The Complete Guide to Instagram Influencer Marketing

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Instagram is one of the first platforms to launch what is now referred to as the Creator Economy. Before influencer marketing was a well-established approach, ecommerce brands scanned Instagram for users who knew how to connect with audiences and set trends as audiences tuned in less to brands and more to people. 

Years later, thousands of brands now leverage Instagram to scale their business, connect with new customers, and nurture authentic relationships with creator partners.

Oberlo image on Influencer Marketing Growth
Image via Oberlo

Oberlo

Influencer Marketing Industry Growth

The influencer marketing industry is set to hit $15 billion by 2022. 

(Business Insider, 2019)

Instagram influencer marketing: An overview

Bar graph of Top 10 most used social networks in the US, with the most used being Facebook, followed by YouTube and Instagram
Image via Statista

Top 10 most used social networks in the U.S.

Facebook: 81%

YouTube: 71%

Instagram: 53%

Twitter: 35%

Pinterest: 33%

Snapchat: 32%

TikTok: 24%

LinkedIn: 22%

Reddit: 21%

Twitch: 11%

For most ecommerce brands, Instagram is one of the best places to nurture digital word-of-mouth with target audiences. Creators open the door for those brands to build social proof and trust with consumers.

What makes Instagram influencers unique?

Instagram is the ultimate visual platform. Creators post images, videos (short and long-form), ephemeral content, memes, and go live to connect with audiences and build a community of like-minded people.

While it’s true that many IG influencers also use other platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok, Instagram remains a popular channel for creators to build a foundational online presence. But growing an audience of 1,000 or more followers on Instagram does require creators to master visual content over more word-based platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

IG influencers must also have a strong knowledge of how to craft great post captions and incorporate relevant hashtags. They are among the most creative individuals online, and brands that partner with IG creators tap into a powerful resource of lifestyle content.

Using IG creators as part of a greater Instagram influencer marketing strategy

Instagram is connected with Facebook Marketplace, one of the most advanced social commerce platforms online today. That means that brands can leverage Instagram in powerful ways, from Story Swipe-ups to in-app shopping.

Partnering with influencers can greatly enhance a brand’s greater Instagram strategy. IG creators have helped brands increase their sales, follower counts, link clicks, and more.

Reasons why brands should partner with influencers on Instagram

Regardless of whether you already have an active influencer program, there are several reasons why IG influencers make powerful allies for reaching your ideal customers.

Data shows that Instagram influencer marketing works.

Countless studies and surveys demonstrate that IG creators work wonders for their brand partners. Highly-visual platforms like Instagram consistently outperform those that are less visual. (Source: GRIN Report: Power of Influencer Marketing in Numbers)

Creators and brands can use Instagram to post attention-grabbing content for consumers. The visual appeal on Instagram also makes it easier for users to talk about a recent purchase or recommend products to friends, family, and fans.

There are between 2 and 40 million influencers on Instagram. (Source: Mediakix)

Instagram hosts more influencers than any other platform. That’s because Instagram is creator-centric and a favorite destination for those who want to connect over trends, social causes, and purchases.

Gen Z-ers and Millennials spend an average of 2.5 hours on social media every day. (Source: Mediakix)

Consumers under 40 years of age represent the most tech-savvy generation in history. As it happens, this is the same demographic that is obsessed with social media and the largest user base on Instagram.

Bar graph of distribution of Instagram users in the US by age group, the highest being ages 25-34
Image via Statista

Distribution of Instagram users in the United States as of July 2021, by age group

13-17: 4.1% 

18-24: 25.7%

25-34: 31.4%

45-44: 18.2%

55-64: 6%

65+: 3.6%

Source: NapoleonCat

Additional Information: United States; Napoleon Cat; July 2021; 13 years and older

For brands that want to connect with Millennials and Gen Z-ers, Instagram is the best place to be. 

Over 80% of consumers are more inclined to buy products that creators promote. (Source: GRIN Report: Power of Influencer Marketing in Numbers)

When an influencer genuinely loves a product or service, their followers pay attention and often take action on that influencer’s recommendations. Thanks to advanced social commerce features, recommending brands on Instagram is a seamless experience for creators.

