Instagram is on a steady ascent, predicted to surpass a $2.3 billion influencer market size by the end of 2021. Not surprising, as over 89% of marketers rated Instagram as the most important social media channel for influencer marketing strategies. Instagram is about as crucial to executing effective influencer marketing campaigns as turning the oven on when baking chocolate chip cookies.
Brands of all types seek to advertise on Instagram by partnering with top Instagram influencers for cost-effective, high-reach, and engaging sponsored posts for both branding and direct response marketing. In order to execute these campaigns, brands must first know how to find Instagram influencers who are the right influencers for their campaigns. Our data predicts there are 2 million to 37 million influencers on Instagram alone—which makes finding the right influencers to work with, a top influencer marketing challenge. So we asked our very own marketing experts their advice on the following:
Before we give the ingredients for finding Instagram influencers, it helps to know the biggest errors marketers commit when trying to find them.
Whether it’s your first time running an Instagram influencer marketing campaign or you’re a seasoned veteran, marketers have to keep pace with the ever-evolving influencer marketing trends. This includes knowing costly errors marketers make when trying to identify the best influencers to partner with. Do your team a favor and brush up on the biggest mistakes to avoid:
By now, your brand likely knows who your target audience is—things like how old they are, where they live, how often they shop, what their core interests are, if they work, if they travel, what causes they support—the list goes on. In the same way that you’ve built a customer profile or buyer persona, your brand needs to understand how that translates over to Instagram users. That starts with knowing key statistics and demographics on Instagram’s user base.
Who is on Instagram, and what are their user behaviors? Approximately 64% are 18-29-years-old, 42% have earned a college degree, and users overall spend an average of 53 minutes a day on the app. Diving into statistics like these that are relevant to your brand’s audience will help you determine if they’re even reachable on Instagram. From there, ask yourself whether or not influencers can reach your target audience on Instagram. A solid understanding of the relationship between your audience, Instagram influencers, and their audience ultimately ensures that the influencer(s) you partner with will be effective in reaching your target demographics.
A successful influencer marketing strategy starts with clearly defining your campaign’s objectives and KPIs. Without an understanding of what you want out of an influencer marketing campaign, how will you know which Instagram influencers will propel your brand or product? The absence of campaign goals makes for unmanageable expectations, meaning your brand’s success rate with finding the right Instagram influencers will be low.
You can’t find the right Instagram influencers without knowing what “the right” influencers look like. Save yourself time and energy by establishing whether the goal is to raise brand awareness or drive particular conversions. From there, you can get more granular and better understand whether an influencer is capable of achieving those KPIs.
The classic vanity metric—follower count—is a notoriously deceiving factor that many marketers take into account when finding Instagram influencers. While reach is undeniably important, it doesn’t always correlate with high-performing campaigns. Knowing Instagram influencer tiers will help you distinguish types of influencers based on both follower count and engagement rates.
While follower count gives you an idea of how many potential impressions an influencer will generate, the engagement rate tells you how many followers will actually interact with the content (i.e., likes, comments, shares). On Instagram, you can calculate the engagement by adding up total likes and comments and dividing that by the total number of followers the influencer has. Multiply by 100 to get the engagement rate.
However, it should be noted that looking at these two qualifications alone doesn’t paint the entire picture—do your homework and make sure the influencers you identify have actually earned both their following and engagement rates.
That brings us to the next mistake that has a majority of marketers in a tizzy—fake Instagram followers and/or fake influencers. With 50% of marketers saying that spotting fake followers and inauthentic engagement is a chief influencer marketing challenge, brands must be on the lookout for frauds.
To safeguard your brand, be sure to thoroughly vet Instagram influencers and check that they have a legitimate profile, followers, and engagement. In some cases, influencers employ Instagram bots to inflate follower counts and engagement rates. In other instances, users will feign influencer status to strike brand sponsorships. Don’t be fooled and jeopardize brand safety—review our marketer’s guide to spotting fake followers to learn how to avoid committing this colossal misstep.
As the saying goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Basically, don’t look for one Instagram influencer and expect to move the needle much. Instead, find multiple influencers with varied followings, interests, and styles to ensure you get the most bang for your buck. The benefits of doing so include reaching a more diverse audience, lifting brand awareness, strengthening campaign messaging, and deriving richer learnings.
In a similar vein, don’t limit your influencer marketing campaigns to solely one-off influencer relationships. Sure, you can sprinkle those in when they make sense, but invest in long-term influencer partnerships to guarantee more fruitful and long-lasting results.
A long-term approach relies on constant nurturing from both the brand and influencer side to build stronger partnerships and ultimately a stronger influencer marketing strategy. Don’t make the mistake of viewing influencers as a quick-hit advertising avenue. Realize their value as business partners and your brand will be on the road to long-term success.
