Mastering the Art of Instagram Influencer Marketing
It’s no secret that influencer marketing has become an invaluable tool within the digital space. With social media platforms gaining more and more popularity by the minute, social influencers have become one of the most powerful ways for brands to reach consumers in an authentic and meaningful way.
Over the years, consumer behavior has changed and brands have had to pivot their marketing strategies to reach their target audience. Today’s consumers are less likely to trust commercials or messaging coming directly from the brand and more likely to trust people they know or their social networks to provide guidance on products and services. What caused the shift in consumer behavior? It’s simple, consumers prefer authentic messaging over brand messaging.
With millions of users, Instagram is one of the most influential and authentic social media applications within today’s generation. Since Instagram is primarily an image-based application, it encourages Instagram influencers to create quality content to attract followers and improve the likelihood that each follower will engage within their post. It also encourages influencers to provide a brief caption or testimonial to go along with their photo, and tag other Instagram accounts within their post. This allows followers to see which products influencers are posting about, what they think about them and then click directly onto the brand’s account to get more information.
Instagram influencer marketing has become an integral part of any brand awareness strategy. However, with any new channel, there are several best practices for getting started with social media influencer outreach. Here are a few tips on how to master the art of Instagram influencer marketing and make it a scalable success for your brand.
Finding the Best Influencers for Your Brand
Getting in touch with Instagram influencers is easier than you may think. Most influencers are open to potential partnerships with new brands and becoming a brand ambassador. However, finding the best influencer for your brand is more challenging and nothing is potentially more harmful than picking an influencer that doesn’t fit your brand.
Within any Instagram influencer marketing strategy, it’s crucial that you have a clear understanding of the brand’s target audience to identify which influencers are the best brand ambassadors for your campaign. You want to make sure that the influencer you partner with shares a similar target audience as your brand. Prior to reaching out to influencers, whether it may be via direct message (DM) or through email outreach, you must first evaluate their social media account. As a best practice for influencer marketing, try measuring the three “R’s” before identifying if an influencer is a good fit for your client’s brand. Relevance, reach and resonance are key elements to evaluate while researching influencers.
The first aspect you should evaluate within an influencer’s Instagram account is their relevance to your client’s brand. Does this influencer fall within your brand’s niche? For example, if my client was in the health and wellness space, I would target influencers who post about health and fitness space rather than those who post about fashion. It seems straightforward, but you would be surprised at the number of brands that blindly reach out to influencers without going through their images beforehand. Not only does this waste your time, but it wastes the influencer’s time and the opportunity to work with them in the future could be potentially ruined.
Not only do you want to ensure that the influencer is relevant to your client, but you also want to ensure that your client’s products are relevant to the influencer. To evaluate relevancy, check out a few of the brands they have worked with and the products they have promoted. This improves the likelihood that the influencer will be open to creating a partnership and sharing your brand with their followers.
It’s also important to identify any shipping restrictions or limitations that your client may have prior to reaching out to an influencer. Does the influencer live in an area that your brand can ship product to? You wouldn’t want to contact an influencer that lives in Canada, if your client is only able to ship in the U.S. This often requires more digging into the influencer’s social media account because very few of them mention their location within their bio description.
The second aspect of an influencer’s profile you should evaluate is their reach. Aside from the number of followers the influencer has, it’s important to measure their follower-to-like ratio. It may sound cliché, but it will give you an accurate measurement of how many people are engaging within each of their posts.
This also allows you to identify which influencers have real, authentic followers verses the influencers that paid for their followers. With the tools that influencers have access to nowadays, to increase their social following, it’s crucial that you make sure the influencer is sparking authentic engagement within its audience.
Another aspect to consider is, whether or not the influencer has an active presence on other social media channels in addition to Instagram? If they are active on other social media networks, their reach is far more expansive and they are more likely to share your client’s brand several of their channels instead of solely Instagram.
The third aspect I would evaluate is whether or not the content that influencer is posting is resonating with his or her audience. Are their followers consistently engaging on each of their posts by liking their photos, commenting, tagging other accounts and sharing it with their friends? Is the influencer returning the favor and engaging with their audience?
Engagement between both parties is an indicator that the content the influencer is creating is resonating with its audience. Our public relations department has found that micro influencers tend to resonate better with their audience than top-tier influencers. In other words, influencers that appear more relatable than the influencers that are celebrity status. Followers are more likely to identify with influencers who are just like them, than celebrities who they consider above them.
Doing your research prior to conducting outreach will benefit you, the influencer and your client. After you’ve selected the influencers that are best suited for your client’s brand, you can begin conducting your social media outreach and working with Instagrammers.
