In 2020, finding influencer partners continues to be one of the biggest challenges for brands in Influencer Marketing. When considering the immense amount of influencers in the social media space, it’s easy to understand why finding the right influencer partner(s) can be a headache. HOW do you find them? What should you look for in your influencer partner? How do you evaluate the value they could bring to your campaign? We recognize how overwhelming the influencer discovery process can be, so we took it upon ourselves to do the research to help you find great partners.
What to look for in an influencer partner
Before selecting an influencer partner, it’s important to fully evaluate them for fit with your brand and marketing campaign specifically. Having a content creator that aligns with your brand message, aesthetic, and target audience can be the difference between an influencer campaign that barely stays afloat and one that surpasses your expectations. There’s a few things to look for when evaluating a prospective influencer.
The first thing to look at when considering an influencer for a social media marketing paid partnership is their content. Content is king, after all. There’s a few questions to ask yourself about the influencer’s posts right off the bat. For starters, is his/her content high quality? Equally as important - does it align with my brand aesthetic?
Although these questions may seem small, the quality of content is what gives you the ability to leverage it. Let’s say you get content that’s not quite on par with what you requested, but it’s still high quality. There’s a decent chance you’ll still be able to post that content as a branded content ad, and get creative with copy, headline, and CTA to get your initial message across. If you’re provided with low quality content, you might as well throw it in the trash. You’ll have no use for it whatsoever. What the goal here really is is to get high quality, beautiful content that hits your creative guidelines on the head. With high quality content as a starting point, you’ll be able to create multiple variants of eye-catching sponsored posts that stop instagram users from scrolling through their feed (and hopefully click or buy). To achieve this, your brand should be extremely clear and thorough when providing the influencer with creative guidelines (and specify content to fit different placements, such as frames for 3 instagram stories and images to support 2 instagram posts). We dive in deep here on how to create high quality influencer ads that this content will power.
Another important thing to consider is the influencer’s aesthetic. Remember that the influencer has a brand too, and they shouldn’t have to compromise their content style. Your influencer brand ads should appear as authentic, meaning they should look like the influencer’s posts living on their page. Insisting an influencer must abide by your brand aesthetic may have some consequences, aka it could appear as unconvincing to viewers. This is why it’s best to partner with influencers who share a similar style. With this approach, scrollers are more likely to believe the sponsored content is coming from the influencer directly. This believability leads to consumer trust and higher quality leads.
See how Rent the Runway repurposed high quality influencer content into influencer ads, below. Note how the images come from four different influencers, but the overall style and aesthetic is cohesive.
How to evaluate the influencer’s content quality
When evaluating the quality of influencer content, there’s a few things to zone in on.
- Photo / video quality itself
- Consistent aesthetic
- How they talk about previous partnership partners
- Does their style / voice align with our brand? Could they eventually become a brand ambassador?
Studying an influencer’s audience is a close second to content in importance when selecting an influencer partner. With influencer marketing comes the ability to target extremely niche audiences - it’d be a shame to ignore this power-targeting. Let’s say you’re an extremely niche brand, like a dog toy subscription, looking to promote a new product. You can use influencer content to target dog owners in their 20s or 30s in metropolitan areas in one campaign and dog owners in their 60s in rural communities in another. Hyper-targeting allows you to reuse content from the influencer’s instagram post and curate it to speak to multiple demographics. Making sure your influencer(s) followers are in your target demographic(s) ensures you’re reaching consumers interested in what you have to offer.
Working with an influencer who’s followers don’t align with your target audience has a few disadvantages. For one, you could be wasting your time and instagram influencer marketing budget. If their followers don’t fit the description of your target audience, it’s like taking a shot in the dark. You likely won’t see a big return on your investment or be provided with insights into what influencer posts are performing well. On top of that, you won’t be provided with a valuable audience to target when using influencer content for influencer ads. Lastly, this defeats the purpose of building influencer lookalike audiences to target. If you keep building lookalike audiences off of an audience that’s not interested in what you’re selling, simply put, you’re continuing to target people that will scroll past your ad. This is why it’s essential you confirm you’re working with bloggers/creators with followers interested in what your brand has to say.
How to evaluate the influencer’s followers
- Look at brands the influencer has worked with previously to see if their followers are your target audience
- What does the influencer talk / write about? Are these topics relevant to our brand?
- Contact the influencer themself regarding their audience and let them tell you firsthand. Be transparent with the influencer about the campaign you’re considering running with them so you can both identify if it’s a good fit
Branching off of our point above, fake followers are certainly something to keep an eye out for. Fake followers are accounts made from fake email addresses and sold to influencers to dramatize their popularity and reach. Unfortunately, a fake following can be a real concern when partnering with micro-influencers. Fake followers are most definitely getting better at blending in with real accounts, but there are ways to spot them.
