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The Power of Instagram Influencers (and How to Find the Right Ones)

Brock Gratton
Brock Gratton

Learn how you can start and benefit from an influencer marketing campaign.

Gone are the days when traditional celebrities were the exclusive sources of online influence for brands. Today, if you hang around Instagram long enough, you're bound to see brands promoting their products through "regular" people, often known as Instagram influencers.

Instagram has made it easier for brands to tap into "people with influence." Brands can now use influencers to target specific audiences that might only be accessible through Instagram.

Understandably, more brands are lining up to associate with popular social media personas. After all, for each dollar spent on influencer marketing, marketers see an average of $7.65 in earned media value returned. Plus, according to Forbes, influencer marketing is growing faster than digital ads.

While those stats speak for themselves, that still leaves us with two main questions: Why are influencers so powerful, and how do we find the right ones?

Instagram influencers are usually people who have a passion and aren't afraid to tell the world about it. By putting their passion on Instagram, they're able to shape and influence the opinions of their audience through blog posts, videos, pictures and so on.

Since modern consumers rely more on influencers' recommendations than on traditional forms of advertising, it makes good sense to find people who your prospects follow and trust, to create an audience around your brand.

In this post, we'll discuss how working with Instagram influencers can help your business see long-term returns and how to find the right influencers for your brand.

Who are Instagram influencers?

Basically, influencers on Instagram are power users who can help your potential customers make a buying decision. People usually see these people as trendsetters, experts in their niche or trusted sources of information.

The total number of followers a user must have to qualify as an Instagram influencer is subjective. It all boils down to their niche and the level of engagement (likes, comments, shares and views) they receive on their Instagram page. A brand would rather have an influencer with 5,000 engaged followers than one with 100,000 followers and little to no engagement.

Instagram influencers can be found in almost any industry or niche. They focus on food and cuisine, travel, fitness and health, sports, fashion and entertainment, business, and other popular categories. Some great examples from food and cuisine are Jamie Oliver, a popular British chef, and Kevin Curry from Fit Men Cook. In fashion and style, we have Nicolette Mason, who works with Gabi Gregg on the plus-size line Premme, and Mariano Di Vaio, a stylish Italian blogger.


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Why your business needs an Instagram influencer marketing strategy

As we all know, Instagram is great for sharing photos and videos with our friends and family, but it's also become a powerhouse for influencers. In fact, it is the highest-performing platform for influencer marketing, beating out other social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. With an average 3.21 engagement rate (as opposed to 1.5 percent across all social platforms), Instagram is undoubtedly the king of influencer marketing.

What's more, a recent study revealed that Instagram influencers in the U.S. earned $1.07 billion in 2017. This is projected to more than double to $2.38 billion in 2019. Also, keep in mind that Instagram boasts over 1 billion monthly active users. Enough said.

All things considered, Instagram eliminates the need for traditional advertising. In doing so, it introduces you to a new audience through a more trustworthy source – your influencer partner.  

Why are Instagram influencers so powerful?

We've established who influencers are and that your business needs an Instagram influencer marketing strategy. But you may still question why. Why are brands and online marketers so eager to work with influencers? Why do their opinions matter so much?

Instagram influencers are experts at marketing on this visual platform. Using their personal brand, products or a corporate brand, they have managed to build an audience who finds their posts engaging and eagerly consume their content on a daily basis.

These influencers also know how to tell a story, rather than just selling to their audiences. In fact, some influencers have established relationships with their followers with their stories. When an influencer is willing to share your brand's story, their followers will be ready and willing to listen.   

Considering that average people like you and me value influencers' opinions nearly as much as our friends' and families' opinions, it's easy to see why you should use influencers to get the word out about your brand or products.

Here are several reasons why Instagram influencers are so powerful.

1. They can reach your target audience.

Influencers often have a targeted following in the same demographic as your brand. Once you partner with the right influencer, you can gain access to a new audience that is otherwise difficult to reach. Some Instagram influencers have already built and established trust with the audience you're probably looking for, who are likely to be interested in your content.

2. They generate sales.

Why do you think so many brands are hopping on the influencer marketing bandwagon? It's because influencers generate sales, from the moment they talk about your brand, product or service. Depending on the engagement rates of the influencer and the length of the campaign, you can start seeing upward spikes in sales almost immediately or over a few weeks. According to a study on Adweek, brands on average make $6.50 for every dollar spent on influencer marketing, with the top 13 percent earning $20 for every dollar spent.

3. They establish trust.

As mentioned above, consumers are more likely to trust the opinions of their peers than traditional advertising. In fact, 92 percent of people trust recommendations from individuals over brands. So, it's a no-brainer to partner with an influencer to communicate your brand message to your target audience.

4. They can drive traffic and convert leads.

It's super important to drive traffic to your website, online store or social media channels. Why? Because you want to create a profitable business. Collaborating with influencers on Instagram can drive more traffic to your platforms, which could lead to more paying customers. From the moment a potential customer sees your product on an influencer's page, they become more curious about the product and want to learn more, then possibly make a purchase.

