It is becoming increasingly difficult for brands to be heard amongst the (visual) clutter on Instagram. To break through, it’s important to focus on building authentic relationships. The best relationships are built on a foundation of listening and shared interests. To find common ground, start with a broad search on Instagram for brand mentions and relevant hashtags. If they are already tagging and engaging with your handle in a positive way, the process will be that much easier.
Below are a few things to consider:
▶ Judge a book by its cover. Whether you swipe left or right, first impressions are dominating social media. And Instagram is not any different—looks matter. Quality photos are essential and, remember, caption text is usually read only after the user stops to look at the photo.
You want your influencers to be at least proficient in photography. If not, you run the risk of turning off some fans.
For example, while engaging on behalf of a casual dining chain, we have seen some pictures of what we think is a delicious bacon cheeseburger accompanied by the most complimentary caption.
However, when you enlarge the thumbnail, it instead looks like a pile of brown mush disguised by a Valencia filter.
▶ Do your research. These days, we don’t go on a date without investigating everything Google can reveal about that person. The same is true for determining whom you want to engage with on Instagram.
Once you’ve identified a potential target, it is critical to evaluate their level of influence. You can do this manually by noting their number of followers, post content and the engagement they have with their own followers.
▶ Give love to get it. After you have identified and evaluated your top targets for brand influencers, the next step is to get their attention.
One way to do this is to repost and attribute user content on a regular basis, showing influencers that you appreciate their brand loyalty.
This creates a symbiotic relationship where you are able to source fresh content while getting them excited about engaging with the brand and giving them more exposure to your brand’s followers.
We’ve often found that these users will comment and repost the interaction on several of their social media sites, driving more of their friends and followers to the original source and increasing followers.
Once that initial reciprocation takes place, people are more likely to continue to engage in the future since they know the brand is listening.
You can also further engage with these influencers by tagging their handles in posts and asking their opinion when relevant.
▶ Put a ring on it. There are a few different ways to officially pop the question of whether they would like to be an official influencer for your brand. The most common way is to leave a comment on one of their photos with a call to action. Here is one example:
“Thanks for all of the love and great photos. We’d love to talk to you further about a potential partnership opportunity. Email us at [insert email address] if you are interested.”
Depending on the size of your brand and to avoid potentially getting lost in the spam on some photo comment threads, programs like instaDM and DM.Stagram can also be used to direct message a similar note to an influencer.
If they respond back with interest, then it’s all logistics from there about how you would like to establish the specific terms of the influencer relationship.
You wouldn’t expect to marry the person you randomly approached at a party.
And you shouldn’t expect users on Instagram to agree to become an influencer for your brand just because you commented on one of their photos you liked.
To have quality influencers engage on your brand’s behalf, you have to take the time to build some initial credibility and develop a foundation for the relationship.
This article originally appeared in the November 10, 2014 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.