You’d love to try working with influencers. 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 looking for Instagram influencers. How do you find Instagram Influencers for free?

While you’re probably familiar with stories of influencers charging well into the five or six figure range for just one post, there are ways to find Instagram influencers for free. Using free methods to search for influencers might take a little more work than just calling up an agency and asking for their rate cards. But once you’ve found an influencer who’s a good match for your brand, the effort it took to find that person will be well worth it.

Here’s what you can do to find Instagram influencers, without spending a penny.

How To Find Instagram Influencers for Free

Search on Instagram for free

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 list and see if anyone seems particularly invested in your brand. Perhaps there’s someone who comments on your posts regularly, or who often “likes” what you put up.

Once you find Instagram influencers for free and they seem jazzed about your brand’s existence, take a peek at their Instagram profiles. Do they have a good number of followers (more than 1,000)? Do they have more followers than 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 hashtags or use the Instagram discover tool.

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.

Make 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 an Influencer Network for free

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 browse an influencer network. Influencer marketing networks and software often come in a range of editions, with a variety of features. Some do have free versions, which provide you with a limited set of features.

When you use a free version of an influencer network, you might not be able to manage an entire influencer campaign through the software. But you’ll likely be able to find influencers who would potentially be interested in working with your brand.

Evaluate Instagram Influencers for free

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. If you want to get an idea of how an influencer’s following has grown, you can use a tool such as SocialBlade to track it.

SocialBlade tells you the number of followers an Instagram influencer or user has. It also tells you how many followers a person has gained (or lost) on each day.

For example, Instagram’s top user, Selena Gomez, currently has more than 133 million followers. The pop singer gains somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 to 40 thousand followers a day. Given the sheer size of her following, that’s a believable figure.

But if you come across an influencer who’s got maybe 100,000 followers, and 20,000 of those followers were gained in one day, that can be a sign that the “influencer” bought followers. Another sign that someone is paying for followers is if they seem to lose a lot of followers over the course of a day.

Sometimes, 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.

Make Contact With Instagram Influencers for free

You’ve found a few Instagram influencers who seem like they’d be a great match for your brand. You’ve scrolled through their feeds, checked out their followers, and evaluated their engagement rates.

The next step is to contact them.

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.

When you approach your influencers, be as professional as possible.

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 through an influencer network.

To find Instagram influencers for free, your best option is to cast a wide net. 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.

Want to learn the ins and outs of Instagram Influencer Marketing?

Download your free copy of the Instagram Influencer Marketing Guide today!