Skip to main content

Mastering Instagram influencer marketing: strategies for success

Written by Brent Barnhart

Published on November 14, 2023

Reading time 10 minutes

  • X
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Email
Share Resource

The influencer space has ballooned into a multi-billion dollar phenomenon, meaning influencer marketing has made its name as a key marketing strategy. Brands of all shapes and sizes are eager to find ways to feature creators in their campaigns.

Instagram is quickly becoming the go-to network for influencers, with recent stats saying that carousels, Reels and Stories are among the most popular content types for creators.

As creators continue to dominate the platform, brands need to know how Instagram influencer marketing works. In this post, we’ll break down the basics.

Before we jump in, did you know that Tagger by Sprout Social can help you with your Instagram influencer marketing? Tagger by Sprout Social empowers marketers to drive impactful influencer marketing strategies, enabling you to grow brand presence authentically, engage with new targeted audiences and generate revenue faster.

What is Instagram influencer marketing?

Instagram influencer marketing is a promotional strategy based on partnerships between brands and social media creators (“influencers”) on Instagram.

The concept is simple enough. Brands partner with creators to promote products on their Instagram profiles and then compensate those creators for their efforts. And while influencer marketing is popular on many platforms (like TikTok and Facebook), 86% of social marketers cite Instagram as the top platform for their influencer marketing strategy.

What makes someone an Instagram influencer, though?

The term refers to the level of influence that these social media creators have on their audiences. That’s because everyday consumers look to influencers for product recommendations.

In short, influencers are users that influence purchasing decisions. One-third of people on Instagram have been inspired to buy something based on an influencer’s post.

Most Instagram influencers don’t actually refer to themselves by the term, though. Creator or content creator is more common these days. Although influencer used to be synonymous with celebrity, times have changed.

You don’t need millions of followers to be considered an Instagram influencer. There are different levels of influencer, which can be broken down into the categories below:

And while 70% of social marketers see the biggest impact from macro-influencers, 43% also see a huge impact from micro-influencers.

What are some examples of Instagram influencer marketing?

Chances are you’ve encountered your fair share of Instagram influencers in the wild. Below are a few examples of influencer content in action.

Sponsored content (#ad or #gifted posts)

Sponsored posts are disclosed by creators with a tag such as #ad or #gifted if they were given the product for free. Through gifting, brands provide creators with free products in exchange for a post. Sometimes additional compensation is also offered.

Below is an example from BoxyCharm. Frequent sponsored and gifting campaigns makes their beauty products practically can’t-miss on Instagram.

Screenshot of Instagram influencer marketing gifted products example by hashtag.

Affiliate links

Many brands boast affiliate programs on Instagram. When someone clicks on an influencer’s affiliate link, that interaction is tracked. The affiliate is compensated if the person that clicked converts.

If you’ve ever seen the phrase “link in bio” when referring to a product, you’re likely looking at an affiliate post. Many influencers will also have static affiliate links in their bios through Instagram tools like Linkt.ree.

Screenshot of Instagram influencer marketing linktree example.

Reposting Instagram influencer content

Brands will often supplement their own Instagram content strategy with posts from influencers.

For example, a company might reshare an influencer’s photo shouting a product to their stories feed. Mixed with organic content and customer tags, the influencers’ posts fit in seamlessly.

What are the benefits of Instagram influencer marketing?

So, why are influencer relationships worth the time and effort? Below we highlight the key benefits for brands.

Greater reach and exposure

Brand accounts have been hit hard by the Instagram algorithm when it comes to reach and engagement.

On the flip side, creator accounts are thriving. Influencers often boast some of the most engaged-with posts you can find on Instagram.

But beyond that, also consider that influencers can boost the exposure of brands by introducing them to a larger audience. For example, check out Hero Cosmetics’ 104,000 followers…


Screenshot of an Instagram brand bio example.

…and the creator they partnered with that currently has an audience three times that size.

Screenshot of an Instagram influencer marketing bio example.

See how that works? Especially for up-and-coming brands, influencers serve as an alternative to Instagram ads.

Increase social sales

Again, Instagram influencers represent an advertising channel for brands beyond traditional paid posts.

Collaborations, ambassadorships and product gifting can be more cost-effective than conversion-based campaigns.

