You understand the importance of influencer marketing.

And you know your target market is actively using Instagram.

So, what next?

The first step is identifying the right people to work with. Get this wrong, and you’ll waste thousands of dollars on influencers with poor quality content.

Or worse: the wrong audience.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to find Instagram influencers with the right audience to amplify your brand.

You’ll learn the tricks, tools and outreach techniques to identify and effectively build relationships with the best influencers in your niche.

1. Stop! Create some criteria before doing anything else

The influencers you decide to work with will depend on your goals.

Just because an Instagram influencer has 1 million+ followers doesn’t mean they’ll get results.

That’s why you need to develop criteria for your target influencers. This will save you time and wasted dollars on ineffective influencer marketing.

Here are some things to keep in mind when finding Instagram influencers.

They must have an engaged audience

Remember, audience size isn’t everything. The most important metric to look out for is engagement.

If an influencer has millions of followers but has a low engagement rate, this is a bad sign.

That’s why many marketers are shifting to a micro-influencer marketing strategy. These users have between 10,000 and 100,000 followers with a high rate of engagement.

And because of their smaller audience size, they’re much more affordable. You can spread your budget across several micro-influencers instead of one “large” macro influencer.

We wrote all about micro-influencer marketing in this in-depth guide: “The Definitive Guide to Micro-Influencer Marketing.”

They must have a relevant audience

Of course, there’s no point in tapping into a new audience if they have no interest in what you offer.

Therefore, you should find influencers who have an engaged audience around relevant topics.

For example, if you sell yoga products, you could engage with influencers who have built an audience around wellness topics:

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I found this account searching the #yoga hashtag. They have a sizeable (and engaged) audience who are interested in yoga.

They must create great content

Finally, a successful influencer campaign needs great content. If an Instagram influencer doesn’t create great looking visuals, then you’ll likely end up with disappointing results.

Look for influencers with a cohesive feed. Their content should be consistent and of high quality.

Here’s an example from TRNK. Their photography features beautiful looking furniture surrounded by great interior design. Every piece of content has a consistent vibe to it:

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Your Instagram influencer criteria should look like this:

  1. Followers: Are you going micro or macro? Decide on the range of followers your target influencers should have.
  2. Engagement: How many likes/comments should your influencers’ content generate? To calculate engagement rate, divide the total number of comments and likes by the number of followers. A healthy engagement rate sits between 1.8% and 2.5% for micro-influencers.
  3. Relevancy: Focus on influencers who have an engaged audience on a specific topic. For example, if you’re promoting a restaurant in New York then target food bloggers in the area.
  4. Quality: Do they consistently create high-quality content? Getting this right, in the beginning, will save you hours of hair-pulling down the road.

Now you know what your target influencers should look like. Let’s explore the different techniques to find them.

2. Look at your followers

Where’s the best place to start looking for Instagram influencers?

Your own audience.

It’s likely that there are qualified influencers already following you. For the sake of example, let’s look at the Instagram following for SoYoung Inc., who has over 23,000 followers:

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Start with users who have liked and commented on your posts. Comments are the best indicator of engagement, with likes a close second.

Here’s a list of users that have recently liked a post by SoYoungInc.:

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You can also go through your entire list of followers to find Instagram influencers who already follow you. To save time, only click-through on those who have high-quality profile pictures.

While this manual approach is effective, you’re better off using a data-driven approach. Using the SpotRight platform, you can run an analysis of your followers as well as your competitors to understand who you might include in your campaign and what their potential reach is.

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3. Research relevant hashtags

Influencers are regularly posting content on themes relevant to your brand.

They use relevant hashtags in captions to increase the reach of their content. Use these hashtags to identify the best target influencers.

Start by typing a broad keyword in the search box (including the # character). You’ll see a list of other “long-tail” hashtags with the number of posts associated with them:

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Click on a hashtag to see the latest and most popular posts. Instagram uses an algorithm to feature 9 of the most recent popular posts before providing a chronological feed:

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The top post for #coffeelover above has over 4,000 likes. The user behind this content fits the target influencer criteria:

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If you were looking for influencers in the coffee niche, this account could be a great fit.

Rinse and repeat this process for other relevant hashtags suggested by Instagram’s search feature.

Make it a recurring process over the space of several days or a week (depending on how quickly you’re looking to execute).

4. Look for roundup articles

Roundup articles are popular among bloggers. They provide quick content opportunities to add value to their audience.

For us, these are great resources to tap into when finding Instagram influencers. The process is simple:

  1. Open Google
  2. Type in “top [industry] Instagram users”
  3. Look at the top ranking articles for relevant Instagram influencers

For example, here’s what we get when we search for “top coffee Instagram accounts:”

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Go through each result and make a note of featured Instagram influencers. Use query such as “top,” “best” and “most famous.”

5. Search the #sponsored hashtag

Thanks to FTC rules, influencers must make it clear when they’re paid to post content. They do this by adding a hashtag, such as #sponsored.

By searching for posts using this hashtag, you can quickly identify Instagram users who are happy to work with brands:

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Users who use this hashtag have been pre-vetted by partners. Other brands are happy to work with them, so it’s likely that they’ll fit your criteria. It also means you’re not limited to the top posts.

