How to Use Instagram Influencers

How to find and work with influencers to market your brand.

If you’re a social media marketer (or even if you’re not!), you’ve probably heard the term “influencer” once or twice. And since Instagram has millions of daily active users that are discovering new brands and making purchases, knowing how to work with Instagram influencers is an important skill. If you’re not sure where to start or how to make influencer marketing work for your brand, we’ve got some ideas for you.

What Is an Influencer?

Whether it’s fashion, technology, or food, an influencer is someone with the ability to influence their loyal followers because of their expertise and the valuable information they share. They typically have large followings in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of followers between various social media platforms and/or subscribers to their blog. Brands are also starting to work with “micro-influencers,” who have just a couple thousand followers.

Why Should I Be Using Influencers?

Unlike a celebrity, an influencer is often seen more like a friend, and their recommendations come across more genuine and less spammy. This is a key part of what makes influencer marketing so useful for brands; influencers have an inherent trust with their audience that large, faceless companies have to earn. Some of the ways the influencers can impact the behavior of their audience include:

  • Reach: the ability to deliver content to a target audience that you might not be reaching on your own
  • Relevance: the strength of connection to a brand or topic which makes their audience trust what they have to say about it
  • Resonance: the ability to drive a desired behavior from an audience

What’s the Difference Between User-Generated Content and Influencer Marketing?

In addition to all the different categories and levels of influencers, there’s also something called user-generated content (UGC). While UGC can be helpful for a brand to gain awareness and loyalty, it’s not the same as working with influencers.

User-generated content is made by customers and fans of your brand. This is also known as earned media, because it’s the type of media or exposure your brand has earned by doing something positive or negative. User-generated content is also not paid for by the brand. Some people may get UGC and influencer marketing confused, so I just wanted to give a brief explanation about the differences between the two before continuing to talk about influencers. (Maybe in the future we’ll write some more about UGC 😉).

What Are the different kinds of influencers?

Just like there are different industries that influencers belong to, there are also different categories. Depending on what your brand is looking for, and how much (if anything) you’re willing to pay, you should consider which kind of influencer would be best for you and your brand. Here are the different kinds of influencers.

Celebrity Influencers

When you think of celebrity influencers, you might think of people like Kylie Jenner. Celebrity influencers are often very expensive to work with, so if you’re a small brand, this probably isn’t the best fit for you. These celebrities aren’t interested in just any old product or service, they want something that they can really support and get behind. Here’s an example of a celebrity influencer:

Hilary Duff influencer post

Not only does Hilary Duff support Cub Coats and rescuing dogs, but she was able to show her support for an animal rescue that she actually adopted dogs from in this partnership! So, if you’re a big business that can afford the cost of a celebrity influencer, do your research and find someone who can be genuine with what they have to say about your brand.

Industry Influencers

An industry influencer is someone who’s not necessarily a celebrity, but they are a celebrity in a specific industry. These individuals are highly influential when it comes to the audience within their specific niche.

screenshot of Lauren Conrad's Instagram account - fashion industry influencer with 6.1M followers

When it comes to working with industry influencers, you want to be able to offer them something that will help their build up their influence. For example, if you’re a fashion company, giving your industry influencer a designer item to wear, or inviting them to an exclusive event can give them more clout within the fashion industry and with their followers. So if you’re going after an industry influencer, make sure you’re working with someone who’s in your industry, and someone that you can really help gain more weight.

For example, if you’re a fashion company, giving your industry influencer a designer item to wear, or inviting them to an exclusive event can give them more clout within the fashion industry and with their followers. So if you’re going after an industry influencer, make sure you’re working with someone who’s in your industry, and someone that you can really help gain more weight.

Media Influencers

A media influencer is someone who works in a field like journalism or public relations. These are people who want insider information, exclusive content, and stories with real value. Media influencers aren’t interested in a story or information that’s already been reported on or is just used for clicks.

Screenshot of Journalist Jason Pohl's twitter account - media influencer example

If you want to work with a media influencer, be sure that you have something of value, and something exclusive for them to use. For example, if you’re a marketing company with new research on Facebook ads, try talking to a journalist about writing a piece rather than just creating a blog post on your website.

Content Creators

A content creator is someone who does more work behind the scenes. They make striking content, often in video format, that people really want to watch. Content creators are similar to media influencers in that they’re looking to provide their audience with something of value, but they also want to work with someone who can increase their visibility. One example is YouTuber, Julien Solomita.

screenshot of Julien solomita's Instagram- Content creator example

Julien makes video blogs on his YouTube channel, and with over 1 million subscribers, it’s no wonder why Sony reached out to him. Julien showcased the Sony RX0ii camera on his YouTube channel and his Instagram account. He was able to provide value to his audience not just by talking about the camera’s features, but also by filming video and producing content that his audience already consumed and enjoyed. If your product helps with content creation, reach out to a creator and show them how you can give them something that’s valuable and will help them gain visibility.

