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How to Find Influencers for Instagram Collaborations: 13 Best Methods

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A Complete Guide for Brands

Influencer marketing has taken the digital world by storm. As social media has grown, so too has the power of influencers – individuals who have built devoted followings and expertise around topics they’re passionate about.

Brands have taken notice. In fact, according to recent surveys by eMarketer and Mediakix, influencer marketing was expected to grow into a $15 billion dollar industry by 2022.

But simply throwing money at any influencer won’t translate to success. The key is finding partners that truly align with your brand and targets.

This guide will explore 13 proven tactics any business can use to connect with relevant and impactful influencers – no matter your industry or niche.

Let’s dive in!

Why Choosing The Right Influencer Impacts Results

Influencer marketing thrives based on relevance – both to your products and your ideal audience. Selecting random internet celebrities without these attributes in place sets campaigns up for failure.

You need partners that share your company’s values, positioning, and consumer targets. This fosters authenticity and a much higher chance of converting their followers into your customers.

Here are four core reasons proper vetting of influencers makes all the difference:

1. Credibility Through Niche Relevance

Partners intrinsically tied to your niche bring built-in authority and trust with their audience. As subject experts, their recommendations carry far more weight over generic endorsements.

Consumer studies show 92% of individuals trust recommendations from others over branded messaging according to Nielsen. Leaning into niche authorities taps into this psychology through subject leaders your audience already follows.

2. Dialed-In Audience Targeting

Even reach 100,000+ followers brings limited value if the underlying audience differs from your customers. Just because someone buys makeup doesn’t mean they purchase protein shakes.

Lookalike modeling reveals audience overlap above 70% is optimal between an influencer’s followers and your targets according to TalkWalker. This maximizes potential sales based on intrinsic interests.

3. Quality Engagement Over Vanity Metrics

Follower counts reveal little without context around actual audience engagement. Are their fans passive observers or avid engagers?

According to CreatorIQ research, micro-influencers with under 100,000 followers deliver 2.4X higher engagement on average over mega-influencers.

Prioritize content resonance and conversation volume over reach alone. Even 10,000 highly-engaged followers drives awareness better than 1 million passive observers.

4. The Minimal Viable Cost Per Acquisition

Influencer tiers quickly escalate from micro to celebrity influencers. But increased costs don’t always scale linearly with sales impact.

Seek the optimal balance between potential gain and payment requirements relative to your margins and customer LTV projections.

With core considerations around influencer choice framed, let’s explore top methods for identifying ideal partners across Instagram and other social channels.

13 Ways To Find The Right Influencers For Your Brand

Influencer decisions require due diligence validating audience, content and overall branding alignment factors we just discussed.

Manually assessing individuals against these parameters is hugely time intensive. This section will present frameworks, tools and tips any marketing team can use to simplify discovery efforts.

I’ll share recommendation based on my over 8 years of social media marketing experience. Let‘s dive in:

1. Leverage All-In-One Influencer Marketplaces

Your best bet for simplified influencer discovery and campaign management is leveraging dedicated influencer marketplaces.

These platforms provide tailored databases, negotiation features and analytics tailored specifically to the unique process of influencer marketing.

My top recommendation is checking out Ainfluencer. Their platform is 100% free for brands and covers influencer partnerships from end-to-end:

Top10SM dashboard

I like Ainfluencer for multiple reasons:

  • 190,000+ Influencers Globally: Massive niche variety
  • Precise Search Filtering: Dial-in campaign parameters
  • Performance Analytics: Follower Demos, Content Scores, ER + More
  • Automated Fraud Checks: Ensure Posting Compliance
  • Self-Serve Negotiation: Receive & Accept Quotes From Talent
  • Campaign Management: Asset Uploading, Scheduling + More

This combination of discovery, fraud prevention and management in a single platform saves tons of manual coordination efforts.

Let‘s view a brief product tour showcasing the end-to-end functionality:

I utilize Ainfluencer across client accounts because it solves multiple needs simultaneously while being completely free. The overall workflow automation keeps overhead low while tapping into robust analytics minimizes risk.

2. Niche Google Searches

Beyond marketplaces, good old Google still provides value through niche searches against relevant industry keywords.

For example, common search frameworks could include:

  • "[Industry] influencers" (e.g. fitness influencers)
  • "[Location] [industry] influencers" (e.g. Texas fashion influencers)
  • "[Product] influencers" (e.g. beauty product influencers)

The goal is identifying profiles discussing your niche with existing audiences. Dig through search results to find blogs, articles and other sources showcasing standout creators.

It takes more upfront effort than marketplaces but you may surface hidden gems aligned to unique interests. Use these accounts as a launchpad for further research into their audiences, content and opportunities.