Treat Influencers like Individuals, Not Commodities
Whether you prefer to direct message the influencer you want to partner with or reach out to them via email, you should begin your email by mentioning one of their recent posts or complementing their account’s aesthetic. Although most marketers believe it’s best to treat influencers as a commodity, our department has found that it’s best to treat them as real people.
Remind yourself that regardless of the influencer’s status or the size of their following, they’re individuals who put a lot of time and effort into the content they create. By acknowledging their efforts and recognizing their work, you’re showing them that you are passionate about their content and familiar with their account.
Create a Mutually Beneficial Relationship
When presenting an opportunity to an Instagram influencer, it’s important that you create a partnership that will be mutually beneficial for both parties. Influencers aren’t going to work for free, so you need to present them with a reasonable offer that appeals to them and their brand. Typically, brands scale the offer based on the size of the influencer’s account and how much engagement their content creates with their followers.
A successfully strategy our PR department has found to make the partnership mutually beneficial is to offer to create a custom coupon code for the influencer, in addition to offering free product. This benefits the influencer by offering their followers an exclusive code, which has proven to increase engagement within their post. Another option is to create an affiliate program with the influencer you’re partnering with, giving them a percentage of every sale they secure. This also encourages the influencer to share the code with their followers and reinforce the brand.
Regardless of your offer, the influencer will most likely respond to your email asking what the brand’s budget is or attach their media kit that includes their rates. This is expected, because as I mentioned before, we don’t expect them to work for free. It’s important to cater to their needs but it’s also important to negotiate your client’s terms and conditions.
Whether the negotiation entails sending more product, creating a long-term brand ambassadorship, partnering on a giveaway, or paying a one-time sponsored fee, this negotiation process will occur on a case-by-case basis and each influencer will have their own terms. Influencer marketing is a negotiation process, but it’s essential that you provide value to both parties and create a fair partnership.
Provide Enough Creative Freedom
The goal of influencer marketing is to create brand awareness and share your brand’s message in an authentic way, however, all too often, brands try to control the influencer’s content. Controlling every aspect of the influencer’s content will only hurt your client’s brand. It will most likely make the influencer angry and it will also make your messaging less credible. Instagram users notice which content is authentic and which content is not, and as I mentioned previously, messaging coming directly from the brand is less likely to resonate with consumers.
There’s a fine line between sharing your client’s vision, by describing the brand’s aesthetic and outlining 2-3 bullet points of the brand’s messaging, and telling the influencer how to create their content. You need to provide enough creative freedom and allow the influencer to create their own content that fits their brand, while leading them in the right direction.
Outline Terms of the Partnership
To achieve your campaign’s marketing goals, you should outline a few guidelines or terms of the partnership. As a best practice for influencer marketing, you should request that the influencer includes a unique hashtag and at least one key message, which your team will provide them, and tag the client’s Instagram account within their photo and caption.
Also, another crucial guideline you need to require upon partnership, per Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations on influencer marketing, is for the influencer to include #ad or #sponsored as their first hashtag. This shows followers that this content was created in partnership with a brand and that the influencer received some sort of compensation in exchange for the post. The rest of the influencer’s content should be up to their discretion and you should allow them to create their own authentic vision for the brand.
Engage with Influencer Posts & Repurpose their Images
Influencers love engagement, plain and simple. The more people that engage with their brand, the more popular they get. After the influencer shares your brand with their followers, it’s important that you, or whoever is running the brand’s social media platforms, shows appreciation and engages with the influencer’s post. Aside, from liking and commenting on the photo, you should also share their photo across the brand’s social media networks.
By working with instagrammers, you’re killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. Not only are Instagram influencers sharing your client’s brand with their followers and generating brand awareness, but they’re creating unique, high-quality images that should be repurposed and used within the brand’s marketing strategy. The average company spends thousands of dollars on brand imagery and through an influencer marketing campaign, the influencers are creating that content for you!
It’s a win, win. Whether you choose to repurpose those images on the brand’s website, through social advertisements or on the brand’s social media networks, you should find a way to incorporate those images into your brand’s campaign strategy. All you need is the influencer to give you copyrights to the images, which can be negotiated in the terms of the contract.
Instagram influencer marketing isn’t a strategy that works right away. Each brand will have a different offering and each influencer will have different rates, so you will have to adjust your strategy on a case-by-case basis. Even as Instagram itself continues to evolve, your marketing strategy surrounding the platform will have to evolve as well. However, if you follow a few of these guidelines, you will quickly learn how to master the art of Instagram influencer marketing and make your campaign a scalable success for your client’s brand.