Finding the Right Influencer for a Campaign: researching and vetting influencers

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This is part four of Building Blogger and Influencer Marketing Partnerships. In this section we’re addressing finding the right influencer for a campaign and tips for vetting potential partners. By now you understand the value of being sold on influencer marketing before you dive in and the importance of creating relevant influencer marketing plans. You should have also read and reflected on how and where to find the budget to start an influencer marketing campaign. Please be sure you’ve got yourself set up for success before continuing onto the next step: finding the right influencer for your campaign.

Finding the right influencer for your campaign

And now we’re tackling laying the groundwork for and how to pitch to an influencer for a successful campaign, from making an offer to developing a content plan.

There are just as many types of influencers as there are marketing platforms. So how do you decide which influencers are a good fit for your project? How do you vet them and what should you watch out for? Here’s the quick guide to determining which route to go before you pitch an influencer a campaign.

Finding the right influencer for a campaign is equally important to a content plan and budgeting for influencer marketing. Steps to researching influencers and vetting them, as well as making the initial campaign offer of influencer marketing.

Step 1:  Google the niche you’re working in and see who’s already done some campaigns in that space

Step 2:  Google similar brands to yours and see who they might have already worked with

Step 3:  Jump on Instagram and “explore” the keywords associated with your brand or product

Step 4:  While still on Instagram, note who the suggested other accounts to follow are when you’re viewing potential influencers’ profiles.

Step 5:  of your favorite influencers you’ve found, follow their links to online content and other social networks. Do you like what you see?

Step 6:  Google the influencers you’d like to move forward with and see if there are any red flags

Once you’ve done your footwork and taken notes about everything you liked and saw potential in, it’s time to shore up your potential content plan and run it by the other decision makers in your business or on your team. Part of finding the right influencer is making sure that the content plan fits with their methods and strengths, so be sure you can speak to that when you’re bringing others on board.

Remember, you need to be sold on an influencer if you’re going to convince others that they are the right fit, so take all the time you need to sort through all of the potential you find. Having said that, know that many influencers book up months in advance, and for bigger projects a half a year out, so when you know you’ve found the one or the set, get moving!

Guidelines to keep in mind when vetting influencers

This list is actually the same as what you use for vetting a home contractor per Kiplinger.com, a trusted finance site. It’s the same process we have gone through each time we’ve started a renovation project on our own home AND when we’ve been a part of the campaign planning process, so we know the value of these points. When you are finding the right influencer or influencers, you’ll want to go through these steps:

  1. Get several proposals
  2. Don’t assume high price means high quality
  3. Review credentials and experience
  4. Talk to references / follow up with past clients
  5. Check schedules
  6. Find out who does the work – confirm within contract process who is crafting content

Follow these guidelines and you shouldn’t have any big surprises when you start into the actual campaign with your chosen influencers.

How to pitch to an influencer

This is actually more important than you might realize. When you pitch an influencer you’re laying the groundwork for the whole relationship, from the mood of the project to the value the influencer finds in partnering with you. You’re setting the tone of your communications with them and you’re insuring them that they’re making a good choice by working with you too. Finding the right influencer was the start of the journey, so now you need to make it take off!

Things to consider before you pitch an influencer

Be sure you’ve done your homework. I know, I just talked about that above, but here’s a bit more clarity:

  • Will there be a conflict of interest in working with an influencer? 
  • Are you going to ask them to work around potential exclusivity they may have? – if you’re familiar with their recent content you will probably already know who they’ve been partnering with – know that an influencer may ask for compensation relating to exclusivity due to the work they may have to turn down within the term.
  • Is your product or brand SOCIALLY in line with the influencer?
    • If you’re familiar with somebody’s content you know if they are going to blast you for being environmentally unaware or if they are going to just straight up say no to your campaign. Example: asking somebody whose brand is all about social awareness or vegan lifestyle to do a campaign about corporate farm raised beef.  In the last year we’ve been offered four different fast food campaigns… and we consistently create and share content about healthy living and zero waste.
  • Even though you love an influencer’s style or numbers, is your brand or product applicable to them and their following? – Example: pitching a car seat campaign to an influencer without kids. Or any of the many baby food or infant bottle products pitched to us with our elementary aged kids.
  • When you review their website and read about them, is their voice one that you understand? – You don’t want to pitch an influencer that you feel you’ll need to edit or filter.

Being deeply familiar with an influencer’s content will prevent any faux pas or outright offences. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been asked to do campaigns that straight up are off brand or downright inappropriate for us to promote to our LGBT following. Be smart, do your homework. Finding the right influencer means that your brand fits with them too.

