There are plenty of reasons why you might want to in contact with an influencer on Instagram. It’s a great platform for mutual promotion, first and foremost. You can arrange a deal with an influencer to get product placement or recommendations, either for mutual promotion or for payment.
If that’s not your cup of tea, you can often hire influencers for their services. A ton of photographers and artists use Instagram, not to mention other service providers, many of whom will be willing to take on jobs when contacted. If you have need of a service, and see evidence that a particular Instagram user provides that service at a quality level suitable for your needs, contacting them just makes sense.
How can you reach out to these influencers and ensure you get a reply? Let’s look at different means of contact.
Leave a Comment
The first possible option is to just leave a comment with a pitch on the most recent post the influencer has made. I’ve seen this a lot, and my recommendation is to avoid it entirely.
Common marketing advice for running an Instagram profile is to make sure you read and respond to comments when they come along. However, not all Instagram influencers got where they are by following conventional marketing advice, and many of them simply get too many comments to bother with after the first hour or so after a post is published.
On top of that, so often people will put down a pitch in comments that turns out to be worthless. Just talk to any artist. After the fifth or sixth time they pursued a comment lead, only to find the person at the other end asking for free work, you can imagine how little they want to keep trying.
Find Their Website
Your second option is to browse their profile and their posts for a link. You’re not just looking for any old link, though; you’re looking for a link to their website. Ideally, you want to find their personal website or profile, not just a website they’re promoting for the week.
The trouble with this method is that there are a lot of possible points of failure. They might not have the right website promoted, or they might not even have a website. Plenty of Instagram influencers are solely Instagram influencers, and haven’t bothered to spread their influence elsewhere. If they do have a website, and it’s the right one, they might not have information about their service available, or they might not have contact information you can find. It’s possible that their site is nothing more than a Tumblr blog showcase or a Flickr account.
Stalk Their Email Address
Another option, which ties into finding their website, is figuring out their email address. A lot of times people will use the same account name for an email address, so you can try something like their username at Gmail. Of course, this isn’t guaranteed to work.
Even if you do find their email address, or they have it published somewhere you can access, you need to make it through their inbox. How often have you sent an email to someone and never gotten a reply? I’m guessing it’s pretty often. Emails end up in spam folders, or they get lost in the crush of mailing lists and notifications. I’ve ignored emails I probably should have opened just because I was busy and the subject line didn’t catch me.
Look for Them on an Influencer Marketplace
I mentioned in the intro that in some cases you can pay influencers to give you some product placement, a mention, a shout-out, or some other such boost to your brand. You can do this on your own, of course, but it should come as no surprise that such a potentially lucrative system has been exploited by middlemen.
In this case, what you’d be looking for is an Influencer marketplace. Influencer marketplaces are sites that basically work like ad networks. Brands sign up with the expectation that they’ll be able to pay for mentions or placement on influencer accounts. Influencers sign up knowing they can make money just by working a product or mention into their content.
If you want to investigate this further, you can check out marketplaces like Tribe, Brand Snob, or Izea. There are more, of course, these are just the few that I’ve found on a cursory search. Here’s the thing: I don’t recommend using them, personally. They can streamline the process a bit, but you’re paying for it. Middleman systems always increase costs, even if they facilitate the process.
And, of course, there’s always the strong possibility that the influencers you really want to work with aren’t using one of those networks. Maybe they’re using one, but you don’t know which, or maybe they aren’t using one at all. It’s a crapshoot whether or not you find them.
Direct Message Them
The last option is the best option, and it’s probably one of the first options you thought of, to be honest. I saved it for last simply because you knew coming into this post that it’s the direction we’re going, and I wanted to cover the other options in a bit of detail before getting on with the rest of the post.
Why is direct messaging someone better than any of the above options? Well, in some cases it isn’t. If you want guaranteed placement, a marketplace is better. If your target influencer doesn’t accept work via pitches on the site, a website contact is better. In general, though, most influencers are perfectly happy to open up a direct message and give it a read.
So now that we’ve decided the best option is likely just sending them a direct message, do you just write one up and let it go? Of course not. Anyone can send anyone else a direct message, as long as they aren’t blocked. Your message needs to stand out.
