December 31, 2016

Influencer Marketing for Instagram: A Guide to Getting Results

Instagram recently changed its algorithm for prioritizing posts, basing the order posts appear in a user’s feed on numbers of engagement, not chronological order. This means that the more likes, comments, and re-posts your posts have, the higher they will appear in your users’ feeds. Understanding this change is more important than ever when you’re drafting your social media marketing strategies.

We all know word-of-mouth is one of the best forms of advertising. An estimated 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions are made based on personal recommendations. This makes sense – consumers are much quicker to take the advice of people they trust than of corporate marketing schemes that can feel anonymous and forced. With the levels of connectivity on social media off the charts and Instagram’s staggering 500 million users to date, Influencer Marketing on Instagram is one of the most important tools you can have in your marketing toolbox. Instagram Influencers are your gateway to more views, more followers, and ultimately, more revenue.

What is Influencer Marketing?

Instagram Influencers (aka Instagrammers) are Instagram users who have a large number of followers who trust them. These are not celebrities in the traditional sense; they are lifestyle bloggers, fashionistas, makeup artists, fitness gurus, foodies, and more. Just about every industry has its own set of Instagram Influencers – now it’s your job to find those figures who are relevant to your niche and engage with them so they can start loving and promoting your brand asap! If you can get an Instagrammer (or two or ten or more) to like or recommend your brand, chances are their followers are going to check you out, too.

How Does Instagram Influencer Marketing Work?

We’ll go over some step-by-step methods for finding and getting in touch with these Instagrammers, but first, let’s look at some different ways an Instagrammer can help you out.

One Influencer Marketing strategy is to partner your brand with Instagram Influencers and ask them to post pictures featuring your products. Usually, these posts will include a branded hashtag (aka the # and a catchy phrase you’ve devised for this specific marketing campaign) or the handle of your brand (@[yourbrandname]). These are simple, easy ways to drive potential customers to your page and get as many people as possible to discover your brand. Effectively this kind of sponsorship endorses your brand to the Instagrammer’s audience – and their massive following allows you to reach a wider audience than you ever could by marketing on your own page.

You can also use Instagrammers to launch a new campaign. Frank and Oak, a clothing company, collaborated with Fashionista Gracie Carroll to promote their new sweater dress line. With her 12M followers, Gracie Carroll’s sporting their clothing did wonders to drive traffic to their site to check out and buy the new line. Similarly, you can get an Influencer to participate in the content you post to your own Instagram account – they would do so by liking, commenting, or posting something on your page. This method helps boost your credibility to potential followers.

You could also try what’s called a social media takeover – here, you would let an Instagrammer (whom you trust, of course) take the reins of your Instagram account for a given period of time (a few hours, a day). They can make and post content, drawing in their own followers and creating a new experience for yours. This can be fun for your followers and gives a boost to your visibility, credibility, and likability.

How Can I Get Started?

Now that you know some of the ways the Influencers can help you, let’s talk about how to go about finding and reaching them. Here are a few tips to get you started in your Influencer marketing search:

Set goals.

It’s important to know from the start what the goals of your Influencer marketing campaign are. Do you want to increase your reach? Are you concerned with driving traffic to your site? Are you promoting a new product? Establishing your desired outcomes from the start will help you focus your search for the right partners and will also give you an idea of what you want from a partnership. That way when you reach out (more below) to Influencers, you’ll have a clear set of expectations which makes the marketing easy for both of you.

Take notes.

You’ll also want to start doing some research into what other companies like yours are doing to market their brand. Search hashtags related to your product and your audience’s demographic and see what your competitors or others in your market niche are up to. Be sure to cast a wide net in your research – if you’re a handbag brand, for example, don’t just look at fashion gurus’ pages, but also check out pages related to travel or mobile office spaces, or even the materials you use in your product. Tools like and Iconosquare can make it easy to find what keywords are trending in your field.

Make a good match.

