26% of brands cite ‘finding influencers’ as their second biggest challenge when it comes to social media influencer marketing.
It makes sense. Influencer marketing is a relatively new type of marketing despite being around since marketing was a thing.
Influencer marketing is new in terms of the way we talk about and interact with influencers. But as a process, it’s not new at all. In its basic form, influencer marketing is nothing more than word-of-mouth marketing and businesses have been utilising that for decades.
But, now that influencers are starting to find ways to use their influence to create careers for themselves, there’s confusion amongst brands knowing the best way to handle this new minefield.
In this post we’ll show you an exact framework for how you can find the right social influencers to work with for your brand.
We’ll provide you with a number of free and paid solutions so that brands, of any size can get started with social media influencer marketing right away.
If you already know what aspect of finding influencers you struggle with, use the handle contents table below to take you direct to the section you need.
Let’s jump right in.
TL;DR How to find influencers: step-by-step
- Find out what type of people you want to influence (your target audience)
- Research influencers directly on the platform you want to use
- Use social media influencer marketing software to find, reach out and manage your influencer marketing campaigns
- Rank influencers by relevance and engagement rates
- Reach out to your shortlist with a friendly, approachable message
What are social media influencers?
A social influencer is someone who uses specific social media channels with an engaged substantial following to share content about their favourite topics. They become social media influencers once they’ve influenced their followers to make a purchase decision. Brands use social media influencers to access a new audience pool, widen their reach and promote their products.
You can find social media influencers on any social platform. Some of the more prolific influencers will use a large number of social networks to connect with their audience whereas some just stick to one.
Because of the large number of social networks out there, it’s important to know not only where your potential influencers might be but where your audience is too.
One key tip when looking for influencers is not to get distracted by vanity metrics like the number of followers an influencer has. Following is only important if the number translates to the amount of revenue generated. But tracking influencer ROI is notoriously hard. Although it’s possible to give influencers a specific link to track purchases, you’ll never know whether a customer comes back at a later date to make a purchase after seeing the product from the influencer.
Because of this, you really want to look at the engagement rate each influencer has. This way you’ll be able to see a much more accurate predictor of sales. Engagement rate goes beyond simply “how many likes did this post get” but evaluates the percentage of the audience that engages with your content.
Before you can begin finding influencers for your social media campaigns, you need to know who you’re trying to reach.
For example, if your brand targets rural people aged 65+, your efforts are probably not best spent on Snapchat as the demographics on this social network target a much younger audience and the type of posts these content creators produce will reflect that too.
By knowing who your target audience is, you’re in a better position to whittle down the number of influencers you consider to ensure you find someone just right for you. After all, a social media influencer with a 20% engagement rate is of no use to you if their audience doesn’t match the type of people you’re trying to target.
If you already have buyer personas keep those at the top of your mind when looking for influencers to make sure the content creators you approach will have the best impact on your business.
There are a whole host of influencer marketing platforms you can use to find, source and manage your influencer relationships - but the issue is, most of these aren’t free. You need to pay to use the platform, access the database of influencers and reach out. But alongside that, you also need to pay to work with the influencers (although many will do gifting campaigns where you only need to cover the cost of product and shipping).
According to data from Webfx, if you want to get started with influencer marketing, the price can range from $1000 to $1 million per post.
For brands who have little to no budget for influencer marketing their options used to be limited. They could reach out to influencers directly through the social networks and negotiate fees that way. Although this is a free way of getting started with influencer marketing, what you save in costs you spend in time.
- You have to find the influencers manually
- You have to manually send a message to each influencer you’d like to work with
- You need to find a way to keep track of what stage each of your conversations are at
It’s a time consuming process and one that’s hard to justify spending so much time on. Instead, if you’re looking for a free way to find, source and manage influencers why not check out our brand catalogue.
The Brand Catalogue is a free influencer marketing tool that lets you not only find the right influencers for your campaigns for free but it flips the social media influencer game on its head. Now, instead of you reaching out to as many influencers as you can find, you simply create your brief on the platform for over 200,000 influencers to check out.
Those that feel they’d be able to create awesome content for your brand will apply and you’ll be able to choose from all the influencers.
