At a time when social media has become hugely popular as a venue for advertisers seeking to expand their consumer base, it can be hard to know where to start when looking for the right way to connect with your target audience. Sponsored posts are available on Instagram, but as this method of advertising increased in cost and decreased in engagement, more and more brands began making the decision to sponsor content from the accounts of individual influencers.

On Instagram, an influencer is someone who has built an audience who buys into that person’s credibility within a specific area, whether it’s a hobby, industry, or any other kind of interest shared by an online community. Typically, someone considered to be an influencer would have a rather large following, but there are no specifically defined metrics. An account could have fewer than 2,000 followers and still wield influence in a specific sphere on Instagram.

In this post, I’ll be explaining how to become an Instagram influencer and how influencer marketing works, as well as a few strategies for businesses who want to use influencers to put a spotlight on their products and services.

Starting the Party: How to Become an Influencer on Instagram

 Think of your page as a party you’re throwing. Who do you want your guests to be? Where do they hang out? How do you get the invitations to them and how do you get them to show up? Just like a party host would have to decide on a theme, decorations, entertainment, and so on and so forth, someone who wants to become an Instagram influencer needs to consider subject matter, aesthetics, and other factors that would work towards your party become the one everybody is talking about.

If you’re trying to become an influencer on Instagram, the first step is to choose your niche. With over 800 million users, Instagram has a community for almost any interest you can come up with. Pick a subject that you’re passionate about. The best accounts are the ones that really have something to say about a subject, and your followers are much more likely to be engaged if you have a genuine love, interest, and expertise in what you’re posting about.

There are advantages and disadvantages to various types of Instagram accounts, but before considering any of that, you’ll want to make sure it’s a topic about which you’re legitimately excited and knowledgeable.

Choosing the Theme: Follower Engagement and Account Aesthetic

 This may seem obvious, but maintaining a regular posting schedule is hugely important to building and keeping an engaged following. The more you post, the more opportunities your audience will have to connect with you. Try to post daily to help build familiarity and rapport with your followers and encourage them to engage with your content. This involves not only posting interesting pictures, but also reaching out to your followers through your captions.

Try to make your words convey some of your personality and encourage your audience to interact with you directly through direct questions and calls to action. Respond to your followers when they comment on your posts – it demonstrates that there’s a real person behind your account and forges a stronger personal connection between you and your audience.

When trying to establish familiarity with your brand as an influencer, it’s also important to try and cultivate your own unique aesthetic. Particularly on Instagram, where your feed is displayed as a grid on your profile page, you’ll want to curate your posts so that they go together and build a consistent vibe for your brand.

Think about how your posts will look in a grid, considering filters, color scheme, and composition. There are apps available such as Preview and Schedugram that allow you to see in advance how your images will look alongside one another before you post them. Having a signature aesthetic strengthens your brand’s identity and makes you stand out more in a competitive social media landscape.

Inviting the Guests: How to Find Your Audience

When it comes to getting your content in front of the audience that you want, there are a number of methods you can use to expand your social media footprint. Research hashtags that relate to your niche. Going with the most popular ones isn’t necessarily the right choice, especially if you’re still building your follower count.

If you’re a fashion blogger with 1,000 followers, people who search the hashtag #fashionblogger and get 60 million results are probably going to have to be scrolling for a long time before they run across your content. Come up with more specific hashtags with results in the 100,000 range to give your posts a better opportunity to shine.

Getting a business account on Instagram is free and has multiple advantages for influencers trying to expand their reach. In addition to putting a contact form on your Instagram profile so followers won’t have to access your website to reach you, having an Instagram business account gives you the advantage of seeing metrics on all of your content. Keeping a close eye on what kind of engagement you’re getting can give you indicators on which types of content work well, which hashtags bring you the most engagement, and which times of day are prime time for posting.

Instagram Influencer Marketing vs Instagram Ads

There are a number of advantages to paying influencers to promote a product over paying for an ad on Instagram. Ads may have a broader reach in the short term but it lacks the focus and personality that an influencer’s post would have. People are more likely to buy a product if it’s being endorsed by someone they already like. Companies who use influencers also know that an Instagram ad will only run for a short period but a post on a respected influencer’s Instagram feed will be there to stay.

A major part of all of this is following and getting to know other influencers on subjects related to yours. This is “social” media – don’t miss the opportunity to build relationships and network with others who share your interests. Getting on the radar of other people whose voices are respected in your area of interest can really raise the profile of your account. It’s also instructive to see what popular accounts are posting to see which sort of content gets the highest rate of engagement.

