The Ultimate Guide to Working with Instagram Influencers in 2019

Jan 16, 2019

 Instagram Influencer Marketing

One of the biggest marketing challenges for an eCommerce store is establishing and capitalizing upon social proof.

Enter: Influencer marketing, new marketing technique that gets people your target audience identifies with (influencers) to show your product, mention your brand, or promote the products or services you sell.

But you shouldn’t be relying solely on bloggers and vloggers to partner with on your influencer campaigns in 2019.

Turn your efforts towards social media. Particularly Instagram--a network of over 500 million active users who log into their account every day, making it a fantastic way to position your brand in front of your target audience and start working with influencers.

So, how do you get started with influencer marketing on Instagram?

In this guide, we’re sharing exactly that.

Why Bother With Influencer Marketing, Anyway?

Before we dive into the details, let’s be clear on why influencer marketing should be on your to-do list for 2019.

Influencer marketing makes use of influencers—those who your target audience deem influential. They’re usually followed by thousands of people, and their words (and endorsements) carry weight.

...So much so, that but 40% of consumers have purchased something after seeing it on Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.

There’s little doubt from marketers when it comes to determining whether working with influencers is worth the investment, too. In fact, 2016 study by Pardot found that 94% of marketers think influencer marketing is effective--enough so that marketing budgets were expected to double in 2017.

Simply put: Partnering with influencers, especially on Instagram, bridges the gap between you and your target customers by using an influencer’s account to connect the dots.

Why wouldn’t you want to get involved?

Influencers vs. brand ambassadors

It’s important to be aware of the difference between the two.

Typically, brand ambassadors are people who align with your company’s views, purpose and goals. They don’t typically get paid to promote your content--unless they’re an affiliate.

Influencers, on the other hand, have huge audiences--and know they can charge fees for brands to access it. That means you’ll often need to pay to work with an Instagram influencer, but they’ll likely drive-up awareness of your company when posting about you.

Using Instagram To Launch Influencer Campaigns

Wondering why Instagram should be the focus of your influencer marketing efforts?

Consider this: In 2019, over 32.3 million brand-sponsored influencer posts are expected to be uploaded to Instagram, equaling a $2.38 billion market size—up from 21.7 million posts and a $1.6 billion market size in 2018: 

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Instagram isn’t the right choice for every eCommerce business, though. You need to assess whether your target audience are active there before investing cash into Instagram influencer marketing.

Having said that, 91% of influencers cited Instagram as their #1 platform, and 59% of micro-influencers considered Instagram the most effective platform for engaging a target audience.

You need to head to Instagram to work with them, and reach their ever-growing audiences.

Plus, 65% of top-performing Instagram posts feature products, which means Instagram users aren’t averse to sponsored content. And when Instagram Shopping comes into the mix, companies have seen a 1,416% increase in traffic and a nearly 20% increase in revenue.

Instagram offer a range of tools to help businesses reach a specific audience, including:

  • Sponsored posts: Increasing the likelihood of an audience viewing your content in their feed.
  • Shoppable Stories and stickers: Including “swipe up” features to direct viewers to your website (and make a purchase).
  • Carousel Ads for Stories: A three-part series with “swipe up” features, like this example from Gap:
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In a nutshell: If your target audience are active on Instagram, they’re likely already making purchases through the platform.

Working with influencers can help your company to capitalize on it--and make sure your products or services are the ones being added to their shopping list.

How To Start Working With Instagram Influencers

Are you ready to start partnering with influencers on Instagram, and skyrocket your sales from the platform?

Don’t dive feet first and attempt to partner with the biggest account you can find.

The key to building a great influencer marketing campaign is great content that helps your business achieve its goals.

So, start by knowing which goals you want to work towards on a company-wide scale.

That could be anything from brand awareness or website traffic, right the way through to increasing the number of on-site purchases.

Once you’ve got your goals, you’ll need to think about the content you’re able to create.

Your influencer partnerships (and the content they’re creating) needs to differentiate your brand or product from the competition. Start by scouting out your competition’s campaigns. What works for them? What doesn’t? How do audiences respond to a given type of influencer post?

Your content needs to align itself with your audience’s interests, too.

For example: Diageo partnered with Nick Offerman (the actor behind Ron Swanson in the popular show Parks and Recreation) to advertise its Lagavulin Whisky:  


The video became a viral hit and:

  • Trended on Facebook
  • Earned 840 million media impressions through over 175 media stories
  • Was viewed over one million times in two days
  • Grew the YouTube channel subscribers from 5,500 to 23,000

Diageo’s success with Offerman’s video was because it understood its target audience and crafted a piece of content that spoke to them.