Along with knowing common mistakes people make when finding influencers, it’s helpful to know what free tools are available to search for Instagram influencers. We’ve gathered a list of some of the most resourceful, free tools that our marketing professionals recommend—ones you can use in your hunt for Instagram influencers.
SocialBlade is a free resource that provides continuously updated rankings (top 10, 100, and 500 channels) from multiple platforms including Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch. On the quest to find high-reach Instagram influencers for sponsored content, it’s helpful to know the top social media influencers from other platforms. The tool also gives insights into audience size, user demographics, followers to following ratio, and other important channel statistics.
While Instagram may be a newer platform compared to blogs and YouTube, it has quickly burgeoned into the most popular influencer channel. Oftentimes, established bloggers and YouTubers will also have adjoining Instagram channels—a direct result of having already amassed vast amounts of followers and viewership on other platforms. So, if you come across influencers whose primary channel is YouTube, chances are they probably have a successful Instagram account as well. Be sure to cross-reference influencers across platforms so you don’t miss out.
HypeAuditor is a tool that lists the top 1,000 Instagram influencer rankings by the number of “quality” followers and how much authentic engagement their posts receive. Using AI, the tool analyzes Instagrammers by gathering open-source data, evaluating authentic engagement, and tracking and ranking the top Instagram influencers daily.
Searchers can filter from a list of several categories and countries, or they can simply type in the username of known Instagram influencers to find out basic information on audience demography and interests, follower growth, account activity, and rank at the worldwide, country, and category levels.
Klear enables marketers to find, research, and measure Instagram influencers—all in the name of confirming they align with your brand’s values and building a successful campaign. With a database of over 900 million Instagram profiles broken down into 60,000 topics, Klear touts that its repository of Instagram influencers is the most advanced worldwide. The search functionalities on Klear also allow marketers to cast a wide net or hone in on more niche categories of influencers.
Another beneficial feature is the option to filter by Celebs, Power Users, Casual, and Novice. Additionally, the platform is equipped with demographic features that show which audiences follow the influencers you’re interested in working with. This obviously increases the likelihood of selecting influencers who will resonate with your target audience.
It’s no secret—running a successful Instagram influencer campaign starts with identifying the appropriate Instagram influencers. Without the know-how to do this effectively, marketers risk time-consuming searches that could lead to working with the wrong influencers, ultimately putting their ROI on the line.
Below are 10 tried and true tips on how to find Instagram influencers according to our agency professionals:
First and foremost, you need to listen to your audience. The reason you’ve chosen to work with influencers is that they’re able to reach and engage your community authentically. If you have an established Instagram brand account with a following who is representative of your target audience, monitor how they engage with your Instagram content. Which posts do they “like” most, or which posts prompt them to comment positively? You can also look into what influencers they follow by peeking at their following list.
Additionally, stay alert for those who are mentioning or tagging your brand on Instagram. You may discover that influencers or brand advocates are already promoting your business to a loyal and relevant following. These Instagrammers will be more prone to working out a formal partnership with your brand. By understanding who already supports your brand online and what your audience responds well to, you can quickly narrow down on a short list of Instagram influencers.
This may seem an obvious step in how to find Instagram influencers, but there are a few tips that can make a standard Google search yield impressive results. A search for “highest followed nfluencers” produces many mainstream Instagram accounts including celebrities, such as actors, athletes, and rockstars—unattainable or irrelevant for most brands looking to partner with social media influencers and drive tangible ROI. To find both relevant and reputable lists and sources, try a more targeted search that pinpoints the influencer channel and category. First, dial in your search terms by industry. Instead of searching “top Instagram accounts,” try searching “top 20 fitness Instagram influencers.” Searching “top 20 fitness Instagram influencers” returns more refined results for influencers on Instagram within the fitness industry:
Not only are the top results from reputable industry sources (with targeted lists from Refinery29, Harper’s Bazaar, and Mediakix), but they also point to more attainable influencers compared to their celebrity counterparts. Not to mention, the results are more specifically tailored to brands, products, or services within a specific industry.
“Pro Tip: Google has grown more sophisticated over the years, enabling the search engine to understand the search intent of users more accurately. Be sure to use these advanced search features to find the most precise results for your campaign.”
In many cases, brands that decide to dip their toes into the influencer marketing pool are probably already familiar with running social media campaigns, many of which incorporate branded or campaign-specific hashtags. Ever since Twitter initiated the trending hashtags, the pound symbol has functioned as a way to discover new, relevant content.
Begin by searching hashtags that are related to your brand, product, or service. For instance, if you’re looking for skincare experts, type in hashtags like #skincareroutine. Once you find an influencer’s post, see what other related hashtags they’ve used to find other avenues to related content. On Instagram, you can even “follow” hashtags so that if a trending one is of particular interest to your brand, you can keep a pulse on who’s using it in your feed. This comes in handy when studying your target audience or identifying potential influencer partners.
