Marketers spent more than $1 billion on influencer marketing in 2018.
Influencer marketing… A term that barely existed a decade ago.
As with any digitally driven marketing tactic, things change at a rapid pace. Something that works one day doesn’t work the next. And new trends can take off overnight.
But despite the growth and maturity of influencer marketing, 67.6% of marketers still find it hard to discover relevant influencers that will deliver them a positive ROI.
With results from influencer marketing getting harder and harder to achieve, brands are looking for the best performing platforms as a leverage point. Instagram, with over 1 billion users and a strong reputation for campaign engagement, could be a match-made-in-heaven for budding marketers with a keen eye for influencers.
Unfortunately, influencer marketing on Instagram isn’t as easy as it looks…
Market saturation for free-product influencer campaigns
Instagram is overrun with influencer campaigns, especially for B2C eCommerce brands. Just about every online store in the world has sent a free product sample to an Instagram influencer hoping for a sharp spike in brand awareness and sales.
Free-product influencer campaigns are now saturating the Instagram market and are not as effective as they used to be. Users are less likely to engage with clearly promotional Instagram posts and influencers are less likely to promote brands for the simple exchange of a free product.
To make the most of Instagram influencer marketing you need to get creative.
Yes, product-based influencer campaigns can be effective as social proof for brands to drive sales. However, what we’re seeing is a trend towards content driven and interactive influencer campaigns.
Brands are collaborating with influencers on campaigns that adopt an “inbound” approach. Instead of simply promoting products, influencers are collaborating on content and interactive experiences with brands. They are helping drive opt-ins, sign-ups, entries, and awareness rather than direct sales. These campaigns generate activity at the top-of-the-funnel, rather than the bottom, and give brands a list of prospects they can market to in the future.
One example of this approach is to run a contest and expand its reach by engaging Instagram influencers. The rest of this article will break down a step-by-step process for doing so.
Let’s dive in…
Step 1 – Set your targets
Just as you have a customer profile you should create an influencer profile – the characteristics of the perfect influencer for your business.
Who do your customers follow? Can you reach them? Have they done any sponsorships in the past?
As an acid test, you could use the 3 R’s to assess an influencer:
- Relevance to your brand
- Reach with your target audience
- Resonance – the trust they have built with your target audience
Remember that it’s not always about the largest following. Engagement and follower activity are far more important when it comes to your choice of influencers.
Step 2 – Create an offer of value
What can you offer your ideal influencers in exchange for access to their audience? What type of compensation could you provide?
A common mistake brands make is to send out free products, expecting this to be enough to entice an influencer to promote it for you. Unfortunately, any influencer worth your time is probably overrun with inbound product offers and may not feel inspired to use or promote your product without further incentive.
The most common ways to compensate an influencer are the following:
- Give them a free product or the prize of your contest – Least preferable unless in conjunction with other compensation.
- Pay them a flat fee for their time and reach – Some influencers will only work under these conditions, but it’s a risky approach for small businesses because there is no guarantee of results.
- Agree on a performance-based fee – This would be my recommendation in combination with a free product or prize. You could reward influencers for clicks, contest entries, sales, and other important metrics.
Step 3 – Find influencers
When you know the type of influencer you are looking for and have a way to compensate them, it’s time to discover the right ones for your campaign.
There are a number of ways you can find influencers on Instagram, but these four are the most effective:
- Hashtag search – Use Instagrams powerful hashtag search to look for influencers that promote similar products, contests, or other content in your niche.
Example of a hashtag search on Instagram.
- Brand search – Look up competitors or complementary brands and see whether they have run any similar influencer campaigns in the past. Check out the influencers they have used.
- Customer search – See who your customers are already following on Instagram. If there are any accounts that pop up regularly who have a large reach, they may be worth contacting.
- Influencer tools – There are several software tools you can use to find the right influencer for your Instagram promotion. Examples include Lefty and Klear.
Step 4 – Connect and engage
Now comes the hardest part – connecting with your chosen Instagram influencers to kickstart the campaign. Yes, you are compensating these influencers for their time and reach, but you still need to establish a trusting relationship first or everything might fall flat before it gets started.
Here are some tips for connecting with influencers:
- Start by offering them something without asking for anything in return – a way to build trust. This could be as simple as a comment on a post.
- Get a warm referral. If there is someone else in your network who can introduce you to this influencer it will help you skip the queue.
- Personalize your message. Do your research on the influencer and make your first message to them hyper-personalized so they feel special and wanted.
- Don’t rely on one channel for communication. For an Instagram influencer, a direct message is the most logical place to start, but they will likely get a lot of these and may not read them all. So find a way to connect with them via email or on other social platforms too.
- Have a way to manage your influencer relationships. Use a CRM, or at the bare minimum, a spreadsheet to manage your relationships. This will help you document the stages of your relationship and keep on top of important follow-ups. Lefty, for example, lets you reach out to influencers straight from their platform:
Example of an influencer management software tool.
- Don’t shy away from the hard conversations. Be aware of the going rate of similar influencer campaigns, prepare your offer, and make sure you ask for results they have achieved from previous campaigns before entering an agreement.
Step 5 – Collaborate on content
It’s important to give your influencers creative license when it comes to the development of campaign content. They will have a certain color palette, style, and design edge with their Instagram content.
They won’t want to stray from their brand and style. After all, they have put a lot of thought into how they are portrayed by their audience and will want to maintain that image. Changing their style could result in less than favorable results too.
With that being said, you also want to give them some guidelines and parameters to work within. Give them as much information as necessary about the contest and provide logos, design files, and anything else they need to execute the campaign effectively.
Also, don’t get stuck on static content. Instagram is much more than just photos. In fact, there are over 400 million stories published a day, and an influencer’s story section can be an exclusive entry point to the heart of their audience.
The Klear influencer platform has a feature that enables you to track Influencer stories:
Step 6 – Track and optimize
As with any marketing spend I’m sure you want to determine whether or not your influencer campaign is delivering you a return on investment. Whether your objectives are for greater brand awareness, conversions, contest entries, or sales, tracking metrics and optimizing your efforts is critical to the campaign’s ongoing success.
Here are three common ways of tracking an influencer campaign for a contest:
- Custom affiliate/influencer links. Tools such as ShareASale or LeadDyno allow you to register influencers and track the performance of the links they share.
- Analytics tracking. Tools like Google Analytics will help you monitor incoming traffic sources and conversion metrics, which you can tag using UTM parameters for more accuracy.
- Promo codes. You could give each influencer a unique promo code that gives their audience extra entries into your contest, this will help determine how many referrals they are sending you.
If you’re looking to improve the performance of your next contest then tapping into the power of Instagram influencers may give you the boost you need.
To use this strategy effectively make sure you:
- Define a target type of influencer.
- Create a thoughtful offer of value.
- Conduct an in-depth search for the right influencers.
- Build a relationship and personalize your influencer engagement process.
- Work together on the creation of content for the campaign.
- Measure and improve your results with analytics tracking.
Are you ready to give it a try?