The Ultimate Instagram
Follow this guide to understand how to build your strategy, find the right influencers and track your performance.
Consumers don’t appreciate the feeling that they’re being sold something, or that they don’t have agency over their purchasing decisions. They want to be active participants in the purchasing process, researching products and arriving at their own conclusions with a genuine helping hand.
Enter influencer marketing. This marketing strategy utilizes well-known, trusted individuals with significant online presence to endorse products and services. The information and recommendations influencers provide feel authentic to consumers, ultimately shaping their purchase decisions without feeling coercive. It’s a valuable strategy for marketers and one that can effectively drive sales while building consumer trust in a brand.
In this guide, you’ll learn the basics of creating your strategy, from choosing a campaign type to finding influencers to tracking your strategy results. Armed with a thorough command of influencer marketing campaigns, you’ll be well on your way to creating a successful strategy.
Instagram has become one of the most popular social media platforms for influencer marketing. It’s a go-to for marketers seeking brand awareness and engagement from their audiences.
Instagram’s visual content goes hand-in-hand with influencer marketing and its users trust the platform to provide insights on topics they care about most.
If you’re ready to explore influencer marketing on Instagram, we’ve got you covered.
Defining Your Instagram Influencer Budget
Influencer marketing doesn’t have to be expensive. In general, you can expect influencer fees to increase as follower count rises. Influencers with lower follower counts may accept free products or services as compensation, so figure this into your budget too. Others may charge a flat rate, or you might negotiate compensation based on the number of leads or sales the influencer generates.
Instagram influencer rates also vary by industry. Food, photography and modeling influencers tend to charge more on Instagram, while travel, music and lifestyle influencers have lower rates. But to give you a general idea of influencer rates, here’s Influencer Marketing Hub’s report for Instagram influencer rates per post in 2020:
- Nano-influencer: $10–$100
- Micro-influencer: $100–$500
- Mid-tier influencer: $500–$5,000
- Macro-influencer: $5,000–$10,000
- Mega-influencer: $10,000+
- Celebrity: The rate varies, but it can be $1 million or higher
The key is to accurately match your target audience and brand values with the influencer’s audience, niche and values. Companies with larger budgets can take advantage of the broad reach of larger influencers. Small companies and startups can get great exposure on Instagram by partnering with the right nano- and micro-influencers on a small budget. With the variety and expanse of influencers on Instagram, there’s a place for every budget.
When determining your budget, figure in the number of posts you’ll expect the influencer to create and the length of your partnership. Take into account the time and effort the influencer will need to spend on the type of posts they create — photo vs. story vs. livestream and so on. Also consider the level of responsibility and engagement you expect from running contests, taking over your Instagram account or responding to comments. You might also have production costs, such as travel and accommodations for an event.
Also, expect to pay more for Instagram influencers with higher engagement rates. The higher the engagement rate, the more authentic and personal interaction the influencer has with their followers. High engagement is good news for your brand. Take a look at the average engagement rates you can expect from Instagram influencers:
- Influencers with 1,000 or fewer followers: 8 percent (above average)
- Influencers with fewer than 10,000 followers: 4 percent (very high)
- Influencers with 100K or fewer followers: 2.4 percent (average)
- Influencers with more than 100K followers: 1.7 percent (low)
Every marketing campaign should be measurable, and that starts with defining your goals. What is it that your brand wants to achieve through Instagram influencer marketing? Do you want to increase awareness around your brand? Expand your reach, drive traffic to your website or launch a new product? For example, Instagram campaigns are particularly great for:
- Increase brand awareness
- Gain more followers and engagement
- Increase click-throughs.
- Generate sales and leads.
- Elevate conversion rates.
- Raise event awareness.
