Do you know who are the target influencers for your brand’s social media strategy? Learn how to target the right influencers for your campaigns.
These days influencer marketing is a critical part of most companies’ digital marketing portfolios. And it’s easy to see why. Influencer marketing helps brands promote their content more organically, without being overly promotional or advertorial.
But, just because a majority of marketers use influencer marketing, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Like any type of marketing, influencer marketing requires you to have a firm understanding of your target audience, plus a strategic outline of the goals you want to achieve and how you plan to do that.
And influencer campaigns have their unique challenges, starting with finding the right influencers for your brand. This choice of partner can quite literally make or break your campaign, so understanding your target influencers is crucial.
Don’t be scared though! Because now we’re going to walk through all you need to know about how to define your target influencers, how to find them, and what to do after that to ensure a smooth relationship.
Why work with influencers?
Studies show that consumers trust influencers more than they trust brands. According to Shopify, 61% of consumers trust influencer recommendations, while only 38% trust social media content that comes directly from brands.
Source: Shopify influencer marketing statistics.
The bottom line is that people don’t immediately trust ads. You can have the most amazing product in the world and not lie at all in your ads, but content that comes directly from your brand can still feel biased and untrustworthy in the minds of consumers.
Influencers, on the other hand, feel more akin to friends or that cool cousin you only see once a year at Christmas. When we follow influencers, we do it because we like them for some reason. We might admire them, find them entertaining, love their style, or want to learn more about the topics they post about.
In any case, when an influencer posts about a product, that positive association rubs off a bit on the brand. We’re more likely to trust brands recommended by people we trust. And we’re more likely to pay attention to products when we regularly engage with the people telling us about them.
How to define your target influencers
Now that you understand why influencer marketing works, let’s talk about how to define the target influencers for your brand. Targeting the right influencers is the first challenge in influencer marketing, but it’s one you can overcome easily with some careful planning.
It might seem like I’m overcomplicating things. A fashion brand should find a fashion influencer, a sports brand, an athlete, and so on. But it’s not that simple, and you can’t just work with the first influencer you come across.
To find success with influencer marketing, you have to start by clearly identifying your target influencers. Here’s how to do it.
Define your goals and budget
To start, reflect on the reason you want to launch an influencer campaign. What do you want to achieve? General brand awareness? Sales? Fresh content? Decide on your main goal, keeping in mind that you might achieve other benefits as collateral.
At this stage, it’s good to define your budget, too. Influencer marketing can implicate various costs, such as:
- The compensation you pay to influencers.
- Shipping fees to send out products.
- Subscriptions to digital tools to help you manage your campaign.
- Fees for agencies or other consultants.
The most important one to define now—and the one that will most affect how you target influencers—is the first.
So decide how you plan to pay influencers (gifted products, flat fee, commission, etc.) and how much you can allocate to this compensation. Here it’s important to consider a few things.
First, the perceived value of your products affects compensation. A gifted Macbook Pro is worth a lot more than a gifted phone case.
Second, be realistic about what you can pay. Influencers generally get more expensive the more followers they have. So if you’re a small or medium-sized business, don’t expect to close deals with influencers who have millions of followers. Instead, define what you can pay first, and target influencers who fit into your budget.
Source: Influencer Marketing Hub.
Know your target audience
Equally important to having a clear goal and budget in mind is knowing who your target audience is. Who buys your product, and how can you reach them?
Start by analyzing their demographics: age, gender, country or geographical area, and language. Then go a bit further and think about their professions, their hobbies, and their interests. Map out what types of media your target audience consumes.
Finally, for campaigns with influencers, you must understand which network your target audience spends most of its time on. This might intersect with data about their age or interests. For example, Millennials tend to favor Instagram, while Gen-Z loves TikTok.
You’ll also want to think about what type of personality your target audience might seek out on social media. Are they looking for influencers who entertain them? Inform them? Inspire them in some way?
