Have you ever seen a gorgeous dress worn by a celebrity or artist in an Instagram post and you instantly get drawn to it? You see if they’ve tagged the brand, and you go check out their website to spot the dress—maybe, even buy it.
Such is the popularity and effectiveness of influencer marketing, and it’s no wonder that businesses—big and small—are using this strategy to increase brand awareness, reach, and sales.
The success stories of influencer marketing are also many. Take H&M, for instance, which reached a whopping 12 million people through just four sponsored posts. Or Pura Vida, which saw a 300% increase in sales after partnering with micro-influencers.
Those are massive numbers, and whether your goal is to drive awareness, engagement, or sales—influencer marketing can be the answer for you.
And with over 1 billion active users and its reputation as a visual platform that boasts quality content, Instagram is a great place to begin your influencer marketing journey.
If you don’t know how to get started with influencer marketing on Instagram, fear not. This guide will take you through everything—from what your strategy should be to generate quality results to how you can find the right influencers for your brand.
Instagram influencers are users, bloggers, or content creators with an established and engaged audience who look up to them and trust their opinions on products and services.
Put simply, an influencer is someone who has “influence” over their audience—their recommendations hold weight for their followers and can affect their purchase decisions. In fact, 49% of consumers depend on influencers’ recommendations to swipe their cards.
Influencer marketing allows you to leverage an influencer’s relationship and reputation to advance your marketing efforts and see better results. Influencers receive a payout or other forms of compensation for endorsing a brand’s product. Brands get benefits like reaching a vast audience and getting their products recommended by a trusted source.
Let’s further understand influencer marketing’s definition and why it’s huge right now.
Influencer marketing is a strategy where you partner with social media (in our case, Instagram) bloggers or content creators to promote your products and services or enhance your brand awareness.
You’ve heard of the power of word-of-mouth marketing and social proof. Influencer marketing is the same; only it’s applied to a much larger scale as you can reach thousands, if not millions, of people through an influencer.
Don’t take our word for it—consider these highlights from Influencer Marketing Hub’s latest report:
A Facebook Business survey also revealed that more than 80% of people use Instagram to discover and research products/services and decide whether to buy them.
These statistics combined make a strong case for influencer marketing and using Instagram for it. If you’re still not convinced, here’s a look at its benefits, so you know if it’s the right strategy for you.
Influencers are people, not brands, and their followers are likely to trust and be guided by their recommendations.
Besides promotional content, influencers also share many other aspects of their life with their followers, which helps build a genuine relationship and contributes to the trust factor.
And a platform like Instagram, which is more casual and authentic, takes the benefits of influencer marketing a step further.
Trust and authenticity form the crux of why influencer marketing is effective.
But how does this help you? Here are some significant benefits of Instagram influencer marketing:
An influencer has established credibility in a specific industry and is considered a trusted source, an authority, on topics in and around it. Influencer marketing allows you to leverage this reputation they’ve built.
Any recommendation coming from an influencer will carry a lot of weight for their audience, and partnering with them can help you position your brand as an authority and build trust and credibility within their community.
One of the biggest attractions of influencer marketing is the immense reach it can bring—working with influencers allows you to tap into their audience and place your brand in front of people who might already be interested in your niche.
Learning about your brand from someone they trust can make people warmer and more receptive to it, translating into more engagement and sales for you.
Coming up with fresh and unique post ideas is not an easy task. Enter influencers—people who know the ins and outs of creating eye-catching, high-quality, and engaging content.
Or, you can co-create posts or ask them and repost the content they post about your brand on your feed or product pages.
Besides saving you the time to create original content, this can also act as social proof and help you build credibility.
Now that you know why and how Instagram influencer marketing works let’s see how you can get started with it and benefit your business.
Creating and running an influencer campaign requires preparing a solid strategy, which we’ll cover in more detail later.
But here’s what you should do to get started on the right foot:
Spend some time on Instagram, research influencers, and understand the landscape.
You should also look up your competitors, see if they work with influencers, and if yes, what size influencers they partner with, what content they post, which campaigns they run, and their goals behind it.
This will give you a decent understanding of the influencer industry and how you want to run your campaign.
Before finding and reaching out to influencers, you need to understand the “why” behind your campaign so you know how to plan and execute it and the metrics to assess its performance.
Your goal(s) can be to build brand awareness, strengthen brand image, reach new audiences, boost social engagement, increase sales, and promote a new product launch.
For example, these are H&M’s goals from the previously-mentioned campaign:
Being clear about your goal from the get-go will also help you understand which influencers to reach out to. For instance, if your goal is to increase brand awareness, you might want to partner with an influencer with a large following (like H&M did), so you can reach more people.
Next, start looking for influencers for your campaign. Remember not to get swayed by the number of followers an influencer has—the key is to find individuals who match your niche and target audience.
You can also look for influencers on platforms like Grin, Influence, and Upfluence, influencer agencies like Izea or, search “top [your industry] influencers” on Google and find suitable names from the listicles that show up.
Partnering with the wrong influencer can lead to a loss of money for your brand, or worse, damage your image. So, it’s important to qualify the influencers you shortlist before you go ahead and join hands with them.