Step 1: Choose the Right Influencers
You won’t get a reply if your pitch isn’t something the influencer is willing to do. If you want a mention or product placement – or to hire the influencer for their specialty – you need to make sure they actually do what you’re asking them to do. An artist might have full time work and doesn’t want commissions. A photographer might have a booked schedule. A fitness model might not actually want to do product placement. You never know, but you can get a hint by looking at their profile. Often times, particularly for the product placement focus, you’ll find that the influencer features logos and products conspicuously in their images, or tags brands frequently in their posts. In any case, you really need to pick good influencers first and foremost.
Step 2: Write a Good Pitch
I assume you know what it is you want out of your influencer target. When you write up your direct message, you want to keep it relatively brief and casual. Somewhere between a tweet and an email. Unlike an email, you don’t have a subject line.
One primary quirk you need to know about Instagram direct messages is that they’re a lot more like text messages or Facebook Messenger than they are a mail system. You don’t get a subject line, you don’t get formatting, and it’s relatively tall and narrow in display. This is due to Instagram’s focus on being a mobile platform; people tend to read their messages on mobile. So here are my pitch tips:
- Start with a short greeting and mention of who you are. Make the greeting personal. “Hi Karen! I’m Dave and I’m representing Dave’s Yoga Mats.”
- Move on to a quick pitch. Make sure to work in something that tells them you know what they’re all about. “I’ve been following you for a while and noticed you’ve been taking an interest in Yoga. I was wondering if you’d be interested in representing our products?”
- Optionally, sweeten the deal. Some influencers will only want money, some will be willing to rep you for a free product, and others are new enough that they’re just happy to be noticed. “If you’re interested, we can send you a free mat and some accessories, and can discuss further compensation.”
- Avoid anything that goes deep into your company philosophy or off-topic distractions. Remember, this is basically a text message. You don’t have a ton of space.
- Finish up with thanking them for their time. “Thanks for your time! I look forward to hearing from you.”
A direct message pitch doesn’t need to be long, detailed, or professional. It just needs to be personal, direct, and attractive. Influencers get a lot of messages on a daily or weekly basis, and they ignore most of them. Yours needs to stand out.
Step 3: Persistence
Creating a good pitch and getting your influencer to read it isn’t necessarily all it takes. Sometimes the influencer in question doesn’t have time to read their direct messages, and eventually just purges old messages or marks them all as read just to “catch up.” Sometimes they read it and choose to do some research and respond to you later, but forget and don’t get around to it. Maybe they’re excited and are ready to respond, but get distracted. Who knows!
The point is, there are a lot of reasons why someone who would be perfectly willing to work with you might not respond right away. If they don’t respond after a few days, feel free to send them another message. Since DMs are in a conversation format, your old message will still be there, so you don’t need to repeat the same pitch. Just send them another message that says something like “Hey, I sent you a message earlier, did you receive it? Just checking in.”
If they still haven’t responded in another week, you can send a third message, but at that point it might need to be your last. Unless you notice that the influencer has not been active at all – in which case they might have been sick or on vacation – they probably won’t be responding. It’s a little rude for them to not even say “hey I’m not interested” to bring closure to the discussion, but such is life.
If they’re a particularly good influencer whose feed would be excellent placement for your brand, and you really want to keep pursuing them, this is where those other contact options from up above come into play. Once you’ve tried reaching out through direct message, then you can try to find them on Twitter or Facebook, you can find their website, or you can email them. The more you try, and the longer they go without responding, the less likely they are to work with you, though. You’re probably better off moving to your next influencer target.
Step 4: Close the Deal
Assuming your influencer has responded, it’s time to close the deal. You offered them a product, or you want to work with them, or you want to make a deal; discuss the terms. Be prepared with a contract if need be, and make sure that if you’re trading goods or money in exchange for placement, you don’t talk about it publicly.
Too many people seem to underestimate this last point. Paying for social placement or a sponsored position in someone else’s feed is technically against the terms of service for most social networks, and while we all know it happens, acknowledging it can get both your brand and the influencer’s account in trouble. You don’t want that, for sure; it’ll jeopardize any future ability you have to make deals as well.