Size Doesn’t Always Matter
While the term ‘social influencer’ conjures up images of far-flung beaches, Lamborghinis, and millions of cult followers, influencer marketing can still be as effective (if not more effective) on a much smaller scale.
If you’re looking to engage influencers on a tight budget, then micro-influencers— influencers with less than 10,000 followers — could be a good option for your brand.
Indeed, a recent study by Makerly suggests that when it comes to engaging influencers, targeting the big fish may not always help you capture more customers. Instead, the study found that micro-influencers with 1,000-10,000 followers can attract in excess of four times the engagement on sponsored posts because of the loyal of their following.Again, your brand goals will decide how you approach your campaign. If you operate in a specialized market, niche influencers with attentive, targeted followers may deliver better results than an influencer with a large, but disengaged audience.
Similarly, if you’re looking to engage influencers by gifting at scale, micro-influencers are more likely to engage with and feature your products than high-profile influencers who are often inundated with gifted products.
On the other hand, if you want to boost brand awareness, then Instagram posts from an influencer with a large following may help gain widespread exposure. Similarly, if your goal is to strengthen brand loyalty, then engaging a single high-profile influencer to tell your brand story — rather than promoting a single product — may be the right choice for you.
#4: Look For Authentic Engagement
A host of factors come into play when running a successful influencer campaign. From follower size to demographics and timing, determining the true reach of a influencer’s content isn’t always as straightforward as seeing how many “likes” they get on a post.
One metric, however, remains critical to determining an influencer’s reach: audience engagement.
Yet when comparing an influencer with millions of followers to one with less than 10,000, you may be questioning how important authentic engagement is to running a successful campaign.
Surely the more eyes that see your content, the greater chance there is to make a sale?
It’s important to remember that popularity doesn’t necessarily equate with results. True engagement is the critical metric that yields conversions and word-of-mouth referrals — and it’s the most important metric to consider when trying to find Instagram influencers for your business.
As Paola Alberdi from Blank Itinerary tells us, it’s all about quality, not quantity.
“I think it’s important to realize that the audience is not just a number but that they are actual people,” she says. “Focus more [on] engaging with them and creating a strong, loyal community. That will be more valuable in the long run.”
Look at the comments on a influencer’s post to see if there’s real engagement with the clothing, products, or brands in the post. The hallmark of a good influencer is the ability to stimulate conversation in the comments section. And word of mouth reactions (friends tagging friends in a post) is the type of engagement that leads to future conversions.
As you do this, ask whether the accounts engaging with these posts align with your ideal customer profile, and whether the influencer is actively engaging with their followers. If one of your potential customers has a question about your brand, you’ll want to know that the influencer is prepared to go the extra mile to answer these queries.
#5: Put Influencer Relationships First
Our final piece of advice — and one that’s often overlooked by brands seeking out influencer collaborations — is to uphold the importance of meaningful working relationships.
Influencer marketing is an investment in relationships, which means cultivating communication is just as important as measuring and analyzing your collaboration results.
Indeed, the days of one-off influencer campaigns seem to be coming to an end, with brands instead taking a relationship-focused approach to collaboration.
Jasmin Howell from Friend In Fashion believes establishing long-term relationships is crucial to creating more meaningful and successful collaborations.
“I definitely like longer-term partnerships,” she says. “Because I’ve worked with a lot of brands over a long period I get a sense of what’s going to work and I am drawn to brands I know my audience will like.”
“Longer relationships mean you can make more meaningful creative: one month you can see what worked well, the next month you can build on this and make it even better — that’s why I like the ongoing dialogue.”
By taking the time to talk through collaborations, influencers can work hand-in-hand with businesses to decide which products match their style, and what the best fit is for their audiences in future campaigns.
Likewise, Paola Alberdi feels that long-term relationships give her scope for truly understanding a brand’s goals.
“When it’s a longer collaboration you do get to know and appreciate the product and the brand more and they become almost like family,” she says.
“I have worked with TRESemmé, Coach, and Vichy for a long time and the relationship definitely goes so much more beyond a one-time collaboration. It’s nice to develop those relationships with the brand and the team.”
Following collaborations with feedback, gratitude and gentle guidance can allow businesses to reap the rewards of more focused, effective, and engaging posts in future. Like any good relationship, the most successful influencer collaborations are built on a base of mutual respect and constant open dialogue.
Follow these steps, and you’ll be able to find Instagram influencers who are not only the right fit for your brand, but will become a lasting contributor and ambassador, helping guide your brand vision and audience into the future.
Written by Kim Westwood for Later.com