Take notice of your competitors’ promotional content too – companies that are already using Instagram influencers like you to advertise their brand might be good ones to reach out to about doing your own promotion for.

Who Has the Most Instagram Followers – What Should You Look for?

 

Building a large follower base is obviously important to your reach as an influencer, but it isn’t the be-all end-all. The influencers who make big bucks on Instagram have follower counts in the millions, so it might be tempting to take a shortcut and buy followers. This is a mistake if you’re trying to build credibility. Smart brands will look at your engagement rate as well as size of your following, and if you have 10,000 followers but your posts are only getting a dozen likes apiece, it doesn’t look good.

How to Find Instagram Influencers

More and more brands are discovering the value of promoting content through micro-influencers (in general, accounts with 2,000 or fewer followers), partially because smaller accounts tend to have a higher average level of engagement. Not everybody can afford to spend six figures on getting a Kardashian to shout them out on Instagram, but smaller, social media-savvy companies know that they can get a lot of bang for their buck with a well-placed post on a smaller influencer’s account.

In addition to the higher engagement rate, posts from smaller specialty accounts also typically have more organic personality and originality than sponsored content from super well-known influencers.

Instagram Influencers Cost – How Much Should You Pay Influencers?

The cost of getting an influencer to promote your product can vary wildly, from thousands of dollars on the higher end to maybe just some free swag on the lower end. How much money an influencer commands depends largely on follower count but engagement rate also factors in, and so can the influencer’s niche. This piece from influencer network influence.co helpfully breaks down the average payment for influencers in their network across categories including follower count and market niche.

Influencer Networks – How Do Influencers Work Together?

So at what point are you ready to start getting paid as an influencer? You can start laying the groundwork early. If there are products you already use and enjoy, tag them in relevant posts so they start seeing your name early on. To use the fashion blogger example again, if you’re showing off a new look or outfit, tag the brand names of the clothes and accessories you’re wearing to give brands an idea of how you can make their products look good. Identify yourself with brands that you actually feel a connection to. If your promoted content feels phony or disingenuous, it undermines your followers’ trust in you and hurts your ability to be effective as an influencer.

As mentioned before, following promoted content from other Instagram influencers can be a good way to find brands that might be amenable to a partnership. Comment on brands’ comments and put together a pitch for direct messaging potential clients. You’ll probably send a lot more DMs than you get back, but it could also get your foot in the door and help you start to create mutually beneficial partnerships.

Influencer Marketing Platform – Reviews for the Top Influencers

While logging onto Instagram and searching for influencers yourself is always a good starting point, sometimes launching a campaign on your own is a daunting task.  In that case, you’ll want to turn to influencer marketing experts to find the right fit for your promotion needs.

Hiring an influencer is just like hiring any other member of your marketing team.  You’ll want to get to know them, and hear what other companies have to say about these influencers. Online databases for influencers like GhostLamp and PR management agencies allow businesses to find, contract, and pay influencers to create influencer marketing campaigns, while finding out which influencers work for them.  These agencies are essentially brand-influencer matchmakers, that pair your business’ marketing needs and the positive social impact an influencer has to offer to your target market.

Selling Yourself

Pitching to potential partners is its own set of skills and can be just as critical as anything else to forming brand partnerships. Brands, especially larger ones, may be dealing with a massive volume of requests from other influencers like you, so selling yourself in a way that makes you stand out from the crowd might seem like a daunting task. If you’re contacting brands by email, put together a PDF media kit to send with your requests. This post by travel blogger Elona the Explorer explains why a media kit is important and outlines some of the best practices to follow when putting one together.

If reaching out to brands directly seems daunting, there are different kinds of software you can use to get affiliated links to monetize your influence. For instance, Arthur is a tool specifically for personal stylists that, in addition to lookbook and client list management applications, generates personalized links for online clothes shopping that give commissions to the stylist for everyone who uses them to make a purchase.

Now that we’ve gone through the general basics of being an influencer, let’s talk about some of the more specific types of influencers on Instagram and which examples are good for aspiring influencers to follow.

Top Instagram Influencers 2018

Fitness

Example: @mynameisjessamyn

Why we like them: Jessamyn’s fitness Instagram stands out from the rest, because she believes that fitness through yoga can be achieved at any size, any age, any stage.  In a sea of homogenous fitness accounts, she makes a brand for herself through posts that emphasize body positivity and feminism. She links to her podcast in many of her posts, allowing interested followers to dive deeper into her fitness philosophy. She also partners with brands like Kotex to promote period awareness.