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This post was in the “Most Recent” feed for the #sponsored hashtag, and the user behind it has over 20,000 followers. The influencer would be a great target for your micro-influencer marketing efforts.

Other hashtags used for this purpose include:

  • #ad
  • #advert
  • #promo
  • #promotion

6. Spy on your competitors

What’s the best way to find influencers promoting products just like yours?

Swipe them from your competitors.

Start by looking directly at their Instagram profile. Click the icon below to see the posts that they’ve been tagged in:

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Look through tagged posts and identify those that have been sponsored (looking out for the #sponsored tag). Once identified, see if the campaign uses a unique hashtag.

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For example, this sponsored post for Skull Candy uses their proprietary #stayloud hashtag. Click the hashtag and look through the list of posts to find other sponsored posts:

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7. Tap into Influencer Networks

Influencer network networks are easy-to-use platforms that connect brands and marketers to social influencers.

There’s been an increase in the number of platforms over the last 12 months. Startups in the space are racing to build the largest database of influencers and brands. By doing this, they can attract both sides of the marketplace.

To help you sift through the noise, here’s a list of some of the top networks and platforms around.

1. Hypetap

Hypetap has a unique way of differentiating themselves from their competitors. They define themselves as a “curated influencer marketplace,” reaching 2,800+ influencers with a combined following of 406 million people.

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Their main offering is a self-service platform. But for brands who want to lean back and let someone else take care of everything, there’s also a managed option.

Hypetap account managers will take care of campaign management, influencer targeting, and content production. They’ll even crunch analytics data to provide useful insights.

2. TRIBE

TRIBE also offers a self-service platform for brands looking to engage with influencers.

The process is reminiscent of AdWords in its ease of execution. Finding and working with influencers is a breeze.

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They have access to over 25,000 influencers with a range of audience sizes – from micro-influencers to power users.

3. TapInfluence

TapInfluence sits at the higher end of the market, catering to enterprise-level organizations. You’ll need a budget of around $25,000 a year to get started.

But because of this, you’ll likely get great results. They use proprietary technology to search the web for the best influencers to fit your campaign.

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4. Speakr

Speakr has a network of over 37,000 influencers, all connected to brands like Ford, WB, Verizon, and Disney.

The difference is in their performance technology. The platform can forecast campaign pricing, reach and engagement across major social channels.

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They also have technology that ensures your content is FTC compliant. You’re legally covered, meaning campaigns go live with confidence.

5. Ifluenz

Finally, Ifuenz was launched as the first Instagram-only platform. With access to over 13,000 influencers, it’s a great platform for your Instagram influencer marketing campaigns.

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While they follow the self-serve model, brands must upload their own creative content – including images. You’ll have more control over what gets published, but this means more work on your end.

8. Tools to Engage With Influencers

While the manual approaches above are effective, there can be time-consuming.

Let’s look at some tools that make this process easier, starting with Klear.

Klear provides an “influencer search engine.” They’ve cataloged over 500 million profiles across 60,000 categories to help brands and marketers find the right influencers to work with.

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Using filters, you can search for users based on their skills, interests and how much influence they have on their audience.

The defined levels of influence can be vague. Here are the definitions of each level of influence, as used by the Klear platform:

  • Celebrities: The Kim Kardashian’s of the world. They’re famous both in the world of Instagram as well as the entertainment industry. Actors, musicians and TV personalities are all examples of celebrities.
  • Power users: Influencers who have carved a name for themselves inside of Instagram. They consistently create beautiful content in their niche and are well known for it.
  • Casual: Create great content but not on a regular basis. They have access to medium-sized audiences, but may not be very engaged.
  • Novice: New or stagnant accounts that rarely post and have a small following.

Similar to Klear, Ninja Outreach lets you search for influencers by keyword and filter them by follower count.

It also provides a platform to engage with and reach out to your target influencers. Add them to a list and use their email tools to create a template and scale your outreach.

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Email outreach best practice

Emailing influencers can be a delicate art. Especially if they’re highly sought-after.

Engaging with and reaching out to influencers is a long-term process. Here are some best practices you should adhere to:

  1. Engage before asking: Get on their radar by engaging with their content. Start liking and commenting on their content. Show them that you’re paying attention.
  2. Add value: There are ways to help influencers outside of Instagram. Share their content with your own audience. Help them promote the things that they’re promoting.
  3. Welcome note: Before starting the professional relationship, send a direct message. Tell influencers why you love the content they create. Encourage them to keep up the good work.
  4. Be personalized: When reaching out via email, don’t make it sound like a copy-and-paste template. Refer to content you’ve commented on, as well as any conversations you’ve had through the platform.
  5. The reason why: Why exactly do you want to work with them? Is it because they create great content? Explain why they’d be a good fit for your campaign.

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Let’s break down each element of the example above:

  1. Refers to a comment made on one of their posts
  2. Calls out the fact you barely know each other, while setting the intention
  3. Shares exactly why they would be great for this project
  4. A simple call-to-action

Whether you do manual outreach or use a platform like Ninja Outreach, ensure you make it as personalized as possible.

Influencer Marketing Playbook