Identify the metrics that matter to you
Connecting back to your goal and budget, think about what metrics matter to you when selecting an influencer. Maybe you have lots to spend and want to reach as many people as possible across the world. In that case, choosing an influencer with maximum reach (in other words, a huge number of followers) would be a good option.
But, if you’re like most brands, you’re probably more interested in reaching fewer people, but the right people. For this, you’ll want to prioritize influencers with a high engagement rate. Engagement rate measures how many interactions an influencer’s content receives respective to their number of followers.
Take micro-influencers for example. They might have relatively small followings of around 20-50K people but are much more engaged with their community than top influencers with millions of followers.
How do you know what engagement is good? Generally, around 2% is a good starting point. But, engagement rates vary based on platform, audience size, content type, and category. So do a bit of research on benchmarks based on what you’re working with.
To give one more example, if your goal is pure content creation, you might not be too concerned with followers or engagement. You might just be looking for an influencer who perfectly captures your brand’s mission and visual aesthetic.
Prepare a target influencer persona
Now that you’ve brainstormed all of the above, it’s time to make a list of qualities you want in an influencer. This exercise is a bit like the user persona exercise that every marketer has had to do, update, or at least read over at some point.
Synthesize all the information you’ve put down so far to answer the following questions about your target influencers:
- What network are they active on?
- What category or niche do they post in?
- What’s their personality type or content angle (inform, entertain, etc)?
- What country do they live in?
- What language do they post in?
- What is the target engagement rate you want them to have?
- What’s their desired reach (size of audience)?
- Who is their audience? (Should match or at least overlap heavily with your brand’s target audience.)
It may sound silly, but having this put down on paper (or more likely, a Google doc, sheet, or slides) will help you keep sight of your goal. This way, you can always come back to it if you forget something or share it with your team in just a click.
How to find your target influencers
Now that you’ve defined what target influencers mean to your brand, it’s time to find them. There are various ways you can search for your target influencers, and we’ll examine a few below.
Social media monitoring
Social media monitoring, or social listening, is a way to look at your digital community and see if there are potential influencer partners already interacting with your brand.
After all, it will be much easier to convert an existing fan into a brand ambassador than it would someone who’s never heard of you. Influencers who are already interested in what you do will be more excited to work with you and promote your products.
You can monitor your social media either manually or with automated tools. To do it manually, go to your profile on the network where you want to run your campaign. Start looking through your followers, commenters, likers, and anyone who’s mentioned your brand or used your branded hashtags. Do you see anyone who fits the target influencer persona you outlined above?
ASOS is a brand that regularly reposts content from users who mention or hashtag their brand.
If you want to automate this process, there are tools for that too. These tools analyze your community data to show you profiles that might be fitting influencers. The decision to reach out or not is always up to you, but with an automated tool you can cut out a lot of the clicking and scrolling you’d do if searching manually.
Influencer discovery tool
Another way to discover influencers that fit your target profile is with an influencer search engine, also known as a discovery tool or discovery platform.
This type of software lets you search for influencers in a database with a variety of filters, like country, category, followers, engagement rate, and more. You can also often search for influencers according to the demographics of their audience, which makes it much easier to make sure you’ll connect with your target audience.
This is the most common type of software used by influencer marketers, with over 58% using influencer platforms for discovery.
Source: Influencer Marketing Hub.
There are lots of platforms like this out there, but ours, Heepsy, is free. I won’t bore you with any further promotional details, because if you want to try influencer discovery with Heepsy, all you have to do is sign up and start searching.
Another way to find influencers is to do passive recruiting, similar to how job recruiters usually find applicants. You list your campaign and let the influencers come to you.
Brands usually do this in what’s called influencer marketplaces. They work a bit like Airbnb, but instead of matching hosts and guests, they match brands and influencers.
This is another way to find influencers, but keep in mind that passive recruitment isn’t always fast, especially if your brand isn’t overtly attractive. While beauty, travel, and food brands might have lots of people reaching out to them, a B2B business or brands in less glamorous B2C industries may struggle a bit more here.
