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How to find and pick the right influencer for your business

There are thousands of social media influencers and micro-influencers. Here's how to wade through the options and pick the right one.

By Ramya Srinivasan · July 19, 2021
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You already know that you don't have the budget to get a celebrity endorsement—but as a brand content marketer, I'm well aware that influencers don't come cheap either. That's why the new trend of micro-influencers (influencers with a smaller, niche following, usually between 1,000 and 10,000 followers) can be such a good fit for any business getting their feet wet with influencer marketing.

Here, I'll talk about why micro-influencers are a good target and give you some ideas for how to pick the right influencer for your business.

The benefits of micro-influencers

They cost less

It's pretty simple: micro-influencers charge less because they have fewer followers. It's a big range, but you can expect to pay between $100 and $1,000 for a campaign. 

But another interesting aspect is that micro-influencers tend to be flexible with accepting different payout options. While many brands go for the simple cash payout, I've seen others veer out-of-the-box with unique payment models like product giveaways or designing customized brand lines. 

Take Revolve. They built their fashion empire from scratch by sending free clothes to influencers, hoping they'd talk up their products. Now Revolve has thousands of influencers, and they pamper their long-term influencers with Coachella tickets and lavish parties.

A screenshot of an Instagram post from Revolve

You can target a niche audience

As a small or medium-sized business, you have a relatively niche market. Especially as you get started with influencer marketing, you don't want to try to reach everyone: you want to target just your audience.

Well, guess what? Micro-influencers have a niche audience too. Instead of catering to a large, lukewarm audience and hoping that your target customers notice you through all the noise, you're able to spend more time and marketing efforts on a specific, passionate community. 

You can get your audience to engage more

If you spend enough time on social media, you'll notice something: there are more likes, shares, retweets, and more importantly, conversations on a micro-influencer's page. Later's 2021 marketing report actually suggests that micro-influencers have the highest engagement rate out of all the influencer tiers. 

When there's a niche following with overlapping interests, the audience doesn't only buy stuff—they become a community. And building that kind of community around your brand is one of the best things you can do for business. 

You can move away from generic content

You can only talk about your product or service so much in your campaigns—eventually you'll lose people. But if an influencer is talking about your brand, it's a different story. And micro-influencers won't do generic campaigns: they'll be specific to your business.

It's a win-win: You get custom content; they gain more social media presence. 

And because the micro-influencer has more open and engaging conversations, the audience takes their recommendations more seriously. Voilà! You promote your business without being as in-your-face about it.

You can get results faster

Timing matters. Maybe you're rolling out a new product line, or maybe you're trying to meet your quarterly targets. Either way, I've found that partnering with micro-influencers can be a reliable way to get immediate results. Even a couple of weeks' worth of campaigns and engagement spreads the word about your brand and serves as a nice boost for your sales. 

You can build long-term relationships

But it's not all about short-term results. When you treat the influencer like a partner, they'll offer you loyalty in return. Especially if you're working with influencers with very small followings, they'll appreciate your investment in them and remember that as they grow their following.

How to choose the right influencer for your business

So how do you find the right partner for your brand? How do you know if that person will get you results, short-term and long-term? There are so many options that it's easy to get overwhelmed or choose someone out of desperation. So here's my checklist to help you with the vetting process.  

1. What's their follower count? 

One mantra to remember here: more is not always better.

Sure, tons of followers will work great if you're looking to just add some likes to your page. But step back for a minute and ask yourself, "What are my goals for this campaign?" For example, if you're looking to enhance your brand image, you should find an influencer with a lower follower count but a stronger influence. 

If this is your first-ever influencer marketing campaign, choose an influencer with fewer than 5,000 followers. They'll be keen to work with you, have the time to really put effort into your campaign, and give you customized content. 

2. Do they see active engagement?

You can ask the influencers directly about their engagement stats. It's an industry norm, so they'll probably be open to sharing. But even if you have those numbers on hand, it's worth scrolling through their feed to see for yourself.

  • Does the audience actually interact with the influencer in the form of conversations? Or is it mostly emoji reactions? 

  • What is their audience talking about? 

  • Has the audience shown genuine interest in previous marketing campaigns?

  • How often does the influencer respond to audience comments and questions?

If you like the answers to these questions, you're on track.

3. Does their audience fit your brand's requirements? 

Let's head back to middle school and draw a Venn diagram: one circle with your target audience and the second one with the influencer's. Do you see many dots in the middle? Great.

Take a look at how Chromat, a swimwear brand, collaborates with micro-influencers who focus on body positivity. 

A screenshot of Chromat's Instagram

4. Does their content match your brand values? 

Whether they're experts or creative tastemakers, an influencer's reputation can work favorably for you only if it's aligned with your brand's ideals and core principles. If you're big on sustainability but your partner isn't eco-conscious, it's a failed marriage right from the start.

Dig deep into their everyday content and previous campaigns. Apart from the influencer voice, look at the way they interact with the audience. Does it align with what you'd expect from someone representing your brand?

5. Are they able to create versatile content?

You don't want one-hit wonders—you want someone who creates interesting content day in and day out and who's willing to experiment and adapt. So look closely at each influencer's body of work. Is it varied? Dynamic? Do they keep things interesting?

I personally love how Greenvelope partners with influencers who are using their products to do things like send their wedding invitations—doesn't get more personalized than that.

A screenshot from Greenvelope's Instagram

How to find influencers 

You know what to look for in a micro-influencer, but...where do you find them? There are a few ways to go about it, depending on how much time and effort you can spend on the process. Here are a few places to start that won't break the mental or literal bank.

Your social media followers 

Your followers are your advocates. Even fans with a few hundred or thousand followers can turn out to be great representatives if their engagement rate is high. You can use a tool like Trufan to find these folks, or if you're on a tight budget, you can do it manually by looking through your followers' accounts.

Remember: just because someone isn't an influencer already, that doesn't mean they can't or don't want to be one. It can't hurt to reach out about a partnership. 

Marketing databases and agencies 

If you have some budget to use for research, there are several tools like Fohr, Later, BuzzSumo, Hootsuite, influence.co, and Upfluence, which hold records of influencers' past collaborations, engagement, and other insights. There are also plenty of agencies out there that can help you find what you're looking for, but that will cost quite a bit more.

Hashtag research

I use websites like Inflact and All Hashtag to find hashtag keywords. Once you have your hashtags, put them into any social media platform and check the accounts that use these hashtags most. Influencers also use these tools to find creative hashtags, so you're likely to find some overlap.

Be open to exploring influencers through location-specific, topical, or even other brand campaigns' hashtags.

Networking events, both in-person and virtual

Keep an eye out for networking events and content creation workshops from industry experts. Events like LaterCon and Digital Summit will have tons of content creators attending them solely for networking. These events will not only help you find influencers, but can also give you some fresh perspectives on what to do in campaigns. 

Monitor and tweak your influencer strategy

With influencer marketing campaigns, you can't adopt a done and dusted approach. You have to keep tabs on your influencers and campaigns to make sure the strategy is continuing to give you results. 

Keep an eye on reach, audience engagement, response sentiment, growth rate, and conversions. Over time, you'll be able to weed out elements that didn't work in your campaign, foster long-term relationships, and build new ones if necessary.

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