Note: The Brand catalogue is free to use and allows you to activate up to five social media influencers. It provides a great platform for brands who don’t have the budget to do a large-scale campaign, or brands who want to try influencer marketing without the commitment of paying a subscription for an influencer marketing platform.
If there’s one thing Google is good at, it’s helping you find answers to your questions. With the rise in social media influencers, more and more companies have begun populating “top [INDUSTRY] influencer” lists.
These lists exist to help brands find the right type of influencers for them. So whether you’re looking for a Youtube influencer, Twitter influencer or even a jewellery influencer to promote your new range, you’re bound to find a list that can help you start building influencer relationships with the right content creators.
Every day the number of content creators who identify as an influencer increases. This means there are more people for you to choose from for your social media influencer marketing campaign, but it also means that there’s more people to sift through to find the right content creators to promote your products.
The good news, however, is that there are a range of different online influencer marketing tools you can use to find influencers. But not every tool is right for each person. In short, there are three core ways to find influencers online. You could use an influencer marketing platform, work directly with an influencer marketing agency or find influencers manually via the social channels they use.
Influencer marketing platforms
Influencer marketing platforms are a two way marketplace. They entice brands to their platform by promising great influencers with excellent engagement rates. They entice influencers by offering great brands to work with.
Pros of working with influencer marketing platforms
- Usually have a wide pool of influencers to work with
- Filtering makes it easy to find the right type of influencer for your brand
- Influencer marketing platforms usually have benchmarks that help you understand whether you’re paying too much, too little or just enough for each influencer you want to work with.
Cons of working with influencer marketing platforms
- Can be expensive for brands unless the platform allows you to find influencers for free
- Not ideal for brands who don’t want to commit for long-term relationships
Influencer marketing agencies
Influencer marketing agencies are fairly new. They work with social media influencers usually in a managerial capacity to help them land brand deals and handle the day-to-day tasks of running an influencer business to allow the influencer to focus on creating great content.
Pros of working with influencer marketing agencies
- Agencies work closely with their talent and so have much more of an impact in getting your sponsored content just as you want it.
Cons of working with influencer marketing agencies
- Can be a costly route to take if you’re not a big brand
Manually through social networks
If you don’t have a budget, you can still do social media influencer marketing by manually searching for the influencers you want to work with on the social networks they operate on. Most social networks have some sort of messaging facility that will allow you to reach out to any influencer you think might want to get involved in your campaign.
Pros of finding influencers manually
- There is no ongoing commitment
Cons of finding influencers manually
- Confusing to keep track of the conversations
Whatever method you use to find social media influencers, make sure they’re relevant to your niche or industry. Even if you decide to opt for an influencer marketing platform - reach out to their sales team to see if they have influencers in your niche. Most platforms won’t give you full access to the database until you’ve paid, but getting an idea for how many influencers they have in your niche and what their average engagement rates are is a great way to evaluate each platform and find the right one for you.
It’s no good to you to pay a subscription for an influencer platform if all their influencers focus on beauty content but you need influencers who focus on automotive content.
Likewise, if you work with an influencer marketing agency, ask to see a case study from influencers who have worked with brands similar to yours and look at the kind of engagement they get. An impressive influencer engagement rate is only useful to you if they can do the same for your business too. When you look at the case study, look out for specific metrics to see if the results matched the challenge.
If you’re looking for influencers manually on social media, be sure to narrow down your initial search to influencers who post about your specific topic. Most social networks have a search function that allows you to find out who’s posting content about your given topic.
If you’ve tried out some of the above methods and still struggle to find the right type of influencers for your campaign, don’t forget to think about your competitors too. With influencer marketing as big as it is, there’s a high chance your competitors are utilising it too. If you’re just getting started, a good start is to check out how your competitors use influencer marketing, see what kind of results they get in order to gather ideas about how you want your influencer campaigns to run.
It’s important to note: you shouldn’t copy your competitors influencer campaigns or seek to work with the exact same social media influencers as it’ll only harm your brand in the future.