To find influencers, you can also turn to bloggers. Bloggers nowadays don’t just blog. They also usually maintain active social media accounts as another way to engage their community.
Since bloggers tend to delve deeply into the topic they write about, it’s a good bet that their audiences are also intensely interested in that topic.
So to do blogger outreach, first find some blogs in your industry. Are you a food brand that sells vegan meat substitutes? Get on Google and source a list of vegan blogs. When on their blogs, look for social media icons (usually found in the blog’s footer) to jump to their Instagram, TikTok, or whatever other channel interests you.
Does the blogger also have an active community there? If so, save their data. Bloggers also usually publish their email addresses on their About page for just this reason—so brands or other bloggers looking to collaborate can get in touch!
You can then shoot out emails letting the blogger know about your brand and why you want to collaborate with them. When working with a high number of recipients, use a mail merge (or your company’s email marketing client or CRM) to send emails in bulk and save time.
Finally, another way to find your target influencers is to hire an agency. This option is expensive, so I wouldn’t recommend it to most brands. But, if you have the budget and are short on in-house resources, an agency may be the way to go.
Agencies will start by meeting with you to discuss your objectives, target audience, and what type of influencer you’re interested in working with. All that prep work you did at the beginning of this process will come in handy here. Usually, all this information gets drafted into a document called a brief.
Next up the agency will source influencers. I’m going to let you in on a secret here: they usually use those influencer discovery tools mentioned above. Once they have various viable candidates, they’ll circle back with you to do the final selection.
After that, the agency will do all the grunt work for you. Following up with influencers, asking for adjustments in content, etc. You’ll save time when working with an agency. But what you save in time you’ll spend in cash.
How to close deals with your target influencers
Let’s assume everything went swimmingly in the last step. You’ve tried out different methods for finding your target influencers, and you’ve made a list of some good options. Now, what do you do?
I’ve compiled some tips to help you understand best practices for reaching out to, negotiating with, and closing deals with your target influencers.
Be friendly when reaching out
Rule number one when reaching out to influencers is to be friendly. You’re not drafting a corporate email. Be warm and introduce your brand. Don’t assume the influencer already knows you, unless you’re Coca-Cola or Nike, or if you found the influencer among your followers.
It’s also a best practice to personalize your outreach. Even if you’re using a mail merge to bulk send emails to influencers, custom fields still let you add a personalized touch to each person. An influencer might want to hear for example, why you like their content, how you found their profile, or why you think you two would make a good team. Be brief, clear, and memorable.
Mentioning compensation can also help here. No one wants to work for free, and content creation is valuable work. So if you show influencers from the beginning that you’re interested in paying them, this might help you stand out from the rest of the pack.
Starting the relationship off on a cheerful, positive note can set the tone for the future. So make that extra effort when making a first impression.
Don’t be afraid to follow up
Marketers usually reach out to influencers via email. If you don’t hear back after your first attempt, don’t be afraid to follow up. Just keep that friendly tone from your first email and don’t be too pushy about getting an answer.
Using a mail merge, email client, or CRM can be helpful here because it can show you if your email was opened. If you see that it was opened but never replied to, the influencer probably isn’t interested in your offer.
But if you think an influencer may not have seen your email, you could always try reaching out to them via social media. Shoot them a quick DM and let them know you’re waiting for them in their inbox, or ask them to confirm that the email you used is the correct one.
Be clear about what you’re looking for
You want to be friendly when communicating with influencers. But you also want to be clear about what you’re looking for.
If you have specific deadlines, lay them out from the get-go. For example, maybe a few months ago I would have been looking for influencers to create content for my Christmas campaign, and needed all content submitted for approval by December 1st.
You’ll also want to be clear about how to disclose the collaboration. Will you want them to add a partnership tag to their Instagram post? An #ad hashtag? Mention in their video that products are gifted?
When negotiating, be clear about the stuff that matters. This way, you’ll be able to prioritize the best person for the job. And you’ll save your time—and the influencer’s time—if they can’t meet your requirements.