How to make an initial offer to an influencer

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything, you know? You’re out at a bar and you see somebody you’d like to meet. Do you grab their arm and say “You’re having a drink with me now” or do you politely tap them and say, “I noticed you’re enjoying the evening. Could I get you a tasty beverage or would you care to share a pretzel with me and chat?” Sorry, pretzels are amazing. You’d do the latter, of course.

The “Dos” of soliciting influencer partnership

Just as it’s very easy to convey to somebody that you don’t really value their work, it’s easy to communicate that you see the purpose, value and potential of somebody’s skills and network of influence. These ideal ways to start productive, valuable conversation:

  • Do your research. When you reach out to an influencer know what their content is like, who they actually are and if they’ve done any similar campaigns before.
    • We’ve gotten many inquiries and offers where clearly the person reaching out didn’t look at our website or social media, even not knowing that they were reaching out to LGBT parents. “We’d love to have you and your wife visit us.” Yeah, they didn’t take a half second to research.
  • Do put your best foot forward. You don’t know the number of offers an influencer gets or how busy their upcoming schedule is. If you’re excited to partner for an influencer marketing campaign, be clear and worthwhile in your initial contact so your request is given solid consideration.
    • This is an actual response I sent to a request for an influencer campaign that we didn’t need because our content calendar was plenty busy AND the requester didn’t present any compensation: “Regarding the scope of work and compensation, we do not need XXXX and do have a full content calendar. As the XXXX you’re offering is product required for creating content, it is not compensation. Please let us know what budget you have for the work required in this campaign so we can see if it will fit into our content schedule. If the budget is based solely on free products, we’ll respectfully decline.”
  • Do be open to collaborating, from content angles to content deliverables. Also, be open to flexible dates while creating the content and actually launching it on the influencer’s channels.
    • Often influencer have their content calendars built several weeks to several months out. There’s often some wiggle room, but sometimes there are already contracted dates on somebody’s calendar.
  • Do expect a certain level of professionalism and return the favor. You’ll be able to tell a lot about how an influencer operates and the type of campaign they’ll run by their communications and preparation for any meetings you have, as well as their ability in the early stages of the campaign to meet deliverables.
    • Finding the right influencer means that you will be mutually respectful of each other’s time and plans as you proceed through the campaign.

The “Don’ts” of soliciting influencer partnership

Here are the don’ts in striking up an influencer marketing campaign and subsequent offer. This is precisely how you start off on the wrong foot or prevent a campaign from ever taking off:

  • Don’t start a conversation asking if somebody charges for their work. Duh.  Example: “Do you charge for writing a blog post about products?”
    • By starting a conversation this way, you’re suggesting to the influencer that they either don’t really hold much value or maybe that you don’t think they are going to be worth your time or investment, no matter how small the budget you’re working with.
  • Don’t offer somebody work and as payment they get a nominal commission. Example: “We’d love for you to share our brand and we’ll give you an affiliate link. Promote! Promote! Promote… then you’ll get paid.”
    • Affiliate programs are great ways for influencers to generate passive income and are supplementary to the actual content that inspires CTR and spending. Asking somebody to do an incredible amount of footwork to promote your product or service so they can earn a potential commission is asking for free work.
      • No, I’m not saying that affiliate programs don’t hold value for bloggers. I’m also not saying that influencer marketing campaigns have poor CTR. I’m simply stating that requesting work without guaranteed pay in not appropriate.
  • Don’t assume that somebody will want to work with you in exchange for a product or trip. Just today I turned down a rather large campaign request because the initial inquiry clearly stated their payment intentions from the start: “We are asking for a blog post with full social shares and an Instagram post. We will be offering $XXX in gear.”
    • First problem here: you’re asking for three different a la carte services
    • Second problem: you assume that the rate for said work is worth $XXX.
    • Third problem: my family of humans doesn’t eat winter gear for dinner. Does yours? Going back to budgeting for an influencer marketing campaign, the products required to create content are tools to be used, not compensation for work.

Engaging a blogger for an influencer marketing campaign of any magnitude needs to be approached with courtesy and sincerity from the start. The results you get will vary, but if you both are approaching the campaign with clear expectations, timely communication and appropriate compensation, managing the progression and outcome of an influencer marketing campaign should be a breeze. Finding the right influencer and being courteously calculating in your work together is a sure fire plan for success.

If you have questions or feedback about sourcing or how to pitch, or even just finding the right influencer, please let us know, as we are experienced and have many resources at our fingertips. Send us a note or leave a comment and we’ll be happy to support your campaign.

And please share and refer back to our full course on Building Blogger and Influencer Marketing Partnerships at any time.


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