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Social media influencers probably don’t need an introduction. Their popularity seems to be growing by leaps and bounds every hour. If you simply look at search trends for the term “Instagram influencer,” you’ll realize the magnanimity of their popularity.

Google trends - identifying social media influencers

Image via Google Trends

In fact, searches for “Instagram influencer” saw a 3X increase between 2016 and 2017. And searches for “influencer marketing” saw a 2X increase during the same time period. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that brands are flocking to social media influencers for their marketing and promotions.

However, identifying the right social media influencers is anything but easy. It is the most important aspect of the campaign, and can make it or break it. Collaborating with the wrong ones will simply eat away your budget and give you nothing in return. So you need to be very cautious when you’re selecting influencers for your campaign.

In this post, I’m going to talk about everything you need to know about identifying relevant social media influencers. I’ll give you a rundown of what you need to keep in mind when you look for influencers, and where you can find them. But first, are you sure you know who they are?

Social Media Influencers: Who Are They?

I’m sure you’re already pretty much familiar with social media influencers. So why am I still talking about them here? Because many marketers and brands still make the mistake of confusing “influence” with large follower counts. This strategy is not going to help you find the right social media influencers.

Let me explain why.

Given the pace at which the digital landscape is evolving, it’s not uncommon to find companies that “sell” followers. Yes, you heard that right. You pay a certain amount to a company that helps you grow your followers overnight, by a few thousand.

Are these genuine followers? Chances are they’re not even human. When you pay to buy followers, you’re likely to get a bunch of bots or fake accounts. How do you characterize a fake account then? The signs are pretty easy to read. They’ll have some random names, very few posts, and spammy content. Here’s a classic example.

game3355 - identifying social media influencers

Image via Instagram

When you’re trying to identify social media influencers for your brand, you shouldn’t go by follower counts alone. Instead, do a deeper dive into the kind of followers they have. If you come across follower profiles like the one above, run in the opposite direction. These are exactly the kind of people you want to avoid.

So, coming back to the question of who your ideal social media influencers are – they’re the ones who have:

  • A large number of followers on social media
  • A decent number of posts
  • Authentic stories in their content
  • High-quality and aesthetic images or videos in their content
  • A solid engagement rate on their posts

Here’s an example of what a genuine social media influencer’s profile should look like.

genuine influencer’s profile - identifying social media influencers

Image via Instagram

I’m sure you have a lot of burning questions about how to identify relevant social media influencers for your brand. For example:

  • How do you calculate the engagement rate?
  • What are the things to look for when checking for quality?
  • What is the ideal follower size to target?
  • Where do I find them?

Worry not. You’ve come to the right place. I’m going to answer all of the above questions and share some useful tips and tricks for identifying social media influencers. So read on.

Why Does Your Brand Needs Social Media Influencers?

Some of you may be wondering why you even need to have an influencer marketing strategy. Sure, it may be giving great returns to some people and is certainly immensely popular these days.

But do you really need it, given that you’re already spending a lot on other forms of marketing? Do you really need to collaborate with social media influencers to market your products?

The simple answer to that is, yes, you do. And here’s why.

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1. Your Secret Weapon For Winning Customer Trust

It’s no secret that consumers don’t trust advertising anymore. Customers today are more informed than ever and the last thing they need is someone pestering them to buy something.

Traditional advertising comes across as pushy and especially when you’re just another brand trying to say you’re the best – consumers detest it.

Two-thirds of web audiences today use ad blockers to block online advertisements. The only thing that truly works to win customer trust is social proof.

Customers want to know from real people about their experiences of using your products. And if those people happen to be experts in their niche, it’s even more valuable.

Social media influencers can help you gain your audience’s trust using authentic storytelling. In fact, recommendations from influencers are known to increase purchase intent by 5.2X.

So, if you want to rise above your competition and be seen and heard by relevant audiences, collaborate with social media influencers.

2. Generates Relevant Leads and Boosts Conversions

One of the biggest benefits of working with social media influencers is getting access to an already engaged target audience. Followers of social media influencers are truly interested in hearing what they have to say.

They trust their opinions and recommendations. Because of this, they’re extremely likely to act based on these recommendations too.

28% of marketers in a survey revealed that influencer marketing has helped them acquire customers the quickest. Obviously, this is only possible when you collaborate with a social media influencer in your niche.

So if you’re an activewear manufacturer, the quickest way to be seen by your target audiences is to partner with a social media influencer in the fitness niche. Why?

Because their followers are likely to be fitness enthusiasts. And when the influencer recommends a product that they’ve tried and found useful, their followers are more inclined to purchase it.

nikkivandesanden - identifying social media influencers

Image via Instagram

3. Showcases and Delivers Value to Audiences

A study by Influence Central found that 81% of consumers are influenced by reviews on their purchases. Reviews and testimonials are a great way of letting your potential customers know that your products work.

Remember, when someone considers shelling out even a cent on a product, they do so in hopes of getting something valuable.

Social media influencers are capable of showcasing that value to your target audiences. For example, YouTuber and tech influencer Marques Brownlee has over 5 million subscribers to his YouTube channel.

He regularly posts videos on the newest tech gadgets, explaining their features and benefits. These are great resources for people who are considering buying such products.


