Instagram Influencer Marketing Explained

I had a training call with an Instagram Influencer yesterday. This young entrepreneur had accumulated almost 18K Followers organically, and I was dying to know his tips and tricks. Turns out, he doesn't have any. In a world filled with auto-replies, auto-DMs, repost apps and auto-shares, he has actually created his Following by DEVELOPING RELATIONSHIPS on social media. That's right folks - the unicorn of marketing, authentic engagement. And here's how he does it:

1) Search Instagram for relevant accounts that are not directly competitive with you. For example, if you sell outdoor clothing, you might search for camping equipment retailers, campgrounds, trail guides, or parks.

2) Determine who the Influencers are. This is pure legwork. You are looking for accounts that not only have large Follower counts, but have ENGAGED Followers. Follow those Influencer accounts.

Note: People do purchase Followers, and if they've done that it will be indicated by zero engagement on posts since their Followers don't actually know them or care about them. You're looking for accounts with both high Follower counts and lots of engagement on their posts.

3) Find opportunities to engage with the Influencer's posts. Like and leave supportive Comments. Keep that up for a few weeks, and then kick it up a notch with a Direct Message (DM).

Note: On Twitter I don't even READ my DMs because they are 99% spam. Instagram does not allow auto-DMs, which means that the integrity of the DM is preserved on this platform.

Again, the key to success here is authentic engagement, so be sure that your DM is personalized. The example this Influencer gave was "I loved your cat video - my cat looks just like yours and she's nuts too! (perhaps include a picture)". What does this have to do with outdoor clothing, you ask? Nothing. It has to do with developing a genuine relationship with this Influencer so that they like/know/trust you. Now that the Influencer and I have begun getting to know each other on a personal level, my Comments are now Liked by the Influencer. Maybe the Influencer replies to my Comments or Comments on my Posts. We've taken it to the next level.

4) My ultimate goal is for the Influencer - without being asked - to mention my clothing brand in one of their Posts or on their Story. When that happens, you have entered into the realm of Influencer Marketing. Sure, you can offer to PAY an Influencer to Post about you, but that is sketchy ground. Kim Kardashian may mention Prada for a paycheck, but a local business may very well be OFFENDED if you offer to pay for a Post. Influencer Marketing should be genuine endorsement or support of your brand by an Influencer who has learned to like, know, and trust you. And showing your good manners, you should take every opportunity to thank that Influencer publicly for that "vote of confidence" in your brand.

5) During my call with this Influencer, someone asked about Boostagram or Instagress or other apps that automate engagement on the platform. The Influencer's response to that idea was visceral and included some F-bombs. You can't automate this process. It is incredibly obvious to any Instagram user when a Comment is posted by a bot. Not only does that not help you to develop a relationship, it actually ALIENATES the Influencer, who in this case is deeply offended by your lazy marketing.

This Influencer told me that he started at 65 Followers and began spending 8-9 hours a day engaging with Influencers, which is a LOT OF TIME. As a result, however, he has increased revenues 20X in one year. He feels his time was well spent.

So to sum up, there is no quick and easy way to engage in Influencer Marketing on Instagram successfully. You need to have a clear brand voice, an understanding of how Instagram users think, a communication plan with timelines, and a whole lot of patience. And you need to be sincerely, interactively, authentically you.

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