**Updated February 2021**
You can’t deny that Social Media now plays a huge role in commerce and finding the right Social Media Influencers for your business or brand can be an absolute pain! Although it has become harder to clearly define social media since it is intertwined with a most of today’s digital life, I heard it explained recently as “Word Of Mouth 2.0” and I couldn’t agree more. The difference these days is that what used to happen as a whisper between friends is now broadcasted to thousands if not millions in an instant.
Why don’t we start by defining “What is a Social Media Influencer?”
Basically, it’s a person with a passionate following on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, etc. They can then utilize this influence and trust within their following to share products and companies they support. (…or support them.)
Social Media Influencers now carry the same clout as some of the biggest names in Hollywood, and product placement can get pricey! (Depending on the influencer.) The influencer industry is approaching $6billion… with a B… and is one of the hottest marketing trends of 2019 and beyond.
I’m approaching this article as though you’re looking to find the right influencers on your own with no budget, without an influencer agency, or without paying for any of the social media influencer platform-tools created to connect you.
To keep you from thinking too much or taking too much time to find just the right influencers, here’s a guide to simplify your project.
Where to start.
First off, what or who is a social media influencer anyway?
Simple answer… anyone with a large or motivated following on platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Youtube etc. Keep in mind, numbers aren’t always the best metric, but we’ll discuss that later in this post.
Now where and who you work with all depends on your end goals. Ironic I know, but the truth is, you have to have a clear and concise idea of what you’re looking to get out of your interactions before you spend any time looking for that perfect pitch person. Knowing what you’re going to measure will help you gauge not only the importance and potency of the person but the best platform to find them on. As of today, I’ve found the best results on Youtube and Instagram, so keep that in mind.
Focus on what you’re looking for from your influencer:
- Brand Awareness
- Lead Generation
Clearly defining what you’re looking for will help the pitch and conversations later on in the process. Only by clearly defining what “success” in your campaign looks like will you be able to track its effectiveness. Fail to plan at this step and plan to fail in execution.
How to find an influencer.
There are many ways to find social media influencers nowadays and the following are just a few of the basic FREE methods that I like and that I’ve used to grow our outreach network to over 30,000+ social influencers.
- Search Bar
This might be pretty self-explanatory at this point, but take the time to hit the search bar and type in relevant keywords to your brand or business. If you manufacture survival gear, search terms as simple as “survival”, “how to survive”, and “survival expert”. You’re bound to come across some folks that are right up your brand alley.
Another simple but often overlooked method is searching relevant hashtags. Sticking with the survival theme, search #survivalist or #survival and take the time to note what’s suggested to you before you start sifting through posts on Instagram. These suggestions often have hashtags you may not have thought of originally, and they also show how many times each hashtag has been used.
- Follow Suggestions
This option is great! I’ve been able to find massive influencers I’ve never heard of in verticals that aren’t second nature to me by following people I do know (or found using 1. or 2.) and paying attention to the suggested channels (Youtube) and pages (Instagram) that pop up.
These are the very basic ways I start to do research on social media platforms. Though time-consuming, you should be able to build out a robust list of influencers to take to the next step of the process…Validation.
How to “validate” a Social Media Influencer.
Here’s where things start to get a little dicey. All too often now, because there is a growing market, social media influencers are tempted to inflate their numbers. There are hundreds of companies and individuals that promise to deliver followers to your account but are they real?
Platforms are cracking down on social media influencer fraud.
Even up to a year ago, large followings were the biggest concern for big brands. They saw it as a shiny new tool for them to push product and in turn, it created a marketplace where the number of followers you had beside you name was the No.1 metric anyone looked at.
Well, we’ve become much more sophisticated these days and (going back to your goals) depending on your metrics, a 2 million follower account may not have the same return as a 20k follower account for your particular situation.
With that in mind, you’ve made a list… now what?
There are some basic FREE ways for you to get a better idea if they should stay on your list or get left behind.
Socialblade.com can help you look at the user trends of Youtube, Twitter, and Instagram with pretty decent accuracy. You may have to find the correct profile names of the users you’re looking for since they aren’t always the same across all platforms, but that’s usually pretty simple. Most of the time if you find one, you can follow their profile links to the others or their site.
How I like to use Socialblade.com is by looking at the trends in followers and view and also clicking the “detailed statistics” button to get a more granular view.
You can find other accounts in a similar vein by clicking the “similar accounts” button. You just might be able to discover a few more to add to your research list!
These guys have come up with some pretty interesting little tools specifically for Youtube (if you are a creator) and Instagram that gives you a good gauge on if you should bother to take a closer look or cut the potential Influencer from your roster.
First off they crunched some numbers and found the engagement curve you can use as a baseline when deciding if you should work with certain influencers. The tools that follow put that ratio into practice.
The first tool is the Instagram Influencer Earnings Calculator:
This tool can give you a quick like at their engagement, their ratio, and the cost estimate of working with them. Keep in mind that these numbers are not set in stone, and everything is negotiable. Again, it depends on the following and the social media influencer you’re speaking too.
The second is the Fake Follow Checker:
This tool will output an engagement rate and a quality score rating… I’ve found that anything over 40 is worth digging deeper into, anything under that is usually hot garbage. (Think of the small brands or influencers you see with 100k followers and 3 likes per picture.)
Now, you’ve done some initial cleaning of your list. Here comes the real work. Go back through the influencers that are left and look at a random assortment of videos, posts, and pictures on their platforms. See for yourself the engagement. Do the numbers add up?