3. Review Existing Marketing Relationships

Your marketing team likely already has influencer relationships established. Before proceeding to find new partners, review existing arrangements that could be further leveraged.

Analyze performance to date working with current influencers:

  • How well do their audience demographics align to ideal targets?
  • What content formats and calls-to-action perform best?
  • How does cost measure up relative to engagement rates?
  • How would you optimize partnerships moving forward?

Discussion with internal stakeholders provides direction to build upon what’s already working. Additional budget could scale top relationships vs. starting completely from scratch.

4. Check Competitor Activity

Your competitors have likely explored influencer marketing partnerships if they are savvy digital marketers. Follow and analyze their social accounts to uncover previous collaborations.

Specifically look for:

  • Tagged Posts: Any sponsored partnerships call out brand handles.
  • Affiliate Links: Check captions and bios for unique codes and links.
  • Campaign Hashtags: Branded hashtags showcase custom creative.
  • Employee Follows/Comments: Internal staff engagement reveals relationships.

This competitor intel provides a blueprint of influencers receptive to sponsorships in your market. Reach out to those primed in your industry already with warm intro touchpoints.

For example, if you sell beauty products and a top competitor has sponsored makeup artist Amy Smith, she likely aligns well to partner with your company also.

5. Connect Through Industry Podcasts

Podcasts continue explosive growth with over 90 million listeners now in the US according to Edison Research. The personal, relationship-driven format builds intimate communities around topics.

Identify podcasts aligned to your customers and pitch the hosts directly on sponsorship arrangements. Most shows are lean operations hungry for funding. Even modest sponsorships between $500-$1000 per episode deliver value through:

  • Shout outs mid-episode
  • Guest interviews
  • Product seeding to hosts
  • Exclusive discount codes
  • Brand landing page posts

The trust hosts build with listeners leads to recommendations making deep impact – a perfect influencer dynamic.

Industry events provide unparalleled access to influencers, experts and taste makers in your market. Identify presentations, panels and workshops covering your products and services. Then get boots on the ground to make in-person connections.

These face-to-face meetings build relationships beyond cold digital outreach. Chat influencers up post sessions and keep conversations going by connecting on social media.

Having conversations in real-life first, tremendously increases response rates pitching future collaborations vs. spamming talent.

Monitor event hashtags and tags as well to pinpoint attending influencers excited to share their experiences. These are primed for partnerships relevant to the event theme and your brand.

Niche newsletters showcase rising trends and industry experts before mainstream press. Media satire site The Onion even recently launched their own newsletters given growth in the medium.

Find newsletters in your sector and take notes on writers, guest contributors and advertised sponsors. These regular appearances indicate subject matter authorities invested in your niche.

Many newsletter authors are micro-influencers themselves across Instagram and Twitter especially. The consistency generating weekly editions displays their commitment, work ethic and audiences.

8. Mine Online Forum Experts

Don’t forget online forums and communities remain hotbeds for expert insights within niche topics. Sites like Quora, Reddit and niche message boards feature threads with standout voices weighing in on relevant issues.

Identify writers with thoughtful, well-received responses over time. Click through to their forum profiles and social accounts associated to analyze overall reach.

The same dynamics translate to Facebook Groups, Slack channels and related communities centered around your products. Pay attention to standout contributors that invest lots of time helping others and building relationships.

9. Connect Through Professional Sites

Don’t overlook LinkedIn and Medium to find professionals with personal brands closely tied to your industry.

LinkedIn provides expansive filtering to identify experts by:

  • Location
  • Industry
  • Job Function
  • Seniority
  • Company Size + More

Connect based on overlapping affiliation and professional interests.

Equally, Medium hosts scores of niche publications showcasing writers with loyal followings. Search relevant topics and dive into well-read stories uncovering more about aligned authors.

The trust these platforms foster around career-oriented sharing equals major influence potential.

10. Explore Emerging Social Apps

Social platforms like Snapchat and TikTok boast engaged yet under-tapped influencer pools given their relative infancy. Rather than established celebrities, these channels provide opportunities to lock in partnerships with rising talent.

Consult trend reports on emerging platforms per eMarketer and Mashable. Identify apps gaining with younger demographics:

emerging social apps

Search niche hashtags and content categories related to your brand within each app. Take notes on standout creators and cross-reference to other social channels for further vetting.

The early investment researching up-and-comers before competitors locks in first-mover advantage as audience expand.

11. Attend Virtual Events

Most events shifted online during the pandemic leading to broader access and participation. Previously geography limited in-person attendance whereas virtual forums feature global influencer talent.

Sites like Eventbrite, Meetup and Facebook Groups centralize relevant conferences, talks, workshops and more related to all niches.

