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It’s Your Time To Shine: How To Find And Work With Instagram Influencers In 2021


Instagram influencer marketing can seem pretty intimidating.

To pull off a successful campaign, you’ll need to work with the right Instagram influencers. You may be asking yourself, How do I find influencers? How much is it going to cost? Will I actually make any sales doing this?

Fortunately, whether you’re a big brand or a small one, Instagram influencer marketing can work for you. This article will walk you through how to find and work with Instagram influencers, with tips for running a successful campaign.

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What is an Instagram influencer?

An Instagram influencer is someone who’s built a reputation around a certain niche on Instagram. They are essentially a brand ambassador for your business.

You can think of them like Instagram celebrities within their niche. They’ll share your product with the audience in exchange for money, free products, or experiences.

According to HypeAuditor’s State of Influencer Marketing 2021 report, the Instagram influencer market is expected to grow 15% in 2021, reaching a market cap of $5.8 billion by the end of the year.

Instagram Influencer market size
Source: HypeAuditor

Instagram influencers work to build engaged audiences that trust them and what they promote. One benefit of working with these influencers is that they create beautiful user generated content for you. Many work with professional photographers to create polished and well thought out influencer content for brands.

The best part? You get the right to use this content across your marketing assets, like for social proof on your product page or in a press kit.

Popular influencer niches include:

  • Music
  • Humor and fun
  • Literature and journalism
  • Cinema
  • Travel
  • Nature and landscapes
  • Beauty
  • Extreme sports and outdoor activities

These people have the power to affect Instagram followers’ buying habits because of their authority in a specific niche. Brands pay Instagram influencers to:

  • Build trust with a target audience
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Create valuable influencer partnerships
  • Reach niche markets faster
  • Make sales

You can accomplish this through sponsoring content on an influencer’s Instagram account. Smaller brands tend to avoid influencer marketing because they believe it’s too expensive or won’t work.

However, according to January 2021 research by Influencer Marketing Hub and Upfluence, 62% of marketers worldwide intend to increase their influencer marketing budgets this year.

“Although influencer marketing has experienced growth over the years, there’s no denying the pandemic expedited it for ecommerce brands,” says Jordie Black, Content Marketing Manager at Vitals.co. “It forced them to find new ways to connect with consumers. “This shift meant smaller brands were playing on the same playing field, advantaged by a preference to shop small and shop local.

“Combine this strategy with working with micro influencers, who are for the most part cheaper to work with and have stronger audience affiliations, and you have a huge narrative shift. Brands of all sizes who have been on the fence about whether influencer marketing could be a viable channel for their brand—the time to start is now.”

Top Instagram influencers in 2021

According to data from Brandwatch, these 10 accounts are the top influencers on Instagram in 2021:

This list may leave you a little intimidated about using Instagram influencers. Will you be able to afford Beyoncé for your next campaign? Probably not. Let’s explore different types of accounts you can work with for your next influencer marketing campaign.

Types of Instagram influencers

There are five tiers of Instagram influencers referenced by marketers: nano, micro, mid, macro, and mega. Here’s how they break down by follower count.

Nano (1–10K)

Nano-influencers are content creators, bloggers, and everyday people who have between 1,000 and 10,000 followers on Instagram. They sometimes promote products on their feeds or Stories, but being an influencer is normally not a full-time gig for them. Nano-influencers often build a lot of trust with their followers, which results in high engagement rates. 

Nano-influencers tend to get higher engagement rates. My best influencers have been people that are genuinely interested in the product and eager to share it with their followers.

Since 2018, nano-influencers have shown stronger connections with their audience compared to larger accounts, with engagement rates around 5%, compared to the average rate of 2.2% for all influencers. 

influencer engagement rates

Micro (10–100K)

Micro-influencers are those with between 10,000 and 100,000 followers. Some publications claim micro-influencers have as low as 1,000 followers, but there’s no official number.

Regardless, micro-influencers make up 47% of all Instagram creators, according to HypeAuditor. These influencers may be a bit more expensive, but they still have the same personal hands-on feel as nano-influencers. This makes them a good option for promoting your business and driving sales. 

Mid (100–500K)

Mid-tier influencers typically have between 100,000 and 500,000 followers on Instagram. They represent the second largest group of influencers (26%). Given this group’s follower size, they don’t have the one-to-one feel that nano-influencers have, but they have a wider reach and high engagement rates compared to marco- or mega-influencers.

Macro (500K–1M)

Macro-influencers are more well known than the first three tiers. They have upward of one million followers and lie between mega-influencers (celebrities) and mid-tier.

These influencers typically became famous on the web, whether it was vlogging or producing entertaining content. If you want to reach more broad categories, like “young males,” a macro-influencer is a good route to take.

Mega (1M+)

Mega-influencers are the top-tier accounts in the social media marketing world. They normally have more than a million followers and are more famous than they are influential. Their audience is diverse with different interests, and relationships are more distant.