Jessamyn’s posts help readers understand the importance of self-love and self-acceptance, creating a safe space where her followers can practice those same values. Her IG account is founded on very distinct principles and core beliefs which allows her followers to see that she is an advocate of change in the fitness world.

Lifestyle

Example: @witanddelight_

Why we like them: Kate Arends is a lifestyle & interior design blogger from Minnesota with over 330,000 followers. The main subjects on her feed are her gorgeous home and office and her family (including her dog and her newborn son). Her photos are all shot really well, with good composition, interesting angles, and a tastefully subdued overall color scheme. In addition to showing off the results of her interior design projects, she also links to DIY advice on how to emulate the things she depicts on her feed, and having an Instagram page that solves problems or helps followers develop skills is a really great practical way to stand out.

Fashion & Style

Example: @manrepeller

Why we like them: At Man Repeller, fashion equals maximalism. The bigger and bolder the colors and designs, the better. They keep fashion fun and personal, by featuring brands, giveaways, and styles they love. Whether it’s an outfit appreciation post about an employee at Man Repeller HQ, or a link to their blog about an interview with a fashion icon or interior designer, their eye for exceptional design feels curated but at the same time experimental and free-spirited.

BONUS Example: @whowhatwear

Why we like them: Who What Wear is an eclectic fashion-themed page with more than 2.5 million followers. It’s basically one-stop shopping for everything you might need to know about fashion trends and pop culture. WWW uses stories and posts to highlight trends and has shopping links for followers to buy the clothes showcased on the Instagram feed. WWW also reposts other fashion bloggers and personal stylists to leverage its own position as a leader in the Instagram style and fashion community.

Travel

Example: @elonatheexplorer

Why we like them: Elona the Explorer is a travel blogger with over 47,000 followers. Her brands include NULA travel jewelry and she also does promotional posts for hotels and tourist attractions in the places she visits (what a living!). If you look at Elona’s feed, the first thing that jumps out is all the vibrant color. The entire aesthetic of her page is sunny, attractive, and fun to look at. If you follow her stories, she uses them to promote products but also to shout out other travel accounts that she likes, which is an awesome way to build an influencer network. Finally, she does a great job of showcasing her personality. Her inspiring backstory as a cancer survivor is mentioned right in her bio, she’s centrally featured in almost all of her photos, and the captions on her posts always have a lot of character and human interest.

Food

Example: @nectarandstone

Why we like them: Caroline Khoo’s company, Nectar and Stone, pushes creative boundaries when it comes to dessert design and recipe innovation. Through videos, Khoo allows her followers to stay updated on the next big thing in sweets she’s thinking of. Through delectable photos and close-ups of everything from donuts to macarons and artfully decorated cakes, she catches the attention of dessert enthusiasts everywhere.The consistent millennial pink color pallette is both distinctive and visually appealing, keeping the look and feel of her account clean and cohesive.

She uses her IG stories to highlight what she’s working on that week or showing viewer’s what’s been inspiring her as of late.

Celebrity

Example: @gigihadid

Why we like them: Gigi Hadid is arguably one of most well-known models worldwide, but on her Instagram account she likes to share her spotlight.  When posting picture of her cat walking down the runway, she always takes the opportunity to tag the accounts of stylists and designers who made that fashion show possible.  Her account isn’t just build on publicity, though. She keeps her content relatable by posting childhood photos, fun videos of her hanging out when she’s off-duty and pictures taken from Snapchat, making her followers feel personally connected to her.

Reality TV Star

Example: @ashley_iaconetti

Why we like them: After becoming a reality TV icon through appearances on The Bachelor and some of its spinoff series, she uses her fame to help brands gain exposure.  She also makes special appearances at events like the Winter Olympics to get people excited about the same things she’s passionate about. The overall tone of her account is relatable and light-hearted – there’s a good balance of her at home, traveling, and at work, mostly with a fun, jokey tone that shows that she has a sense of humor about herself. She uses both stories and posts for promoting brands – her content is incredibly interactive and always invites her followers to find out more about what she’s up to. She also has a podcast, and more available content is almost always a good thing – having a podcast or blog that people can find from your page is a great way for them to build more of a relationship with you as a fan.

It might not seem like it on the surface, but remember, this is a real job and it takes a lot of work. Whether you’re just starting your page or you already have a following, it takes a major commitment of time, energy, and imagination to build valuable influence on Instagram. If you want to find out more about how to leverage your social media for brand impact, check out our primer on social media that will be coming out soon on our site. For this and any of your other social media needs, our team specializes in helping people and businesses get the most out of their online presence. Feel free to reach out to us here: http://www.prgstrategies.com/

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