How to Evaluate and Partner With Social Media Influencers
Wondering which influencers are a good fit for your business?
In this article, you’ll find out how to get started with influencer marketing campaigns.
#1: Identify Potential Social Media Influencers
First, it’s helpful to understand what types of influencers you’ll encounter. While there’s no established guideline for categorizing them, one common way to refer to them is by the size of their social media following:
- Mega-influencers are those with millions of followers. They’re generally very famous people like Kendall Jenner, who has more than 93 million followers on Instagram alone.
- Macro-influencers have between 100K and 1 million followers; for example, Jeff Bullas, who has 560K followers on Twitter.
- Micro-influencers have fewer than 100K followers. They’re more difficult to define because even someone with 1,000 followers can be an influencer. For instance, Emily of My Healthyish Life, who has a little more than 15K followers, gets amazing engagement on her posts.
You can also categorize influencers by type, including:
- Bloggers and vloggers
- Famous people (actors, musicians, etc.)
- Experts/thought leaders from your niche
- “Regular” people, such as regular social media users who are gaining online influence organically
Now that you’re familiar with different kinds of social media influencers, let’s look at three ways to find influencers to work with.
Do a Manual Search
If you’re active on social media, chances are you already know some influencers in your niche. Open up a new Google sheet and add the following columns:
- Influencer name
- Main social platform (social network, vlog/YouTube channel, blog/website)
- Website domain authority (DA)
Then write down all of the potential influencer names you can think of. Also, add details about the size of their following and main channel of influence.
To find out the domain authority for an influencer’s website, you can use the free MozBar browser extension from Moz. The bigger the DA score, the better. You want to focus on influencers who have DA of at least 30-35.
You can also research top blogs in your niche to find influencers. Simply do a Google search for “niche keyword + blog” and you’re sure to find lists made by others with the best and most popular blogs. Then use the MozBar to find out the DA for their blogs and add the best ones to your spreadsheet.
Use Influencer Marketing Tools
The easiest and quickest way to find lots of potential social media influencers is to use influencer marketing tools. Many of the tools also let you research the influencer at the same time. Generally, influencer marketing tools will at least give you a snapshot of their social presence, such as:
- Fan and follower numbers
- Engagement rates
- Relevant links to blogs, other social channels, and so on
- Follower details, particularly demographics like age and gender
Some tools take things a step further and allow you to connect with the influencer directly. You can also use influencer outreach tools, which allow you to reach out to influencers and manage your influencer campaigns.
The influencer marketing platform Social Bond lets you manage the entire process. The tool offers a free plan and paid plans start at $9/month. Search for social media influencers and see ratings based on followers, engagement, and influence.
The tool lets you filter results based on the influencers’ followers and their own demographics (such as their location, niche, or brand affinity). You can also research influencers’ audiences in detail to determine if they’re a good fit.
Other useful influencer marketing tools include:
- NinjaOutreach: Research influencers and manage outreach (free 3-day trial, then starts at $69/month).
- GroupHigh: Find bloggers and social media influencers, including automated website and content research (free 7-day trial, then starting at $179/month).
- OutreachPlus: Focus on influencer outreach (free 14-day trial, then starts at $29/month).
Employ Social Listening and Monitoring Tools
A third way to find social media influencers is to leverage monitoring and social listening tools. With these tools, you can monitor relevant keywords from your niche to see the top sharers in that niche and find out whom your audience is engaging with.
There are several ways you can do this. First, you can use your social media management tool to monitor keywords. Most of these tools, such as Agorapulse (free 14-day trial, then starting at $49/month), Hootsuite (limited free plan available), or Sprout Social (free 30-day trial, then starts at $99/month), offer this feature. Start a few different monitoring searches with keywords related to your niche and check your results regularly.
If you discover a popular widely shared blog post, a user regularly getting a lot of engagement, or an account that gets a lot of shares from your target audience, write down their names/social handles in your spreadsheet.
An easier route is to use pro social listening tools that help you identify top influencers automatically. Paid tools like Brandwatch (contact for a demo) and Brand24 (free 14-day trial, then starting at $49/month) allow you to create in-depth searches across the web (not just social media) and will automatically find the top authors and sharers based on your keywords.
#2: Evaluate Potential Social Media Influencers for Fit
Now that you’ve put together a list of potential influencers to work with, the next step is to thoroughly research them and their online presence. You want to know if they’re reaching the right audience, with the right content, and that they’re actually influential.
The two main areas you want to look at are relevance and quality of influence.
It’s important to check the relevancy of the influencers you want to work with. If you don’t choose the right influencer, your message won’t be heard by the right audience. Here are some ways to find out if a prospective influencer is targeting an audience similar to yours:
- Look at the topics they write or talk about on their blog/vlog and social media channels. Are those topics relevant to your target audience?
- Sift through the articles, videos, news, and other content they share with their audience. Are those interests relevant to your target audience?
- You can use a tool like BuzzSumo to search for influencers by topic and see the links shared by any you find. BuzzSumo offers a free 7-day trial, then starts at $99/month after that. After you enter your search term on the Influencers tab, click View Links Shared next to the person you’re researching. You can then see their favorite topics and domains shared.