Follow headline hashtags and speaker handles to monitor related chatter during and post events. Identify advocates sharing recaps and insights to determine influencer candidates.

Many events post recordings allowing you to catch-up and analyze days or weeks following live streams. This expands the window for lead generation.

Similarly, Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces center fully around voice conversations as formal virtual events. Hop between digital “rooms” to connect with relevant discussions and personalities to potentially partner with over time.

12. Leverage Social Monitoring

Dedicated social listening tools act as control centers consolidating brand mentions, hashtags performance, influencer commentary and more from across the social sphere.

Platforms like SimplyMeasured, TalkWalker, SproutSocial and others help identify rising influencers engaging with your company – or related keywords:

social monitoring platforms

Filter data to influencers with notable reach and engagement trajectories connected to your niche. Social monitoring charts competitor traction too for additional context.

Free tools like Google Alerts and Twitter Search operator filters provide budget options to capture relevant findings as well.

13. Launch an Influencer Call-To-Action

Don’t wait around for influencers to magically find and pitch your brand. Make it easy within your owned properties:

  • Blog – Add an influencer submission form for guest post pitches including requirements and incentives.
  • Social – Run an Influencer Search campaign highlighting partnership opportunities.
  • Website – List an official submission portal under Partnerships menu linking to applications.

Promote this CTA across social channels and through ads targeted towards relevant influencer demographics on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Receive inbound applications from talent aligned to your niche and vet accordingly.

In one fell swoop this consolidates relevant discovery and relationship-building towards qualified leads.


Those are my top 13 tactics and recommendations for research influencer partnerships. Other core elements we still need to cover include:

  • Key steps finalizing mutually-beneficial deals
  • Campaign structure and management best practices
  • Performance tracking to optimize efforts

But nailing the discovery phase using the playbook above sets the critical foundation. Now we‘re ready identify hidden gems that truly align with unique brand needs.

Core Components of Proper Influencer Partnerships

Beyond just finding influencers, structuring win-win engagements is equally as important to program success.

Let‘s explore core components for establishing results-driving arrangements once leads get qualified:

1. Define Audience Personas In Detail

General age and gender profiles lack enough detail for precision matching. Expand attributes to include granular elements like:

  • Location specifics
  • Behavioral qualities
  • Content preferences
  • Brand affinities beyond your own
  • Psychographics covering values and priorities

These exhaustive details help connect hard metrics around an influencer’s followers to the human attributes driving decisions.

2. Map Content Formats To Campaign Funnel

Sponsored posts drive broad awareness but affiliate partnerships trigger direct sales.

Develop documented Content Type Guidelines tailored to each funnel stage:

Funnel Stage Content Mapping
Awareness IG Feed Post, IG Story, Hashtags
Consideration YouTube Review, IG TV, Giveaways/Contests
Conversion affiliates, discount codes, lead gen form

Content and offers matching audience preparedness at each phase optimizes results.

3. Structure Pricing for Gradual Commitments

Given the intangible ROI of influencer efforts upfront, pursue graduated partnerships from one-off posts to multi-campaign packages:

  • one sponsored post >
  • three post package >
  • quarterly partnership

As performance proves out over time, amplify investment corresponding to returns. Think dating – not marriage!

4. Maintain Open Communication

Clearly outline expectations related to timelines, performance metrics (Likes, Shares, etc.) and optimization opportunities as campaigns unfold.

Schedule check-in calls bi-weekly providing tangible space to align and adapt efforts towards shared objectives.

With core components for mutual success framed, let‘s connect the dots on what influencer marketing entails at a high-level.

What Does Influencer Marketing Actually Mean?

We‘ve covered depth on optimizing various elements of influencer partnerships. But let‘s clearly define influencer marketing itself at its core.

Influencer marketing activations use subject experts to organically recommend products they truly know, like and use with their loyal audience base. Think micro-celebrity endorsements.

Rather than overt advertising, influencers incorporate branded messaging within native social content. This earns consumer trust and interest driving measurable objectives:

  • Awareness: Increase brand visibility and recognition
  • Engagement: Spark meaningful social interactions
  • Consideration: Educate audiences on features and value
  • Conversions: Trigger purchases or lead generation

Properly aligned, influencers act as passionate brand ambassadors authentically communicating to their followers as believers themselves. This drives remarkable campaign results exceeding traditional formats.

In closing, clearly our social age demands brands continually invest in influencer partnerships. The frameworks above will guide your brand establishing and optimizing relationships with measurable impact.

Now get out there are start connecting with voices who will take your marketing to the next level!

I welcome any feedback or questions in the comments below. Please reach out!

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