Follower count may seem like a good way to judge an influencer, but unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for influencers to buy and inflate followers. This is why engagement rate becomes a better and more effective metric to evaluate an influencer.
Scroll through your shortlisted influencers’ profiles, check their content, whether their followers engage with their posts, and the “quality” of engagement—whether they leave substantial or just spam-like comments (like emojis or generic phrases).
A low engagement to follower ratio can signify a fraud account. Even if it’s not, an influencer whose audience doesn’t pay attention to or engage with their content might not be a good fit for your campaign.
When it comes to social media influencer marketing, it’s only when someone has a relevant audience interested in what you offer that they become an influencer for your brand and can meet your needs.
The key is to partner with someone who’s built a reputation on Instagram around a specific niche that suits your campaign.
So, once you’ve found and vetted influencers, here’s how to check if they’re the right representatives for your brand:
For this, you need to understand factors like where the influencer’s followers are located, their gender, age, and income. You can even ask the influencer for a screenshot of their analytics or information on their audience demographic, so you know you’re making the right choice.
Remember: It’s better to work with an influencer with a smaller audience that closely matches your ideal customers than with someone with a larger audience that’s not related to your target persona.
It’s important to partner with influencers whose values and goals align with your business’s, or else you’ll risk hurting your brand image.
Even an influencer wouldn’t want to recommend or post anything that doesn’t go with their personal brand or resonate with their audience—so finding the right fit for your influencer campaign is crucial for both parties.
Once you find some influencers, ask yourself these questions:
The better the influencer fits your brand, the more authentic and genuine the endorsement will feel from an audience’s perspective.
Finally, explore your influencers’ content to understand their voice, style, and personality and if it matches your brand values.
You can look at their posts, captions, how their followers engage with them, and how they respond to their followers to understand if they’re someone you’d want to work with.
Analyze their engagement rates to see if they have a pull with their target audience and in their niche. You can also see who they’ve partnered with in the past, what content they created for those brands and the results they saw.
No matter the industry, there’s no dearth of influencers on Instagram you can approach to promote your brand. But what will make your campaign successful is finding the right influencer for your brand, which will help you build a mutually-beneficial relationship.
Influencers are generally categorized based on their follower sizes. Although everyone gives slightly different definitions of each type, it’s important to discuss and understand this classification to know which influencers will work best for your Instagram influencer program.
There are typically five tiers of social media influencers:
Nano-influencers typically have less than 10,000 followers and resemble everyday people, making them highly relatable to their audience.
Despite their comparatively low following, these influencers have high engagement rates because they’ve built trust with their audience, and their content is more authentic and transparent.
Solid engagement coupled with lower compensation rates (influencers generally charge higher as their followers increase) makes nano-influencers a great choice for campaigns, especially if you’re on a budget or want to target a very specific niche or market.
Micro-influencers on Instagram have between 10,000 to 50,000 followers and generally have a small but highly-engaged audience.
Like nano-influencers, they also have a niche and focused audience, making it easier for brands to identify which influencers to approach. They, too, have strong relationships built around trust with their followers, which can help drive better return on investment (ROI).
Mid-tier influencers have a follower count between 50,000 to 500,000 on Instagram and a mix of a targeted and wide audience.
They’re more famous and established than nano and micro-influencers, yet at this size, they can still maintain a two-way relationship with their audience and foster deep engagement.
Although the Instagram influencer pricing increases at this level, mid-tier influencers are still more affordable and approachable than other top ones.
Having 500,000 to 1 million followers, macro-influencers have solid experience working in the industry and with brands and offer immense reach.
However, this reach might not always translate into more engagement and sales for your brands. As influencers grow, they tend to lose a one-on-one connection with their followers, and their audience becomes more widespread than niche-focused.
That said, macro-influencers can be a great choice for your brand if you have the budget.
The biggest Instagram influencers, mega influencers are celebrities and social media personalities with a large and wide audience.
Partnering with them can help you establish credibility and bring massive reach and conversions for your brand since their recommendations carry a lot of power for their fans and followers.
But as you can tell, mega-influencer marketing comes with a huge price tag—they generally charge upwards of $10,000/post.
Finding and partnering with relevant influencers can be challenging, but it’s crucial to invest time and effort to make the right choice for your brand and earn positive ROI.
Follow these steps to find the right partners for your brand’s Instagram influencer campaign:
It goes without saying, but the first important step is defining your goals so you know which influencer(s) to approach and how to structure your campaign.
Next, set your budget for the campaign—this will help you assess its success and determine what type of influencers you can work with.
Base your budget around the number and type of posts you want the influencer to create and the type and length of the partnership. Research says $1,000-10,000/year is the most common influencer budget, but you can start with a smaller budget for your first campaign and move your way up from there.
And while you should give your influencers creative freedom when it comes to curating and posting content—ensure you convey your brand and campaign message to them through a brand guideline document, so they don’t end up posting anything unrelated.
Before you move further, take the time to understand and identify who your influencer campaign is directed towards.
You might want to reach more of your current audience, a specific segment of your target audience, or an entirely different audience through your influencer campaign.
