You’ve heard of Instagram. You know that it’s massively popular. You know that some brands are using it in innovative ways to drive brand awareness and boost marketing results, but you don’t think it’s right for your business. Or do you? Instagram is the newest frontier in marketing, joining the ranks of Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest as widely used platforms for social networking. In fact, tapping into the power of Instagram to boost sales, grow your customer base, and increase engagement is well within reach when running an influencer marketing campaign on Instagram.

Why Instagram?

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Instagram is newer to the social media scene than other well-known and established platforms like Facebook and Twitter; it was launched in October 2010. But Instagram is already gaining massive adoption, particularly among millennials. In fact, 41 percent of Instagram’s 300 million monthly active users are between the ages of 16 to 24, and 20 percent of global Internet users between the ages of 16 to 64 use Instagram.

Beyond reaching massive numbers of users, Instagram is just now being tapped as a marketing platform, meaning it’s not overly saturated with brands and marketing messages from companies who beat you to the punch. In other words, it’s fairly simple to stand out from the crowd with a well-planned, strategic influencer marketing campaign on Instagram.

Instagram also makes it easy to
connect with your audience in the authentic, humanized way
that today’s consumers appreciate. By identifying key influencers who are already in-tune with the audience you’re trying to reach, your brand is shared with your target audience in meaningful, genuine ways. Finally, the nature of Instagram provides a foundation for high levels of engagement. Instagram is built on an infrastructure of hashtags, tagging other users, liking, and commenting that facilitates the ongoing connectivity and interaction that brands are vying for.

What is an Influencer?

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An influencer is any user of a media platform who has accumulated a large following and exerts influence over those who follow them. Often, influencers are established thought leaders in a specific industry, such as authors, well-known bloggers, CEOs, startup founders, and the like. But influencers can also be everyday users who have worked their way to influencer status by sharing valuable or engaging content and establishing trust among their followers.

It’s not just a massive number of followers that qualifies an individual as an influencer, but the ability to elicit a response or action from their connections or readers that makes someone truly influential. It’s this quality that makes an influencer particularly valuable to brands who are seeking to expand their reach and grow their own influence on the social web.

There are many ways to find influencers. The simplest method is simply searching for terms related to your niche or your brand to discover the most influential users who are already talking about your industry and closely related topics. The more engagement an influencer’s content receives, the better the results you will have when working with them.

Influencers can be compensated or uncompensated (where they do not gain monetarily, but are rewarded in other ways like with free products or a shout-out on the brand page, netting them more followers).

How to Find an Influencer That’s Right for You

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Not every influencer is well-suited for any particular company, product, service, or marketing marketing initiative. The right influencer on Instagram may not be the same influencer that produces results on Facebook or Twitter.

Search for influencers who have established authority in your niche, who have a voice in line with your brand image, and whose followers consist largely of individuals who match your target buyer persona. This is often called “context.” Additionally, search for Instagram influencers who share intriguing, original content–also known as “creators.”

Once you’ve identified the right influencers for your campaign, the next step is engaging them. Blindly emailing influencers and asking them to share your content may have worked a few years ago, but it’s not a tactic that results in much success these days. Influencers, especially those in popular niches, are often overwhelmed with requests from brands.

Your next step isn’t emailing influencers to ask them to share your content and promote your products; it’s building an authentic relationship with them by following them, commenting on their posts, sharing their updates, reading their blogs, and interacting with them.

How to Engage Instagram Influencers with Your Brand

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After establishing and nurturing these relationships, contacting Instagram influencers to engage them in your marketing campaigns is more like a warm sales lead than a cold lead. In fact, you may find that Instagram influencers you’ve built solid relationships with begin to share your content and promote your brand even without your asking.

This is the ideal, but it doesn’t always happen this way. More often, you’ll have to make an effort to get their attention and get them on board. You can do this using a variety of techniques, such as making direct contact and asking for their engagement, including influencers in a list of the best Instagrammers in your niche, asking for a quote or tip for an article or blog post, or by engaging with them through hashtags, tags, and mentions.

