Influencer marketing is essentially a social media marketing strategy where a brand collaborates with influencers to promote its products on their platform.
Influencer marketers usually have a dedicated following of a passionate audience that views them as experts or thought leaders in their niche. Therefore, brand recommendations tend to drive unmatched conversions and sales.
The global influencer marketing spend nearly doubled between 2019 and 2021, having jumped to 13.8 billion U.S. dollars from 6.5 billion in three years.
In recent times, more and more companies have been adopting influencer marketing to improve brand recognition, especially on gigantic platforms like Instagram, where online collaborators have proved to be genuinely influential.
Which begs the question —
What’s so special about Instagram?
As one of the most popular social media platforms worldwide, Instagram records nearly 1 billion users every month. And it’s not just limited to recreational purposes; close to 72% of users have ended up buying products that they first discovered on Instagram. Nearly 80% follow more than one business account.
Currently, an industry worth $2 billion, Instagram influencer marketing has transformed the digital marketing landscape and is expected to dominate the market in the years to come.
Businesses now do not believe in selling their products directly to consumers. Instead, they are spending time and effort building productive relationships with influencers who are more effective at converting leads.
Instagram influencers have a loyal and transparent relationship with their audience, given that they actively share details of their day-to-day lives with them. So, when they make recommendations or adopt a specific trend, their audience is quick to follow.
For instance, if you follow a lifestyle blogger who promotes organic living habits and posts about a stellar organic farming course that is contributing to their healthy lifestyle, you will most definitely subscribe to it because you trust their opinion.
The same is true with fashion or beauty bloggers, whose influential roles have resulted in nearly 72% of users making related purchases.
These statistics indicate Instagram’s unparalleled potential at driving growth for marketers, business owners, and entrepreneurs.
So, if you are a course seller, Instagram influencer marketing should be a part of your marketing strategy. Influencer recommendations are seen as social proof and can prove to be excellent drivers, and of course, sales!
How to find Instagram influencers to collaborate with
Here’s a comprehensive 3-step process to sell online courses with Instagram influencers:
- Step 1: Identify the right influencers
- Step 2: Find influencers on Instagram who could be interested
- Step 3: Reach out to the influencers you’ve shortlisted
Let’s cover each step in detail.
Step 1: Identifying the right influencers
#1: Ensure their target audience is the right fit
You want an influencer who shares your brand values and has an audience with pain points that your course aims to address. Simply put, look for influencers whose interests align with the interests of your target audience.
For instance, most people have a hard time following a vegan lifestyle, especially since finding sustainable vegan foods and exciting recipes happens to be quite challenging within the community.
Presenting a solution to the problem is vegan pastry chef Fran Costigan who sells a cooking course online, teaching vegans healthy dessert recipes using plant-based ingredients.
Now, the ideal influencer for her would be a passionate vegan blogger who actively shares diet tips and vegan recipes to inspire her followers to lead a vegan lifestyle.
Sure enough, Fran’s online course is regularly endorsed by Sharon, a vegan lifestyle promoter on Instagram.
Other possible influencer partners could be environmentalists or nature lovers like Annie, who adopt veganism to reduce environmental impact on the Earth.
Since both their audiences have similar pain points in their lifestyle choices, promotions are bound to generate quality leads!
The point being, your long-term strategy should be to find someone who shares similar values as you and won’t just share your course as a one-time story or tweet.
You need niche-specific Instagrammers who are actively working on growing their follower base and sharing their message — partnering with whom would prove to be a mutually beneficial venture leading you towards shared success.
So ideally, what are the factors you should be considering when assessing the target audience of potential influencer partners?
Your research should answer the following questions:
- Does their audience have pain points that can be addressed through your course?
- Do they hold values, interests, lifestyle choices that align with your targets?
- Is their follower demographic (age, gender, and location) aligned with your target audience?
- What are the most common questions addressed to them?
- What kind of content do they create, and what subjects do they generally target?
- Are they able to drive engagement with their community? Is it genuine?
You can use influencer auditing tools like Hype Auditor, Kred, MOZ, and BuzzSumo to analyze your influencer’s audiences closely. Beyond that, you can manually screen their accounts to get a sense of the kind of people they attract.
