What is the best way to reach out to an influencer? How do you avoid sounding like "spam" or a fake opportunity? Which is the best platform to use to reach out to influencers? Rachel Antony, Calgary influencer and marketer, answers these questions in this article. This information is taken from episode 13 of The Small Business Mastermind podcast. The conversation below has been edited for clarity.
Morgan Berna (host): Before reaching out to an influencer a business wants to make sure they find someone that lines up with their business' branding and goals. How can a small business find someone local that is a good fit for them?
Rachel Antony: It is especially important for brick-and-mortar businesses. In Calgary, for example, you would want Calgary influencers with a Calgary audience. Keep track of the influencers that are using your product, showing up at your restaurant, or tagging you in things. I find that is the most authentic collaboration because they are already using your product, and most influencers — because that is what we do — we understand that we are sharing a product. Whether or not I have bought it, I am still going to share it for other people to see if I like it. So, I have gained a lot of collaborations based on that.
Keeping track of who is using your products is first. I would also look at your competitors or someone in your same space and see if they have used influencers before, and not copy those people, but see who they are using and check those people out. People do use hashtags, like #YYCInfluencer or #CalgaryInfluencer and that type of stuff.
I always recommend vetting influencers. There are a couple of ways to determine how authentic people are being, and that would be the comments that you are seeing or the number of likes. Follower count is not very important anymore, but it is important to look at the engagement. You can see the comments that are genuine from normal people, looking to buy the product or service, as opposed to other influencers that are just filling up each other's comments — and I know that is a little bit too detailed, I am sure, for lots of people listening — but just as a note when you are looking at influencers' accounts, just to make sure that they have the type of audience that you were looking for as well.
Also, if you find an influencer that you like or you have worked with before, ask them for recommendations of other influencers. This is a great way to spread your network with people that you do not know, and then they [the influencer] have hopefully already vetted those people, and so they will recommend either their friends or people they know that would be good for your business. If you are not necessarily a local company, there are platforms online that have collections of influencers and information. I would start with finding, and trying to vet on your own, especially if you are doing a small campaign. If you find an influencer that you like from either the geotag, like in Calgary, or the hashtags, or just other small businesses that has used them, then you can see who they are following, who they are interacting with, and they most likely are following all the other influencers in the city. So, just going through their follower list or seeing who is interacting with their posts so you can find a couple more that way.
And then, to just talk about the type of influencers. The easy way is to look at their account because you can tell pretty quickly if you align with what they are posting about. If they are a mom or not a mom, you can kind of figure that out, maybe you have a more family-friendly thing you are trying to promote — well, you obviously need someone with kids to promote that — just keeping that in mind, which is common sense, but I feel like a lot of people just reach out without even looking at your account. So, it is important and it also makes you look more legit and actually interested if you have spent at least five minutes looking at the account instead of just copying, pasting a message to every influencer that you found. I always recommend people just to keep track of what the influencers are posting.
Morgan: On that note, then, say we have now found someone we want to reach out to, what is the best way for a brand to reach out so that not only it sounds like a real opportunity for the influencer, because I imagine it can sound kind of spammy sometimes, but also to make sure that it is going to be a great fit?
Rachel: I think it is subjective to an influencer, but personally, I do not need it to be super formal. I do not need an email that is like, "To whom it may concern, we have this great opportunity." That sounds like spam to me. I would much rather a more personable message, but DMs (Instagram direct messages) — I think a lot of brands do not feel comfortable DM-ing influencers because that seems really unprofessional — but that is where we live. I will check my DMs way more often than I check my emails. So, if you want to connect with somebody that has also shown you have looked at their account and you found their account, DM-ing them is totally fine.
Usually brands, or if I reach out to influencers through my client accounts, will ask for an email to then move it off of Instagram into a more professional space. So, "Hey, we have this new product," or "We want you to come to our restaurant opening," or whatever it is that you are offering, "We would love to have you. Do have an email to send you more details if you are interested?" That kind of thing. Then, the influencer has the opportunity to look at your Instagram account because every influencer, before you even work with anybody, you are looking at there in their Instagram account. It is easier if it is coming through a DM because then you have a direct access to whatever account or brand that it is. Then, if you are interested, then you can make that decision. Like, "Hey, no, I am not interested," and then there is no email or, "Yes, here is my email," and then it moves to the email, so it is filtering out your email before your inbox gets bombarded with all of these collaboration request. That is how I recommend doing it.
I think, if you want to just reach out straight through email — all influencers have their emails in their bio as well — if you find that that is more aligned with your business and your brand or your Instagram account, that's okay. Using an email will also work if your product is not necessarily an Instagram-worthy thing, but it is still a big service or business. Just come off as personable.
I like people to get to the point. I do not want to have to have five emails for you to tell me what you want because at the end of the day, you want something because this is a business interaction. So, be friendly about it, but get to the point.