5. They know their audience.

When you decide to partner with an Instagram influencer who knows their followers, you can understand the type of audience you will reach. Whether it's fashion-driven teens, stay-at-home moms or business-minded folks, you can gain insights into the influencer's following and how to engage with them. 

6. They are strong communicators.

Instagram influencers thrive in the digital space. As they've built their audiences, they've developed strong digital communication skills. They know how to communicate your brand's vision and message in a way their audience will engage and connect with.

Now that you know why you should be working with Instagram influencers, let's discuss how to find the right ones.

How to find the right Instagram influencers

Finding the right influencers for your brand can be a challenge. The trick is to start looking among your fans. Who knows? You might find influencers who are already familiar with your brand and actually love it. Remember, the type of influencer you're looking for depends on the goals of your campaign.

Here's how to find the right Instagram influencer for your brand.

1. Research relevant influencers.

There are many different influencers on the market with different personalities and attributes. Therefore, it's important to know the exact type of influencer you are searching for.

A quick and easy way to find a list of influencers is to go straight over to Instagram and search relevant hashtags associated with your brand. Not all hashtags are created equal, so I recommend starting with ones that have a high post volume. I use a hashtag generator to find the top posted hashtags and from there will start searching the most popular posts on Instagram to find influencers who have high engagement for those posts.

You can always rely on Google as well. Just type "[your niche] influencers on Instagram" into the search bar (for example, "fashion influencers on Instagram," "top food influencers on Instagram" or "best travel influencers on Instagram").

Create a list of 10 candidates, then use the following steps to narrow it down even further.

2. Check their Instagram engagement.

Once you've found an influencer you're interested in, don't reach out just yet. Instead, search their names or usernames on Instagram. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do they just repost what other people are saying? Or do they actually provide real, individual thoughts and engage with their followers?
  • Do they post regularly?
  • Do their fans interact with their posts?
  • Does the influencer match your brand?
  • Do they have the ability to create and distribute content?

A high engagement rate means that their followers are paying attention and acting on their content. Ideally, you want to see an engagement rate of 2-3 percent on the influencers' posts. A rate of 4-6 percent is great, while those in the high teens and 20s are considered viral.

3. Reach out.

Now that you've identified the right influencers for your brand, it's time to make contact.

  • If you like what they're doing, tell them. In a short message, let them know how you came across their page and that you appreciate their work. Don't just rush into the ask.
  • You can reach out by directly messaging them on Instagram. If you don't get an immediate response, give it some time. If they have read your message and still haven't replied after a week or two, they're probably not interested. If the message hasn't been read, they're likely just busy or you ended up in the back of the DM line. In these cases, you'll need to hunt them down through their website, LinkedIn or other avenues.
  • Don't make it all about you. Try to create a natural conversation with the influencer. This shows that you value their opinions and thoughts, not just what you can gain from the partnership.

4. Connect.

As soon as the conversation feels natural, take it a step further. Take the conversation off social to an email setting. Here, you can discuss expectations for the collaboration and work compensation.  

How much does Instagram influencer marketing cost?

There is no set price to work with influencers on Instagram. However, you can estimate what an Instagram post will cost by looking at various factors. According to Adweek, a general rule is to estimate the cost of one post by calculating $100 per 10,000 followers. Considering the different factors, though, your cost could be more or less.

Pricing estimates could increase based on these factors:

  • Instagram post (video): 40-50 percent more than a single photo
  • Instagram post (slideshow): 30-40 percent more than a single image
  • Instagram Story: Increase of 10-15 percent
  • Instagram Story with swipe up: Depends on sales conversion; may fluctuate between 10 and 20 percent
  • Instagram Story with poll: Same price as an Instagram Story
  • Instagram Story highlight: 15-25 percent more than a single post
  • Link in bio: 5-40 percent more than a single post for a 24-hour link
  • IGTV: 40-50 percent more than a single post

These are some other factors to consider:

  • Time allotment: A tight turnaround may result in higher fees.
  • Usage rights: Requests to further distribute or amplify or repurpose the content can double or even quadruple the standard rate.
  • Brand affinity: If the influencer doesn't feel like your brand is a good fit, they may charge more or not work with you at all.

Now that you have an idea of the costs, you can start creating your Instagram influencer marketing budget right away.

Influencer marketing on Instagram is an important tool for brands and marketers. It increases brand loyalty, trust, sales and your Instagram following. As this trend continues to grow, it's time to get involved and take your brand to the next level.

Image Credit: Diego Cerva/Shutterstock
Brock Gratton
Brock Gratton Member
Brock Gratton co-owns and operates Xplode Marketing & Media Whale. He and his business partner Blake Gratton (yes they're identical twins) co-created the JellyTank, the ultimate desktop jellyfish aquarium. He enjoys writing about his experiences in all facets of branding, marketing, product development, sourcing, web design/development and more. He and Blake started their first business when they were 12 and have never looked back.