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There is no shortage of influencers to choose from. However, finding authentic AND affordable influencers makes this process feel like you’re looking for a needle in a haystack.
The influencer you end up partnering with must have an audience that fits your ideal customer and embodies your brand values—making for an authentic partnership. This is paramount as audiences aren’t afraid to call out creators for doing paid deals that are clearly just for the money. An example of this is Scott Disick infamously copying and pasting Bootea’s instructions for a sponsored post as his caption, and his followers did not hold back.
To avoid inauthentic partnerships, we’ve compiled a list of the best strategies to find influencers, including advice from ecommerce agencies and influencers themselves.
But before you get started, there are just a few things that need to be established:
Create influencer requirements
Determining a “must-have” list for your brand’s ideal influencer is the first step to finding a beneficial partnership. Requirements will vary depending on your brand’s needs, but here are a few to get you started:
- Engagement. Ecommerce agency owner Elliot Davidson suggests looking for a 5-10% engagement rate. “This way, you know their followers are really engaging with the influencer and care about what they have to say,” he shared. It’s important to note that follower count doesn’t always mean high engagement.
- Genuine interest in your brand. Authenticity is hard to fake if an influencer actually likes your product and has values that align with your brand.
To learn more about getting started with influencers, check out our influencer marketing guide.
Test budgets to understand the right cost for influencers
It's challenging for brands to know how an influencer's cost is calculated and their expected return. Sarah Grosz, former Head of Influencer Marketing at MuteSix, suggests the following:
“The best way to price influencers is based on expected cost per thousand impressions (CPM), or how much it will cost for the influencer to reach 1000 unique views on their sponsored content. On TikTok, Youtube, and Instagram reels, video views are accessible to everyone. For placements like Instagram stories and feed posts, you'll want to ask the influencer to send a screenshot of their most recent post analytics. From there, calculate the average impressions from their most recent 5-10 posts. Finally, divide their video view average by the cost they are charging to see what your expected CPM is.”
Grosz also suggests comparing your paid ads CPM with the influencers' to determine if they’ve quoted you a reasonable rate. If not, calculate what you would pay the influencer to be competitive with your paid media CPM. This way, you know what number to counter the influencer with.
Now that you’ve got some basics down. It’s time to start searching for the perfect influencer for your next campaign.
How to find authentic influencers for your next campaign
1. Reach out to people who are already posting about your products
The simplest way to find influencers is to look for people already posting about your products. Look through your “tagged” photos on Instagram to gain insight into who is posting, and what they’re saying about the products. Also, look at the comments and stories you’re tagged in. And don’t forget to check DMs.
This is a great way to start your search. It will feel like an organic match for the influencer's community—which is extremely important as audiences are aware of inauthentic partnerships.
Take this step further by using a tool like Pixlee, that brings UGC to your front door. Some notable functionality includes:
- Identifying authentic influencers from your reviews and organic social media posts
- Automated content collection of reviews, UGC, stories, and full-res content
- Influencer discovery and campaign management
2. Look for your top referrers
Using your top referrers is a great (and affordable) way to find authentic influencers if your brand has a referral program. When we looked into our aggregated data, we discovered that 3% of referrers generated 44% of all referrals—insane!
Look for these “super” enthusiastic advocates who can’t help but talk about your brand and its products. With ReferralCandy, finding influencers like these is easily accessible from your dashboard. At the bottom of the Stats & Overview section, you’ll find a list of top referrers based on a selected time period and the number of people they’ve referred.
3. Leverage micro-influencers
If you’re looking to stay on budget, micro-influencers are a great place to start your search. Director of Marketing at SuitShop and content creator, Kristen Jones shares that “micro-influencers want to build their personal brand and creative portfolio, so they’ll often do an exchange for products.”
On top of this, micro-influencers are incredibly powerful with their highly engaged audience that is usually built within a specific niche. They are known to create genuine content, resulting in a high ROI if a partnership is established.
We know it can take a lot of effort and time to find the right micro-influencers for your brand. That’s why we are building a new product to help you scale that process up. You can sign up for early access now.
4. Search social media hashtags
Your brand can leverage two different types of hashtags to find influencers.
First, there are branded hashtags. This means that your brand has introduced a hashtag associated with your brand. The hashtag can be as simple as the name of your product, as shown below with the beverage company, Olipop.
Or it can be more specific and tied to a campaign or social media initiative. Here is an example from Alo Yoga, introducing a unique hashtag that encourages their audience to post user-generated content (UGC).
Either way, these branded hashtags are an easy way to start building your list of potential influencers.
The second way you can use hashtags to search for influencers is to look up more generic terms associated with your product. Now, if you’re a skincare brand, searching for posts with #skincare will likely not be helpful, as there is such a broad range of posts that fall into this category. Instead, try hashtags specific to your industry or a type of product you sell, such as #greenteacleaner or #salicylictoner. These hashtags are generic but specific to your industry and will make it easier to find potential influencers.
5. Use free influencer marketing tools
So far, we’ve discussed mostly manual ways to find influencers. But there are also marketing tools that can aid in your search. This includes Facebook Brand Collab Manager, which gives you the ability to search Facebook’s database for influencers based on:
From here, you can filter influencers based on:
- The social media platforms their active on
- Follower count
- Portfolio type
This is just scratching the surface of what can be done with Facebook Brand Collab Manager—if you’re interested in an in-depth walk-through, check out this Twitter thread (video tutorials included).
But the free tools don’t stop there.
TikTok also has its own influencer marketing hub called Creator Marketplace. The marketplace operates as an influencer marketing platform—making it easy for content creators and brands to connect and form relationships. Creators interested in working with brands can sign up, revealing their stats and analytics. This gives your brand access to meaningful data like demographics, follower age range, follower geography, post-performance and more. Campaigns can be discussed and formal deals can be made on this platform. You don’t want to miss out on this tool—it’s free and provides reliable data so you can find the most meaningful partnerships.
6. Pay for more advanced influencer marketing tools
Consider these paid tools to elevate your search if you’re looking for more advanced and robust influencer marketing tools. Some popular tools include:
- #paid: Vets creators and only matches pre-qualified influencers based on company goals.
- Aspire: Known for its customizable campaign workflows, brands can customize every aspect of their influencer program journey and the CRM itself.
- GRIN: Highly detailed influencer reporting and analytics and a CRM for all of your influencer marketing efforts.
These are just some of the many paid tools available. We’ve written an article dedicated to explaining the ins and outs of these tools (and more), which you can read here.
7. Let people apply
Letting people apply to partner with your brand is a great way to handle inbound requests from influencers. Medical scrub brand FIGS is a good example for this.
But what if you don’t have inbound requests from influencers?
Influencers likely aren’t aware that you’re looking for partnerships or don’t know where to start this conversation. Promoting your program on the main navigation of your website immediately boosts visibility. Next, make sure to write an actionable call-to-action (CTA) that entices visitors to apply. ThreadBeast does a fantastic job of this with the title “Free Threads.”
More than likes and comments
Working with the right influencers has more benefits than achieving good results. Mutually beneficial partnerships where the influencer feels valued can result in the creator pitching ideas and suggestions to improve your business.
This is the reality for Sozy, a female-founded clothing brand that gathers input from their “SozyBabes” when it comes to designs, blogs, and the business in general. VP of Growth Marquis Matson shared, “this helps us keep really good communication with our target market.”
The same results are possible for your brand. We’ve given you seven tools to find the right influencer for your next campaign. Let the journey begin!