Equally important was Diageo’s choice of influencer.

Like Diageo, eCommerce businesses must put care into choosing an influencer to spread their message. You can choose between two types of influencers: micro- and macro-influencers:

Micro-Influencers vs. Macro-Influencers

Unsure which to pick? Let’s iron-out the difference between the two.

Macro-influencers are influencers with a wide following. They may be celebrities or well-known public figures who command a lot of attention. And while macro-influencers seem like the obvious go-to, they typically have extortionate sponsorship rates and a less-engaged audience.

Micro-influencers, on the other hand, have lower follower counts than a higher-profile celebrity, but are often seen as a celebrity in their own space—the exact niche and target audience you’re aiming for.

Followers of a micro-influencer are more likely to be interested in the very niche you’re focusing on. And because micro-influencers have fewer followers, it’s 6.7 times more cost-effective per engagement than hiring a macro-influencer.

Micro-influencers, naturally, have lower rates.

A single post on Instagram may cost $300, while two posts may cost $500 total. Fans or influencers already loyal to your brand may be interested in establishing an “in-kind” partnership, creating and sharing content in exchange for free product.

How To Find Instagram Influencers To Partner With

Now you know the difference between the types of influencers, it’s time to move onto the fun part: Finding them!

There are a variety of ways to find influencers on Instagram, with the simplest being a hashtag search.

Branded hashtags can identify influencers loyal to your brand or products. Do a search for your business name or a product line to identify these fans, then scope out their profile to determine if they’re an influencer.

Search relevant hashtags, too. Some of the most-used hashtags are #love, #instagood, #photography, #summer, and #repost.

Can you find anyone using these hashtags with a sizeable following?

Let’s put that into practice and take RedBull, for example--a brand closely associated with sports and an active lifestyle. We can search hashtags like #parkour, #freerunning, and #streetworkout.

...and bingo! We’ve found an influencer with 48,000 followers who could be a fantastic partner:

 

When conducting your hashtag search, pay close attention to the top posts and any posts with high engagement.

These are posts that your audience is receptive to, and can lead you to finding an Instagram influencer worth working with:

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Another means of identifying influencers lies right beneath your nose.

Search through your own account’s followers to discover who they’re following. Use tools like HypeAuditor, Influence.co, and SocialBlade--and if enough of them follow similar influencers, you may have found a great influencer to start your campaign with.

What Makes A “Good” Instagram Influencer?

Ready for a truth bomb?

The key to finding Instagram influencers doesn’t lie solely in their follower count, as explained by Carolyn Shlensky, Social Media and Influencer Manager at Pelicon:

“Don’t judge an influencer solely on their number of followers. Dig into the data around who their followers are, what their engagement rate is and the type of content they produce.

Sometimes a smaller influencer with a niche following will make much more of an impact than a larger influencer who covers a wider variety of topics or has a less engaged community.”

Many accounts artificially inflate their followers using bots or fake followers. These accounts aren’t influencers—there isn’t any authentic audience there to actually influence.

You don’t want to waste money by working with an influencer who doesn’t drive traffic or conversions, right?

Do your due diligence by digging deeper. Ask yourself:

  • Do followers actually engage with an account?
  • What’s their typical engagement rate?
  • Does the amount of likes and comments garnered by an account make sense compared to the number of followers it has?

You could also use a tool like HypeAuditor to determine how many fake followers an account has:

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Take a look at the type of influencer you’re working with, too. Micro-influencer might not have thousands of followers, but they should be someone who fits within your niche. (As in, a huge percentage of their audience are your ideal customer.)

Macro-influencers may not fit entirely in your niche, but should still have some solid overlap.

What about an influencers’ voice? With so many people trusting every word an influence says, you’ll need to double-check the messages they’re sharing fit within your own brand image.

Take a gander at previous brand collaborations, too.

How faithful to the brand image was an influencer--did they post other content from competitors within a short space of time? Does it seem like the collaboration was a success? Does it fit, and is it popular among the niche?

Rich Coffman, Director of Search Engine Marketing at BKMedia Group, advises:

“When you are looking for the right type of influencer on Instagram, it's important to find one who resonates with your target audience and does not overdo marketing other people's products because this tends to wear out the enthusiasm of their audience.”