Micro Influencers

A micro influencer is an everyday person with a larger than normal following, but one that is still considered smaller than most. The size of a micro-influencer’s audience can range anywhere from 1,000 to 20,000 followers. Micro influencers are very passionate about certain topics, and they talk about them very candidly with their followers. One of the big industries for micro influencers is fitness. Here’s an example:

how to use instagram influencers: screenshot of blissed happiness instrgram account - fitness-based account with approx. 20k followers - micro influencer

BlissedHappiness, AKA Karina Blackwood, is a fitness influencer who talks about yoga, wellness, and health in her posts. Because she’s so authentic in both her photos and her captions, it’s easy for her followers to get behind what she’s saying. Micro influencers are perfect for smaller and medium-sized brands who have a product or service that aligns with their values, and may also work well if your budget for influencer marketing is smaller.

If your brand can give a micro-influencer something that they’re already passionate about, then it’ll be easy for them to make genuine and exciting content, and they typically charge less for posts than influencers with larger follower counts.

Local Influencers

A local influencer can cross several different categories, but are typically tightly geographically focused in their posts and audience.

Cori Henderson's instagram feed - girl with umbrella running through sprinkler - how to use instagram influencers

They might be a photographer, food blogger, or local band. Local influencers are perfect for small or locally focused brands to utilize. If you make jewelry, ask the photographer to take some pictures of your products for social media, and tag them in the photos and captions to show your appreciation and give them visibility. If you’re a food brand, send the food blogger some of your products to try, or offer to cater your local band’s performance. Partnering with a local influencer is a great way to create a campaign that can increase local visibility for both of you.

How Can My Brand Work With an influencer?

Depending on what your brand does and what you’re hoping to see from Instagram, there are a variety of ways that you can partner with an influencer. Here are some options for partnering with an Instagram influencer:

  • Give the influencer content of yours to share on their profile
  • Repost content that the influencer created and shared on their profile
  • Create sponsored posts that feature the influencer
  • Run a contest or competition with the influencer, like a giveaway based on comment entries
  • Hold events face-to-face with the influencer, like a video or photo series
  • Try a channel takeover and let the influencer run your Instagram account for the day
  • Live stream events on your Instagram stories with the influencer
  • Take a road trip with the influencer and share photos, videos, and stories from the travel
  • Let the influencer do guest posts on your Instagram account

These ideas are a great place to start, but if you’ve got a creative idea of working with an influencer that you haven’t seen before, try it out! You never know, you may be able to develop a truly unique way of using influencers.

How Do Influencers Get Paid?

The payment for an Instagram influencer will depend on a few things. If the influencer you want to work with is a well known celebrity, you have to be ready to pay what it costs (which will probably be a lot). However, if you’re a smaller brand working with a content creator, micro influencer, or local influencer, you have more options for paying them. Here are some of the ways that influencers are compensated for their work:

  • Commission: they get a part of the profits you make from the product they’re helping you advertise
  • Upfront fee: this is usually for top-tier influencers, and this means that they have a set cost for a certain amount of content, no matter the product or service
  • Gift cards: you give the influencer gift cards for your products or services in exchange for posting about them on Instagram
  • Per click: this is usually done with YouTube influencers, but it could also be done with influencers who have the ability to add products to their Instagram posts and stories
  • Cost per engagement: this means that you pay the influencer based on the amount of engagement their partnered post gets
  • Free products: generally, in all instances, if you want influencers to talk about your products you need to send them to the influencer for free. This typically applies in addition to a cash payment when working with larger influencers.
  • Invitations to events: you can also pay influencers by inviting them to exclusive events

Tips on working with influencers

Once you’ve decided to utilize an influencer, there are some tips that can help make your partnership go smoothly. From just starting out your relationship to deciding on what kind of content you’ll create, here are some things you should do.

Build a Relationship

If you want your offer for a partnership to come from a place of sincerity and trust, you should build a relationship with the influencer before you send them an offer. This might seem difficult, especially if your influencer is a celebrity or lives far away from you, but it’s actually pretty simple. To start building a relationship, all you need to do is…

  • Follow them on social media
  • Engage with them, whether it’s comments, likes, or sharing their content
  • Show them you appreciate them; leave comments or send them direct messages thanking them for sharing their content and how you found it helpful

Make Sure Your Partnership Is Mutually Beneficial

No influencer is going to want to partner with you if they’re not getting anything out of it. This doesn’t necessarily mean a paycheck, but they should find some kind of value in sharing your products or services with their audience. So when you create a campaign with an influencer, you could…

  • Tag them in any content that your reshare or post to your account, giving them credit for the content
  • Interview them and include their commentary from the interview in your captions or stories
  • Host an AMA (ask me anything) on your stories or in a video with the influencer
  • Ask them for their expert advice and include it in a video post, story, or captions
  • Get a testimonial from the influencer and include it in your captions and on photos of your product

Show Them You Trust Them

One of the biggest things to remember when partnering with an influencer is that it’s not about you. Influencer marketing is about the influencer! If you didn’t think they were doing something right with their Instagram presence, then why would you reach out to them any way?

I know it can be hard to relinquish creative control sometimes, especially if you’ve spent a lot of time curating your brand’s voice, but trying to force another voice on someone will take away the authenticity that draws in their followers in the first place. So while building your campaign, just be open with them about your branding, but let them have creative license and know that they’re going to create something that their audience likes.

Need Help With Instagram Influencers?

If you want to amp up your brand presence on Instagram, influencers are a great way to make that happen. Whether you need research on influencers for your industry, someone to brainstorm an influencer campaign, or need someone to bridge the gap between your business and a certain influencer, we’ve got your back. So go ahead and give us a shout, we’re ready and waiting to help.

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