Instagram Influencer Marketing: A Start-to-Finish Guide

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If you’ve been paying any attention at all, you know that Instagram influencer marketing is taking the marketing world by storm.

It’s true: Instagram offers one of the latest and greatest ways to advertise your brand, whether you’re selling hair products, a meal kit delivery service, or a mattress in a box.  

In this article, we’re diving into all of your Instagram influencer FAQs, including the definition of the word “influencer” and the true power of Instagram influencer marketing in 2019. 

Next, we’re setting you up with a comprehensive guide on how to run a successful Instagram influencer campaign—from scoping out candidates to post-campaign etiquette. 

Best of all, we’re pulling back the curtain on the taboos of Instagram, like the typical cost of an influencer marketing campaign and the types of potential roadblocks to keep in mind before you launch. 

By the end of this read, you’ll be well on your way to dominating your niche with Instagram influencer marketing.

Jump Links:

What is an Instagram Influencer?

The Power of Instagram Influencer Marketing

The Basics: 6 Types of Campaigns
1. Sponsored Posts
2. Contests
3. Branded Content
4. Reviews
5. Brand Ambassador Programs
6. Influencer Takeovers

10 Steps to Running an Influencer Campaign
1. Set Your Budget
2. Find the Perfect Influencers
3. Prepare for Influencer Outreach
4. Be Aware of Potential Problems
5. Reach Out!
6. Follow Up
7. Seal the Deal
8. Launch Your Campaign
9. Track Your Success
10. Keep In Touch

Power Your Instagram Influencer Campaign With Keyhole

Let’s get into it!

What is an Instagram Influencer?

When you think of prominent influencers on Instagram, your mind likely gravitates to someone like Kylie Jenner or Selena Gomez — millennial money makers with millions of followers on the platform, raking in attention by the masses through just a single post.

But here’s the truth:

Celebrities are only one subset of influencers, and while their latest IG posts might ooze glitz and glamour, they’re not necessarily the best choice for your next campaign. 

We know what you’re thinking:

“Who has more influence than an A-list celebrity?”

The answer lives in your personal Instagram feed: macro and micro influencers.

These general “macro” and “micro” categories account for the non-celebs out there who have grown their following based on their lifestyle, hobbies, the clothes they wear, and the food they eat. 

Even though humans dominate Instagram, some of the most popular Instagram accounts actually revolve around the life of a pet—typically a dog or cat!

No matter the species, macro influencers are Instagram users who have harnessed their niche to build up an Instagram following between 100k to 1,000,000. 

Micro influencers typically have a following between 1k to 100k, and tends to drive higher engagement with every post compared to their macro counterparts. 

Celebrities typically fall into the category of mega influencers, with followings of over 1,000,000. 

Like it or not, micro and macro influencers come across as much more authentic and down-to-earth to their audiences than the average model or singer. 

The Power of Instagram Influencer Marketing

Okay, but how influential are these so-called influencers? Where did it all start?

Back in the early days of Instagram, brands would occasionally gift their products to prominent Instagram influencers in exchange for brief promotion. There was usually no formal contract in place and no guidelines to follow; it was a simple, casual transaction that allowed brands to dip their toes into the world of new media. 

That didn’t last long. 

As Instagram began to grow into one of the most powerful online platforms in the world, influencers in all categories realized they could charge a pretty penny for their opinions—and the business of Instagram influencer marketing has been thriving ever since. 

Listen:

You may still think traditional advertising is the way to bank most of your marketing dollars, but by focusing solely on traditional advertising, you’re missing out on the vast majority of your target audience.

While you’re running commercials, your potential audience members are scrolling through their Instagram feeds with the other 500 million users who browse the platform each and every day. 

What happens when a platform is owning audience attention? Viewers become followers, and those followers convert into active consumers who build their buying choices around what their favourite influencer is promoting. 

Still don’t believe Instagram influencer marketing is the way to go? Check out these statistics:

Not only does the Instagram platform itself influence buying decisions, but it may shock you to know just how much weight is placed on the opinion of a macro or micro influencer over a celebrity endorsement. 

A 2016 Collective Bias study showed that 70% of millennial consumers are influenced by peer recommendations in buying decisions. The same study reported that only 3% of consumers would consider buying something in-store that was endorsed by a celebrity. 

The logic behind these statistics makes sense: people are much more willing to purchase a product that comes across as a recommendation from a friend, rather than an endorsement from an unrelatable celeb. 

