In addition to driving traffic, generating leads, and building brand awareness, influencers act as a trusted voice for consumer products and services.

In fact, 84% of consumers say that they’re more likely to purchase a product after reading influencer reviews about it. With impact like that, it’s no wonder why influencer marketing is so popular.

But who’s the ideal influencer for your brand? And how do you build an effective influencer relationship? If you’ve asked yourself these questions, you’re in luck. This guide will show you how to find your perfect influencer and create an outreach strategy that really works.

Define Your Ideal Influencer

Objectively, having your content shared by an influencer like Elon Musk or Sheryl Sandberg would be nothing short of incredible. But in the context of influencer marketing, fame and follower count don’t matter as much as a well-aligned audience.

So what does the "ideal" influencer look like for you? Start by looking for someone who:

These criteria help you weed out the fakers and land on real, influential people who your audience looks up to. Now, let’s break down those categories a bit more.

Audience Alignment

Your ideal influencer has the same target audience as you, no exceptions. It might not be the same exact people, but it should be the same demographic. One way to know if you share an audience with an influencer is to see what other brands, products, and interests the influencer is sharing. If these are things that your audience is also talking about, you’re on the right track.


Find someone who feels authentic and approachable, not sales-y and fake. As a Nielsen study points out, only 18% of consumers actually trust bloggers and famous influencers online. However, 92% of that same focus group said they trust their peers. People don’t want to believe someone who they think has an agenda. Rather, they want someone they can relate to. If it doesn’t feel authentic, your customers will see right through it.

Interest in Product Offering

Find influencers who would actually use your product in their everyday lives. Think about it this way: you’re trying to get the attention of your influencer’s audience. These people are most likely to be influenced by a promotional post, but they’re also more in tune with the content that the influencer normally shares. It’s a major red flag to the audience when a post feels out of the ordinary, and they’re likely to gloss over anything that seems irrelevant.

What Do You Need?

Once you’ve determined who your influencer is, it’s time to decide what you want from them. The more specific the action, the better. To help you decide what action is most beneficial for your brand, let’s break it down into the two key types of influencer outreach: sharing content and creating content.

Sharing content is a simpler form of outreach where an influencer shares an existing image, video or other form of promotion that you provide. This is often a more affordable form of influencer marketing and it can be a quick, easy way to get the word out. It also works well if you don’t have a tangible product to sell (think software or events).

Creating content, on the other hand, is a much more intensive and expensive process. However, it’s usually more effective. Essentially, this is when you send a physical product directly to the influencer and they use it to create their own content. They might take a photo of the product or film themselves using it. In this case, lifestyle products like fashion, beauty, travel, and food or drink usually work best.

Incentivize Outreach

Okay, this is a big one. You can’t ask influencers to spread the word about your brand without offering something in return. But does that mean you have to shell out a pretty penny? Some people do prefer to be incentivized by money – however, cash isn’t the only way to an influencer’s heart.

As pointed out by Social Media Examiner, 55% of influencers are motivated by anything that helps them grow their own reach or audience. Additionally 25% are interested in perks like free samples and product discounts.

With this in mind, think about how you can incentivize influencers in a way that a) motivates action and b) stands out from other brands vying for their attention.

Another thing to note is that you want to make it as easy as possible for the influencer to perform the desired action. If you want them to share on social media, consider writing out a few suggested copy lines they can use and tweak. Provide images. Give context to what this promotion means and why it matters. Taking these extra steps will help you stand out from the crowd.

Research Influencers

Now that you’ve determined what type of influencers you’re looking for, it’s time to go out and find them. If the idea of getting started feels daunting, here are three easy ways to dive in.

Your Audience

Whether they liked one of your posts or they’ve been following you for years, it’s likely that you’ve had interactions with powerful influencers before. And when you start digging through your engagement metrics, you’ll see that there’s a handful of influential people who already engage with your brand. Since you have your foot in the door with these folks, this is the best place to start.

Influencer Outreach Tools

Next, you’ll probably want the help of an influencer search tool. Buzzsumo is one of the most powerful, user-friendly products when it comes to researching and sorting through influencers. Simply type in a search term to discover the most influential articles on that topic – and who’s sharing them. You can then filter by what type of person you’re looking for (bloggers, regular people, etc.) to hone in on your ideal influencer.

Social Search

Another great way to discover influencers is to search for them using hashtags. Start by searching your brand, tagline, and other related words to see who’s already posting about your brand on the platform of your choice. Then, move on to broader industry terms and themes that relate to your product. Searching through people’s posts is one of the best ways to build authentic relationships.

Planning an Outreach Strategy

Now, the fun part! Outreach is the last step in your influencer marketing strategy, but it’s also the most important. Just like any other form of marketing, your outreach must be planned. If you don’t create a strategy and define your goals, you won’t know whether or not you’ve been successful.

Relationship Building

To start off on the right foot, it’s important to think of your outreach as relationship building. You aren’t just begging for a share or a like – you’re networking with a powerful person and getting to know their needs and desires, too. For that reason, you should always get personal. Sending a generic message to everyone is going to reflect poorly on your brand and it’s highly unlikely to work. Instead, spend a few extra minutes crafting a personalized message.

It’s also a good idea to get on their radar before you reach out with an ask. Comment on their posts, tag them in tweets and like their photos. This gives them an opportunity to become familiar with your brand and product, so they know who you are when you reach out.

Outline Your Needs

Know what you’re promoting. For entrepreneurs, it might just be getting the word out about your business or asking people to test your app for the first time. If you’re a later stage startup, you might want people to try out a new feature or fresh product line.

Thinking about your immediate needs enables you to be specific with your ask, making it more likely the influencer will agree. While you’re at it, also think about your budget and workforce. Will you do all the work yourself? If not, who’s going to help? How long will it take? Creating a plan within your means will make the entire process less stressful and more productive.

Define Success

Once you know your boundaries, plan your workload by defining targets. If you’re hoping to get five solid product mentions, you’ll have to create a list of at least fifty influencers for outreach. Think of how many people you (realistically) want to see results from, then multiply that by ten.

When you’re done working through this strategy, voila! You’re ready to start building influencer relationships that drive revenue and bolster brand awareness for the long haul.

Have you seen success working with influencers? Share your story with us in the comments below.