Head back to HypeAuditor and take a look at the average engagement rate:

 

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As a general guideline:

  • Less than 1% is low
  • Between 1% and 3.5% are average or good
  • Between 3.5% and 6% are high
  • Above 6% are very high

It goes without saying you’ll usually have the best success partnering with an influencer that has an engagement rate of 3.5% or above.

Lastly, look at the actual quality of content your influencer is posting--especially if it’s being created by the influencer (as opposed to another brand).

Are images crisp and high-quality? Do captions make logical sense and include calls-to-action? Are influencer posts FTC-compliant?

Your answers to those questions need to be “yes”. If not, scratch them off your list. It’s likely not worth investing in a collaboration with them if their content isn’t high-quality, logical, or FTC-compliant.

Landing yourself in hot water with an influencer who hasn’t tagged a sponsored post as “#ad” isn’t the goal, here!

5 Types Of Influencer Marketing Campaigns On Instagram

Like with written content, Instagram influencer marketing campaigns are conducted in a variety of formats.

But going back to what we mentioned earlier, your choice of campaign should align with and support your goals.

Here are five different types of influencer marketing campaigns you might want to investigate:

1. Sponsored posts

Sponsored posts on Instagram don’t detract from a user's overall experience, unlike banner ads or popups.

For all intents and purposes, they look and act like any other Instagram post.

Take this sponsored post from EyeBuyDirect, for example. Their influencers’ post fits seamlessly into their profile and aesthetic, while still accomplishing the goal of boosting brand awareness and driving revenue--especially with the caption’s coupon code: 

 

2. Contests

Contests make for another effective Instagram influencer campaign.

A contest on Instagram can garner as much as 3.5x as many likes and 64x as many comments as a regular post, making them an awesome means of building brand awareness.

Take this content-style post sponsored by ModNorth and Co

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Why not work with an influencer to establish and spread a contest by providing him or her with some free swag to give away? Build entry requirements like following you, liking a post or tagging friends, and watch the engagement rise.

3. Reviews

Provide an influencer with your product in exchange for an unbiased and genuine review.

The influencer’s followers will consider the review as a peer recommendation--which is exactly what happened for online mattress company Leesa.

Leesa provided influencers with a free product and free reign to review it, and sold over 400 mattresses and gained 100,000 clicks to their website as a result.

4. Takeovers

Takeovers are special events in which an influencer takes over your brand’s Instagram for a period of time. While doing so, they engage with your brand’s followers in their own unique way.

At the same time, and as with other types of influencer marketing, an influencer who takes over your account creates and shares content in their own personal style.

And because the influencer is running your brand’s account for a time, it naturally taps into and draws their followers to your account.

Here’s an example from Sheffield Hallam University:

Instagram Takeover Example

 

5. Stories

Instagram Stories need to be less like a brand's overall feed, so are the perfect opportunity for an influencer to share “real life” content.

The “real”, often-unscripted nature of Stories means brands may have to surrender some control and let the influencer take the wheel. (That might not be such an issue if that’s the kind of content your target audience engages with or, though.)

Tarte Cosmetics invites influencers to show off its products and host tutorials via Instagram Stories:

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It’s a strategy that not only generates hype in Tarte’s product line, but that creates value for its audience by sharing beauty tips and tricks straight from the mouths of talented influencers.

How Much Should You Pay Instagram Influencers?

...That’s a great question to ask. Everyone needs to know what budget to expect when working with influencers for the first time.

Truth is: The answer isn’t clear-cut.

It goes without saying micro-influencers will have smaller fees than macro-influencers, but compensation and rates differ depending on the specific influencer you’re working with and the type of campaign you’re running.

Some influencers are more than happy accepting monetary compensation based on their followers and engagement rate (as we’ve discussed).

And according to a report by Later, 66% of businesses pay under $250 per influencer post, while 27% pay between $250 and $1,000 per post. The average rate for influencers with about 100,000 followers is $1,000:

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But if you don’t have the cash to splash upfront, influencers can be compensated with:

  • Commission on sales they influence
  • Complementary products or services
  • An invitation to an event
  • Introductions and referrals to other brands and partners
  • Backlinks and exposure

Ultimately, exactly how you compensate an Instagram influencer will depend not only on the specifics of a campaign, but on the relationship you establish.

How To Do Influencer Outreach... The Right Way

Like with all business relationships, establishing a professional and mutually-respectful relationship with an influencer is critical.

There needs to be a clear, obvious benefit for both of you to reach any agreement.

Macro-influencers and celebrities often work with agents or managers. Working with these influencers will often require you to contact their representative, but micro-influencers are more easily contacted via email (often displayed in their profile bio) or DM.