Sure, a skincare recommendation from your favorite actor can be entertaining—but what about an endorsement from someone who looks like you, has similar interests, and likely sticks to a similar budget? 

In the world of social media, #relatable wins out every time. 

The Basics: 6 Types of Campaigns

So now that we’ve covered the definition of “influencer,” what happens next? What are your options? What will your first campaign look like? 

Here are the basics:

An Instagram influencer campaign is a partnership between a brand and a popular Instagram account to promote a product or service. These campaigns come in a variety of forms, depending on the brand’s budget, needs, and goals.

The most common types of Instagram influencer campaigns are:

In the case of a sponsored post, a brand will pay an influencer to provide exposure for a product or service directly through a post (or a series of posts) on the influencer’s Instagram feed. 

Sponsored posts can be a single image, or can be a carousel of images, and are usually permanent posts.

They are a fantastic choice if you want to track post performance and metrics, allow the influencer of your choice to tag your brand within the image, and also disclose the partnership for transparency. 

It’s also a good way for influencers to incorporate storytelling in an authentic way and gives them creative reign.

Sponsored posts can also be shared on the influencer’s or the brand’s Instagram stories for further exposure.

2. Contests

Who doesn’t love free stuff? 

Sometimes a brand will allow an influencer to host a contest for their followers to win the promoted products or services directly through their Instagram account.

They typically involve asking the user to complete an action to enter, such as liking the contest photo, commenting on the photo, following certain accounts, tagging friends in the comments, or even sharing the post on their story.

Contests or giveaways can be conducted in a variety of different ways.

This type of campaign is great if you want to reach a wide audience, and also emphasizes your product or service.

3. Branded Content

Branded content allows for advertisers to promote an influencer or creators’ organic branded content posts as ads that appear in a user’s Instagram feed or through Instagram stories. 

The brand can work with influencers to naturally integrate their products or services into the influencer’s content in an engaging way. 

When these ads appear, users will see “paid partnership with” alongside the name of the brand on each post, emphasizing advertising transparency. 

This type of influencer campaign is optimal for brands who want to target specific audiences and see measurable insights.

It should be noted that branded content is still being gradually rolled out by Instagram, and may or may not be available to you. 

4. Reviews

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

If you want to build trust in your brand, get an influencer to review it. 

Gifting an item in exchange for the influencer to put forward their honest opinion and sharing it with their followers can build trust and foster a relationship between you and the influencer.

An honest review also builds credibility between the influencer and their audience. It can drive audiences to your page to check out your product or service.

It also doesn’t hurt to build on your relationship with the influencer for future positive reviews or collaborations.

5. Brand Ambassador Programs

Brand ambassadors are influencers who receive free products or services from brands and promote through word of mouth. It is a long term relationship between the brand and the influencer with repeated promotion.

Selecting individuals who have already engaged with your product or service are the best fit for brand ambassador programs, especially if they have already expressed positive sentiments about your offerings.

After identifying someone who is already committed to your brand, you can set them up with complimentary products or services in exchange for continued positive exposure and promotion for your brand.

6. Influencer Takeovers

Instagram takeovers are common, especially if the influencer is promoting a particular service.

This type of campaign involves influencers agreeing to take over a brand’s Instagram account for a day, which can attract the influencer’s followers to the brand’s account. Selecting someone relevant to your niche and audience will drive traffic and brand awareness.

Instagram takeovers usually begin with a post containing a short bio of the influencer doing the takeover, and invite audiences to follow along with the takeover via Instagram stories. 

The takeovers can showcase content such as a day in the life of an influencer or special events.

10 Steps to Running a Successful Campaign

1. Set Your Budget

Before you open the Instagram app at all, you have to know how much you’re willing to invest in a campaign. If you start your outreach prior to establishing your budget, your brand is in for a world of hurt!

Many brands are still very green to Instagram influencer marketing and don’t have any solid reference points for what to charge for a post. 

With this in mind, it’s important to note that most influencers quote flat rates, but others base their fees on the number of sales or leads generated as a result of the campaign. 

Rates also vary widely by industry. This blog post from Coschedule.com explains that niches like modelling, photography, and food generally charge the highest rate on Instagram, while travel, lifestyle, and music usually come at a lower cost. 