- Promote a product launch
- Improve customer retention
- Strengthen brand reputation
- Get more product reviews
- Encourage app downloads
You probably already know who your brand’s target audience is, but you should also refine this with each Instagram influencer marketing campaign you undertake. Considering your campaign goals, which segment of your audience will best help you reach your goals? Knowing who you’re targeting will help you choose influencers with the same target audience — so you know who influences their buying decisions. And you’ll also understand what your audience needs and wants from you. Ask yourself these questions to zero in on your campaign’s target market:
- What are the demographics of the brand persona that will likely help achieve the campaign goals?
- What are the interests of your target audience?
- What is the life stage of your audience?
- What are the behaviors of your target audience?
Refine these details so your brand persona is defined and accurate. This will help you choose the right influencers to make your campaign a success. And it will also be easier to communicate your expectations with your influencers as the campaign gets under way.
Once you’ve laid the foundation of your strategy by identifying your goals and audience, decide when your campaign will start and how long it will run. While some campaigns may run indefinitely, others will be short-term, such as a product launch or event promotion. Knowing when a campaign will end helps your marketing team stay focused on the goals and be able to measure overall success — and apply lessons learned to the next campaign.
You should also decide what type of content you would like your influencers to post on Instagram. These should align with your campaign goals and target audience. Take a look at five examples of how you can use influencers on Instagram:
- Branded content (sponsored posts)
- Contests or giveaways
- Product Reviews
- Influencer takeovers
When drafting influencer contracts for Instagram, be sure to include information about FTC guidelines. Sponsored content must be labeled as such. This provides transparency for consumers and protects both brand and creators from legal implications.
- Social engagement and reach: followers, likes, shares, brand mentions and hashtag use
- Website traffic that comes from Instagram: views, unique visits and clicks
- Search interest: searches for your brand name, organic or paid clicks from search
- Media mentions: mentions or links from the press
- Engagement rate: percentage of comments, likes, shares and saves per follower (calculate on Instagram by dividing the total engagements by follower count, multiplied by 100)
- Positive comments: comments that are encouraging, relevant to the topic, participative or personal
- Negative comments: comments that are critical toward your brand, product or service, to be used to improve your content or campaign
- Mentions: mentions of your brand by Instagram users, to track both positive and negative feedback
- Product page views: traffic to your website before, during and after the launch
- Trials started: if you’re offering this option, how many people opt for a free trial
- Product sales: revenue generated from sales of your product
- Leads generated: signups or new followers to your Instagram account
Conversion rate: This is the percentage of visitors that come to your website from Instagram and take an action, like making a purchase or downloading an app. If you get 1,000 visitors from Instagram and 100 of them fill out a lead form, for example, the conversion rate is 10 percent.
Follower growth: An increase in followers to your brand’s Instagram account can indicate your influencer campaign is increasing brand awareness and reputation.
Reach: Reach tells you how many people are seeing the branded content created by your influencers. This is most easily measured by hashtag use on Instagram. Add the number of followers from each Instagram account that has used your campaign hashtag to calculate the potential reach.
Referral traffic: This is a measure of the traffic that comes to your website as a direct result of your influencer’s branded content on Instagram. Since Instagram doesn’t support clickable posts, use a UTM tool to create trackable links from your bio or micro webpage. Or, use Google Analytics to see how much traffic is coming from Instagram to your site in its social network referral section. In Instagram Insights — its in-app analytics tool — check the Website Clicks to see how many people clicked on the link in your bio.
Most brands are interested in engagement rates on Instagram because it measures how interested users are in your brand. It also affects brand loyalty, sales and other key factors. You can check engagement rates in Instagram Insights (your brand’s as well as your influencer’s). Use the following as a guide to measure engagement rate benchmarks per post on Instagram:
- Low Instagram post engagement rate: less than 1 percent
- Average Instagram post engagement rate: 1–3.5 percent
- High Instagram post engagement rate: 3.5–6 percent
- Very high Instagram post engagement rate: greater than 6 percent
Engagement rates vary by industry on Instagram as well. Use the following benchmarks to track how your brand’s influencer campaign is measuring up on Instagram:
Average engagement rates per post by industry (2020)
- Higher education: 3.57 percent
- Sports teams: 2.33 percent
- Nonprofits: 1.75 percent
- Influencers: 1.67 percent
- Financial services: 1.42 percent
- Tech and software: 1.31 percent
- Alcohol: 1.22 percent
- Food and beverage: 1.18 percent
- Hotel and resorts: 1.03 percent
- Media: 0.95 percent
- Home decor: 0.77 percent
- Fashion: 0.68 percent
- Health and beauty: 0.68 percent
- Retail: 0.67 percent
As you start to look for Instagram influencers who are the right match for your brand, keep your campaign goals and target audience in the forefront of your thinking. These will guide your selection process.