Here’s a general guide on reaching out to influencers, and convincing them to partner with you for a sponsored Instagram post.

Warming-up your influencer

No matter which influencer you’re contacting, your initial message should be somewhat personal and less "corporate”.

Instagram is primarily a B2C platform, and the influencers on there might not understand business jargon.

Start by building a rapport with an influencer before diving into the nitty-gritty of working together. You need to show that you appreciate and respect their creativity, which involves following the influencer’s social media accounts and engaging with their content.

Create a genuine connection between your brand and the influencers you want to work with before sending any emails.

Your collaboration email

Ready to finally make the ask?

A successful email--one that results in an Instagram influencer working with you--contains these four elements:

  1. Personal: Address it to them (by name).
  2. Concise: Respect the influencer’s time by explaining what you’re looking for out of a collaboration, and getting to the point quickly.
  3. Informative: Who are you? What campaign are you looking to create? What are you offering in return?
  4. Flattering: What made you choose to work with this particular influencer?

Here’s a quick template you can use to reach out to Instagram influencers with a collaboration request:

Hi [influencer],

My name is [your name] and I work for [your business and a brief overview and link to website/social media]. I’ve been following your work for a while and would love the opportunity to collaborate with you.

We love [examples of influencer’s content that match your vision/are similar in style to your brand’s image], and think you’d be the perfect fit for a campaign we’ll soon be launching.

[Describe campaign vision and compensation.]

If you’re interested, please give me a shout and we can discuss further.

Thanks for your time,

[your name]”

The importance of involving your influencer in the collaboration process

Part of working with an Instagram influencer involves you relinquishing some degree of control.

You’ve chosen to work with an influencer because of their creativity, so you need to let them flex that creative muscle!

Put together a one-page overview that explains your brand’s values and what it represents. Send it over to the Instagram influencers who’ve agreed to partner with you, and ask them for ideas on how they could create engaging content around it.

Here’s Louise O'Brien of The Langham sharing her words of wisdom:

“Don't work with an influencer who is willing to let you write all of their sponsored posts for them about your brand. Yes, you should provide them with key words and hashtags and guide the content you're paying for. But their followers are expecting to hear their voice and can usually spot a disingenuous post written in brand speak.”

Remember: An influencer you’re working with is intimately familiar with their niche. Let them use that to their strength and talk to your target audience in the way they know best.

This has two benefits:

  1. They’ll create content they know performs best (since they know their audience better than anyone else),
  2. If an influencer feels some sort of ownership in a project, it’s more likely they’ll go the extra mile--whether that’s working with you again in the future, or discounts on future sponsored posts.

Once you’ve begun working with an influencer, don’t neglect the very things that sparked up the initial relationship. Continue to engage and interact with their posts, even when you’re not actively collaborating on a campaign.

Zachary Weiner, CEO of Emerging Insider, seconds this:

“Develop your Instagram influencer relationship as if they were also your client. In other words, it is incredibly effective to develop a powerful rapport, share good news, keep them informed, and stay in touch. Often this will result in a long term loyal engagement that far surpasses the power of a quick paid post.”

Measuring The Success Of Your Instagram Influencer Campaigns

Many businesses fail to track the success or ROI of an influencer marketing campaign--or even know where to start.

But going back to the company goals we discussed earlier, the metrics you should track depend on your overall company/campaign goals.

Here’s a great graphic from TapInfluence which shows that in practice:

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Granted, some metrics--like clicks to eCommerce or conversions to sale--can be tough to track.

However, if you use UTM codes or affiliate discount codes, you’ll find an easier way to attribute each sale to a specific influencer, and know which are delivering ROI.

Tools like Sprout Social and Iconosquare can track the social aspect of an influencer campaign, including clicks, views and follows.

And, your existing analytics software can measure metrics such as traffic and conversions.

Are You Ready To Start Using Instagram Influencers In 2019?

...I don’t blame you.

Working with influencers is an affordable and effective method to build brand awareness and meet the goals of an influencer campaign--which is why so many marketers are making the switch from traditional advertising to influencer collaborations.

Remember to always spend time determining whether an Instagram influencer is right for you, and focus on establishing a genuine relationship before diving in with a collaboration request.

Now, all that’s left to do is put it into practice.

As a follower of several Instagram influences myself, I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Elise Dopson

Written by Elise Dopson

Well versed in the B2B, SaaS, and marketing realms, Elise helps merchants navigate the ever-changing world of online channel management.

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