#2: Check Influencer Type: Mega, Macro, Micro, Nano
Instagram is the birthplace of influencer marketing, especially among the younger crowds. It’s not just the Kardashians and Jenners who rule the marketplace; you will also find “micro-influencers” who host a tightly-wound community of passionate audiences.
So the question to ask her is —whattype of influencers are you looking for?
Are you interested in A-listers with huge followings? Or are micro-influencers and nano influencers more your preference? The type of influencer you choose to go with will help you determine your budget.
Generally speaking, there are four categories of influencers you will be connecting with during your marketing strategy:
(i) Mega influencers
Think Kylie Jenner, Ariana Grande, and Cristiano Ronaldo or other A-list or B-list celebrities. With a following of over one million, their reach is tremendous and can do wonders for your visibility. However, their audience is largely diverse and covers non-specific topics of interest. Therefore, mega influencers do not have “real converting influencer power.”
As Gil Eyal, CEO and founder of HYPR Brands puts it, they “are often more famous than influential.” Mega influencers are ridiculously expensive and hardly seem like a viable option for course sellers!
(ii) Macro influencers
These people have a following of 100,000 and one million and are typically bloggers and industry leaders who gained prominence through the internet. They have a relatively greater sphere of influence and relevance when compared to mega influencers.
If you hope to reach masses or a broad demographic — for instance, a particular gender or location — macro-influencers are your best bet.
(iii) Micro influencers
Micro-influencers host highly relevant, niche-specific communities and drive significantly high engagement. They are subject matter experts and thought leaders in their industry and command meaningful influence in their community.
As Eyal puts it, “[Micro-influencers] have stronger relationships than a typical influencer. Their perception often drives this as an opinion leader of a subject matter. A micro-influencer, as opposed to a celebrity or regular influencer, often has a very uniform audience,”
Micro-influencers have a small dedicated following of anywhere between 10,000 and 100,000. Ideally, this is the sweet spot course sellers should begin from.
(iv) Nano influencers
Yet another category of influencers is those that have between 1,000 to 10,000 followers. Often considered a reliable alternative to micro or macro-influencers, their accounts focus on a genuine passion. If you are looking to target “regular everyday people,” nano-influencers are the way to go.
Now that you have clarity on the different types of influencers, you can pinpoint those applicable to your niche.
Why should you choose micro influencers?
It’s common knowledge that micro-influencers are more effective in driving engagement than macro-influencers. While macro-influencers generate 5% engagement at best, micro-influencers drive double the rate on average.
The Social Media Hat’s Mike Allton also believes that a niche-specific audience is more valuable in producing desired results when compared to a massive following —
“Celebrities are certainly influencers. But their audiences are usually quite random and undefined, requiring that sheer numbers make up for that lack of focus. Micro-influencers with small but focused audiences can sometimes be more valuable. The more defined and targeted an audience is, and the better relationship that influencer has with that audience, the less important size is.”
The important thing to remember is that quality precedes quantity. Having your course endorsed by someone with a thousand engaged followers is likely to generate more quality leads than a diverse, unengaged audience.
Not to mention, macro-influencers or celebrities are unlikely to endorse your course or will probably leave you in too huge of a financial crunch. On the other hand, 10 individual micro-influencers as an alternative for one macro influencer could have you harnessing copious amounts of niche traffic.
For instance, if you have a hip-hop dance course, you can partner with 5 to 10 individuals dance influencers belonging to different demographics and having a following of 10,000 and 100,000 people each. This strategy is likely to draw highly relevant traffic and quality leads while still allowing you to remain within budget.
Therefore, when partnering with influencers, your priority should be to look for those who have an engaged audience. Other important metrics to factor in are conversion rates, comments, likes, email responses, and activity levels.
#3: Measure engagement rate
Engagement rate is a reliable indicator of the sphere of influence someone has. It helps determine the quality of leads you will generate from marketing your course on their platform.
However, there are a range of factors affecting an influencer’s engagement rate on Instagram — posting schedule, frequency, follower count, Instagram algorithm, and messaging, to name a few.
The engagement rate is typically calculated as the sum of the comments and likes per post divided by the followers count.
Let’s take an example of the fitness expert Krissy Cela who has around 2.5 million followers on Instagram and receives approximately 30,000 likes and 400 comments per post.
Using the formula, the resultant engagement rate of her account comes to 1.21%.
