The term influencer comes with some cultural baggage—which is likely why many in the B2B space use “thought leader” instead.
If there’s a niche within a community, there are influencers calling the shots and driving the trends. For brands, this means getting in with the right influencer can expose your brand to a whole new pool of potential fans.
In this article, I’ll share 11 tips and 11 tools to help you target the most relevant influencers in your niche and reach out the right way.
What You’ll Learn:
- The Role of an Influencer
- 11 Tips to Find Social Media Influencers
- 11 Tools to Help you Find Influencers
- Reaching Out to Influencers
- FAQs on Influencer Marketing
What is an Influencer?
An influencer is someone who has the power to impact the purchasing decisions of their audience based on their knowledge, authority, insight, or even a certain “cool factor.”
Influencers span a wide range of roles, including:
- Industry experts
- Amazon influencers
- Self-help gurus
- Fitness experts
Influencers are highly active on one or more platforms—most notably social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and now, TikTok. In some niches, particularly B2Bs, influencers might have a popular blog or LinkedIn page. It’s important to note that influencers are valuable because of the unique relationship they have with their audience.
Unlike traditional celebrities (who can act as influencers), influencers typically find fame by creating and sharing unpaid content on social platforms while engaging with the online community. Because of this, influencers appear more accessible and authentic than pop stars and actors, and feel more like a friend than an advertiser.
What is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is an advertising strategy where brands partner with industry leaders to improve brand recognition, awareness, and loyalty by leveraging that person’s influence over a specific audience.
Done right, influencer marketing is a powerful strategy that works because of the trust that exists between the influencer and their audience. Influencer mentions function much like a recommendation from a friend—but at scale.
Benefits of Influencer Marketing
Many brands are flocking to influencer marketing – and for good reason. This modern strategy for building a customer-friendly brand has several notable advantages. Benefits of influencer marketing include:
- Instant credibility-– Influencers can help a brand “back up” certain positive claims that could otherwise cause doubt for customers. Influencers make brands seem more authentic.
- Boosted brand awareness— Getting the word out becomes easier with more people willing to talk about and share their experiences.
- Unique types of content— When you use influencer marketing, you’ll get different content that speaks to different audiences. This helps create diverse marketing messages.
- High value to current customers–Influencers can help brands resonate with customers who already know and love the product or service. Over time, this can generate increased support.
How to Find Social Media Influencers: 11 Tips
We’ve covered the “what” and the “why” behind teaming up with industry tastemakers. In these next few sections, I’ll go over how to get started with finding social media influencers.
Understandably, this process can be overwhelming—Where do you start? Who is the best partner for your brand? How will they help you reach your marketing goals?
Honestly, it’s a lot to consider.
To help you out, here are 11 steps toward building a solid foundation for your influencer marketing strategy.
1. Find Your Audience When Targeting Influencers
The major benefit of working with influencers isn’t just getting in front of more people, it’s getting in front of the right people.
An influencer with a million followers won’t do you much good if their core fan base is teen girls, and yours is the savvy B2B buyer.
So, before you approach influencers, you’ll need to define your target audience. Who are your best customers? Who can you help with your product/service?
2. Define Your Goals
Okay, you’ve got a clear picture of who you’re trying to reach.
Your next move is to define your core objectives, which will serve as the guiding force behind your campaign.
I like to start with the end in mind, then work backward to determine which steps will get me to that point.
As with any marketing strategy, goals might include:
- Increase brand awareness
- Build a recognizable brand identity
- Reach new audiences
- Boost engagement
- Drive website traffic
- Generate Ads
- Create a loyal customer base
- Increase conversions
- Build quality backlinks
Clearly defining your goals early on allows you to build a focused strategy that determines the campaign style, who you’ll work with, and how you’d like to approach this partnership.
3. Decide What Kind of Campaign You’d Like to Run
After you’ve solidified your main objective, you’ll then want to consider what type of campaign will deliver the best possible results.
This will also help you determine who you’ll reach out to, based on their experiences and success with that type of campaign.
Here’s a quick look at some of the most common campaign types, each serving a slightly different purpose.
Sponsored Content — Sponsored content is probably the best-known type of influencer marketing. Typically, brands pay influencers to promote a product to their audience. You might use this strategy to increase visibility, awareness, or as part of your loyalty strategy.