Despite influencer marketing being a relatively new addition to advertisers’ repertoires, it’s been around long enough that anyone can locate sponsored content from prior influencer campaigns. This can be done by searching for posts with the tags #sponsored or #ad, or you can skim through influencers’ previous posts to find ones that mention or tag another brand.
If your brand already has a wishlist of influencers in mind, it’s likely you’ve seen examples of their sponsored content before. Be sure to search for fresh sponsored content and review closely for evidence of how the collaboration performed to ensure a partnership with said influencer will be a natural fit.
To take it one step further, look at who else engaged with the sponsored post to see if any other influencers “liked” or commented on it. In most cases, influencers have built vast networks with similar influencers, so their sponsored and organic content will likely attract the attention of fellow influencers.
Speaking of influencer networks, you can also filter through the followers of influencers you’ve already identified to locate new ones. Despite being a more manual process, this strategy proves to be an invaluable way to stumble upon similar influencers to ones you’ve already identified. Just be careful not to careen down a rabbit hole by allotting a fixed amount of time to this task. Otherwise, you may find yourself buried in the depths of Instagram.
Likewise, check who your identified influencers are following. To quicken the search through thousands of Instagram followers for a given account, scroll through and look for the “verified” checkmark or for handles that are cleanly spelled. Don’t feel compelled to scroll through the entire list of followers. Use your best judgment to maximize your efficiency.
This is yet another great networking tactic that brands should lean on when they’ve already established long-term partnerships with other influencers. Having strong rapport with influencers will often mean they’re more inclined to refer you to other influencers they know or work with. If you’re confident you have a solid, healthy relationship with an influencer, reach out directly for a referral.
Since current influencer partners already understand your company’s messaging and goals, they’ll likely know who else within their influencer network would be interested in partnering with you. And generally, they are going to be more than happy to fulfill your request. This opens up the door for more direct and trusted influencer discovery.
Sometimes, reaching out to talent networks can produce viable Instagram influencer connections. Influencer talent networks, such as Digital Brand Architects or Gleam, often have hundreds of available influencers who are on the lookout for collaboration opportunities. Talent managers are normally eager to help and will strongly suggest their own influencer clients with the caveat that managers take a percentage of the payment. You can also get summarized influencer bios and channel follower stats, and the option to contact the influencers directly (see tip #10).
While finding Instagram influencers is a laborious process, you need to do your due diligence to ensure those you’ve identified have a track record of genuine partnerships and productive engagement. Efforts will be futile if your brand sponsors an influencer who’s bought fake followers, doesn’t comply with FTC guidelines, or comes across as inauthentic in their messaging. Audiences have become attuned to detecting content that’s not genuine, so this step cannot be emphasized enough.
After discovering how to find Instagram influencers, the next step is vetting and outreach. Some Instagram influencers will have an email in their bio description or within free influencer databases, so you can email directly. If no contact information is immediately available, you can try direct messaging them through Instagram. Present the potential opportunity, but keep it vague so you can ask for their email to follow up with more details. While this method may seem intrusive, it can lead to fruitful influencer relationships when you craft a thoughtful, concise message.
Keep in mind that influencers are often inundated with inquiries. To increase your chances of catching their attention, engage with their content in advance of reaching out by liking and commenting on their Instagram posts. Ensure you follow them on Instagram and show a vested interest in their work so they can be confident that you’re serious about becoming a partner. Influencers can usually distinguish whether or not the email sender has done their research, so don’t jeopardize your opportunity by blasting cold emails or messages that aren’t tailored.
“Pro Tip: While many inﬂuencers publish their contact information within their Instagram bio description, an increasing amount use agents, managers, or other intermediaries. The email listed may belong to their representative, but it shouldn’t change your outreach approach.”
Perhaps even more important than knowing how to find Instagram influencers is knowing which Instagrammer will perform and produce bottom-line results for your brand. Though high-reach usually correlates with influencer price, it doesn’t always correlate with high campaign performance. With several influencer tiers (such as nano- or mid-tier influencers), choosing the size of influencer(s) to work with can be a challenging task without the direction of an influencer marketing agency. Established influencer marketing agencies who specialize solely in vetting the best Instagram influencers for each industry can provide case studies and documentation to support a track record of successful campaigns. For brands with the budget, agencies can give you direct access to viable Instagram influencers.
Working with the right influencer marketing agency not only facilitates the often arduous process of finding Instagram influencers but also ensures best industry practices when it comes to workflows between brands and influencers, adherence to sponsored content FTC guidelines, and optimized campaign management and reporting. You can explore the ins and outs of a successful influencer marketing campaign in our 10-step guide.