If you're a brand or an agency (or have a side-hustle you hope to turn into a brand one day), you've probably done some research on Instagram Influencers. If you're what's considered an Instagram Influencer, you've probably been approached by a brand or an agency seeking your assistance in selling their goods or services. But, as a guy who falls in the category of agency and side-hustle brand manager, I've gone through the pains of contacting, negotiating and paying for influencers which is exactly why I wrote a blog post titled, Read This Before Hiring an Instagram Influencer.
Regardless of the specific approach your marketing strategy takes, you should always consider what your desired endstate is going to be. It is no different with influencers. In fact, it may be even more imperative with influencers to agree upon goals once you've selected your influencer(s). Once your campaign is off and running, it's okay to adjust based on performance and Return On Investment (ROI). At the conclusion of your campaign, it's beneficial for everyone to be open and honest with feedback and apply those lessons learned to future campaigns with the same influencers or new ones. I've outlined my Instagram specific approach below and refer to my own examples where appropriate.
Do Your Homework. It would be tempting to go straight to one of the Kardashians and beg for product placement for your first influencer campaign. It would also be foolish considering the rates the macro influencers can charge as well as the fact that it would have been a waste of time given the product line (golf apparel) I was researching for. In my case there is little to no budget for a macro influencer and with such a niche product, I knew I needed to find golfers with a sense of humor and an active following of the same. For those reasons, I focused my search on, 'micro' influencers. What's the difference?
Micro influencers typically have fewer than 100,000 followers and based on their content, tend to focus their posts on two to three specific categories or as few as one. You can expect to pay about $180 per post and you should have a little more control over the placement, caption, hashtags and use of the image after the campaign.
Macro influencers typically are managed by an agency and are household names. Their follower counts reflect the national or global reach they've acheived through television, magazines, movies or other large scale broadcast mediums. You can expect to pay thousands of dollars and outside of the creative brief you co-author with the influencers agency representation, you're not going to have as much say so on the actual posts or content after the campaign. Some influencers actually will delete your posts after a specific time frame such as one week.
If all of this research seems overwhelming, remember with social media all of the resources at your disposal - especially keyword and hashtag search. In my case, there really aren't more than 20 specific hashtags that are even relevant so I had a list of about 200 Instagramers in short order. Add to that, the relative lack of brands selling the same type of adult humor golf attire and I felt like I had a real shot of building long term relationships with a dozen or so Instagram models.
Boy was I wrong.
After two weeks of getting no reply or incoherent replies from my contact list, I realized I needed to add some horsepower to my search. I tried many different online matchmaking services, again with an emphasis on low cost, to aide my search. I won't go into which service was easier to use or offered the most assistance because in the end, none of them provided me what I needed: Instagram Influencers.
Influence.co - free to use to search by category, location and follower count.
BuzzSumo - paid (after free trial) to search by category. The resulting lists then breaks down followers, engagement and more.
InsightPool - paid and offers insights (no pun intended) into influencers across many platforms.
HYPR - paid platform that offers multiple views into an influencers audience.
Upfluence - paid platform that offers search, sort / list management, and contact with selected influencers.
Ultimately, it was email introductions, brief product descriptions and persistence that got me into a conversation with six different influencers. Over the course of about two months, I sent 100 introductory emails and got less than fifteen responses. Out of those fifteen, I decided to continue conversations with six and ultimately hired four.
Set SMART Goals. We're big fans of SMART Goals here at Verge Pipe Media and I applied that same approach with my golf apparel side-hustle when I decided to test and learn with Instagram Influencers. For those of you new to our blog, "SMART" means:
- Time Limited
In my case, I believed based on my research that I could expect to grow my Instagram account followers by 10% with each of three (3) posts featuring an apparel item on the model, while they use a unique caption and several hashtags relevant to our audience (male golfers between the age of 21 and 45). The life of the campaign was set at one (1) month so that we didn't have a model posting back to back to back in too short of a time period. It's important when using influencers that you give them specific guidance, but they have to have final creative control in order to maintain the authenticity they've built up over time with their following.
Manage Your Campaign. Not the Instagram Influencer(s). Once the first post went up I was checking our website analytics, shop and Instagram page seemingly by the minute. I quickly realized I was being a little overzealous as our follower count, website hits or shop sales wasn't moving. This continued with subsequent posts from the same influencer until her three posts had run their course. What did happen was a lot of great feedback in the form of her followers commenting on the images. I got a quick sense of what they liked and didn't like about our designs by browsing their comments.
The second influencer signed for her package of apparel, sent a confirmation and then....disappeared. She hasn't responded to an email or other messages and the number of posts she's shared for herself or others has dwindled to less than one post per month.
By the time the third influencer was set to go to work, I had adjusted my initial SMART goals (downward) and drafted what I thought were reasonable expectations for the image placement, captions and hashtags. Apparently, I upset her as she only ran two of the three expected posts and has now partnered with several other influencers and announced plans to launch their own golf apparel line in the summer of 2018.
With influencer number four, I actually partnered with a ladies non-profit golf organization in San Diego. It was the unlikeliest of choices and the lowest follower count and engagement rates of anyone on my list. After the experience with influencers 1, 2 and 3, it wouldn't be an overstatement to say SMART Goals had all but gone out the window and I was ready to shift all my focus to other marketing efforts. However, these ladies delivered not only on their organization and individual accounts, they delivered sales! To this date we maintain active email correspondence and like and comment on each other's posts. They always tag us in their gear and we've just shipped out a new line for them to add to their rotation.
Test and Learn. Never Stop Assessing. I'm now six months into a low budget marketing spend for my side-hustle. While I did not have the results I wanted from my influencer outreach and campaigns, I do see the value in brands and agencies alike utilizing micro influencers who fit their product and service offerings and offer additional reach into the news feeds of targeted consumers.
Like anything in marketing, you have to focus on the basics and the long term. With influencers specifically, it's important to understand many of these individuals aren't business savvy and won't necessarily share your same enthusiasm if they're using your products and services as a result of your paid relationship. With each sale, we're one step closer to developing brand ambassadors and influencers who were introduced to our product through their own purchase, and have decided to share the good news on their own.
If you're considering an influencer campaign yourself, I hope you find, Read This Before Hiring an Instagram Influencer a valuable piece of your own research. If you need more ways to generate leads for your business, especially with social media and inbound marketing, I hope you'll tap the button below to download our FREE guide on using social media to find new leads.