Influencer Marketing Essentials: How to Find Instagram Influencers

Many marketers refer to 2017 as the year of influencer marketing. Indeed, during the previous year, companies and brands have rushed to Instagram influencers in numbers, hoping they would help them sell more products and services to their already engaged and highly-targeted audiences.

According to experts (and from what we have seen so far this year), this trend isn’t expected to stop in 2018 (nor any time sooner). While 93% of social media influencers say Instagram is the network they’ve focused on most in 2017, 82% of them say they expect it to be the case in 2018 as well. 

Influencer Platforms

 What is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing is nothing new. In fact, it’s been around for years. So, why all the buzz around it lately? That’s because marketers have only recently realized its true power, while the changes in the digital world have enabled them to use the full potential of this form of marketing.

Athletes, actors, and other celebrities have been doing it for decades. Brands would partner with the main influencers in their respective fields to promote their products or services (a Nike commercial starring LeBron James, for example).

According to OmniStar’s guide to referral marketing, you should pick influencers who are relevant to your industry and who only promote products that they actually believe in.

In recent years, however, the increased use of social media has led us to change the way we think about influencer marketing.

Influencer Marketing


In the simplest of terms, influencer marketing is the act of promoting and selling products or services through other people (called influencers) who have the capacity to have an effect on the character of a brand. By definition, influencers are able to reach large groups of like-minded people (usually larger groups than the ones within your reach) and have the power to influence people’s opinions to a certain extent.

In the words of Jay Baer, one of the most influential digital marketers of today, “True influence drives action, not just awareness.” In other words, while there is a certain (non-monetary) value in receiving influencer mentions, still, the most important thing is how much revenue those influencers bring in to your business.

When it comes to ROI, studies have shown that influencer marketing is more effective than traditional marketing.

As the popularity of influencer marketing can’t be overlooked anymore, brands looking to advertise this way run into two major challenges – how to find Instagram influencers and how to maintain relationships with influencers and newly-acquired customers.

With the increased popularity of influencer marketing, the number of influencers has increased as well. A social media influencer has become an actual career people want to pursue and the average Joe has suddenly realized he can become an influencer too (or at least has the opportunity to try to).

For those looking to find the right (and affordable) Instagram influencers to promote their product or service, the increased number of influencers means there’s a larger pool to choose and a lower barrier to entry for small businesses.

This basically means there’s an influencer for everybody’s pocket! But how to target the right ones?

How to Find Instagram Influencers

Basically, there are two ways of finding influencers – manually or using one of the many influencer marketing tools.

The manual process of finding the right influencers to target, in the simplest of terms, looks somewhat like this: 

You browse through Instagram looking for a good fit > You send them a DM or an email > You negotiate the terms > You reach an agreement (or you don’t) > You send the payment and come up with a way to monitor the success of the partnership

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This process sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, but it’s almost always tedious and time-consuming. Luckily, there are alternatives, such as using one of the many influencer marketing tools and platforms available today.

Influencer marketing tools, such as Tapinfluence, Upfluence, Heepsy,, Ninja Outreach, and so on, can help you easily find influencers and manage your workflow. They will not only save you time preparing and managing your campaigns, but they’ll also help you measure the performance of your influencer marketing campaigns.

Manual Strategy #1 – Browse the competitors’ followers

Search for a competitor on Instagram and browse their followers. Those with the most followers of their own could be your potential influencers, provided that they are suitable for promoting your product or service.

Manual Strategy #2 – Search for popular posts by relevant locations and hashtags

Search for hashtags/locations relevant to your business and look up the posts uploaders’ profiles. Make sure the potential influencer’s account doesn’t look spammy and has a real person behind it – pay attention to the image quality, the language, the way they communicate with the followers, and so on.

Macro vs. Micro-Influencers

Does the follower count necessarily count? 

Let’s face it – maybe you won’t be able to afford the top 1% of the influencers, but this doesn’t mean you still can’t achieve great results with influencer marketing. Actually, a Makerly study has recently shown that targeting the big fish among Instagram influencers does not necessarily mean you’ll capture more customers. 

In fact, the mentioned study has found that micro-influencers (Instagram influencers with 1,000-10,000 followers) can attract 4 times the engagement on sponsored posts, compared to the ‘big fish’, due to a more loyal base of followers.

That being said, the follower count isn’t actually the most significant thing to look for in an influencer. It’s their ability to engage with their followers and convert them into your customers, regardless of their follower count size.

Tip #1 – Get your goals straight

The first thing you need to do is determine the desired outcome of your influencer marketing campaign. Before throwing yourself into influencer research, you need to stop for a moment and ask yourself what outcome you want your marketing efforts to achieve.

Some of the most common objectives of influencer campaigns are to:

  • Raise brand awareness
  • Attract new customers
  • Increase sales
  • Improve current brand image

According to a recent research by eMarketer, 88% of marketers found influencer marketing to be particularly effective at raising brand awareness. This is due to the fact that we have the tendency to trust our peers’ opinions on brands more than words coming from the brands themselves.

eMarketer stats

Tip #2 – True Engagement Beats the Number of Likes

The number of ‘likes’ an influencer gets on their posts shouldn’t be the only/primary indicator of whether that particular influencer will be a good fit for your business needs. Keep in mind that popularity does not always equal results. And that your potential customers are not numbers but actual people.