Mega-influencers like Lele Pons or Kylie Jenner provide massive reach for a brand. These accounts are also more experienced working with brands on outreach campaigns but cost more than other tiers.

How much do Instagram influencers cost?

Fox Business reported that the average influencer on Instagram earns anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 per year from promoting products. But rates for Instagram influencers vary.

Influencers can make money on Instagram based on their:

  • Following
  • Engagement metrics
  • Niche
  • Demand and seasonality
  • Reuse and licensing rights
  • Exclusivity

HypeAuditor’s report also found that, on average, you will get $4.87 earned media value for each $1 you pay for an Instagram influencer’s promotion. Earned media value is equivalent to the cost of gaining the same reach through paid social ads among the same audience.

earned media value for IG influencer marketing

But how much will one Instagram influencer post cost? Based on follower count alone, social media consultant and Amazon bestselling author Andrew Macarthy identified the average cost per post you’ll pay:

  • Nano (1–10K followers): $10–$100 per post
  • Micro (10–100K followers): $100–$500 per post
  • Mid (100–500K followers): $500–$5K per post
  • Macro (500K–1M followers): $5K–10K per post
  • Mega (1M+ followers): $10K+ per post

You can also use an Instagram pricing calculator like Inzpire’s to calculate the average cost of any influencer you want to work with.

instagram influencer pricing calculator

You’ll need to add:

  • The Influencer’s user name
  • How many posts you want them to publish
  • How many Stories you want them to post

The calculator will then give you an estimate for metrics like post reach and average engagement rate, as well as the estimated price for a sponsored post. 

lelepons average rate for influencer post
Source: Inzpire

How to find Instagram influencers

Interested in running an Instagram influencer marketing strategy but not sure where to start? Here’s how you can find an ideal influencer for your brand:

Try an influencer marketing platform

Today you don’t need to go around finding potential influencers on your own through hashtags or competitors’ feeds. You can use an influencer marketing platform to assist you in finding influencers through their database and algorithms.

Many influencer platforms include other offerings like campaign management, marketplaces, analytics, and relationship management software to help campaigns run more smoothly.

Some platforms to check out include:

  • Grin, rated among the best influencer marketing software for ecommerce brands. It offers 37 million influencers across social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube, and Twitch.
  • Upfluence, a self-serve platform for finding influencers used by brands like PayPal and Microsoft. You can set your own prices and find influencers to match your specific criteria.
  • Creator.co, an influencer marketplace with over 500 million influencers to choose from. It offers a self-service option where you manually find influencers, as well as a “hands-free” option where you define your campaign and ideal influencer while an automated system finds the best fit.

Each platform has its own advantages and focus. However, the above three options will help you discover new influencers, manage campaigns, and provide analytics to improve your marketing efforts.

Know your “why”

“First, take a step back and ask, ‘Why do you want to work with influencers?’” says Neil Waller, co-founder of influencer marketing agency Whalar. “Because the output that you can get from working with influencers is a few different things, so the lens through which you’ll choose to vet them could be different based on your business goals.”

Neil outlined three main benefits of working with influencers, each of which is a great standalone objective:

  1. Tap into their knowledge of a platform and what works to create content for that platform.
  2. Access their audience.
  3. Work with them as consumers to get their feedback and perspective on your product.

But even though choosing a priority is important, Neil also points out that it’s not to the exclusion of the other outcomes. “You can achieve all three,” he says, “but you’ve got to know what your primary goals are before you can start the vetting process.”

As for that vetting process, it really boils down to two key questions: Does this person fit with your brand, and do they have a solid engagement rate?

Decide if they are a brand fit

Before you start to look at anything quantitative, like number of followers or engagement levels, it’s important to build a list of influencers you think would be a genuinely good fit for your products and your brand. This might be an intuitive process if you have a good sense of what your brand represents, or you might need to define what makes someone a good fit, but this is the best first step you can take.

“In terms of vetting, when we did influencer marketing with Shore Projects, the first thing we said was, ‘Does the influencer we’re going to work with seem like someone we would want to be a customer, and would they actually use or wear our stuff?’” says Neil. “Because if they don’t, frankly, what’s the point in going about it?”

The intersection of your brand and an influencer’s content is going to be different for every business, but Neil offered an easy mental model to help you think through the selection process.

At their best, influencers are like magazine publishers. If you picked up a magazine, you'd have a sense of voice and tone, what the magazine stands for, and what the magazine writes about.

“With magazine publishing, that’s how you would choose whether to associate your brand with that magazine. Apply the same process to influencers.”

Based on their Instagram Stories and feed, you should get a clear and consistent sense of who the influencer is, what topics they create content about, and their general style. If those factors match up well with your brand and your products, you can then check out their engagement rates.

Check engagement rates

Once you’ve found someone who seems to be a good fit for your brand, it’s time to sniff out whether they’ve got the community they’re promising.

