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Instagram Influencer Marketing: A Complete 2023 Guide

Instagram influencer marketing can seem pretty intimidating.

To pull off a successful campaign, you need to work with the right Instagram influencers. You may be asking yourself, “How do I find influencers? 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.

What is Instagram influencer marketing?

An Instagram influencer marketing strategy uses influencers and micro-influencers who have an engaged following on Instagram to promote your product. By creating sponsored content like photos, giveaways, videos, and Stories, influencers can get people talking about a brand or product.

Popular influencer niches include:

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

What qualifies as an influencer on Instagram? Well, that depends. Influencers used to be accounts with a large following. 

But brands quickly realized that a big follower count didn’t equal big sales. 

They started turning more toward content creators and bloggers with smaller accounts, known as nano-influencers. Sponsored posts from creators tend to come off as more authentic compared to big accounts.

Today, there are five types of influencers:

  • Nano: 1,000–10,000 followers
  • Micro: 10,000–100,000 followers 
  • Mid-tier: 100,000–500,000 followers
  • Macro: 500,000–1 million followers
  • Mega: 1 million+ followers 

Influencer Marketing Hub’s recent report found that brands have a strong preference for working with nano- (39%) and micro- (30%) influencers ahead of expensive macro-influencers (19%) and celebrities (12%).

Think of these influencers like Instagram celebrities within their niche. They’ll share your product with their audience in exchange for money, free products, or experiences.

Instagram influencer marketing campaign example

Doe Beauty founder Jason Wong is a serial entrepreneur who’s been launching and running businesses since he was 15 years old. His latest venture was started with only $500 and scaled with successful influencer marketing campaigns. 

Jason says he “knew that [Doe Beauty’s] bread and butter was influencer marketing.” It’s a strategy he’s used successfully across his portfolio of growing brands. But he doesn’t often work with huge Instagram accounts.

doe lashes influencer example

“We focus a lot on micro-influencers,” Jason explains in a Shopify Masters episode. “We reach out to those people and their friends and ask if they’d like to receive a product in exchange for promotion on their end.” 

The secret is not demanding influencers’ post branded content just because you sent them something for free. Also, giving them the flexibility to create their own Reels, Stories, or posts, which will receive higher engagement because they know their audience. 

Doe Beauty also reposts creator content to spice up its Instagram feed. 

Creating a winning Instagram influencer marketing strategy

  1. Know your “why”
  2. Keep your goals in mind
  3. Decide on a budget
  4. Decide if the influencer is a brand fit
  5. Check engagement rates
  6. Create an influencer media kit
  7. Make outreach as personal as possible

1. Know your “why”

“First, take a step back and ask, ’Why do you want to use Instagram for influencer marketing?’” says Neil Waller, co-founder of talent management 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 target demographics.
  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 solid engagement metrics? 

2. Keep your goals in mind

As you’re working through the process of vetting influencers, it’s important to keep in mind the three key outcomes you can get from these collaborations: 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 high engagement on their platform are just two ways to make sure that happens.

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. 

3. Decide on a budget

Set a budget for your influencer 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 influencer campaigns and that gives you a rough idea of how many influencers you can afford to work with.

According to Influencer Marketing Hub, here’s how much Instagram influencers cost:

  • Nano influencers (1,000–10,000 followers): $10–$100 per post
  • Micro influencers (10,000–50,000 followers): $100–$500 per post
  • Mid-tier influencers (50,000–500,000 followers): $500–$5,000 per post
  • Macro influencers (500,000–1 million followers): $5,000–$10,000 per post
  • Mega influencers (1 million+ followers): $10,000+ per post

4. Decide if the influencer is 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,” he says. “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. 

5. 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 user profile.

“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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

Read more: Go Beyond Likes and Follows: How to Create a Social Media Strategy That Sells

How effective is influencer marketing on Instagram?

Easier content creation

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.

Reach active users

The recent State of Influencer Marketing 2023 report found that 83% of survey respondents still believe influencer marketing is an effective marketing tool. More than 80% recognize the high quality of customers from influencer marketing campaigns. 

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

Good for any size marketing budget

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.

“Although influencer marketing has experienced growth over the years,” says Jordie Black, Content Marketing Manager at Zink Work, “it forced brands to find new ways to connect with consumers. This shift meant smaller ecommerce 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.”

Influencer marketing tools 

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

Many social media 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:

  • Shopify Collabs. Search millions of influencers to find one who aligns with your brand. Review and approve new influencers, send welcome packages and affiliate links all from your Shopify admin.
  • Grin. Offers 100 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.

Each platform has its own advantages and focus. However, the above three options will help you discover new influencers, manage campaigns, and provide real-time analytics to improve your social media marketing efforts. It’s also cheaper than going through an influencer marketing agency.

Working with the right influencers for your brand

As you can see, Instagram influencers can make a huge impact on your digital 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 for your first influencer marketing campaign. 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.

Instagram influencer marketing FAQ

How do I start Instagram influencer marketing?

Identify influencers whose audience aligns with your brand and target market before you start Instagram influencer marketing. After you’ve identified and contacted potential influencers, you can negotiate contracts and discuss promotional strategies.

How much does Instagram pay for 1,000 views?

According to research from Influencer Marketing Hub and Neil Schaffer, a social media marketing expert, you could expect to earn between 25¢ and 75¢ per post engagement.

What is the best way to use Instagram influencer marketing?

An effective influencer marketing strategy starts with finding influencers who have an engaged and relevant audience that aligns with your target market. Research their content and presentation styles to make sure they’re a good fit for your brand.

Who are the top 3 influencers on Instagram?

  • Cristiano Ronaldo
  • Kylie Jenner
  • Lionel Messi

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