Whatever the case, make sure to outline your target persona so you can choose the right influencer for your campaigns. This will also help you clearly communicate your expectations and the messaging, driving better results.
To reach influencers who have the right audience for your campaign, you need to understand what niche the product/service you want to promote fits into.
Influencers also want to work with brands or on campaigns that suit the niche they’ve built their audience around—to maintain authenticity.
If your campaign has a very specific sub-niche, consider partnering with micro or nano-influencers. On the other hand, you can reach out to other types of influencers if your campaign falls into a broader niche, like fashion or fitness.
Now, start looking for influencers who can help you reach your campaign’s goals and target audience.
There are many different influencers in every industry, and you might be spoilt for choice. However, your goal should be to approach those who create unique and authentic content and have a strong, noticeable voice in the industry.
That doesn’t necessarily mean going for macro-influencers—find someone relevant to your niche and whose followers trust and engage with them. Also, ensure you vet your influencers, as we discussed above.
When you have a list of influencers ready, narrow it down to find the best fit for your brand.
For this, you need to understand how the influencer presents themselves, what topics they discuss, their core values, the relationship they share with their audience, and the voice they have with their content—whether it’s serious, professional, funny, or friendly.
If your brand, too, has some core values, you’ll want to reach out to influencers who stand for or support the same.
For instance, if you’re a makeup brand centered around sustainability, partnering with influencers who promote similar products or engaging in conversations around cruelty-free and zero-waste products can benefit you.
Bottom line: Find influencers who’ll promote your brand with conviction and whose values align with yours, so the endorsement feels authentic.
Next, connect with your influencers and propose a partnership with them.
Your outreach will typically depend on the type of influencer you’re outreaching. For instance, you’ll have to go through agents or managers to strike a deal with macro-influencers. On the other hand, you can reach out to micro or nano-influencers directly—via Instagram direct message or, preferably, email.
Whichever way you go, keep your first contact with your influencer short, crisp, and personalized.
Start your message by introducing yourself and giving your elevator pitch. Establish a connection by telling the influencer you’ve seen their work and what you liked about it. Then, explain why you’re reaching out and end with a call-to-action to encourage them to reply.
Here’s a sample outreach template for your inspiration:
Don’t mention all the details of your campaign here. The purpose is to gauge their interest and availability—you can iron out the logistics down the line.
Once you find an influencer who’s interested in working with you, it’s time to discuss the terms of your partnership and finalize a deal with them.
Emphasis on “partnership”—because, while you may feel tempted to control your influencer’s every last action for the campaign, the most successful campaigns are those where the two parties collaborate. Remember, you know your product best, but they know their audience best.
When deciding on a collaboration structure, some factors you’ll want to discuss and negotiate are your campaign goals, timeframe, the content you want, usage rights, and payment terms.
While you should give your influencers freedom in creating content, you can also send them a brief to give an idea of the type of content you’re aiming for. It is also a great idea to send them a mood board to show the aesthetic and kind of posts you like.
Your deliverables, deadline and budget will ultimately depend on the type of partnership you have with the influencer. Some common types of influencer campaigns include:
The most common type of influencer collaborations, sponsored posts, involve influencers creating and posting content on their Instagram account to promote your brand.
This type of partnership is typically short-term—you give the influencers dates by which the content should go live and pay them a certain amount for a specific number of posts.
You can also give them specific content guidelines, so they understand what aesthetic, message, and tone you’re looking for. Clarify whether you want them to make an Instagram feed post or put up a Story—this, again, will depend on your campaign goal and budget.
Also, make sure they tag the posts as sponsored to meet legal disclosure requirements, as shown below.
You can take influencer collaborations to the next level by making an influencer or a loyal fan—your brand’s “face” or ambassador.
A brand ambassador campaign is a long-term commitment and can last for months or years. However, it doesn’t involve the influencer promoting your brand daily, but rather, regularly.
Ideally, you should go for a brand ambassador relationship with a trusted influencer with whom you’ve successfully collaborated in the past and whose values and content align with your brand.
Again, set clear expectations and guidelines so the partnership runs smoothly.
Approaching influencers is a great idea to promote your current products and get more sales, but what if you invite them to collaborate with your brand and create something of their own?
This can be a win-win opportunity for both parties. Creating and launching a new product line can give influencers a great understanding of the industry and add to their experience.
Meanwhile, you get to tap into their expertise, create a stellar product line, and leverage their audience when it goes live.
Influencers might even feel more passionate about promoting products they helped create.
Nike knew this even back in 1984—they collaborated with Michael Jordan and created a unique line of sneakers, the Air Jordans. Besides earning them millions within the first year, this product line helped make Nike one of the world’s biggest sports brands.
It might take some time to take off and require trial and error, but Instagram influencer marketing is a powerful strategy to promote your brand, connect with your target users and drive stunning results.
This guide covered all the basics you need to know to get started with this marketing strategy. So, don’t think too much and start building your influencer strategy to reap its glowing benefits and take your business to the next level.
Finally, remember this motto when finding influencers for your brand: more (followers) isn’t always merrier (for your business).