With the rise of the creator class—YouTubers, bloggers, and Instagram stars—influencer marketing has emerged as a new way for brands to reach their target customers through already-engaged and already-established audiences.
Influencer marketing doesn’t just get you exposure, but also endorsements through content that features your brand, which can make it worthwhile for businesses of all sizes.
So we know influencer marketing can have a big impact. But that begs the obvious question:
Where do you find influencers you can work with?
That's why I've put together this list of influencer marketing platforms to help you find and manage creators who are looking for brands to collaborate with.
A Primer on Influencer Marketing
Before we get into the places you can look to for influencers, there are some important things to cover first about influencer marketing.
Shoutouts vs. Influencer Content
The value of an influencer isn’t just their audience but the influential content that they can create on behalf of your brand. Alternatively, you can pay for a “shoutout” where you provide the creative and the copy for the post and pay only for access to their audience.
Shoutouts can be good for promoting specific campaigns you want to run, such as contests or events.
Micro-Influencers vs. Macro-Influencers
Macro-Influencers are what many people think of when they think of “influencers”: Creators with over 100,000 followers. Since it's not hard to buy fake followers, this only includes those with a genuine and engaged following.
On the flip side, there are also micro-influencers, which have anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 followers.
While common sense might tell you that bigger is better, it’s also more expensive and not necessarily true.
Micro-influencers tend to have a higher engagement rate on their posts and a more loyal audience. Always look for signs of good, loyal engagement such as positive feedback, consistent likes and comments, and quality content.
Instagram vs. Other Channels
Influencer marketing will look different on different channels, from the content that’s created to how you drive results.
Instagram, despite being one of the most common channels for influencer marketing, is also the most unique in that you can’t link out to another page from your post, and the only place you can put a link is in your bio, which isn’t very efficient for the influencer or the brand.
As a workaround you can use a unique discount code to incentivize visits to your website and track sales that come from a specific Instagram post. You can also have the influencer mention your Instagram handle in the post, which will take interested people to your own account.
However, influencer marketing can happen anywhere someone can build a loyal audience, so consider the channels that align with your goals and your brand: Facebook Pages/Groups, YouTube, blogs, Tumblr, Twitch, Twitter, and more.
Reaching Out and Negotiating with Influencers
Not every influencer marketing platform on this list is built for managing influencers and measuring the results they deliver. Some just focus on helping you discover influencers.
Reaching out directly is an easy way to establish a relationship with an influencer of your choosing, but it can get messy when it comes to negotiating a price and managing the whole process.
If you're independently negotiating with an influencer, a good way to start is to offer the influencer your product for free in exchange for a post about it and begin negotiations from there.
Being Transparent About Sponsored Content
Since influencer content is often hard to differentiate from a creator’s unpaid content, influencers typically identify posts that are sponsored by a brand.
But due to attempts at disguising sponsored content, the FTC has begun warning brands and influencers that use ambiguous identifiers like #spon and #sp, especially on Instagram. To be safe, be up front about sponsored content or by using clearer hashtags like #sponsored, #promotion, or #ad in the post.
With that out of the way, let's explore the different strategies and platforms you can use to hire influencers.
1. Meetups and Instameets
It’s often easier to broker a good partnership face-to-face rather than online, and you can usually find local influencers offline by attending the right events.
Instagram enables and encourages creators on the platform to host Instameets to come together and snap photos. This can be a good way to meet local creators who are into photography that also have sizeable audiences.
You can also look for local gatherings on Meetup that cater to YouTubers and other specific kinds of influencers.
Famebit is one of the largest influencer marketing platforms for creators across Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. The great thing about Famebit is that it’s free to post your campaign and receive proposals from creators. You then get to choose who you want to hire and pay.
The ability to choose the type of creative format you want to be pitched makes this a great way to get content made that you might not have the resources or skills to create yourself.
You can find influencers that span across a variety of categories here, including Beauty & Fashion, Health & Fitness, Gaming & Apps, Tech, and Pets.
Grapevine boasts a network of over 115,000 creators with a hefty focus on YouTubers, though the platform has recently embraced Instagram as well. You only pay when you book a creator and their free escrow service holds your payment until the creator goes live with your content.
Grapevine also gives you access to historical data on how these influencers have performed in the past and the ability to track any conversions they generate for you.
They also offer $50 to go towards your first campaign.
Shoutcart is a marketplace for buying shoutouts. Though some of the prices can be very cheap, it's also a fairly open platform, so be sure to carefully assess any influencers you want to work with.
Prices start as low as $15 with basic stats for each creator and a score to help you gauge the legitimacy of their audience.
Shoutouts can be purchased for posts where you supply the creative, with the option to pay more to also get a link in the influencer’s bio for a limited time.
Whalar is a platform that helps you discover and manage multiple influencers. It's a good option if you want to use influencer marketing as a means of sourcing stunning product photos and user-generated content.
With a built-in escrow service, you don't pay until the content is delivered. And Whalar only takes a 5% commission on whatever amount you agree to with the influencer.
There's also a managed service option for larger brands where Whalar acts as an agency that manages your influencer marketing for you.
Their free Whalar labs tool is also a great way to compare your own Instagram account against others to see which ones would make the most impactful influencers.
Influence.co is essentially a directory and portfolio site for influencers to showcase themselves. Their pricing model focuses on helping influencers promote their business, so brands like yours can use it for free to reach out to influencers.
Each influencer profile features work they've done with brands in the past and all the channels on which they've built their audience.
The platform makes it easy to browse and evaluate influencers you want to work with, with a a free Chrome extension you can use to find out more about influencers wherever they're mentioned on the internet.
Influence.co may not do much in the way of helping you manage influencer relationships, but it is one of the best at helping you discover and reach out to high quality creators.
Hiring Influencers That Have an Impact
Influencer marketing has taken off as a way for brands to "rent" the influence and audiences of established creators. It's kind of like getting a celebrity to endorse your product on a smaller (or larger) scale, depending on how you look at it.
But because a social media following is something anyone can fake, influencer marketing requires that you carefully select legitimate creators and structure your campaign in a way that you get the most bang for your buck without compromising the integrity of the creator.
If you want to learn more about influencer marketing, be sure to check out The Beginner's Guide to Influencer Marketing on Instagram.
(Header image of cozy dog wrapped in blanket by Burst)