There are tons of question marks around paid ad targeting. Through Instagram influencers, brands can estimate their promotions’ reach beforehand. This is based on factors like the creators’ audience size and engagement rate.

Consider that 43% of people already follow influencers on Instagram. There’s no denying the correlation between social sales and brand awareness. That’s why featuring creators as part of your funnel supports your sales efforts.

Show off your products in action

If you want to bring your products to life, influencers can make it happen.

This is where the “create” aspect of “content creator” comes into play. For example, skilled influencers understand:

  • Relevant scenarios and applications of your product(s)
  • The real-world struggles, challenges and pain points of your audience
  • How to highlight your brand’s value proposition

Look no further than the beauty industry that’s brimming with talented influencers. From skincare hacks to makeup challenges and beyond, beauty influencers know how to flex their creativity.

Tapping into an influencer’s skillset, you can uncover totally new ways to sell your products.

Humanize your brand

Done right, Instagram influencer marketing can quite literally give your brand a face.

The importance of delivering authenticity can’t be overstated when competition is so fierce on social media. Breaking through the noise means having real people promote your brand and tell your story.

That’s because creators highlight the human element of your business. Again, influencers that reflect your audience know the struggles your customers are facing.

This highlights the popularity of brand ambassador programs right now. After all, who better to speak on your brand’s behalf than someone that legitimately loves your products?

Earn valuable influencer-generated content

Note how user-generated content can be repurposed throughout your marketing funnel. Well, the same applies to influencer-generated content. This includes:

  • Featuring influencer content and reviews on product pages
  • Promoting influencers throughout your content marketing strategy (think: social media, email)
  • Use your influencer content as the basis for an ad campaign

According to Instagram, ads featuring influencers result in higher conversions and brand awareness.

Translation? The value of influencer content goes far beyond a creator’s initial post.

How much does Instagram influencer marketing cost?

The amount you need to budget for Instagram influencer marketing depends on the type of influencers you plan to work with. As you can imagine, nano-influencers and micro-influencers charge less than macro-influencers. The more followers an influencer has, the more they are typically able to charge.

Common rates we see are as follows:

  • Nano-influencers: $10-100 per post
  • Micro-influencers: $100-5,000 per post
  • Macro-influencers: $5,000-10,000 per post

Celebrity influencers can even be seen charging hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars per post. Cristiano Ronaldo, the most followed Instagram user, charges over $3M per sponsored post.

Your required budget will depend on (a) how many influencers you want to work with and (b) what level of influencer you want to partner with. And with 73% of social marketers stating that their influencer marketing budget is shared with their overall social budget, it’s important to make sure that every dollar counts.

How to build an Instagram influencer marketing strategy

Does influencer marketing still work?”

The answer is a resounding “yes!

But it’s not as simple as getting products into influencers’ hands and expecting results.

There’s a lot of legwork that goes into putting together an influencer marketing campaign. Below are the big-picture basics of what goes into working with influencers on Instagram.

1. Figure out your campaign goals

As it goes with any social media campaign, you need to start by pinpointing your goals. What are you hoping to achieve through your influencer marketing strategy?

Common influencer marketing goals include:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Generating sales
  • Improving your brand’s reputation
  • Diving into a new market
  • Increase social media follower count
  • Retaining existing customers
  • Build a library of user-generated content
  • Create social proof
  • Engage your online community

Your influencer marketing campaign can be built to achieve multiple goals. But in order to know who you want to work with, how long you want your campaign to run and what types of content you want your influencers to create, you need to pinpoint your goals.

For example, whether to choose between influencers already in your market vs. influencers in a niche you want to break into, or micro-influencers for higher engagement vs. macro-influencers for a wider reach.

2. Promote products that make sense for Instagram

Reality check: not every product is perfect for Instagram influencer marketing.

The products that tend to pop off are visually striking. There’s a reason why beauty, fashion and fitness brands are crushing it on Instagram. These industries have flashy products that lend themselves to tutorials and showcases.

Recent data also notes that the effectiveness of influencer campaigns is largely tied to demographics. In fact, 75% of users aged 18-24 and 67% of users aged 25-44 follow at least one influencer.. Keep all of the above in mind before going all-in on influencers.

3. Empower your influencers to maximize engagement

Just because someone is an “influencer” doesn’t mean engagement is guaranteed.