Try searching for influencers natively on Instagram by using hashtags and your own followers.
Brainstorm a list of hashtags that are related to your campaign goals, products, services and brand. The more niched down you can get, the easier it will be to identify Instagram influencers who are closely matched with your objectives. A fitness brand that is launching a new line of clothing for women might try #fitnessgear, #fitnessgearforher, #womensworkoutclothes or #fitmom, for example. It’s worth a try to type in your brand name as a hashtag as well. Here you’re likely to find your biggest fans, who will be among your best influencer partners.
Similar to searching for your branded hashtags, looking at your own follower list can uncover your biggest fans. Go through the comments for your posts, looking for Instagram users who often engage. Pay attention to @ mentions of your brand name in the comments as well. Explore Instagram users’ content and profile as you did when searching for hashtags to discover relevant Instagram influencers to reach out to.
Once you find an Instagram creator that you want to learn more about, use their profile page and content to narrow down your search. Evaluate the following information in their profile to see if they might be a good match for your campaign:
- The number of followers they have to see if they match up with the influencer level you’re looking for
- The description in their bio, which gives you a sense of their focus, style and tone
- A link in their bio that leads you to additional content and information about the influencer
- The word collab, ambassador or something similar, which indicates they are interested in partnering with brands (although expressed interest is not required)
Also, explore the creator’s content to see what they normally post. Ask yourself these questions to narrow down your choices:
- Does the creator’s focus match your campaign goals? Be sure to read the descriptions for their posts and assess if their tone and style match your brand values.
- Are their descriptions engaging and upbeat?
- Do they invite the readers to comment?
- How engaged are followers with the influencer? How often do they leave comments and how relevant are the comments to the content?
- How often does the influencer answer questions and respond to comments, and what is their tone?
- What hashtags is the influencer using? Are they similar to hashtags your brand would use? Note that influencers who use hashtags such as #ad, #sponsored or #collab have experience working with brands.
A creative influencer who pays attention to detail and produces images and videos that are appealing will attract more viewers to your brand. As you sort through their Instagram content, look for influencers who write engaging captions that are free of errors and use effective hashtags in their posts. Images should be attractive and interesting. Videos should have good sound quality, include captions for playing without sound and draw the viewer in with interesting graphics and content.
To find the right influencer for your brand and campaign, explore as many aspects of the available Instagram influencers that you can. As a reference, here are the top criteria marketers look for in Instagram influencers, starting with the most important, provided by MediaKix:
- Quality of content
- Target audience
- Engagement rate
- On-brand messaging and aesthetic
- Follower count
- Previous sponsorship performance
- Buzzworthy or trending
It’s important for us to mention that some Instagram creators may appear to be influencers, but they’re not. Some inflate their follower count with inactive accounts and dummy accounts and alter their engagement rates with bots that make comments. Steer clear of these creators. Instagram cracks down on creators with fake followers, but you can also look for the warning signs to avoid them:
- Fake followers tend to follow a lot of people but have very few followers themselves. Check their profile for these unbalanced numbers.
- While you’re there, check their content. Fake followers post very little content. Most of the content is posted on the first few days of the account’s creation, then it falls off.
- Bots usually make generic comments, such as, “Nice pic,” “Good job” or emoticons only. Check the creator’s post for spammy, clueless or irrelevant comments. If you see a pattern, the creator may have fake followers, and you should move on to other influencers.