YouTuber and tech influencer - identifying social media influencers

Image via YouTube

4. Aids Your SEO Efforts and Boosts Ranking

Probably one of the less obvious benefits of working with social media influencers is that it helps your SEO efforts. How? When influential bloggers or YouTubers mention or link back to your products, it automatically boosts traffic and rankings.

Jaclyn Hill - identifying social media influencers

Image via YouTube

For example, beauty vlogger Jaclyn Hill mentions the brands she shops from on her videos and websites. This is a great way of driving her followers to check out those products. For brands, it’s a good source of additional traffic and valuable backlinks helping in SEO.

How to Identify the Best Social Media Influencers

You may be surprised to know that identifying the right social media influencers is a major challenge for many marketers.

In a study by Linqia, 45% of marketers said that it was their biggest challenge in influencer marketing. Another 73% of marketers in a survey by Econsultancy also admitted the same.

Much of the success of your influencer marketing campaign is dependent on your choice of social media influencers.

Unfortunately, here’s where many brands and marketers go wrong. So it is important to keep the following aspects in mind when you’re identifying social media influencers.

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1. Niche

The very first thing you need to keep in mind is your influencer’s niche. What is it that they’re an expert in? Are they into beauty, fitness, travel, photography, technology, food, or maybe a combination of some of these?

An easy way to find out which social media influencer works in which niche is to look at their profiles. For example, one look at this Instagrammer’s account tells you that she’s into travel.

brianna dawes - identifying social media influencers

Image via Instagram

However, this person happens to have a more diverse set of interests as is clear from his bio and photos.

Gerrit elen - identifying social media influencers

Image via Instagram

Sometimes, however, it may not be easy to understand the primary niche of a social media influencer just from their Instagram account. In such cases, visit their website or blog to see what they write about the most.

Why is this important? One word – relevance. If you’re a florist, you certainly don’t want to collaborate with a food blogger right? A lifestyle influencer who’s into interiors or home decor would be a much better fit.

Collaborating with a social media influencer in your niche ensures that your messages reach a relevant audience. And so, your chances of winning them over is certainly higher. As you can see in the example below, Le Chatelain hotel has collaborated with travel blogger Gerrit Elen because their niches match.

because their niches match.

Le Chatelain hotel - identifying social media influencers

Image via Instagram

When such posts are seen by Gerrit’s followers, they would be naturally interested in booking a stay with this hotel. So, the first and foremost step in identifying relevant social media influencers would be to check if their niche aligns with yours.

2. Engagement

As I was discussing earlier, follower counts aren’t the only thing you need to consider when selecting social media influencers. Engagement is much more important. Why? Because it is an indication of how many followers are truly interested in an influencer’s content.

So, how do you go about calculating the engagement rate? It is essentially the percentage of followers who like, comment, or share the posts of an influencer. It is generally calculated as an average of the last 20-30 posts of an influencer.

You can use free tools like the Instagram Money Calculator to check the engagement rate of any social media influencer’s posts.


Instagram Money Calculator - identifying social media influencers

Image via Influencer Marketing Hub

Or better yet, you can use influencer marketing platforms like Grin or BuzzSumo to check engagement rates and find relevant social media influencers.

Grin - identifying social media influencers

Image via Grin

So what is a good enough engagement rate that you should be looking at? A study conducted by Influence.co found the following correlation between engagement rates and follower counts. If your social media influencer has an engagement rate in this range or higher, you should be good to go.

Influenceco - identifying social media influencers

Image via Influence.co

3. Reach

Although I’ve been saying that follower count should not be the only thing you consider when selecting social media influencers, it is still an important consideration. Why? Because this determines how far and wide your messages can actually reach.

Mega-influencers (having more than 1 million followers) are the category of influencers having the highest reach. This is followed by macro-influencers having between 100K and 1M followers. And lastly, micro-influencers who have anywhere between 1K and 100K followers.

Depending on the kind of goals you have – greater brand awareness, growth in social media followers, traffic boost, or greater conversions – you need to choose a combination of them.

It has been seen that micro-influencers generally have the highest engagement rates and mega-influencers the least. So, for the best results, you should consider working with 15-20 micro-influencers, 3-4 macro-influencers, and 1-2 mega-influencers – depending on your available budget of course.

Influencer marketing platforms like Grin can help you filter by “reach” and find the best social media influencers for your campaign.

Influencer marketing platforms like Grin - identifying social media influencers

Image via Grin

4. Quality

The quality of work is an important consideration when identifying social media influencers for your campaign. You need to make sure that their work is aesthetic and appealing to look at.

When you have filtered down your list of social media influencers by niche, engagement, and reach, review their accounts before reaching out.

Some of the things you need to watch out for is over-promotion of products. Are they promoting products or brands too often? If so, they’re definitely not a good choice because over-promotion dilutes the authenticity. You can clearly see this in the following example.

oriflames - identifying social media influencers

Image via Instagram

So make sure to do a quality check before you embark on your outreach program. You should also go through the follower comments on posts to see how they’re reacting to promotions.

Do they find them spammy or useful? The answers to these questions will help you make the right choice.

Final Thoughts

Whether you find your influencers via Google searches, hashtags on social channels, or influencer marketing platforms – you need to screen them properly.

Niche, engagement, reach, and quality should be the first things that you check when identifying social media influencers.

The above-mentioned tips should be helpful when you’re going through this process.

Can you think of any other ways to identify the best social media influencers for your brand? Let me know in the comments below.

Influencer Marketing Consultant