When it’s time to make direct contact, do so via email or phone with a personal message. Introduce yourself and your company and explain exactly how their audience will benefit from what you have to offer. Offering a free sample of your product or service–or something of value–can seal the deal. Whether or not you offer some form of compensation, you should provide Instagram influencers with turn-key content they can use to spread your message with little additional effort. If you’re asking someone to help you, make it as easy for them as you can.

How to Measure Reach and Effectiveness of Posts

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Instagram’s search feature allows you to search for photos or people using keywords. This is not only a useful tool for discovering Instagram users well-suited to serve as influencers for your campaign, but it’s a helpful way to measure the effectiveness of influencers and campaigns. For instance, if your campaign asks influencers to post photos with a branded hashtag, a quick search for this keyword will show you the content that’s been shared.

Hashtags on Instagram function in much the same way as hashtags on Twitter, serving as a means for categorizing and organizing content and making content easily discoverable by users who don’t follow you. Using hashtags to optimize your photos and videos on Instagram expands your reach beyond your followers to anyone searching for content related to the keywords you use in your hashtags.

The ideal number of hashtags is three to five (no more than five), and they must be relevant to the content of your photo or video. Irrelevant hashtags are viewed as spam, and using them in this manner can quickly damage the reputation of even the most well-respected brand.

According to TrackMaven’s “The Fortune 500 Instagram Report,” most brands post the most content on Thursdays, although there is no obvious “best day” to post on Instagram in terms of the highest levels of engagement. In the same study, TrackMaven found only a six percent difference in engagement for content posted during working hours compared to content posted during off-hours, suggesting that the time a photo is posted has little effect on the engagement it receives. Video content, on the other hand, does receive greater engagement when posted between 9pm and 8am.

You can determine the best days and times to post your own content by measuring the engagement your posts receive during different time frames. There are a multitude of tools that monitor Instagram analytics, showing data on the number of likes, comments, and shares your photos and videos receive. In fact, Instagram showcases this very data on your posts, although Instagram does not yet offer a complete analytics solution for its platform users. Monitoring and analyzing this data is the best way to measure the effectiveness of influencers, your own content, and your overall strategy.

Brands With Successful Influencer Marketing Campaigns

These tactics aren’t just theory; many brands have proven that influencer marketing on Instagram is a viable marketing strategy when implemented properly. American Express, for instance, earned 10 million impressions and 40,000 engagements in just two weeks with the help of six professional photographers to whom the company “handed over the keys” to its account. Overall, the influencer content earned 23 percent more engagement than the company’s other Instagram content.

SHREDZ, a direct marketing nutritional supplement company, posted $90,000 in revenue at the end of 2012. By the end of 2013, the company posted $5 million in gross revenue, a success attributed in part to a savvy influencer marketing campaign on Instagram. How did they do it? The company engaged with dozens of influential Instagram users with large followings, offering “free supplements and monthly payments in return for posting images of them working out with the SHREDZ product.”

Bloomberg Business dubs Brandy Melville, a company that doesn’t participate in any traditional advertising and whose brand awareness is fueled almost exclusively through savvy Instagram promotions, “Instagram’s first retail success.” Nike and Starbucks, according to Forbes, are “winning Instagram” due in large part to the smart use of user-generated content, a form of influencer marketing in itself. There are countless other examples of brands gaining massive exposure on Instagram, and many are achieving these results through influencer marketing campaigns.

In Short

Instagram is the up-and-coming next big thing in digital marketing: the next frontier. The platform is not yet overly saturated with promotional content and advertisements, plus, Instagram reaches millions of consumers in the key younger demographics targeted by many brands today. Engaging the right influencers on Instagram can catapult your company to success in the likes of Nike, American Express, and Starbucks. Take advantage of the opportunity to reach millions of consumers in key demographics with an influencer marketing campaign on Instagram. The iron is hot and opportunities are abundant.

Get in touch with us to learn more about how we’ve been approaching Influencer Marketing on Instagram.