How to evaluate an influencer for fake followers
When looking at a prospective influencer partner’s account, take a look at their post engagement. Small engagement rates for a large following can be a big indicator of fake followers. For example, if an influencer has 30k followers on Instagram but doesn’t get many likes or comments on their posts, they’re probably buying their following. This is more prevalent on Instagram due to its heavy-engagement nature, but still stands true on Facebook and Twitter.
The second thing to look at are the follower instagram accounts specifically. Take a scan over the influencer's followers, looking at their profile pictures and usernames. If a decent portion of the accounts don’t have profile images and have randomized usernames (i.e. dieidjkljdk), this could be a sign the influencer bought followers. To investigate even further, click into a few accounts you’re skeptical of. If they’re following 1,000s of accounts and their follower count is 100, you guessed it, probably a fake account that was purchased. Be weary of accounts with little to no posts, as well.
Another thing to consider when partnering with influencers is their engagement rate. A high, authentic engagement rate is a sign of an influencer’s followers trusting and respecting their posts. It’s important to partner with an influencer who’s established trust with their audience, as it makes it that much easier to convince their following of your brand or product. Word of warning regarding relying too heavily on engagement rate. It is a great initial signal, especially for brand awareness on organic posts, but when amplifying and driving sales you will want to evaluate other metrics. Lumanu analyzed performance data and found that social engagement rate actually has a low correlation to sales.
That said, micro influencers can be assets to influencer marketing campaigns because of their tendency to have higher engagement rates. Although their number of followers is smaller, they usually have great relationships with their audience. This usually equivalents into extremely authentic engagement from their following. Micro influencers typically have extremely niche audiences, meaning they’re great for targeting specific demographics. Being provided with these audiences can be a campaign asset - not only are you able to target the influencer’s active, engaging audience, but you can target lookalike audiences. Before you know it, you’re doubling or tripling your reach (and you know you’re reaching the right people). In other words, you’re drastically growing brand awareness by reaching active users you never would have previously. Not to mention, they’re much more affordable than macro influencers - they can sometimes be compensated with free products.
Take a look at the genuine engagement in @terrimchugh / Kate Spade's sponsored ad below. You can see how the influencer engages back with her followers, even on a brand's ad, ultimately building trust and a more loyal following.
How to evaluate an influencer for engagement
- Look at how their followers are engaging with their posts. Are they commenting and asking questions?
- Remember that you can sometimes get much better results by working with micro-influencers with small followings rather than hugely popular celebrities or macro-influencers with large followings.
When evaluating social media influencers for partnership, brands should consider the content creator from all angles. Could this influencer eventually become a brand ambassador? Are they influential/convincing on camera? Would they be willing to host or promote events?
How to find the right influencer partner
There’s a surplus of ways to go about discovering influencers. Influencer search and discovery tools have flooded the marketplace, bringing different benefits and specialities to the table. They come at different price points, but can be worth investing in. On the contrary, there’s tons of agencies that you can hire to do the searching for you. There’s far too many to include in this list, but here are some of the top influencer marketing platforms and agencies we think are worth considering investing in for influencer discovery.
Free discovery tools
- Facebook’s Brand Collab Manager
- HypeAuditor (limited version)
- Klear (limited version)
- SocialBook (limited version)
- Analisa (limited version)
- Stellar (limited version)
Platforms that offer an influencer discovery service (monthly or annual fee)
- The Shelf
- Popular Chips
- Post for Rent
Diving into each platform in detail could be a blog post of its own, but Influencer Marketing Hub does a great job of exploring each software and the differing value they can bring to your influencer campaigns.
Agencies that offer an influencer discovery service
- August United
- The Motherhood
- The Shelf
- Nike Communications
As you can see, there’s endless avenues to take in your approach to influencer discovery. There’s a few things to consider when deciding which avenue you’d like to take. For one, does your brand have the capacity to thoroughly research each prospective influencer itself? If not (and you have the budget to support), it may be worth investing in an influencer agency. These agencies are experts on influencers, and can help with the confusing logistics (like compensation & permissions and rights). If your brand has the time and resources to find influencers on its own, putting budget towards an influencer discovery software may be a smart approach. By establishing a relationship with the influencer directly, your brand can likely continue to work with the same content creators in the future (and possibly eventually leverage them as a brand ambassador).
Whether you decide to take on the task manually, invest in a software, or hire an agency, the most important part of the influencer discovery process is evaluating how good of a partner each content creator truly is (for both parties). Having a strong influencer partner means better ads, higher brand awareness, and higher quality leads. Putting in the extra work to find the right partner(s) will undoubtedly pay off in the long run. Now that you know how to evaluate and find influencers for partnerships, you can learn how to set up influencer ads and deliver results.