It’s really easy to ignore spammy and low-effort influencer posts. The 2022 Sprout Social Index™ says people will overwhelmingly unfollow influencers if they’re too promotional.

This speaks to the importance of vetting creators. Likewise, brands have to provide briefs and instructions that empower them.

It’s a balancing act as you also don’t want to sacrifice your influencers’ creative freedom. Providing a product that your influencers’ audience is actually interested in is perhaps the best thing you can do.

How to measure the ROI of Instagram influencer marketing

Your ROI, or return on investment, is going to differ greatly depending on the goals you set for yourself when you started your campaign. Popular metrics to track include:

  • Views
  • Comments
  • Shares
  • Clicks
  • Sales/conversions
  • Revenue
  • Promo codes used
  • Followers
  • Reach

If you’re looking to generate sales, then conversions, revenue or promo codes used might be your best bet. If you want to improve brand awareness, views, shares and reach will be your go-to metrics.

While it’s always difficult to pin views and reach against overall costs, try to find out how much a new follower or a single engagement tends to be worth to your brand. Do this by looking at your typical engagement rate vs. average social media budget, then put those numbers next to the increase in engagement and the amount you spent on influencer marketing.

How to work with Instagram influencers

You know how to get started on your Instagram influencer marketing strategy. Let’s talk more about how to work with those influencers.

1. Find the right Instagram influencers

As the definition of influencer evolves to include smaller creators, there’s more talent out there than ever before.

This is both a blessing and a curse for brands. There’s a non-zero chance there are relevant influencers that’d be perfect to promote your product. The search can be daunting, though.

So, how do you find the right influencers? A few options include:

  • Manual outreach through DMs and email. Ideally, you can find influencers that already know you and your product. Ask for their influencer media kit and read through it to make sure they’re a good match.
  • Invest in an influencer database or matchmaking service. These third-party tools match your brands with influencers. Most of these platforms are reserved for brands that work with creators on a large scale.
  • Hire a marketing agency. No huge surprises here. There are plenty of agencies that specialize in either reaching out to influencers or tapping into their own network of creators.
  • Use an influencer marketing platform. Tools like Tagger can help with every step of your influencer marketing campaign, from building out a strategy to finding the right influencers. Recently acquired by Sprout, we can help you get started with influencer marketing the right way.

2. Plan a campaign with Instagram influencers

Start working with your influencers to plan out your campaign! This is the fun part—you get to talk creative assets and figure out how you want the posts to go. Or, if you’re busy and prefer not to handle this step, you can always outsource to a full-service influencer marketing agency.

Your plan needs to include information like:

  • Specific products to promote (you should have planned these out in advance so you can provide your influencers with free samples)
  • Timeline for promotion
  • The number of posts (and types of posts—on Instagram, they could go with stories, posts or reels)
  • Overall voice and messaging

You can choose to let your influencer partners have as much or as little freedom with their content as you want; however, make sure their voice still shines through so it sounds authentic. And most importantly, make sure they include a disclaimer that each post is sponsored by your brand to abide by FTC guidelines.

3. Track your results

Like with any other type of campaign, your social media metrics and KPIs matter.

As we mentioned, influencer marketing is often criticized due to its lack of concrete ROI. The reality, though? There’s plenty of data to track on behalf of your influencers. Not to mention KPIs relevant to your business goals. This includes:

  • Engagement rate (ratio of followers to interactions) to gauge your influencers’ level of reach
  • Followers and audience growth
  • Conversions and link clicks (for affiliate campaigns)
  • Reach to understand how many people see your promotions
  • Traffic to see how on-site visitors from influencers behave

And that only scratches the surface!

Tracking all of the above requires coordinating with influencers and keeping a close eye on your own data.

That’s the upside of using an influencer marketing platform like Sprout Social. For example, Sprout’s platform makes it a cinch to monitor engagement metrics and keep a better pulse on campaign performance.

Screenshot of Sprout Social Instagram profile stats and performance.

Does Instagram influencer marketing make sense for your business?

The business impact of influencers on Instagram is clear. Having influencers show off your products and shout you out can build awareness fast. Much quicker than what’s possible organically, anyway.

But there’s no denying the legwork that goes into any given campaign. Brands need to weigh their options when seeking creators to work with.

Want to learn more about what working with creators is like? Make sure to check out our comprehensive guide to Instagram influencers if you haven’t already!