How to Recruit Influencers With Instagram DMs [+ Free Templates]

GRIN also recommends: Quick Guide to Earned Media Value 

How to recruit influencers with Instagram DMs grin influencer marketing

For some, a frustrating component of their influencer program is figuring out how to get creators to respond to collaboration requests on Instagram.


The struggle is real – influencers are busy and often function as “production companies in a box” for themselves and their brand partners. They simply don’t have time to reply to every message. Furthermore, top-performing creators are especially picky about the brands they choose to partner with.

which social media platforms are us marketers planning to use for influencer marketing grin blogs
Image via eMarketer

So getting through to your favorite creators can be a challenge.

Instagram DMs are a popular method for recruiting influencers. Done well, you can catch the attention of your influencer prospects and set the stage for ongoing, lucrative Instagram campaigns. But reaching that point means crafting an outreach strategy that works.

Influencer outreach – What you need to know

“Trusted endorsements are the linchpin to effective influencer marketing. But if you can’t buy trust…how do you build it? The same way you do in real life: Through cultivating genuine relationships—directly.” – GRIN, Authentic Influencer Marketing

Influencers are professionals, but they are also people who’ve leveraged their personal brand to build that professional brand.

It’s important to remember that creators are real people with a robust virtual presence. Relationships are paramount, and becoming the kind of brand that they would resonate with means putting yourself in their shoes.

Before getting started

Initially, this approach will take a lot of work and mindful messaging on your part. So before you add success-proven tactics to your outreach strategy, it’s important that you vet your influencers ahead of time. Nothing is worse than finally getting through to a creator only to find out that they are not a good fit.

So as you adjust your outreach mindset, make sure that you have a list of characteristics and attributes in place for judging whether a creator will make a good partner for your brand.

Using your vetting process, you can build a list of prospects and take steps to bring them into your influencer community.

Understanding Instagram creators

Instagram is the leading social channel for influencer marketing. It is also one of the best platforms for aspiring creators. Instagram offers creators amazing analytics tools, as well as a full arsenal of resources to get their professional social career off the ground.

Instagram creators work hard to perfect their craft and deliver high-performing, visual content. While there are many ways to post on IG – standard post, IG Story, Reel, IGTV, Guide, and Live – most creators choose to focus their efforts and master three or four posting types.

The best Instagram influencers know how critical it is to engage their followers in the comments section of their posts. As a brand, you’ll want to respect the fact that comments are not the right place to recruit influencers

However, creators do appreciate genuine fan feedback from brands. As such, it’s always a good idea to follow the influencers you love and express delight for their content through likes, shares, and thoughtful comments.

Is it okay to recruit influencers through Instagram direct messaging?

Yes, it is 100% okay to contact influencers over Instagram DMs for business purposes.

DMs catch creators on their work platform. It’s personal enough to show genuine interest and private enough to not spam their public profile. That said, make sure that your brand’s Instagram presence is strong enough to allow that influencer to check you out before you send those direct messages.

“An advantage of direct messaging – It’s really easy for the influencer to quickly identify what your brand is or what you’re about. It’s one less step than if you sent a message via email, and it may increase your response rate because the influencer – their trade is to be on social media and that’s where they built a following.” – Ethan Frame, 0-100: Getting Started with Influencer Marketing

It’s important to remember that Instagram DMs are a piece of your outreach process. At some point, you’re going to need to use email and, depending on your program, a phone/video call or two. 

But IG DMs are a great way to start the conversation with your influencer prospects. Ethan goes on to say,

“When you’re communicating with your friends or colleagues over Instagram messages, it just feels personal. It feels very relaxed, whereas email feels a little formal and buttoned up.”

Email influencer outreach versus DMs – Which is better?

Influencer outreach over Instagram is a process that should include multiple touch points. Doing business solely over email or DMs is likely to generate less-than-ideal results.

However, your outreach process and industry may be such that one works better than another. For this reason, the answer to the question, Which is better – email or DM? is something that you get to decide after you’ve refined your outreach strategy.

Also, some creators prefer one communication channel over another. If you’re focused on building relationships with your influencers, you’ll pick up on these preferences quickly and can adjust your process accordingly.

Emailing creators on Instagram

As a general rule, email is the most efficient way to do business. And since Instagram campaigns are business partnerships, email should be a key piece of your influencer outreach and relationship management.

That doesn’t mean that your emails must be painfully formal. You can still be playful and lighthearted while tackling business. But using email will greatly increase your productivity overall. 

Pros

  • Easier to schedule & send emails to multiple people
  • Better for organization
  • Encrypted for security
  • Best for sending/receiving docs/attachments

Cons

  • Slower response time
  • Impersonal

DM-ing creators on Instagram

By contrast, IG DMs are best for getting a creator’s attention and building a deeper connection with them.