As a general rule, $250-500 per post is a good guideline for influencers with below 10,000 followers. Influencers with over 10,000 followers tend to command rates between $5000 and $10,000. But buyer beware: if you’re looking to work with an influencer with over 1 million followers, they can begin to charge upwards of $100,000 per post. 

Looking to run a longer influencer campaign? According to Hootsuite, the baseline formula to calculate pricing for influencers is:

A screenshot depicting the formula to calculate the price of an Instagram influencer marketing campaign.

Your budget not only defines the scope of your influencer campaign, but also which category of influencers you can work with.

2. Find the Perfect Influencers

When you decide your budget, you also need to decide which type of influencer you’re looking to collaborate with.

Will it be a celebrity, macro influencer, or micro influencer? It’s important to be realistic here; unless your brand is akin to Coca-Cola or Nike, macro or micro is the way to go. 

If you’re a smaller brand or a local company, start scoping out micro influencers and potentially a few macro influencers in your niche if your budget allows for it.

Make a checklist of the most important qualities you’d like your influencer to have, and stick to it! 

You can use an Instagram marketing tool like Keyhole for this step, as well as surfing the popular hashtags that already exist in your niche. 

A screenshot of the related topics tool, highlighting the relevant hashtags feature in Keyhole.

You’ll want to make sure the influencer(s) that you identify align with your brand values, appeal to the right audience, and will also help you meet your campaign goals.

Make sure to also vet your influencers thoroughly – you may not want to work with someone who has been involved in PR disasters or controversies.

Next, analyze the popular accounts associated with these hashtags and how they align with your target audience. Go the extra mile to get to know their followers and the way they engage with the influencer’s content. 

Don’t be discouraged if this step takes some time!

According to a joint study by Tapinfluence and Altimeter, over two-thirds of marketers tout that shopping for influencers is the biggest challenge in a campaign. 

While you’re scouting profiles, answer the following questions for each influencer:

  • How many followers do they have?
  • Are their followers genuinely engaged with their content via likes, comments, and shares? 
  • How much traffic does this influencer generate as a whole?
  • Does the influencer’s audience reflect your brand’s target audience?

Once you find your ideal influencer who checks all these boxes, it’s time to plan your outreach.

3. Prepare for Influencer Outreach

Before you send that DM or email, take a dive into the mind of the influencer.

Do your research.

What interests do they have? What was the meaning of their latest post? How can you introduce yourself in a way that will attract them to your brand? 

By paying attention to how your ideal influencer uses social media, you’ll be better equipped to propose the collaboration and communicate your brand values clearly and effectively. 

Engaging with your selected influencer on Instagram and other platforms before reaching out to them will also establish a positive relationship with them – possibly before you even formally reach out to them!

4. Be Aware of Potential Problems

Let’s be honest. If you follow the steps outlined here, your campaign should go off without a hitch.

But it’s important to be aware of all the potential problems that can arise from an Instagram influencer campaign so that you can steer clear of them. Here are a few pointers:

FTC Guidelines And Best Practices

Our biggest tip for you, regardless of your campaign choice, is to be well aware of the latest FTC guidelines, follow best practices, and be completely transparent in your communication with influencers. 

The legal aspect of Instagram influencer campaigns is tightening quickly, and it’s always a great idea to stay informed with the most up-to-date Instagram FTC guide!

Fake Followers And Bots

You can never be too careful!

True influencers will have an audience of engaged, authentic followers. Scope out the comment section of your chosen influencer to determine if their comments are genuine or suspicious.

More suspect comments will be very broad in nature—they usually don’t show any real connection to the account or the associated post. Generic comments like these are typically from an account that’s paid for followers.

A screenshot depicting an example of suspicious, fake comments under a user's Instagram photo.

Examining an influencer’s followers are also important, as it is very common to have botted followers. An example of a few bot accounts may look like this:

A screenshot depicting an example of bot followers or fake followers.

You’ll notice that botted accounts may have a display photo, a username, and possibly even some posts, but tend to have little to no engagement on their account.

It is also important to inspect the ratio of followers to likes, comments, and engagement.

If an influencer has over 100k followers, but only one or two authentic comments, it is likely that they purchased fake followers or used bots to grow their following.

5. Reach Out!

You’ve done your due diligence and planned out your campaign – let’s kick it up a notch!

It’s time to “slide into the DMs,” as the kids say. 

When it’s finally time to reach out, treat your chosen influencer with the utmost respect. Take this opportunity to clearly demonstrate how your brand aligns well with their mission or interests. 