Instagram has some of the best social commerce features of any  social media platform.

“More than half of consumers state that word-of-mouth and social media are their preferred ways to discover new brands.”

– GRIN, 101 Vitally Important Influencer Marketing Statistics

Thanks to social commerce features offered through Facebook Marketplace, IG creators can post lifestyle content integrating their favorite products and connect to that brand’s Instagram store.

So long as influencers are transparent when a brand partner sponsors a post, followers appreciate thoughtful recommendations. And when users are interested in an influencer’s endorsement, they can shop easily without having to leave Instagram.

What are the most important things to look for in IG influencers?

The goal when looking for influencers on Instagram is to find those that produce authentic content. But not every authentic creator is going to be a great fit for your brand. By examining your goals and understanding how some creators align with your brand, you can identify the right ones for your campaign.

Reach

A creator’s reach is his/her follower count and average post views. Because some people try to buy followers, it’s important that you check an influencer’s credibility before you invest your time and money.

Engagement

That said, follower count isn’t the only metric to consider. Regardless of an influencer’s size, you want to make sure that their followers are engaged by checking likes, comments, and shares.

Content

It’s important that you like the content that an IG creator posts before you work with them. You want their posting style to complement your brand and products well. Taking some time to examine a creator’s style, favorite colors, content type, and more will help you see whether they are a good fit for your brand.

Relationship with followers

When taking a look at engagements, read the follower comments and creator replies to get a sense of how connected an influencer is with their audience.

Most top-performing creators are those that regularly interact with their followers in the comments or during live events. 

Interests

By reading a creator’s IG bio, post captions, and hashtags, you can easily get a sense of whether their interests align with your brand and industry. You can also see if a creator has already partnered with other brands similar to yours.

Audience

Another great way to analyze an Instagram influencer is to pull a sample of their followers and see what those people like. It’s critical that your audience and the creator’s audience be aligned. 

8 Steps to planning and executing an Instagram influencer marketing campaign

1. Set your goals and KPIs.

Your very first step should always be to figure out what you want your influencers to accomplish. By partnering with a reliable third party, you’re going to have an “in” with your audience that you’re unlikely to have on your own. 

Some of the most common influencer campaign goals are:

  • Conversions
  • Website traffic
  • Brand awareness
  • Educate audiences
  • Increase brand followers

Try to select one or two goals to help you focus your influencer search and campaign and truly evaluate the success of your program. From there, break down each goal into a few key performance indicators (KPIs).

A KPI should be clear, measurable, and have a deadline (usually the duration of the campaign). For example, if your goal is website traffic, a great KPI would be:

Get X link clicks by [deadline].

Or…

Increase unique web visitors by X% by [deadline].

Keep these goals and KPIs front of mind for the length of your campaign. That way, you will always know whether or not an influencer partnership is working.

2. Identify the right creators.

This is perhaps the most critical step to any Instagram influencer marketing campaign. Working with the right creators can make all the difference when determining program ROI.

A great approach is to follow those IG creators that interest you. After following them, engage a post (or two) with a positive comment, like, etc. Try to get a sense of who they are as a person and if they represent your ideal customer profile.

Also, pay attention to the relationship that they have with their audience. It’s critical that members of your audience trust that influencer before you collaborate on a campaign.

3. Develop a creator outreach strategy using direct messaging (DM) and email.

After building a shortlist of IG creators that you feel are a great fit for your brand, it’s time to reach out.

Once you’ve followed a creator and engaged a few of their posts, consider sending them a short DM to introduce your brand and express interest in a partnership. 

“Hey [name], I’ve been following your content and love what you do. I’m with [brand] and wanted to see if you’d be interested in working together. How does this sound to you?”

Try not to overwhelm the creator with too much information at first. Any outreach strategy should focus on building long-term relationships, which means building trust from the very first message.

So keep your initial messages/emails short and to the point. Once the creator expresses interest, you can go into more detail and maybe even schedule a call to discuss. 

4. Send free product to your influencers ahead of time.

“There’s a trust that has to be built, and in order for them to really believe that this is going to be beneficial to them, they need to see that you’re willing to do your part. And your part is delivering the product. Once you deliver the product, they can deliver the content.”