Guest Posting—Guest posting probably isn’t the first thing you think of when you hear the term, “influencer marketing,” but it’s a great way to boost your SEO, get some high-value backlinks, and yes, benefit from someone else’s influence.
Affiliate Programs—If your goal is driving sales, consider looking for influencers to promote your product to your audience—if you sell on Amazon, look for influencers taking part in their program, as the platform offers the most seamless checkout process on the planet, it’s a quick win.
Brand Ambassadors—Brand ambassador campaigns are used to drive awareness and traffic through regular mentions and community engagement. Ambassadors might drive participation in UGC campaigns, share content from your site, or showcase new products or features. Typically, brand ambassadors are long-term partners, which allows you to build relationships with them and become familiar with their audience.
Content or Product Collaborations. Collaborations are a mainstay in the fashion, fitness, and beauty industries. Influencers might work with a brand to create a limited edition product, then promote it to their fans—allowing brands to reach more potential customers and drive sales.
B2B can use this type of arrangement as well. You might co-author a report with an influencer or company with a complementary solution or unique insights your audience will find valuable. Or, you might try running a webinar, hosting a podcast, or developing e-learning courses.
4. Find Out Who Has Sway In Your Industry
These last few steps were about identifying your audience and what you want to accomplish. Your next move is tracking down the right people for the job.
You can find influencers using several approaches, including:
- A quick Google search—Enter keywords related to your niche and see who turns up at the top of the SERPs. Try searching for different terms to see if any names consistently outperform their peers.
- Industry conference websites—Look at any trade show, summit, or conference and you’ll find a list of speakers, their titles, and short bios. From there, you can check out their social media accounts, YouTube, and, blog to see if there’s an opportunity there.
- Social listening tools—Tools like Mention, BuzzSumo, SproutSocial, and others allow marketers to identify top-performing content and niche influencers. While most of these solutions are paid, they’ll save you a lot of time by streamlining the research process and serving up engagement stats and audience insights.
5. How to Find Instagram Influencers
Finding influencers on Instagram follows a similar approach to identifying your industry’s big names. While an influencer marketing tool will offer the most insights into who calls the shots on IG, you can do some manual research.
- Check out your followers—do any have large followings? Who else do they follow?
- Search hashtags—look at trending topics, branded mentions, and general terms related to your products. Look for #ad or #sponsored posts to see who might work with you.
- Get a good look at your competitors’ pages. Who follows the competition? Or tags them in posts? Are they working with influencers? If so, what do they post? What kinds of engagement are they getting?
6. How to Find Amazon Influencers
Amazon’s influencer program is a relatively recent addition to the landscape that works a lot like Amazon Affiliates. The difference is that participants don’t need a blog or website—instead, they can use their social media platforms to direct followers to purchase products on Amazon.
To take part, influencers must apply to the program and pass a review process where Amazon looks at engagement metrics, followers, etc. The benefit of working with Amazon influencers is, that the purchasing process is seamless. According to a survey by JWT Intelligence, 88% of 18-34-year-olds prefer the e-commerce giant to other online retailers.
Amazon influencers come from various platforms—Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. You name it—making it somewhat challenging to quickly find potential partners through traditional search methods.
Your best bet for finding Amazon influencers is using a tool (any of the options recommended below will do) and searching for Amazon influencers by platform within your niche. The other option is searching through the Amazon sellers platform.
7. How to Find Micro-Influencers
You have a choice when targeting influencers: go after the giants (think celebrities, industry experts), or the smaller fish. While it might be tempting to chase the big fish based on those huge follower accounts, it’s probably not the best use of your time.
If you’re new to influencer marketing, your best bet is to start with the micro or even nano-influencers. Not only are they more likely to read your message and accept your proposal, they often are more engaged with their audience.
According to one study, influencers with 1000 followers saw 85% more engagement than those with 100,000 followers–in part because that smaller community allows for a more personal interaction with fans.
You can find micro-influencers using a few different approaches, including:
- Look toward industry blogs and check out the authors’ online footprint to see if approaching them for a partnership makes sense. Another idea is to check out who top writers in your niche are following on your target channels.
- Search “#brandname” to find people who are already mentioning your brand–while this may be a small group, they’ve already shown interest in your product without any prompting.