An influencer auditing tool is likely to give you more accurate results. Here’s a Hype Auditor report of her profile highlighting the engagement rate.
Depending on industry standards, the average engagement rate ranges between 1% and 3%. Ideally, you want to aim for higher values, but 1.19 is a pretty good sign and indicates that the audience actively interacts with the influencer’s content.
Here’s a breakdown of the engagement rate values to give you an idea:
- Below 1% — Low
- Between 1% and 3% — Average
- Over 3% — High
However, don’t entirely rely on these values. They can even be faked!
Yes, you heard that right! It’s not uncommon for influencers to buy followers these days. Instagram accounts may appear to be influencers, but if you check their comments, all you would find is generic or non-specific comments like”???”or “amazing view!” or “love your feed!” These are what we call ‘ghost followers’, and the comments are courtesy of engagement bots hard at work.
So, if you find that interactions on influencer accounts are vague and nonsensical, there’s a good chance that they don’t have any real influence.
#4: Check if their content is suitable for your brand
Research the kind of content they produce and determine if it suits your purposes. Follow their posts, stories, and activities to find out:
- What subjects do they cover?
- What is their tonality (formal, casual, conversational)?
- How frequently do they post?
- Do they leverage mix media (photo, video, and text) and sponsored content to enhance reach?
- Have they collaborated with competitor brands?
Also, request for references of previous influencer campaigns they’ve worked on, if any, to review their performance. This will give you an idea of how well-matched they are to market your online course.
Having gained valuable insight on which Instagram influencers you should be targeting, the next step is finding them.
Step 2: Finding influencers on Instagram
Here are three simple ways to find niche Instagram influencers:
#1: Search for influencers on Google
A simple Google search will reveal tons of articles published on influencers in every industry. For example, you might type “best Instagram influencers” or “top Indian influencers in fashion.”
Or you can be specific and search for influencers using keywords relevant to your industry. For example, “beauty influencers“, “female fitness influencers“, “food influencers” and so on.
Note down the names and details of influencers you hope to collaborate with, so you can run analytics on them later on.
#2: Do hashtag searches
You can search for micro-influencers on your own by typing relevant hashtags on the Instagram search.
An important point to remember when searching relevant keyword hashtags on Instagram is to find out if the content producers are indeed influencers or simply hobbyists.
You can spot the ones that concern you by looking at their engagement rate and followers’ count. If they are running sponsored posts, that’s another sign of a potential influencer.
#3: Leverage influencer marketing tools and marketplaces
There are a number of competent tools to help you find influencers in your niche/industry. You can easily look for preferred influencers using filters provided on each platform.
Here are a few influencer marketing tools to find influential Instagrammers in your niche:
Upfluence is a free-of-charge search engine where you can discover influencers using relevant keywords. You can filter your search based on your requirements.
Influence.co is not a regular search engine. It is a platform where users build their profiles to be able to access the influencer community. It has both a free and paid version.
(iii) The Right Fit
It is an influencer marketing platform where you can look for preferred influencers depending on their age, demographics, location, following, age, and so on. The Right Fit is a paid platform.
In addition to this, you can utilize blogger outreach tools to find out where conversations about your niche are happening. Social listening tools are a great way to do so as well. Influencer marketplaces inform you who is available to take up sponsored work.
However, keep in mind that these platforms are only to help you break into the influencer marketplace. The choice of the right influencer is still to be done by you.
The idea is to come up with a list of influencers and evaluate them against your ideal influencer checklist to finalize the best influencers to promote your course.
Your “ideal influencer” checklist
- Is their target audience the right fit for your course?
- Do they produce content that aligns with your course subject?
- Do they have a loyal following to drive conversions?
- Is their engagement rate low, average or high?
- Do they have prior client references?
Now the question arises — how do you reach out to these influencers you’ve pinpointed?
Step 3: Reaching out to chosen influencers
For starters, decide your budget. No kidding, influencer marketing can be expensive! Especially on a long-established platform like Instagram, where influencers charge per story and post, depending on their engagement rate, followers count, and industry standards.
For instance, if you are looking for a macro influencer in the beauty industry, be prepared to shell out £162 per post for every 100,000 followers.
However, as we mentioned before, the ideal choice for course sellers would be thought leaders and topic specialists in the micro-influencers category. It’s their high engagement rate and significant influence you ought to go after to generate quality leads.
