So, you’ve decided you want to try working with influencers on Instagram.
You want to see if influencer marketing would benefit your brand. There are just two problems.
One, you’ve got what can only be described as a “shoestring” budget. Two, you have no idea where to start.
The reality is there is influencer marketing is accessible for any budget. Using free methods to search for influencers might take a little more leg work than just calling up an agency and asking for their rate cards. But finding an influencer who’s a good match for your brand while working on a tight budget is possible if you’re willing to put in the effort.
Here’s what you can do to find Instagram influencers, without spending a penny.
How To Find Instagram Influencers for Free
There are plenty of methods to search for influencers natively in the Instagram app. But before you roll up your sleeves and get scrolling, be sure to do a bit of planning ahead of time to make sure you know exactly who you are looking for. Once you have a strategy in place, consider the following methods to begin your influencer discovery:
Conduct a Manual Instagram Search
One of the least expensive, but potentially most time-consuming, ways to find Instagram influencers is to search on Instagram itself. After all, the social platform has millions of users. You’re bound to find the right person somewhere, right?
The tricky thing is sorting through those millions of users. Obviously, not everyone is going to work for your brand. Not every person who has an Instagram account uses it regularly or wants to be an influencer.
There are a few things you can do to quickly separate potential influencers from the rest of the Instagram pack.
Take a Look at Your Brand’s Followers
People who follow your brand on Instagram most likely have some interest in it. Browse through your followers and see if anyone seems particularly invested in your brand. Perhaps there’s someone who comments and likes your posts regularly that could be a good fit.
Once you gather a list of potential Instagram influencers who seem jazzed about your brand’s content, take a peek at their Instagram profiles. Do they have a good number of followers (more than 1,000)? Does their follower count exceed the number of accounts they follow? What do they post about, and how often do they post? You’re looking for someone who posts about things relevant to your brand (or maybe even about your brand!), and who doesn’t have anything offensive or off-color on their feed.
Search Instagram Hashtags
If a search of your brand’s followers doesn’t turn up any promising influencers, it’s time to dig a bit deeper. Tap the search icon (the magnifying glass), then tap the “search” text box. It will give you the option of searching by hashtags, people, or location.
Type in a hashtag that’s relevant to your brand, or scroll through the list of people the app recommends. Look at the posts that come up in the results for the hashtag, then tap on a few that seem to be high quality, or that look appealing to you.
Making a List of Potential Influencers
Make a list of the influencers you’ve found on Instagram, including their Instagram handles and any other details provided in their profiles. Some influencers include email addresses or contact information in their bios, for example. Others don’t, which means you’ll have to connect with them through a direct message, or do a bit more digging off-app.
Browse Influencer Marketplaces
While searching on Instagram can give you a long list of potential influencers to partner with, it doesn’t necessarily tell you who’s looking for partnerships, or who’s actually an influencer.
Another way to find Instagram influencers for free is to check out influencers through a marketplace like Shake. This influencer marketplace allows creators to make listings for the services they would like to offer to brands. The great thing about using a marketplace is creators can set their price, which offers transparency and ultimately saves you time. Searching the marketplace is free and you only have to pay once an influencer accepts your request to collaborate.
Evaluating Your List of Influencers
In influencer marketing, as in everything, fakes and frauds abound. There are so-called “influencers” who pad their follower counts by buying followers (which, by the way, is against the rules on Instagram). There are also, in some cases, fake influencers. Fake influencers might not even be real people. Instead, they are accounts created using a bunch of stock photos and purchased followers.
Although the prevalence of fakes accounts on Instagram is annoying (to put it mildly), it can often be pretty easy to spot them. Looking directly at an influencer’s profile and posts can give you an idea of whether or not their following is genuine. Usually, spam followers or “bots” don’t “like” or comment on posts. When Instagrammers have a lot of fake followers, their posts often end up looking a bit neglected. They might have 100K followers, but get just a handful of likes per post.
If the bots do comment on a post, they are likely not to say anything particularly meaningful. Scroll through an influencer’s comments. If you see a lot of “interesting post!” or “Great picture!” comments, it’s pretty likely that they came from fake, bot followers.
Establishing contact (and getting a response) can be the trickiest part of finding Instagram influencers. Ideally, the influencer will have provided some contact information in their profile. If not, you can always go the direct message route.
Just as there are a lot of phony influencers, so there are also phony influencer opportunities. The savviest Instagrammers are going to be on the lookout for fake offers and might be wary about a company that pops up out of the blue.
For that reason, you want to give the Instagram influencer as much information as possible about your brand, and clearly outline your offer and idea. If you are on a limited budget, you can make that clear in the initial message.
If you’ve contacted influencers through Instagram, don’t be surprised if more than a few don’t get back to you. You might have a better response rate if you reach out to influencers by email or through an influencer marketing platform.
Influencer Marketing Tools
All things considered, finding the right influencers for your brand can certainly be a time-consuming process. Luckily, influencer marketing tools can save you hours of getting lost down a rabbit hole on Instagram.
Tools like IZEAx Discovery can help you quickly narrow down your search while taking the guesswork out of vetting your influencers. Get access to analytics that highlight a creator’s content performance, fake follower ratio and more.
To find and land collaborations with Instagram influencers, your best option is to cast a wide net. Influencer search tools can help you scale and streamline your outreach process. Contact more than you think you’ll need for a campaign, and you’ll be more likely to get a response from someone who’s going to be a good match for your brand.