Understand the value of the content they create
Now, being clear about what you’re looking for doesn’t mean micromanaging an influencer’s creative process. You must understand the value of the content that they create.
Creating photos and videos that resonate with people isn’t as easy as it seems. And what’s more, influencers know their audiences better than you do, so they’ll best know how to strike a good chord with them.
Not all content is created equal, either. You should go into negotiations knowing that a 15-minute video will be more expensive than a 15-second TikTok, which will be more expensive than a few Instagram Stories.
Dolly Pawton, Instagram’s most glamorous chihuahua, modeling new pet tags from fine jewelry brand Mejuri. Dolly’s content is always fabulous, with a dash of spiciness and a dose of humor.
This is because each content format requires different levels of work. Stories are often very casual and not heavily edited, so it’s relatively easy to create them. A YouTube video that permanently appears on someone’s channel is going to cost more because much more planning and work are needed to execute it.
Here are a few ideas for types of content you can create with influencers:
- Send them your products and ask for unboxings, reviews, or tutorials.
- Get them to create aesthetic content you can reuse in paid advertising campaigns.
- Have them create resources for your website that can help other users.
- Let them take over your social media account to bring their followers over to your profile.
- Have them hold giveaways or contests to generate buzz among your and their followers.
- Hold a live stream with influencers who are experts on a specific topic to help inform your audience.
Offer appropriate compensation
Finally, to get off on the right foot, make sure to offer influencers suitable compensation in exchange for their collaboration. Take into account the type of content they’ll create, their follower size, their engagement rate, and how you might repurpose their content later on.
There are various ways to compensate influencers, including:
- Gifted products - This is probably the most-used type of compensation in influencer marketing because, in most campaigns, the brand is going to send the influencer a sample of their products. The value of these products should be included in the total compensation package.
- Flat fees - This is a fee for content creation, similar to the way a freelance designer or a consultant would charge for their services. This might deter some marketers, but it’s a common way to pay influencers, especially those who already have big followings.
- Commissions - You might want to pay influencers a % of each sale they bring in for your brand, or for each click on a tracked affiliate link they publish. Most influencers won’t accept this type of compensation on its own, but you can combine it with others to create an attractive offer.
- Publicity - If your brand is very famous, simply reposting an influencer’s content to your feed can be very valuable exposure for them.
With nano-influencers (who have around 1K followers), you can probably get away with offering just gifted products. But for influencers with more than a few thousand followers, the most common compensation package is gifted product + fee.
As one final tip, if an influencer has a manager, expect fees to be a bit higher. This is because the manager takes home a portion of the payment.
How to build lasting relationships with target influencers
If you find and close deals with target influencers, don’t just let the relationship die there. You should analyze results and identify which influencers have worked well for your brand so that you can nurture your relationships with them.
Once you identify these influencers, keep them in mind for regular campaigns. You might want to also reach out from time to time just to keep your name on their radar. Or, go the extra mile and send them a gift once in a while. Even if you don’t negotiate content beforehand, you might end up with some posts about how much they love what you sent them.
Or, if you feel like you’ve found that special collaborator, the yin to your yang, the Bert to your Ernie, why not sign a brand ambassador contract with them? Turning an occasional influencer partner into a brand ambassador ensures your relationship will run into the long term.
Maisie Williams, who you might know as Arya Stark, is a brand ambassador for The Mazi Project, which strives to empower marginalized youth in Bristol, England through food.
Brand ambassadors are great for awareness, too. Since influencers will regularly post about your products, their audience will feel more familiar with and trusting of your brand over time.
Your campaign’s success hinges on you targeting the right influencers for your brand. Your influencer search, your negotiations, and the content created for your campaign mean nothing if they don’t come from someone who aligns with your brand and who connects you to your target audience.
So remember to fully define your target influencers before searching for them and reaching out. Doing so can lead not only to a successful campaign but to healthy, lasting relationships that can generate awareness for your brand over the long term.