It all boils down to engagement rates. While agencies like Whalar can help you determine if an influencer has the engagement you’d expect on their posts, you can also figure it out based on the public information on their Instagram profiles.

“You can work this stuff out by taking a quick glance,” says Neil. “Look at the post, look at the average amount of likes on each post. Take the last four to 10 posts, add up all the likes, divide them by the number of posts to get the average, and then divide that by the total followers. That will give you what we call the engagement rate.

“As long as the engagement rate is anywhere from 2% to 3% or up, that’s a good mark of engagement. People with smaller audiences might have 8, 9, 10% engagement rates, which are really strong.”

Since Instagram isn’t just about the likes, you can also take a peek at the comments on each influencer’s posts to see what kind of conversations they’re having with the community. If the comments seem real and not just a stream of single-word sentences, that’s a good sign.

Keep your goals in mind

As you’re working through the process of vetting influencers, it’s important to keep the three key outcomes you can get from these collaborations in mind: content that works on a specific platform, access to new audiences, and feedback from a well-aligned customer.

Whichever one is your key priority, it’s important not to lose sight of the eventual outcome you hope to gain from the collaboration, and to remember that, at the end of the day, your marketing strategies should lead to work you’re proud of.

Ensuring that you’re working with people who align with your brand and have solid engagement on their platform are just two ways to make sure that happens.

Tips for creating successful Instagram influencer marketing campaigns

At this point you have a general idea of the influencers you want to reach out to. But before you get in touch with them, you need to figure out what they should post. Keep these tips in mind when reaching out to social media influencers on Instagram:

Define your goal

You’ll likely have one of three goals: build brand awareness, increase social media engagement, or get more sales. It’s important that you define success right away so you can measure results later. Consider how many products you need to sell to make a profit. Write down your goal in a Google Doc and make it specific, e.g. “Make sales, 2x the return on investment.”

Decide on a budget

Set a budget for your campaign. This may be easy to skip over as a small business owner, but you want to keep track of expenses so you know if your campaign left you in the black or in the red. If you are paying influencers in product, figure out your cost per influencer.

For example, say your shipping costs are $7 and the cost to make a product is $13. Your total cost per influencer is $20. Divide that by the amount of money you want to spend on the campaign and that gives you a rough idea of how many influencers you can afford to work with.

Create an influencer media kit

Create a short document describing the look and feel of your brand. You can include top performing Instagram posts and imagery to inspire the influencer on your campaigns.

Add a brand explainer and detailed description of the product they’ll be promoting. Influencers want the product to fit their image too, so a media kit can help keep everyone on the same page.

Make outreach as personal as possible

There’s a certain etiquette to follow when reaching out to influencers. You can reach out to them through email or Instagram DM. Regardless, include why you decided to reach out and why they are a good fit for your brand. Authentic compliments are appreciated and can help your brand stand out from others.

Some tips for sending your outreach message include:

  • Be clear about what they should expect in exchange for working with your brand.
  • Never offer exposure as payment. Many influencers will find it offensive.
  • Keep your message short and to the point.
  • Try email first, then follow up through Instagram DM if they don’t respond

Always review your goals and objectives with the influencer before deciding to work together.

Working with the right influencers for your brand

As you can see, Instagram influencers can make a huge impact on your social media marketing efforts. They have the trust of an engaged audience, can create beautiful content for your brand, and bring you an authentic type of exposure you can’t get with traditional advertising.

Use this guide to find relevant influencers your customers trust and who fit within your budget. Then see if they are up to collaborating on a campaign together. You’ll soon start to see the value of working with Instagram influencers first hand.

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Instagram influencer marketing FAQ

What’s the difference between influencer marketing and advertising?

Advertising makes a product or service known to a large but often broad audience. Influencer marketing uses research and data to align a product with a specific demographic and encourage them to buy. Instagram users trust influencers more than traditional ads, which makes this strategy more effective.

How impactful is Instagram influencer marketing?

Instagram influencer marketing is a multibillion-dollar industry. Ecommerce brands can use this digital marketing strategy to reach target markets, build trust with the right audiences, and make direct sales faster. The rise of micro influencers—accounts with small but engaged followings—have made it affordable for small businesses to use Instagram influencers to grow their brand.

How much do Instagram influencers charge?

  • Nano (1-10K followers): $10-$100 per post
  • Micro (10-100K followers): $100-$500 per post
  • Mid (100-500K followers): $500-$5K per post
  • Macro (500K-1M followers): $5K-10K per post
  • Mega (1M+ followers): $10K+ per post

What is the best way to reach Instagram influencers?

Reach out to Instagram influencers by email for the first official ask. Most influencers have their email address on their Instagram account, or you can go to their website contact page to find it. If they don’t respond to your email, send an Instagram DM to follow up.

This originally appeared on Shopify and is made available here to educate and cast a wider net of discovery.
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