When it comes to finding influencers to work with on Instagram, there are multiple “right way” techniques to use, which means there a lot of different ways to get an influencer to use your product. In spite of this, many brands tend to use ineffective or inefficient approaches when reaching out to influencers. If you’re serious about increasing your reach through Instagram, you’ll want to stay away from the less-effective techniques and focus on what works.

Doing things the right way does mean making an investment of time and effort in a continual process of strategizing and management. You’ll need to plan carefully and execute your strategy with patience. But the ROI will be worth it. When you play your cards right, influencers are more likely to notice your brand and want to work with you.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that an influencer will respond to your overtures, or be willing to accept the terms you’ve offered. However, if you use this process, you’re much more likely to find multiple suitable candidates, which increases your odds of getting the kind of influencer-driver exposure you want on Instagram.

Step 1: Be Realistic

If you’re wondering how to get Instagram influencers to use your product, there’s one thing you need to keep in mind before you start trying to make it happen. You’ll get the best-possible results if you stay realistic. That means taking honest stock of how much brand recognition your business has, and not spending too much time fishing in the small and highly competitive pond of the most popular influencers on Instagram.

Woman in front of store wearing a red beret and a Coca-Cola sweater

High-profile accounts with millions of followers are constantly inundated with comments and DMs from people and brands who want some of that popularity to rub off on them. If you comment “hey, want to do a sponsored post for us?” on an influencer’s post that already has 12,000 comments, you aren’t going to stand out.

Even a DM probably won’t get much attention if you don’t already have a recognizable brand profile. Major influencers (or their social media staff) might recognize major brand names like Hidden Valley Ranch or Revlon, but if you’re not on par with names like that, your message might not get a second glance.

In addition to not standing out, that kind of overture is essentially like a telemarketing call. Showing up and immediately asking the influencer to work with you without forming any sort of connection is a huge gamble. Though it might occasionally work, for most people, that’s going to seem like more of a nuisance than an appealing offer. Don’t assume that an influencer, even a micro-influencer with fewer than 100,000 followers, will automatically be flattered by your offer. Being realistic about your chances and how you approach influencers will make the following steps feel much more natural and worthwhile.

Step 2: Focus on Your Niche

Being realistic about who might be willing to partner with your brand means finding influencers who will be genuinely interested in your offer. Influencers have their own brands to manage, so they’ll probably be most excited about hearing from businesses that are relevant to the content they tend to create.

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You can find influencers on Instagram who specialize in fashion, travel, cooking, art, fitness, parenting, pets and more. It doesn’t make sense to try to get someone who focuses on weightlifting to do a sponsored post for a cupcake decorating kit. Don’t waste time trying to get influencers to use your product if their personal brand is totally irrelevant to your niche.

Reaching out to an influencer in the wrong niche can be wasteful not only because the influencer is likely to say no but also because their audience probably won’t be interested in your product. The goal of influencer marketing is to maximize exposure to the audience segment that’s most likely to become your customers. Staying focused on the right niche will increase your chances of succeeding at this goal.

Step 3: Make Your Presence Known

The best way to find an influencer to endorse your brand on Instagram is to make connections with influencers who either already use your products, or to forge connections with influencers of realistic popularity who are part of your target market. If your brand is very small or new to social media, you might not have many people to choose from in the former category. That means you’ll need to go with the latter.

Elvis impersonator with crowd in the background

Either way, you don’t want to jump the gun and make a sponsorship offer too early. Try to forge a connection with influencers you’re interested in working with. Leave comments, ask if you can repost their content, and otherwise be friendly and engaged. If the influencers you’d like to work with are local to your area, invite them to an event so you can get to know them better in person. If they actually show up, that’s a good sign that they’re as interested in your brand as you are in theirs.

It may take some time to get noticed by an influencer this way. But don’t pester them. If you leave a dozen or so comments and they don’t respond, or if you invite them to an event and they don’t attend, don’t keep pushing. You can make a hail mary offer as your parting shot, but you might want to think twice about that. Even if the influencer says yes after ignoring you, the partnership may be less authentic and fruitful than is ideal. An influencer who doesn’t engage well with comments, or one who didn’t show interest in your brand until there was money on the table, might not be the best choice for your campaign.

Step 4: Be Professional

Whenever you reach out to an influencer, whether it’s to leave comments on their Instagram, invite them to events, or pitch a sponsorship deal, make sure you’re being as professional as possible. There’s a language of friendliness that’s pretty important when engaging on social media, and you should definitely maintain that in all your communications with influencers. You aren’t negotiating a legal settlement, and you want to project a sense of fun and opportunity.

At the same time, you’ll also want to make sure to avoid making critical comments, saying anything potentially offensive, or otherwise crossing the line of professional propriety. Influencers have been known to put brands on blast in a public way if the outreach seems rude. If an influencer quotes her rates and you think they’re too high, you can counter-offer or simply decline. Don’t tell her she’s not “worth it” or something similarly dismissive and rude, or you might end up in a viral screenshot PR disaster.

Setting up formal influencer contracts with clear expectations is part of the professionalism aspect of this equation. It can be easy enough to find someone to put up some content on their Instagram feed, but again, doing it the right way takes a bit more effort that will pay off in the long term. Strategize with the influencer to make sure their Instagram content balances your needs with theirs. Set a clear post date and time so you can check their work and make sure any errors get cleared up as soon as possible.

When you set up clear expectations up front, influencers who are smart about their business will appreciate the clarity. The negotiation process can also let you know whether you’ve found someone with whom you can form a long-term influencer partnership for content on Instagram and beyond.