After all your research you’ll have narrowed down the Influencers who are most relevant to your brand and who also have the most useful followings. Bear in mind that sometimes the accounts with the most followers (like over 1 M) are not necessarily the best ones to pair up with. More followers are great, but engagement can be low when the community is that big. Try accounts with followers under 100,000 where users appear to still feel like the Influencer is accessible and the connection is authentic. You can assess this by looking at comments and likes on given posts. If you’re having a hard time finding Influencers on your own, Whalar Instabrand, and Famebit are just a few sources that can help hook you up with influencers looking to partner with brands.

Reach out and message someone.

Now comes the moment of contact. You’ll need to reach out and get in touch with the Influencer(s) you’ve determined are a good match for your brand. Usually, if an Influencer is amenable to collaboration, they’ll put their contact info in a prominent place in their bio. Use the email address (or other contact method) they provide instead of any mode of communication you’ve found via “outside sources” (aka internet stalking).

You want the relationship between you and the Influencer to develop organically, so in your messages be friendly and open, while still being professional. It’s a good idea to ease into asking for a collaboration, if you can. Never demand they sponsor you, obviously. Remember, you want to work together to get people interested in and shopping your brand! If you share common goals, demographics, background stories, etc, highlight these to create a connection. Pro tip: in your message articulate how the relationship can be mutually beneficial. Maybe partnering with you will offer the Influencer access to your unique community or location, or perhaps you can provide them with some interesting content. Whatever it is, keep in mind that the best relationships are a two-way street.

Send free stuff.

Speaking of benefits… Everyone loves free swag, so why not put together a really fantastic array of your products or offer up some free services to the Instagrammers you’re interested in working with? Giving the Influencer an opportunity to try your product is the surest way to engender a real recommendation from them. And because Instagram is all about authentic experiences, the more genuine their love of your brand feels to their followers, the more likely their followers will be to try it out for themselves.

There are potential big returns from giving away free stuff – just ask watch designer Daniel Wellington. He leveraged Instagram Influencer marketing to his benefit by giving certain influencers a free watch and a special promotional code for 10-20% that they could offer their followers. What’s more, the promotion was time-sensitive, which made people feel a sense of urgency to take advantage of it right away. Over a 4-year period, marketing campaigns like this one resulted in an annual revenue of $220 million!!

Negotiate a contract.

Once you’ve chosen your Instagrammers and they’ve agreed to a collaboration, you’ll want to be clear about the terms of the relationship. From the start outline the type of sponsorship you’re looking for and give them an idea of the goals you have for this specific marketing campaign (see above). Once that’s established you can also draw up important details like a time line, output (aka what you expect them to produce or do), and content usage rights (meaning the duration you can use content their involved in). One source suggests a two-year contract for usage rights as standard practice.

You’ll also want to establish terms of payment up front. Paying for sponsorship is pretty common in social media marketing and research has shown that it is well worth the cost. In one study by Tomoson, surveys showed that businesses were making $6.50 for every $1 spent on Influencer marketing! Most Influencers will ask for payment, although there are some with smaller followings (but, note: not with smaller influence) who will trade product for sponsorship. Some brands will send out free product to Instagrammers with followings of less than 10,000, ask them to try their stuff, and f they love it, to include a shout out by mentioning their brand’s handle in a post. That’s super easy!

Measure impact.

Finally, you’ll want to measure whether or not your Influencer marketing campaign was effective. This can be one of the hardest things to gauge, but there are a few things to look for when determining Instagram marketing ROI. For one, you can start by observing if there is an uptick in followers just after your Influencer campaign starts. A related metric, engagement, is also useful for quantifying success. Are the number of likes, mentions, re-posts, and comments up since you started your partnership with specific Instagram Influencers? If so, then you know your campaign is working! And more than just numbers, what is the content of the comments and mentions? You can learn a lot about brand perception by taking the time to read and review the substance of comments. And finally, sales. If your revenue is up, then you know you’ve got a good thing going.

If you have multiple marketing campaigns going on at once (and likely, you will) it can be hard to isolate which are driving the numbers, but tracking metrics over time can help you determine which of your strategies has been most effective and which ones need tweaking. Just remember, when collaborating with Instagram Influencers you are usually in it for the long-haul. Relationships with both the Influencers and your followers can take time to develop and loyalty doesn’t happen over night – so be patient and eventually you’re likely to see significant positive results!