Rebecca Beach, GRIN Gets Real Podcast

Regardless of whether you plan to pay your IG creators in cash, it’s critical that they try and like your products. The sooner that you can get product gifts to your influencer prospects, the effective your campaigns will be.

5. Communicate openly and frequently with your IG creators.

Before, during, and after any brand-creator negotiations, maintain strong communication with your influencers. For best results, think beyond the current campaign and try to nurture a long-term relationship.

The deeper your relationship with your Instagram influencers, the more authentic their posts will be. Authentic influencer endorsements resonate better with followers and increase your chances of success.

6. Make your campaign guidelines and expectations clear.

It’s always a good idea to share your campaign goals and KPIs with your creator partners. Being transparent sets them up for success.

Many brands also plan their campaigns with their influencers. IG creators are extremely talented and know their audience intimately. Getting their input will help you achieve the best results.

7. Look for opportunities to save and repurpose influencer content.

Another thing to keep in mind is how you can save and reuse creator posts that receive outstanding engagement on Instagram. Those posts are great for paid ads, whitelisting campaigns, web content, email newsletters, and more.

8. Track campaign results, refine your strategy, and do it all over again.

Pay attention to how well each campaign and creator post performs. If you don’t already use an influencer marketing platform, ask your creators to share metrics from their Instagram Insights to help you track progress.

As you identify what works and what doesn’t work, make the necessary adjustments to your campaign and then relaunch. Each new campaign can equip you to refine your Instagram strategy over time.

Using the right tools to manage creator partnerships on Instagram

To make the most of your influencer marketing program on Instagram, it’s critical that you track as much data as possible.

For example, creating a smooth process of sending product gifts, you should record key details about your influencers, such as:

  • Name
  • Mailing address
  • Product preferences (color/size/flavor/etc.)

You’ll also want to have a way to save creator content (especially if you plan to reuse it later), track campaign performance, set your budget, and more.

Manual tools and spreadsheets

For brands just getting started with influencer marketing on Instagram, spreadsheets is the best approach. Simply create a spreadsheet for each component of your program, such as:

  • Creator relationship management
  • Campaigns
  • Budget
  • Overall program

The important thing to remember is that the more details you track, the easier it will be to stay on top of your creator relationships and determine campaign/program ROI.

Instagram influencer marketing platform

Once you’ve run a few campaigns and have a handful of high-performing influencers in your corner, spreadsheets will begin to feel too cumbersome. At this point, you should shop for a reliable creator management platform.

When looking for influencer marketing software, make sure that the right solution doesn’t just make your program feel fancier but that it actually saves you time. The right platform will efficiently automate tedious tasks, provide robust Instagram influencer search capabilities, streamline product gifting to your influencers, improve workflows, and enhance your reporting.

Conclusion

Instagram remains the best place to nurture quality relationships with the finest creators online today. It is also a robust digital marketplace where engaged consumers connect with one another over their favorite hobbies and brands.

Updated: August 2022

Frequently Asked Questions

Influencer marketing on Instagram involves brands building relationships with creators who share similar audiences and sponsoring posts that showcase the brand. These third-party endorsements feel more reliable to audiences and can generate better results than if the brand posted on behalf of itself.

The best way to get started is to follow those creators in your industry that you love. Create a short list of IG influencers that you feel match your brand’s style and values and then reach out to them directly (via email or direct message) to discuss a collaboration.

Every Instagram influencer is different. Most influencer rates vary by follower count. Some creators work in exchange for free products, while others require commission payments, per post payments, or a combination of all three.

Most regard Instagram as the best channel for influencer marketing because it is a visual platform with the largest selection of influencers over any other channel.

Studies show that influencers produce more engagement and conversion power than branded posts. A few statistics proving influencer marketing effectiveness include:

  • Influencer-generated posts consistently outperform branded posts, according to 60% of marketers. (Source: Mediakix)
  • Experts predict that marketers will collectively spend more than $4.5 billion dollars on influencers by 2023. (Source: Statista)
  • More than 70% of companies planned to increase their influencer marketing budget in 2021. (Source: Statista)
  • 80% of consumers complete a purchase after seeing an influencer recommend that product on social media. (Source: Oberlo)

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