You want your brand to lead the pack in a certain space, but you don't know where to start. You've been looking all over Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for people who are influential in your industry, but it's not working.
What gives? Why can't you seem to figure out how to find influencers in your niche?
Well, there's plenty that goes into finding an influencer these days -- especially if you're trying to get into new topics or niches that have yet to receive much attention from influencers.
Keep reading to break down some of the barriers that limit you from finding an effective influencer for your niche, plus tips to help you find an authentic influencer for your brand!
7 Steps to find influencers for your brand
We all know an influencer that pops up on our favourite social media platforms and feeds.
A YouTube superstar. An Instagram model. A fashion blogger. Influencers come in all shapes and sizes and with neverending possibilities, they're getting more and more popular among brands.
But finding the right person for your influencer marketing campaigns is not easy as it sounds. In fact, if there’s one thing to keep in mind, it’s this: not every influencer is going to be right for your digital marketing efforts. There are some key elements you may want to consider in order to identify the right personality to help you build brand awareness while keeping in mind ROI.
#1 - Define your influencer marketing goals
Like any other marketing campaign, you'll need to outline your goals clearly. What are you trying to achieve with this influencer campaign? On which social media platform are you planning to execute this campaign? What is the time frame you're setting in order to achieve these goals? How much money can you spend? The answer to these questions will help you narrow down your search for the right influencers and help you better align your expectations with the results of your campaign.
Here are some examples of what these goals could be:
- To generate brand awareness
- To create and tell your brand story
- To grow your audience
- To grow your network of industry partners
- To promote a new product
- To generate more leads or drive sales
- To increase social media engagement
- To retain your customers or
- To achieve any other business objective that requires you to find social media influencers
Once you know your WHY and what exactly you want to achieve, it's time to proceed to the next step.
#2 - Decide on the type of campaign you want to run
It's time to determine HOW you're going to meet your objectives. Don't expect to achieve your goals with a campaign that won't support them.
Each type of campaign has its own purpose and each purpose requires its own type of influencer. Let's take a look at the different types of campaigns and what's required:
- Gifting: when a business offers gifts or freebies in exchange for brand mentions from a social media influencer
- Sponsored posts or content: when a company pays industry influencers to create brand content on their website or through posts on their social network
- Affiliate or discount codes: influencers promote your business through a unique promo code; when someone makes a purchase, they will earn a commission
- Contests and giveaways: a brand supplies key influencers with products or services that will be given away to random or selected followers
- Social media takeover: when an influencer takes over a brand's social media account for a defined period to attract audiences that can turn into potential customers
- Unboxing and reviews: giving or lending an influencer a product to review or share their experiences on social media
This isn't an extensive list by any means, but it's a good place to start. There are plenty of other ways to work with influencers who can help you achieve your business goals.
#3 - Determine the platform where you want to focus your influencer campaigns
In other words, where do you want to grow your network? Depending on your industry and the type of campaign you're running, there might be platforms that aren't relevant and some that are. For instance, Instagram influencers are great for beauty brands or health and wellness products, while LinkedIn works well for SaaS and fintech.
#4 - Do your research
How you actually find relevant influencers in your niche is often the most time-consuming part of an influencer marketing campaign (for those who do it right). You want to dig deeper and look at the influencer’s platforms, content themes, past brand collaborations, tone-of-voice, etc. Here are some practical ways to do your research.
Search using relevant hashtags
Hashtags are invaluable in helping you determine who potential influencers for your brand might be. Searching through relevant hashtags will help you find Instagram influencers with profiles, posts, and trends that fit with your brand.
Using hashtags, you can discover what influencers are posting about which can then lead you to other relevant profiles and content.
Advanced queries on search engines
It's not just using the right keywords in this case. Try searching for your keyword and adding "site: instagram.com" so that the search results will only return links on Instagram related to your keyword. You can also add locations as part of your search query or sort results by most recent and so on.
You can do some additional research to find key influencers currently or previously working with your competitors. It's highly likely that other brands within your niche are already working with influencers based on your location and your target demographic.
Find influencers for free
There are tons of free tools and paid tools in the market that allow you to find YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter influencers to collaborate with.
For YouTube, there is Storyclash, a monitoring tool that helps you understand the activities of content creators plus other topics that are getting some traction. For Twitter, tools such as FollowerWonk and BuzzSumo enable you to look at the top influencers on any niche complete with stats such as followers, retweets, replies, and more.