Using DMs well can more quickly endear a creator to your brand. And it’s that brand affinity that is key to a successful influencer campaign.

Pros

  • Personal
  • Higher response rate
  • More natural way to engage IG influencers for the first time

Cons

  • Not optimized for productivity
  • Can’t send mass messages

5 amazing DM templates to use on Instagram

Now that you understand how DMs can enhance your outreach strategy, here are a few proven tactics that will increase your response rate on Instagram.

#1 – Product gift – no strings attached

Your content is amazing! We have this [product] that I think you’d really love and would love to send it to you so you can check it out.

For this template, notice how brief the message is. Creators appreciate it when you can say more in fewer words.

This approach is best for brands that thrive on product seeding (gifting) campaigns.

“So it was 2014, and we didn’t have any money, but we had a product to sell… So I sent them to anyone who had a following. A bottle of stuff, and I was, like, ‘Hey, try this on your little one, let me know what you think.’… We were really surprised when it was something like nine out of ten people we sent it to for the first year talked about it online, because they just had such a positive experience about it.” – Andrea Faulkner Williams, Co-Founder & Head Mama at Tubby Todd Bath Co

Also, a no-strings-attached outreach strategy helps influencers feel like they can ease into a partnership rather than commit right away. That said, you should plan to compensate that influencer more substantially if you find that they are a good fit for your brand.

Variations on this template

  • Hey [first name] – Love your feed and think you have a great eye for [mention something from their feed]. I’d like to send you [product] to check out and get your feedback on it.I’ve been following your content and love what you’re doing. Can I send you a gift of free products to check out? 
  • Your content is amazing! I have [product] that I’d like to send your way to get your honest feedback (no strings attached).. What do you think?

#2 – Official intro

Hey [first name], I work with [brand], we’d love to work with you. Here’s a quick video giving you a rundown of how partnering with [brand] works. Is this something that would interest you?

Once you have a few campaigns under your belt, you can adjust your DM templates to fit a standardized outreach process

By using this approach, your growing influencer program can replicate success with influencers that fit the mold of other high-performing influencers (aka, lookalike influencers). 

Variations on this template

  • Hi [name], I’ve been following you for a while and think your style would be a good fit for our [influencer/ambassador/content] team. If you’re interested, check out [link to webpage]. Let me know what you think.
  • Hey [name], I’m really impressed with your content [add a reference to a specific post here to make it more personal]. Here is some info about partnering with us at [brand] to see if it’s something you were up for.

#3 – Campaign-specific pitch

Hey [name], we’re running a [type of campaign] that I think you’d be a great fit for. I can send you the details & our compensation structure. Check us out here [webpage link] to learn more about us and let me know if you’re interested in learning more.

If you’ve been doing influencer marketing on Instagram for a year or two, you’ve likely identified a few campaigns that you plan to use over and over again. When this happens, you can make your DMs more direct.

These campaign-specific pitches are helpful for IG creators because they can quickly figure out whether they want to participate. This approach will also make your expectations more clear which sets you and your influencers up for success. 

Variations on this template

  • We’ve been checking out your content &❤️ it! We have an annual [type of campaign] that we think you’d be a great fit for. If you’re interested in learning more, just reply back and I can send you all the details in an email.
  • Hi [name], I think you’d be the perfect fit for a [type of campaign] running starting [date]. We’re looking for select creators to share their honest review in a post & stories. Does that sound like something you’d be interested in?

#4 – Product launch collaboration

Hello [name],  I’ve been following your feed and I like your style. We’re getting ready to release [name of product line] and would love to send you one before it’s available to the masses. Can we send you a free sample to check out?

If you’re like a lot of retail brands, having influencers on your product promotion team can greatly impact early sales and awareness. Many creators thrive with product launch campaigns. This template can help you streamline your DMs to connect with creators that are excited about your new products.

Variations on this template

  • You do an amazing job connecting with your community. Before we launch our new [product] online, I was wondering if you would be interested in getting one for free and sharing your experience. If this sounds good, let me know and I can email you the details to get the ball rolling.
  • Hey [name], I saw what you did in your [date] post with [product] and loved it. I’m with [brand] and thought you might be interested in getting early access to our [name of product]. What do you think?

#5 – Long-term partnership

Hi [name], I’m with [brand], and we’ve been following you for a while. I think that you’d be a great addition to our [partner program name]. We like to partner with creators like yourself who can really share their story with a product. I can send you more information on compensation and how it works if you’re interested, all you have to do is reply back. Can I send you more information about this?