- Fake accounts may have profiles that are hidden, empty or copied. Profiles without a profile picture or one with a stock photo are red flags. Profiles that contain little or no bio information are as well.
An influencer marketing platform streamlines your influencer search process. A platform like IZEAx Discovery, for example, gives you a database of millions of influencers. You use its rich search features to sort through and find the right influencers for your brand in a fraction of the time it takes to perform a native search. It also dramatically reduces the effort needed to find key information such as instantly calculating engagement rate, fake follower ratio and percentage of sponsored content.
Some influencer platforms can help you manage your influencer campaigns from beginning to end. These full-service influencer marketing platforms — like IZEAx Unity Suite — cover everything from finding the right influencers to reaching out to them, drawing up contracts and handling payments. They’re also a single hub for building content and distributing it across multiple social media channels as well as analyzing campaign performance.
A platform like IZEAx Discovery helps you with the influencer discovery stage of influencer marketing. To find the right Instagram influencers, here’s what you can expect from IZEAx Discovery:
- Detailed search features that sort Instagram influencers by industry, follower size, influencer demographics and audience demographics. If you’re looking for a nano-influencer who’s a foodie that lives in Seattle and has Spanish-speaking followers, you can quickly find a relevant list by ticking the right boxes.
- Dynamic tags that not only search relevant hashtags but also search Instagram creators’ descriptions and full content for relevant keywords that match your campaign.
- Visual search features that search Instagram images for search terms you input such as location, brand mentions and keywords relevant to your campaign.
- Custom lists that let you easily group influencers by campaign, industry, those you might want to work with in the future and so on.
- Detailed profile information that influencers input to the platform and go beyond the abbreviated details found in their Instagram profile. You’ll find data about their background, engagement and post activity as well as view and search recent content they’ve posted on Instagram.
- Audience data and insights that include demographics as well as the type of content an influencer’s audience is most likely to engage with.
Influencer platforms are available on a subscription basis, so you can use one as long as you need it. While some platforms only work with Instagram influencers or influencers from one or two social media channels, you’ll find influencers across multiple channels with IZEAx Discovery. This makes using the platform more even more economical when expanding your influencer marketing campaign across social media as well as blogs.
Start by getting to know the influencer. Become familiar with their content, follow their Instagram account, and engage with them by making comments and liking their posts. You should do this two to three weeks before reaching out so that when you do, you’ve already developed a rapport. Taking time to build a relationship helps you get to know how responsive they are and their reaction to your brand. It also builds a foundation for a stronger, successful partnership moving forward.
Contact influencers directly in the Instagram app through direct messaging (DM), by email or through an influencer platform. Some influencers include their email in their bio. If not, you can message them and ask for an email address. To DM an influencer, tap or click the Message button in their profile on mobile or desktop.
An influencer platform provides a convenient way for you to contact influencers within the platform as well as maintain communication. A benefit to this is creators who you find on an influencer platform have signed up with the service and are expecting brands to reach out to them.
Your initial contact to an influencer should be transparent, brief and personalized. Don’t be tempted to use a rigid template that makes your email or DM sound spammy. Include one or two things you like about their Instagram account and why you’d like to work with them specifically. State why you’re writing them, and end with a call-to-action to encourage them to respond back to you.
If the influencer responds with a no thank you, thank them and wish them success or invite them to reach out to you anytime. If they respond affirmatively and would like to discuss partnering with you, give them specific details and expectations about the campaign. Include an offer of compensation and non-monetary benefits. Some influencers will have set rates. Accept or negotiate these until you reach a mutually agreeable plan.
If you don’t hear back from the influencer after two or three days, send another email or DM, or send a DM and ask them to check their email. You can send a second follow up email after an additional two to three days have passed. But after that you should perhaps try again for another campaign at a later time to avoid the risk of seeming spammy.
Influencer marketing is only starting to take off on Instagram. The benefits of utilizing influencers on the platform are endless, especially as the platform continues to add new social commerce features. No matter the size of your business, Instagram influencer marketing can take your strategy to new heights.