Better yet, guarantee the influencer creative freedom in your campaign!

The influencer knows their audience better than you do. If you’ve made the right choice in your research, prep and outreach process, giving the influencer full creative licence will result in a campaign that’s built on trust and authenticity. 

We said it before and we’ll say it again: nothing beats #relatable. 

When crafting your outreach messaging, whether through email or direct messages, make sure to adhere to email etiquette; be concise and pique their interest!

Be sure to introduce yourself thoughtfully and make sure your message is personalized to who you’re reaching out to. Perhaps mention a recent Instagram influencer campaign that the influencer has worked on that you liked or comment on similar interests between the influencer and your brand.

Express to the influencer why you’d value working with them, and leave the conversation open ended. Pitch your ideal campaign collaboration, but give them the opportunity for input and to share their own ideas. 

Stuck on writing your message? Oberlo has a few great email templates for different types of influencer collaborations. Here’s an example of a product gifting template:

An email example of a template, used for product gifting, a form of instagram influencer marketing.

Even if the influencer is unable to collaborate with you now, chances are it could lead to projects down the road!

6. Follow Up

Don’t forget that this campaign will likely be an ongoing conversation between influencer and brand, rather than a one-off message.

Be open to questions and feedback from the influencer, and respond to their inquiries promptly.

Haven’t heard back from an influencer? 

Lee Vosburgh, an influencer, admits that she misses some direct messages from companies or brands because they get redirected into Instagram’s message requests inbox. 

Reaching out to influencers to pitch a marketing campaign through direct messages may be missed. A screenshot indicating how to access direct message requests on Instagram.

Don’t hesitate to follow up with them if you don’t get a response.

If they haven’t engaged with your numerous communication attempts, move on to other opportunities or other influencers. Thank u, next.

7. Seal the Deal

So, it’s official!

If the influencer agrees to your campaign, take the time to familiarize them with your brand and campaign KPIs or expectations.

Making sure you’re on the same page throughout the campaign is crucial to attaining your campaign goals!

Introduce them to your brand’s Instagram account, offer a thorough explanation of your mission with this campaign, and maybe even create a mood board to inspire your influencer. 

Ensure that all necessary contracts are signed, and take the time to check in with your influencer to see if they require any support in their content creation.

8. Launch Your Campaign

Now that the influencer is fully comfortable and confident with what’s in store, it’s time to launch! 

Kick off your campaign with posts from your brand’s account, share posts from influencers you’re working with, or more!

Again, giving the influencer creative reign is ideal, but consider throwing in a branded hashtag for the campaign itself or running associated promotional material across your brand’s socials while the campaign is running. 

An example of a campaign hashtag can be as simple as something like #tiff2019:

9. Track Your Success

Tracking engagement and metrics is the best way to measure the true success of your Instagram influencer campaign.

Keyhole helps you manage your influencers, keep track of the number of likes, shares, reach, and impressions your campaign generated, while also making recommendations for your next launch. 

Many brands prefer to measure their engagement rate to define campaign success, calculated as a percentage.

Engagement rate is a metric used to measure the success of Instagram influencer marketing campaigns. The formula to calculate the engagement rate is the number of likes and comments divided by the number of followers, multiplied by 100.

There are many different methods to tracking success. Another method is by using branded hashtags over the duration of the campaign, if you’re looking to solely measure active participants in the launch. You can also track if there was an increase in followers or page traffic to the company’s Instagram page. 

How you decide to track your success is in your hands!

10. Keep in Touch

Don’t be a stranger!

It’s always a good idea to stay in contact with the influencer after the campaign is over to provide an open door and maintain a positive relationship. Who knows—if all goes well, you might want to work with them again in the future!

Cultivating relationships will benefit you in the long run for your Instagram influencer marketing strategy moving forward. They may also be able to refer you to other key influencers within your space!

Power Your Instagram Influencer Campaign with Keyhole

While it may appear to be a straightforward photo and video sharing platform, Instagram has a ton of untapped marketing power. 

A lot of work goes into influencer marketing for Instagram—from doing your research, to staying up to date on best practices, to effective communication with your chosen influencer—and that’s all before you even launch the campaign! 

With these newfound tools in your toolbox, now is the perfect time to jump on board and get started with your very first Instagram influencer marketing campaign. 

Ready to get started? Get your FREE trial with Keyhole today.

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