For Instagram, while nothing beats good old hashtag searches, advanced tools like Awario can lead you to a potential influencer. Of course, theright.fit provides a quick and easy way to find influencers across all platforms!
#5 - Influencer vetting
Once you’ve found some profiles to follow, you can start vetting each influencer to see if they're worth reaching out to.
Influencers are typically specialists in a specific topic or category. Mapping out the relevant context for your brand is essential to improving relevance in the target audience. The standard categories such as fashion, mums, food, fitness, travel etc. can be helpful, but defining other criteria for your influencers will help you create a strong match. Again, don't skip the all-important influencer vetting process!
Let’s say you are a fashion company looking for an influencer to create content for your social media platforms. In this case, it would also be important that the influencer’s look and personal taste suit your brand guidelines.
Meanwhile, if you represent a steak restaurant and you wish to do a brand collaboration, you might not want to partner with a leading voice in the veganism community. Another example could be a travel agency providing ski trips to an influencer who has in the past mentioned that she hates snow and only travels within 100km of the equator.
The point is to invest some time in looking at the individual influencer's past content and stories on social platforms to gauge their social authority. You might even find that they have already mentioned your brand via their own interest.
Setting up all the criteria in advance will help you find a strong match and automatically decrease the time spent on finding the best influencers – you will know exactly what to look for.
#6 - Approach the influencer
It's now time to execute. Follow influencers on your list and start interacting with them through carefully crafted messages. Take it nice and slow. Keep the likes and comments coming, and then add value to what they're offering to their audience. Once you get noticed, you can introduce yourself and the opportunity at hand. Explain the mutual benefits you can gain through this partnership. If they decline, negotiate. If they still decline, keep the conversation going anyway.
With your patience and hard work, you'll hopefully gain their trust and get them to become your brand ambassador.
#7 - Make sense of metrics and report results
Once you've successfully executed your campaign, you need to track your metrics and measure your success. Make sure you get detailed reports on the influencer's activities. This will give you a glimpse of how much the partnership really costs, allowing you to see if it's worth working with them in the future.
Tracking metrics is easier when you've identified your campaign goals before you begin. Think larger than the traditional digital KPIs such as CPM, CPV, CPC etc. Most influencers will have a hard time keeping up with your digital benchmarks – showing the big boss the actual value of the campaign’s ROI will be difficult if you do not include more qualitative measurements. Include considerations that focus on influencer marketing’s strong sides – like engaging the audience, creative storytelling, and time spent curating content with the brand.
Pitfalls to avoid when finding social media influencers
It can't be stressed enough how finding influencers who are right for your brand can spell the success or failure of your campaigns. You need to avoid the common mistakes that marketers and business owners commit when engaging potential partners.
Mistake #1 - Not analysing your influencer's target audience
An influencer is only as good as the audience they have. If the wider audience doesn't relate to what an influencer is saying, it's worthless working with them. That's why you need to know where your influencer stands in terms of authority. You need to find people who can connect with your audience, not talk over their heads.
Mistake #2 - Looking at vanity metrics
It’s tempting to just choose the niche influencers who have the largest amount of followers and generate the highest number of likes, comments, and shares to engage. But unless their goals and brand image are aligned with yours, this won’t be a match made in marketing heaven.
One of the primary mistakes committed when choosing an influencer is looking at reach as a sole indicator for success and potential sales. Yes, reach is necessary for awareness but influencers have much more to give to a brand than short-term financial returns. Influencers are excellent content creators. By being creative, they've achieved success; so they know exactly what engages the target audience.
Mistake #3 - Forgetting about the 'story'
Would you send a product to the selected influencer and hope for the best? Of course not! The most crucial part of influencer marketing is finding the story before seeking the financial return.
Most brands have an idea of what they want the influencers to say but the key to creating trustworthy recommendations is telling the story in the influencer's own words and ways.
There is a fine line between telling an influencer what to post and creating an inspiring brand story that leaves enough space for individual creativity. The second often gives the best results – especially if you are using more than one influencer. It is all about finding the sweet spot where brand, audience, and topicality meets.
The most important thing to have in mind when you work with influencers is that they are not digital platforms that you buy into with a branded message. They are humans with a creative heart and an opinion that matters to thousands of followers. They can create a positive and trustworthy story around your brand and potentially sway brand preference among their audience towards yours.