- Find out if their followers are in your target audience in terms of demographics and location. If you’re a local business, you need to work with local influencers to be able to drive results from your campaigns.
- Determine what brands they’ve worked with before. Do those brands target an audience similar to yours?
Establish Quality of Influence
You also need to ensure that potential social media influencers are truly influential. These are people who can drive engagement and conversations that will help meet any influencer marketing objective, from brand awareness to increased sales.
There are many opinions about what makes someone influential. In my experience, follower numbers are not conclusive; but when paired with engagement rates, they can give a pretty accurate idea of that account’s influence.
To establish the actual influence of an account, research how often their followers or blog readers/vlog viewers/podcast listeners engage with the account. Most importantly, find out how many real conversations are happening.
Ideally, an influencer will not only get a lot of likes, but also plenty of comments and questions. You can use BuzzSumo or the free Twitter Report Card tool from Agorapulse to compare influencers’ accounts in terms of their audience and engagement levels.
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.
HelloSociety found that working with micro-influencers who have fewer than 30K followers delivered substantially more engagement (60% higher engagement rates), were 6.7 times more cost-efficient, and drove 22.2 times more weekly conversations than average consumers.
Spot Fake Followers
Another important question is how do you know whether an influencer’s followers are fake? Unfortunately, this isn’t uncommon and there are plenty of “influencers” who buy likes and fans. Here are a few tips to help you spot users who have fake followers:
- If a prospective influencer has tens of thousands of followers on a platform like Instagram, but barely any likes or comments, that can be an indicator of fake followers. Twitter and Facebook don’t have quite the same engagement levels as Instagram, but small engagement rates for large accounts can be a red flag.
- Look at the profile pics and bios of their followers. If there aren’t a lot of profile images of actual people that look real, that might be a sign of fake followers.
- Audit followers with a tool like Twitter Audit (first audit is free, then starts at $4.99/month) for Twitter or FakeCheck ($1/report) for Instagram accounts.
#3: Reach Out to Social Media Influencers to Pitch a Partnership
Once you’ve decided which prospective influencers you want to partner with, you’re ready to reach out. Personalize your pitch and show them you know and like them, which will help increase the chances of collaboration.
There are several ways you can reach out to influencers. Starting with the quickest and easiest method, use a platform that connects you and the influencers you want to work with. Influencers join these marketplaces to find work opportunities.
As an example, Famebit lets you directly connect with content creators. Write down your vision of the campaign, and influencers will reach out with their pitches of how they can help you achieve your objectives. Famebit also lets you track your campaign once it starts. Famebit is free to get started, and they charge a 10% service fee.
Another option is to send influencers your pitch via email (preferred) or social media. In your email, let them know you’re interested in collaborating, why it would be productive, and what they’d get out of it. (Also let them know if you’re offering them a free product, trial of your service, etc.) If you reach out via social media, personalize your message so it doesn’t look like spam.
Your best chance of success, though, is to build a solid connection before pitching your partnership. To do this, follow them on social media, engage them, leave comments on their blog, and so on. This way, when you do approach them about working together, you already have a relationship and they’re familiar with your brand, which can lead to a more powerful collaboration.
#4: Collaborate on Campaign Execution
Your influencer marketing campaign should ideally come from a close collaboration between you and the influencer. Simply put, influencers are influential because their audiences love their content. And influencers have a pretty good idea of how to produce campaign content that will resonate with their audience in an authentic way. That’s how they’re able to grow in influence and followers.
So while you can ask an influencer to help promote your product, you can’t dictate how they should promote it. After all, if the content about your product is perceived as inauthentic, trust will break down and could have a negative effect on both you and the influencer.
To have the best chances of success with your influencer partnership, here are a few important steps to take.
Select a Campaign Objective
Decide what you want to achieve with your campaign. Choosing an objective will help guide you and the influencer toward campaign ideas for achieving the objective. Here are some potential objectives to consider:
- Build brand awareness and generate buzz about your brand.
- Promote your product/new features/service/app.
- Grow your social media exposure and gain more followers and engagement.
- Build SEO juice.
- Generate leads.
- Boost sales.
Choose a Campaign Type
Once you’ve chosen an objective, decide which type of campaign to collaborate on with social media influencers. Here are a few ideas:
Product reviews: Product reviews can take many different forms such as blog posts, social media content, or YouTube videos. When the audience trusts the influencer, they’ll be more receptive to recommendations for your products or services. Product reviews are perfect for lead generation and sales objectives.
To illustrate, make-up brand Glossier partnered with YouTube influencer Zoella to review their products in a video that generated close to 1 million views.
Sponsored posts: You pay the influencer to write or create a piece of content that mentions your business or specific products/services. Mandy Ferrugia, a beauty and lifestyle Instagram influencer, helped promote Dr. Scholl’s insoles for flats in this sponsored post.
Giveaways and contests: Ask influencers to promote a giveaway or contest to generate more sign-ups. These campaign types are great for generating buzz.
For instance, Covington & Co, a U.S. clothing company, collaborated with local micro-influencers to promote their latest giveaway.
Experiment with different types of campaigns and influencers, track your results and objectives, and learn from your successes and failures to keep growing and improving your influencer marketing campaigns..
What do you think? Have you partnered with influencers? How do you find and evaluate potential partners? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.