As it happens, micro-influencers are likely to manage their accounts, so you can reach out to them directly through Instagram DM or send them an email (Look up contact details on their business account bio).
It is a good idea to plan your outreach to increase your chances of success.
If you choose to go ahead with an email, you can afford to be a little detailed in your explanation. However, a DM should be short and crisp, and attention-grabbing.
In any case, your pitch should clearly explain your brand and the nature of the partnership you have in mind. Details of the payment structure, type of the campaign, and collaborative activities can be decided once you receive a response.
Here are two free email outreach templates for inspiration:
I have been following your Instagram profile for quite some time now and I really want to congratulate you on how far you’ve come in your fitness journey.
My name is Jane and I have a course on health and wellness which I think your audience could benefit from. Would you be interested in doing a collaboration with me? I will be offering you the course for free, ofcourse.
Let me know if you’d like me to send more details!
My name is Jane and I’ve a course on fitness that addresses new-age challenges in the health and wellness industry. I want to invite you to become a brand ambassador for my course! I believe your fitness journey is truly inspirational and can motivate women to accomplish their fitness goals and lead a healthy life.
I’d be providing you an affiliate code through which your followers will be able to avail 25% on course registrations.
Does this sound like something you’d be interested in? Let me know!
Pro Tip: Keep track of your findings
While you are at it, you will probably be reaching out to tons of influencers on Instagram. There’s no way you’ll remember who’s agreed/refused, who you are yet to finalize payment terms with, who you’ve to follow up on, etc.
So, you’ve got to be organized about it!
Therefore, as you evaluate influencers w.r.t to your marketing objectives, maintain a record of everyone you reach out to in one spreadsheet tracker. Include separate columns for Name, Instagram Account, Contact Details, and Status of the Pitch.
Fill in the details as you speak to individual influencers to identify collaborative opportunities systematically.
Activities you can do with influencers
Now that you are past deciding who your Instagram influencers are, it’s time to put your marketing strategy into action. The idea is to get before their audience and participate in engaging activities that will lead to course sales.
Here are a few collaborative ideas to best utilize an influencer platform:
1. Run a contest
Invite followers to participate in a contest you are hosting. Something along the lines of “tag 5 of your friends and win a free ebook” or “follow our page and get 5 of your friends to follow to win a subscription” or any other prize of your choice.
Here’s an example for you to get an idea:
2. Live streams
Instagram Live is an excellent option to promote your online course, especially to launch new modules. A 45 to 60 minutes QnA session or interview in which you provide value to viewers can meaningfully increase the possibility of conversions. You can invite a niche guest, an influential personality, to garner more attention and credibility. Influencers are usually willing to participate in such sessions for free, given that live streams are mutually beneficial.
Check out this Instagram influencer conducting a live QnA session during which he launches a new Instagram Mastery course.
3. Organize a meetup
Invite followers to a well-planned outdoor meetup where they would have the chance to attend a guest lecture by an influential speaker. Remember to promote the event on all your social media handles to drive generous traffic.
4. Course reviews
Get niche bloggers to review your course and offer them your product for free or in exchange for a discount on your course. Positive reviews can skyrocket your sales! Especially if they are by popular bloggers.
In addition to boosting traffic from the influencer’s website, you stand to benefit from social proof that will validate the advantages of your course.
Here’s a live course review for you to get an idea:
5. Leverage a brand rep program
Offer a discount code to your influencer and ask them to add its link to their Instagram bio. Meanwhile, they should post relevant content and stories to get learners on board.
Here’s an affiliate for the creative hands art materials company Brusto offering a discount to buyers who use his code to purchase Brusto stationary.
6. Run an #ad
Lastly, use the influencer’s platform to run a plain and simple #ad after discussing relevant details with them.
Instagram has established its credence in the influencer marketing landscape by offering businesses the unique opportunity to drive impactful brand ambassadorship. Given the results influencer marketing has generated in recent years, it’s clear that the trend is going nowhere and will continue to influence the way consumers shop in future!
So, if you have an online coaching business and you’ve exhausted existing marketing channels, Instagram influencer marketing can help you harness the power of new target audiences and tap into new revenue streams to drive sales for your course. After all, every new influencer you onboard unlocks a new potential to reach an untapped audience!