When you’ve grown your program to a place where you have a good idea which influencers will work for your brand, you can use your DMs to initiate a conversation about a long-term partnership.

This template allows you to get feedback from those creators that are genuinely interested in more than a one-off campaign. It will set you up to introduce an application page on your website, as well as a success-proven onboarding process.

Variations on this template

  • Hello [name], we love your content on Instagram and want to work together. Currently, we have X options for our creator partners. Does this interest you? If so, can we hop on a call to discuss?
  • Hey [name], you’re killing it on Instagram. I’d like to chat about adding you to our [name of program]. What’s the best way to send you more information? 

Using IG DMs in a full influencer marketing outreach template

Step 1 – Identify the right influencers.

When selecting your prospects, you’ll want to examine performance metrics, such as engagements, the quality of follower shares/comments, and the creator’s voice and style. Not every good influencer is going to be a good fit for your brand, and that’s okay.

Step 2 – Engage their content naturally.

When you find a creator that “checks your boxes,” you can follow them and observe their content moving forward. When appropriate, drop a comment here and there to show support and admiration.

Step 3 – Send your first IG DM.

Using one of the templates above, go ahead and drop your first Instagram DM to gauge their interest.

Because most creators are very busy, you may need to reach out a couple times before you get a response. Remember to be patient and avoid blowing up their DMs with follow-ups.

Step 4 – Continue engaging with their Instagram content, but keep your collaboration requests within direct messenger.

After sending a DM, it’s appropriate to continue liking your favorite posts. If you’ve not gotten a response after a few business days, you can send a second DM or drop a comment on a post. For example…

“Love this post. Thank you for sharing. Just sent you a DM when you get a chance.”

While it’s okay to occasionally mention a DM in a comment, it’s not okay to ask for a collaboration in a comment. For the integrity of that creator’s public account, it’s always best to keep your professional requests private.

Step 5 – Move the conversation to email once the creator expresses interest in a partnership.

Once a creator responds to your direct message, offer to send them an email with more details. Feel free to continue dialogue in your DMs, but for any business-specific messages, sending emails will greatly aid your campaign workflow.

Best practices when DM-ing a creator on Instagram

Use post comments to engage your influencer prospects, but don’t recruit them in public.

Post comments are opportunities for creators to connect with members of their audience. Adding collaboration requests into those comments is a form of spam. Not only will creators not appreciate the technique, but it can also annoy their followers.

Keep your DMs and initial emails brief – 60 words max.

A great way to overwhelm creators is to send them large blocks of text in their DMs. To increase your chances of a reply, try to keep your messages concise and friendly.

Make the next steps in your DMs abundantly clear.

Be sure to provide clear next steps in your message such as “Please reply back if this works for you” or “DM me your email address for the next steps.” This is an opportunity for you to move your prospective influencer through your vetting process. 

When you need to send mass messages at scale, email is your best option.

Too much of a good thing can easily get out of hand. To improve your productivity, try to keep your mass messages in email. 

“Sliding into their DMs” is a great way to connect with Instagram influencers. After you’ve made the connection, make sure you have their email address to move the ball forward in an official capacity and streamline your communication.

Additionally, two active points of contact is better than one, especially when you are collaborating with that creator. If the creator is silent on one channel, you can ping them on the other to get the discussion back on track.

Keep DMs informal and direct. Use email for contracts, campaign briefs, and other official business communications.

Making your direct messages informal and lighthearted helps you maintain a fun working relationship. If you apply a considerate, healthy mix of DMs and email, you can always leverage direct messaging for times when you need an immediate response.

Don’t harass an influencer. If after three messages they’ve not responded, it’s time to move on.

You will sometimes not get a response from an influencer you really love. If you don’t take the hint, you might get a negative response at some point, or the influencer might report you for spam.

Keep the process simple. If you’ve sent three messages with 3 or more business days in between, then it’s time to move on. You can try again after a few months, if you like.

Build a process for knowing who is promoting your brand of their own free will and give them public shoutouts.

If you have social listening tools at your disposal, you can notice who is talking about your brand without you asking. These creators are great because they already love your brand.

But before you offer them a paid collaboration, make sure to do your due diligence. Just because they love you doesn’t mean that they are a good fit for your tone, voice, and style.

Conclusion: Instagram DMs are a great way to connect with creators and initiate a long-term partnership.

Some of the best influencer marketers in ecommerce swear by Instagram direct messaging. It is an effective way to generate a faster response from your favorite creators. 

More importantly, you will achieve much better results in your campaigns if you focus on building deep connections with your top performers. The personal touch of a brief, friendly DM is a great first impression and sets that relationship up for success.

Influencer relationships are built on communication. GRIN brings all that communication under one roof in its influencer-specific CRM platform.

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