That being said, true, authentic engagement is what really counts. How to check if an influencer has the kind of engagement you need? Browse through their post comments to see if their followers match your buyer persona and to check whether the influencer is actively engaging with their followers.

Tip #3 – Determine the Metrics to Measure Your Campaign’s Success

In order to make sure your campaign won’t be like taking shots in the dark, you need to make sure you come up with appropriate metrics that will enable you to measure the success of your marketing efforts. This way, both you and your influencers will keep your head on the goal, while staying on-time and on-budget.

Depending on the type of campaign, there are several metrics you can use to measure your success:

  • Influencer-exclusive discounts: Track the number of times each of the codes is used
  • Referrals: Track the number of clicks and conversions for each of the referral links
  • Engagement: If it’s a regular Instagram public post, it’s pretty straightforward, but if it’s an Instagram Story, you can always ask the influencer to feed you the data
  • New followers/customers/purchases

According to OmniStar’s guide to referral marketing, you should pick influencers who are relevant to your industry and who only promote products that they actually believe in.

Tip #4 – Follow the FTC Guidelines

Influencer marketing in 2018 is all about being more transparent about the partnerships between the influencers and brands. In previous years, a number of influencers used their Instagram posts to promote products without clearly stating they were receiving a compensation for it.

Well, sneaking ads into Instagram posts is frowned upon. Furthermore, in 2017 FTC clarified the rules of influencer marketing promotions, defining the behavior of brands and influencers when cooperating on sponsored content.

With that in mind, you need to make sure your influencers clearly disclose they’re being paid for advertising your brand. It can be simply done by putting #sponsored or #ad in their post. To make this process even easier, Instagram has introduced its branded content option. It enables the influencers to easily disclose that a certain post is a part of a brand partnership.

Influencer Opinions

In order to target the right influencer, you have to get into their mind first and start thinking like one. With that in mind, last year we reached out to a number of social media influencers (many of them featured on the Forbes Top 25 Marketing Influencers of 2017) so we present you with some of the insights we got from them: 

NYT Bestselling Author Lewis Howes

Lewis Howes, NYT bestselling author and world Top 100 podcast host (652k IG followers)

Q: “What’s the most common mistake you see people make when trying to grow their Instagram following early on?”

A: “They don’t add value to others. They make it only about them.”

MWI Founder Josh Steimle

Josh Steimle, marketing expert and Founder / CEO of MWI

Q: “What’s the most common mistake you see people make when trying to grow their Instagram following early on?”

A: “The most common mistake I see people make when trying to grow an Instagram account is a lack of focus. Think of your account like a box of breakfast cereal. It needs to clearly say on the box what it is. Every time I pour the cereal out of that box, I better get the same cereal coming out of it — if I wanted a different kind of cereal I’d pick up a different box. Pick a theme, a focus, and stick to it.” 

3x Quora Top Writer Nicolas Cole

Nicolas Cole, Inc. magazine writer and columnist, 3x Quora top writer

Q: “What’s the most common mistake you see people make when trying to grow their Instagram following early on?”

A: “The biggest mistake people make, not just on Instagram but any social platform, is not understanding what their true value is.

Growth hacks, the habit of posting on a daily basis, collaborating with other influencers — all of those things are fairly basic and part of the process of growing a following. But they are not the root of the root, and none of them will attract a large and loyal audience.

If you want to be a content curator, you really need to ask yourself why people should follow you — what VALUE you are giving them. Are they following you for travel destinations? Are they following you to learn how to cook and eat healthy? Are they following you to be inspired on their entrepreneurial journey? You have to pinpoint the value you’re giving them and what they are expecting, so then you can refine your content to deliver on that value better than anyone else in your space.

People follow those who are the best at delivering the value they’re looking for. In the same way you wouldn’t watch your local news station over CNN, for example, big social audiences aren’t going to pay attention to you over someone who is delivering the value they seek in a much more refined and effective way. If you want to build a big following, you have to challenge yourself to be the absolute best in that space, and the only way you can do that is by first understanding what it is your target audience is actively looking for.”

Joshua Medcalf, author and brand advisor, Founder / CEO of T2BC

Q: “What do you think about Instagram’s recent growth? How should brands react?”

A: “Instagram’s growth from just a cool picture app to the most trusted source of social approval is nothing short of mind-blowing. If brands don’t shift serious marketing resources towards Instagram, they’re wasting their budget at best and guiding their company towards a calamitous future at worst.

Even though you haven’t watched a TV commercial in over two years, over $75 billion is still spent on TV ads. The future of advertising and marketing for brands, both big and small, depends on figuring out how to create compelling content that leverages influencer’s talent and reach.” 

Millionaire Mentor Founder Jason Stone

Jason Stone, @MillionaireMentor founder (3.2 million IG followers)

Q: “What’s the most common mistake you see people make when trying to grow their Instagram following early on?”

A: “They don’t provide enough value and go straight to selling. Or they don’t distribute their great content enough to be seen, to make an impact. You can have the best content in the world, but if no one sees it, you might as well go out of business.”

Q: “If you could go back in time and give yourself just one piece of advice when starting your Instagram account, what would it be?”

A: “I would have invested more money into paid influencer marketing to grow my brand.”

If you’re looking for additional inspiration, check out these 10 examples of influencer marketing campaigns. We’ve tried to uncover the essentials of influencer marketing and show you how to find instagram influencers for your own business-specific needs, but in case you’re just looking to increase your brand awareness, you may want to learn more about how to get more Instagram followers.

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