One warning bell to keep an eye out for on Instagram is DM / Pod / Engagement group comments. Now, you have to make your own call on these but if you look at pictures that seem to have decent engagement with plenty of comments, but the comments don’t seem to jive with the caption or image… that’s usually a red flag. When you see these strange interactions (outside of guys just saying random things to half-naked posts from fitness models) it’s probably because this user/influencer is part of an engagement group.
These accounts use Instagram Direct Messaging or apps like Telegram to post their content in. The account manager will like and comment on posts made in the group and in return, other members of the group then head to their post and like and comment (usually without reading the caption which is often a dead giveaway).
If you’re looking for CPA / Sales / Lead Acquisition from an influencer and catch these strange comments, add them to your cut list, they aren’t worth your time.
However, if you’re looking for interaction on your own Instagram profile, you may want to join one of the said groups! That’s a topic for another post though…
How to approach them.
You’ve done weeding through the list of influencers, and you have clear intentions on a measurable goal. Now comes the part that most people hate, the action! Yes, you actually have to reach out to influencers and let them know you want to work with them. Don’t be scared!
Most of the time, professional Influencers will have an email link or a link to their site where you can contact them for collaboration. That’s a good sign! That means they are taking their new media power seriously and want to capitalize on it!
DO NOT PITCH INFLUENCERS IN A COMMENT! I lost count of how many times someone, or most likely an automated bot, will pitch an influencer in the comments of Instagram or Youtube. Most of the time it’s this happens when bots are activated because of a certain Hashtag or Keyword the Influencer used. “Hey there beautiful, come rep my junk and you can make millions!?????” …has this worked since the second day Instagram was a thing? Blows my mind.
Any influencer worth working with should have no problem handing over metrics and data to you. On Instagram, they should most likely have a business account so they can see their interactions and on Youtube, the analytics are baked right into their channel! The same goes for Twitter and Facebook Pages… Show me the Data!
Don’t fall for “I have decent engagement.” or “It’s mostly women that follow me.” you want raw data. If they want to play games or aren’t willing to hand over the data, keep your marketing budget in your pocket, they will most likely be a pain to work with. If they are professional, they’ll act like one.
How to pitch them.
The nuts and bolts. This part is pretty simple.
Be honest, authentic, and excited to work with them. Don’t just throw out some regular info on your brand and what your offering. Even smaller influencers get hit up all the time, break through the noise and let them know what and why you are passionate about. Why you would love to work with them. You’ve spent time going through the life they put out there, highlight some things they’ve done that inspire you. Let them know what moved you to reach out… and not just the number of followers on their account. Let them know how much you love your brand and why they should too. Talk about the amazing opportunity you see if you could only work together.
Dale Carnegie once said “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.“
I mention this because, just like people love hearing their own names, influencers also love being praised for things they are proud of. Find some things they are proud of and highlight them… it’s almost the same as saying their name!
Open the door to building an actual connection with influencers and you’ll more likely get an interesting response.
But what if I don’t hear back???
This is the tricky part of the pitch. If you reach out via email, I recommend a tracker so you know, if and when, they’ve opened it. If you DM them via Instagram you can see when it’s seen. If your first attempt falls on deaf ears (or blind eyes I guess), you can follow up and let the influencers know you are still very interested in forging a mutually beneficial agreement. My rule of thumb is no more than 3, MAX. If by the third outreach you haven’t heard back, chances are they aren’t interested AND you wouldn’t want to work with someone who isn’t professional enough to acknowledge your inquiry anyway.
I get that influencers can get busy! (That’s usually the excuse if they do reply much later into the campaign.) However, if you can take the time to look at 3 different attempts, you can reply with a simple “No thank you.”
You should be able, once the communication has started, to relay what you’re looking for and what you’re willing to offer.
Basic negotiation… don’t put your full budget out there on the first attempt! Negotiate! …It almost always happens.
The basic offerings are:
- Product Trade
- Pay to Post
What if they want more than the product or come back with too high a price?
If their “Pay to Post” amount is too high for you, you can either thank them and move on down your list or counter with some other options.
You can request that they do multiple mentions/posts/ stories/videos in return for their higher rate.
Or, if you have a physical product, you can see if they are interested in including the value of more or different products in their deal.
If you do have a product, most likely you will be sending them a sample to showcase, use the retail cost of the product as a bargaining chip if you don’t have the cash outlay.
Or, do a mix of everything! (Depends on how bad you want this particular influencer) Rev-share, free product, and an upfront payment.
Realistically, there are thousands of influencers out there, and hundreds if not thousands of new ones a day, trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t and you can find someone else who sees what you see and is willing to work with you.
How to gauge ROI.
Bringing it full circle! It goes back to clearly defining your goals from the start. Did you see your metrics move? Did you see eyes to your site, or better yet, sales? Did the cost of what you invested 2x your return? Whatever you were aiming for from the start, did you achieve it?
Every campaign is different and so is every social media influencer. But, if you did a great job in step one, you’ll be able to see where your investment landed you.
Not every campaign strikes paydirt, but if you plan ahead and do your due diligence in checking out the audience they are going to be putting your message in front of, you can shift luck in your favor!
Just a thought…
If all of that sounds like way too much effort but you still want to jump on the money train of social media marketing and influencer marketing, we’d be happy to help!
By working with us, you get access to our list of over 30,000 influencers across all platforms and interests. We do all the leg work, negotiating, and campaign management for you. All you have to do is sit back and watch the data, sales, and smiles come in!
If you’d like to learn more about or social media influencer management you can set up a call here!
For 15+ years now Adam has helped business brand, plan, and grow.
With a background in media buying and specializing in data-driven marketing he founded the Painted Brick Digital Agency to act as your in-house marketing and advertising department.
“Cookie cutter doesn’t work in a world that is constantly evolving.”