- Search trending hashtags on Instagram and Twitter to ID micro-influencers generating engagement in niche communities. Use your target keywords as a starting point to see which accounts are trending around those core topics.
- Use influencer databases—Tools like Traackr, Hypr, and CreatorIQ allow you to opt-out of the search process and identify partners based on your criteria and track various metrics, trends, and demographic details.
8. Look For Engagement, Not Numbers
While many influencers have amassed legions of followers, engagement and loyalty are more important than audience size. This means that you need to look at the number of shares, retweets, and comments a user gets, rather than the number of followers.
Any social media/social listening tool will take care of this for you (BuzzSumo, Traackr, Keyhole, etc), though you can also measure engagement manually by dividing the number of engagements by total followers. According to MobileMarketer, average engagement ranges from 3.6% (for 10k+ followers) to 8.8% (for accounts with fewer than 5k)
9. Take Time to Evaluate Influencer Content
So, I’ve talked a lot about relevance and intent, though mostly in SEO and content marketing, but the same idea extends to your influencer partnerships.
Once you’ve compiled a list of influencer prospects, you’ll want to take the time to thoroughly vet their content. Does it match your brand’s voice? Does it reflect your values? Will it resonate with your audience?
From there, take stock of how they promote other brands that they work with. Are they creative and thoughtful or does it look like they’re pasting in copy provided by the brand?
According to a report by MediaKix, brands look at the following criteria to decide which influencers to work with.
10. Develop a System for Measuring Performance
It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to increase awareness, sales, or better SEO performance, you need to establish which KPIs represent success and how you’ll monitor and track your progress.
According to Linqia’s recent influencer marketing report, brands typically measure success based on engagement metrics like shares, likes, and comments, awareness, and impressions–followed by conversions, clicks, and quality.
The report recommends that brands should measure influencer campaigns against all other branded content to ensure that you’re spending your marketing dollars wisely.
For a closer look at how to measure influencer performance, I recommend checking out this previous post on the best ways to measure campaign ROI.
11. Evaluate Influencer Marketing With Each New Initiative
With a clear view of your analytics and goals, you can more accurately measure the results you’re able to achieve from influencer campaigns.
As you think about your future growth, remember to re-evaluate which influencer practices are best for every new product or service you release. Based on past performance (gathered through data), you can best match up key influencers to the right go-to-market strategies.
How to Find Influencers: 11 Tools to Know
- BuzzSumo: Buzzsumo is a social listening platform that allows you to identify trending topics, high-performing content, and content creators with real authority. Additionally, BuzzSumo allows you to check out your competitors to see which strategies work best for them.
- Traackr: Traackr is a search engine for finding influencers, managing campaigns, and tracking your performance. All influencer profiles are vetted based on historical performance data and users can use filtering tools and AI recommendations to find prospective partners.
- Keyhole: Keyhole is a platform that measures hashtag and engagement analytics, allowing users to monitor performance in real-time. The platform also offers influencer discovery, brand monitoring, and market research.
- Awario: Awario is a social listening tool that helps users identify influencers, find potential clients looking for solutions like yours, and track sentiment across multiple platforms.
- Followerwonk: Followerwonk is a tool that allows you to identify Twitter influencers, compare profiles to ID audience overlaps, and break your followers into segments–based on influence, activity, demographics, etc. You can also see who your audience follows–which can help you target the right influencers.
- Klear: Klear is another influencer search engine that allows you to search for influencers based on platform, category, skill set, which brands they’ve mentioned, etc. It’s great for finding niche influencers or people who have worked with specific brands in the past.
- GroupHigh: GroupHigh is a content marketing tool that helps users find contact information for bloggers and influencers, as well as perform research, and build targeted outreach lists.
- Upfluence: Upfluence is an all-in-one, AI-powered influencer marketing platform that covers everything from the search process to campaign management, outreach, and analytics.
- BuzzStream: BuzzStream is essentially a CRM for managing influencer outreach–it tracks interactions with influencers, monitors your backlink profile, and helps you build lists and pitch influencers directly from the platform.
- SimilarWeb: SimilarWeb is a market intelligence tool that helps you understand your market, competitors, and audience, and identify relevant influencers and opportunities.
- Tagger: Tagger Media is a global influencer platform that connects brands to the right influencers—from all over the world. The software offers everything brands need in one convenient platform, including the ability to discover, collaborate, and pay influencers.
