You already know that social media is an important medium for increasing brand awareness and engaging clients for your small business. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media sites each have unique uses and benefits, but regularly updating all of them can be time-consuming and stressful, especially for small-business owners with limited resources. If you’re not using Instagram to market your business because you think it isn’t worth your time, you’re missing out on a big market and big opportunities: Instagram has the highest rates of brand engagement, offering 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook.
So how do you go about using the fastest-growing social network to grow your business? One of the most effective ways to build your brand on the site is by engaging Instagram influencers as brand advocates and letting them do some of the work for you.
Why Social Media Influencers are Valuable to Small Business
Large corporations like Maybelline, Birchbox, and Starbucks know the benefit of using Instagram influencers to help market their brands. But major companies with big budgets and large followings aren’t the only ones that can benefit from influencer marketing.
A social media influencer is someone who has a large online following and can affect the buying decision of their followers due to their real (or perceived) knowledge or authority. They have the ability to represent your brand without being part of your brand — and their endorsement lends credibility to your product or service.
Locating Influencers on Instagram Finding Instagram influencers is the first step to showcasing your brand’s offerings. Don’t worry, finding potential influencers to share your brand is less intimidating than it sounds. Here are a few well-vetted ways to go about it.
Search the Web. Perform a Web search using a phrase like “best [industry] bloggers” or “top [industry] influencers.”
Look for relevant hashtags. Use Instagram’s search feature to find content with hashtags that are relevant to your business and your target market. Then, sort through the posts to find ones with the high engagement. These posts are likely to lead you to an Instagram user who has a large following in your niche.
Track the activity of your followers. Find out what content your Instagram followers are sharing and engaging with that may be meaningful to your target market. The person who originally posted the content may be an influencer in your industry.
Use an online tool. Online tools often charge a small fee, but they can be an effective way to find relevant influencers. For example, Kred helps you pinpoint influencers in a specific niche and lets you know how likely they are to share your posts. Other sites like Snapfluence help you connect with influencers and offer additional tools to schedule content and measure results.
Choosing the Best Influencers for Your Brand The Instagrammers you reach out to should have a large following of people who match your target audience and have the ability to influence their followers.
To gauge whether their audience is similar to your target market, take a look at the other brands the influencer mentions. If those brands target a similar market to yours — and get a good response from the influencer’s followers — the influencer might be a good choice for your brand as well.
To measure an Instagrammer’s influence, calculate their engagement rate using this formula: Engagement Rate = (Number of “likes” + “comments” / Instagrammer’s number of followers) x 100. Instagram posts typically have a 3–6 percent engagement rate.
Building Relationships with Influencers After you determine which influencers you want to connect with, cultivate a relationship with them before reaching out to them directly.
Interact with the influencer on Instagram.
Share, favorite, and comment on their posts, and the posts of their followers. To establish your credibility, engage with influencers’ content strategically — share and favorite posts that truly resonate with your target audience and be sure your comments offer value. Demonstrate your value by doing what you can to help them now so they’ll be more likely to help you later.
Contact the influencer directly. After you’ve interacted with the influencer on Instagram for at least a few weeks, contact them by phone or email. Introduce yourself, describe your product or service, and explain why you think their audience would love to know about it. If possible, offer a free sample for them to try.
Provide the influencer with content.
Influencers may be more likely to spread the word about your product or service if you have a clear strategy and provide them with material such as photos, videos, captions, and hashtags. This minimizes the work on their end while helping to ensure your brand is represented accurately. Remember that this is a partnership, though: start a conversation with the influencer and listen to their suggestions about how to incorporate your product or service into their content so that it has the best chance of being embraced by their followers.
Influencer marketing can help you generate revenue and expand your reach organically. Collaborating with Instagram influencers may take time and effort, but the payoff can be huge.
Alice is one of BusinessBee.com’s co-founders. As a business and technology expert passionate about serving small businesses, she has written and contributed a wide range of useful articles, resources and insights. She has a masters degree in Communication Studies from San Francisco State University.