If an influencer has an engaged audience, they’re most likely going to believe and follow what that influencer says. The whole part of being a successful influencer is the ability to be authentic. And one of the least authentic things an influencer can do is post about two competing companies stating that each one is the best.
So while it’s a good idea to look at how your competitors conduct their influencer marketing strategies for inspiration, it’s not a good idea to copy their ideas and influencers like-for like.
Not all influencers operate in the same way. Did you know, there are actually 14 types of influencer marketing campaigns some influencers might be open to trying all of them, but others will stick to just a few. For example, there are some influencers who don’t do campaigns where the brand sends the product only (and no payment).
When you know what type of influencer campaign you want to run you’ll have a good idea for the type of influencers you should work with and where to find them.
Once you’ve decided on the type(s) of social media influencer marketing campaign you want to run, it’s time to allocate budget.
Ideally, you should have a budget in mind for influencer marketing. This budget can be spread across the year with an always-on approach, or you might decide to allocate a specific amount of money per campaign and work on a campaign by campaign basis.
If you’re doing manual outreach and need to find social media influencers on Instagram the hashtag will be your best friend.
If you run a vegan food business, you’ll want to find influencers who regularly posts about the latest vegan products or their life as a vegan. It makes no sense to work with someone who posts photos of their steak as they wont have the same level of authenticity as someone who is actually vegan (even if they have more followers).
When you open up the Instagram platform, head to the search bar and type in your keyword. At this stage, you can just type your top-level keyword (fitness, vegan, CBD, etc).
The platform will show the number of posts where people have used your chosen hashtag. This allows you to see how popular your hashtag is. Not only that, but it gives you more suggestions for other hashtags you can try out.
Select a hashtag of your choosing. We chose “vegan food” as it closely matches the brand we’re building.
You’ll now see the top posts that use this hashtag. The great thing about the posts organized in this way is it gives you the most popular posts first. Meaning, you’ll be able to see who the biggest players in your industry are straight away.
The first post, for example has over 600 likes and was only posts 4 hours ago. These numbers might excite you but don’t forget the power of micro influencers. The larger the social following the more you’ll have to pay to work with the influencers.
In short though, using hashtags within instagram is a great way to find influencers to reach out to.
If you’re looking to work with bloggers, you want to create a list of popular blogs in your industry to reach out to.
A great tool for that is Buzzsumo. Buzzsumo aggregates top performing content for any given industry. Going back to our vegan food example, we’ve entered it into the search bar and the tool lets us see the top performing content in a given time frame.
Not only can you see engagement rates by social platform but you get an idea of which blog people in your industry enjoy reading the most.
Note: Buzzsumo is specific for people looking to work with bloggers, if you want to find Instagram, Youtube and other social media influencers, it’s best to couple up your Buzzsumo strategy with other strategies too.
Make sure each blogger you reach out to is able to show you their stats. Although their content will be free to read, you’ll have to request them to send you statistics about their blog audience and reach. A blogger will generally use an analytics programme that allows them to track how many people view their blog and which pages are most popular. Before you begin any influencer relationships with bloggers get a good understanding of their blog’s popularity.
Once you have a list of influencers you’d like to work with, you need to find a way to assess their reach and authority as well as the quality of their content. Depending on their budget, you might be forced to choose a small selection of influencers to work with.
Bigger brands, in comparison, have the advantage of working with many influencers at once to see who performs best.
But, if you’re like most brands and need a way to assess each influencer, use the following checklist.
- Does the influencer have a high engagement rate?
- Does the influencer have an audience that matches the one your brand targets?
- Does the influencer have experience working with brands like yours?
- Does the influencer share the same message and values as your brand?
- Does the influencer charge a fair price for their content?
Remember, though, the number of followers doesn't necessary correlate with a high engagement. Data from ZINE shows that those with fewer followers actually have a higher engagement rate than those with more followers.
If you’re using an influencer marketing platform like ZINE, checkout your shortlisted influencer’s media kits to get a better idea of their reach, and audience insights.
Wrapping it all up
Now that you understand the different methods you can use to find influencers for your campaign, it’s time to start sourcing them.
If you want to get started with influencer marketing, why not check out our Brand Catalogue where you can start working with influencers for free, straight away.