Reach Out to Influencers
As you find the biggest influencers in your industry, you’ll begin to notice the kind of content they produce, like and share. If they’ve covered a topic in the past, chances are they’ll share something similar again at some point.
When you connect with influencers and brand ambassadors, remember to approach the conversation from a professional perspective. Planned outreach communicates that your brand is legitimate and that you have a set plan in place for working with influencers. In the end, this benefits both you and the influencer and brings better results.
How to Make Contact
When you do decide to reach out, make sure you’ve thought out your approach. Influencer marketing has come a long way since the early days of #sponcon.
According to the Later-Fohr State of Instagram Influencer Marketing 2020, influencers are becoming increasingly selective about who they work with and partnerships need to align with their brand and add value to their audience.
The best way to make contact is through email or via DM on platforms like Instagram or LinkedIn where they’re more likely to see the message.
Avoid using Twitter or Facebook as messages can go unnoticed for years because of all the noise.
A few tips for making your first move:
- As you do your research on an influencer, make a note of their unique brand of content and start brainstorming some campaign ideas.
- Point toward a few posts from their account that show why this partnership makes sense.
- Reach out and ask them to contribute a quote for a post you’re working on—letting them know your audience would benefit from their expertise.
- Similarly, you can propose a collaborative project—a guest spot on your podcast or an interview.
In either case, the idea is to propose an initial project that does more than promote your product or service and offers something tangible they can use in their own content calendar.
When you get to your pitch, keep it short and sweet — just a sentence or two will do. Outline your goal, what benefits it could provide the influencer and why they should be working with you.
Don’t Forget to Follow Up
There’s an oft-cited sales statistic you’ll see on a lot of blogs that proves that there’s power in persistence: on average, it takes about eight follow-ups to close a deal, yet most people give up after one or two tries.
With influencers, you’re trying to sell them on the idea of working with you. Many influencers receive tons of requests every day and you need to make an effort to showcase your value starting with the subject line.
- Start with a follow-up email. Here, rehash the main points from the last message and include a new idea or an example of past collaborations.
- Try contacting them through other media channels. Tweet at them on Twitter or send a message on Facebook. This can be a powerful way to get an influencer’s attention; it’s a more direct way of contact and shows your commitment to working with them.
- Do keep in mind, that there’s a fine line between persistence and pestering. If you don’t hear back after a few well-timed emails or DMs, then it’s time to move on.
Before you reach out, you should outline your expectations for this campaign to make things as easy as possible for potential partners. You’ll want to make sure you can provide the following information when someone finally responds to your initial email:
- Outline your content goals
- Set participation expectations
- Prepare a timeline
- Establish a distribution campaign
- Take the lead and try to cover all the details in the co-creation process. You want the influencer to walk away with a good experience (and ultimately secure an ongoing partnership).
Keep In Touch
Once you’ve completed the task at hand, remember to send the influencer the final product. Ask them to send it out through their personal and business accounts.
And don’t stop there. Keep commenting, liking, and sharing their content in the future. Tag them in posts and share content they might find beneficial. Stay on their radar, and you’ll continue to benefit from their status as an influencer.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What tools should I use to track influencer effects?
There are a number of ways to provide your influencers with what they need to best reach your audience. For example, you might choose to provide custom URLs and clickable links, so that you can measure the amount and quality of clicks led by an influencer campaign. Other ideas include custom promo codes, hashtag campaigns, or traffic correlations.
2. Is engagement more important than the number of followers?
Many brands use influencers to both increase brand awareness and drive engagement results. Actual user engagement (when a customer takes a specific action on a post or campaign) is often more likely to indicate how a person feels toward a brand or product. While both are important metrics, it’s wise to look at which actions your customers are taking in response to influencer marketing messages.
3. Is influencer marketing worth the investment?
Return on investment (ROI) is different for every brand and business. This is partly due to the fact that your demographics may impact the results you see. In general, however, influencer marketing tends to compare or out-perform other methods, such as banner ads. In fact, most brands earn over $5 for every dollar spent on influencer marketing.
Using the tips and tools we’ve covered (along with some trial and error), you’ll be on the right path to growing your own online presence.
And while there’s no denying that finding, targeting, and pitching influencers with thoughtful campaign ideas is a lot of work, long-term strategic partnerships with the right people will deliver returns for years to come.