Piia Õunpuu (Bolt’s Global Influencer Marketing Manager) has been leading Bolt's influencer strategy for the past few years. She was kind enough to draw back the curtain and share exactly how her small team operates.
Keep reading to see a real-world example of how to find local influencers efficiently and at scale!
A tl;dr on how Bolt discovers influencers
Bolt primarily discovers influencers through three methods:
1. Outbound recruitment using software
2. Local talent agencies
3. Misc. methods (e.g. referrals, Googling, searching on social media)
Bolt doesn’t use inbound methods to find influencers. Most applications aren’t from creators who are the right match, and reviewing every application is time-consuming.
A quick introduction to Bolt
In case you aren't familiar, Bolt is an all-in-one mobility app offering ride-hailing, scooter and e-bike rental, food and grocery delivery, and car-sharing services. Bolt's mission is to help cities reduce car dependency and through that, transform urban environments into people-friendlier, greener and safer spaces.
Since being founded in Europe in 2013, they’ve already expanded to 500+ cities globally.
And since they’re present in so many locations, they need to partner with creators specific to the area. Bolt’s goals with their influencer marketing strategy is to build brand awareness and increase their app’s downloads.
Previously, they primarily practiced Instagram influencer marketing. Now, TikTok also holds a major chunk — a ratio of around 60:40 for Instagram:TikTok.
3 primary methods Bolt uses to find influencers
Bolt uses multiple methods to find creators, but 90%+ of influencers are sourced via outbound (using software), and talent agencies. There’s a few other methods used less frequently, but still contribute a few new creators here and there.
1: Influencer search software
Bolt sources approximately 70% of their new influencers doing outbound recruitment with Modash, an influencer discovery tool.
(Note: even if you’re not a Modash user, you can still learn from their strategy)
Why is using a dedicated search tool the #1 method? It’s simply the fastest way. Unlike with inbound (which we’ll discuss shortly), there’s no time wasted reviewing profiles who wouldn’t be the right fit.
Piia & her team use filters to generate a list of potential influencers before reviewing profiles.
The number one criterion is audience location.
Bolt looks for influencers that have 70%+ of their followers in their target location. Although this number is slightly flexible (sometimes as low as 50%), finding enough creators at 70% is usually possible.
Using London as an example, this is what that looks like in Modash:
Since Bolt’s services are location-specific, Piia also uses the influencer location filter to ensure she searches for creators based in her target location. She also checks if the influencer was recently active by applying the “last post” filter criteria.
⚡ Pro-tip: don’t apply too many filters simultaneously. Apply one to two filters at a time and keep narrowing down your search as you go. That way you don’t miss out on any creators who might’ve been the perfect fit for you. (More about metric flexibility and how Piia thinks about it in the upcoming section.)
What about follower count?
Piia’s team does filter for follower count, but the criteria varies. There’s no rigid guideline, because every market is different. For example, 10k followers in Estonia would be significant, whereas it’d be very small in Germany.
In general though, Bolt mostly collaborates with mid-range influencers.
Working only with very small creators would be too much administrative work for Bolt’s team. But working with larger creators would put all their eggs in one basket. Not to mention: larger creators’ audiences are often spread out in various markets.
(There are exceptions too. Flexibility and experimentation is key.)
So far, we learned Bolt applies the following filters in Modash to find the perfect creator partners:
- Audience location (with percentage granularity)
- Influencer location
- Last post
- Follower count
Bolt also filters for engagement rate. Like follower count, the threshold varies. In general, 2%+ is the goal, but in some smaller countries (like Estonia), it’s possible to shoot for higher engagement rates (4-5% minimum).
These are the primary filters Piia uses for every influencer search. But she uses other filters, too — like words used in bio, and hashtags. What goes inside those filters depends on the marketing campaign's specifics.
There are Bolt’s standard campaigns for ride hailing. Since it’s a mass product, they don’t require their creator partners to have a set niche aligning with their brand. These influencer collaborations mainly need creators to be from a specific location with Bolt’s desired follower count.
Gisela Ama Amponsah’s partnership with Bolt is a great example of Bolt’s usual campaigns. She’s a lifestyle, beauty, fashion, and travel creator from Ghana. For this particular partnership, Piia didn’t require Gisela to be a creator specifically in their brand’s niche or align with Bolt’s global mission.
But when Bolt runs a brand campaign, they need creators within their niche who align with their values and mission to make cities for people, not cars - think urbanism, city planning or car-free lifestyle.
To find such influencers, Piia uses Modash’s filters for either bio or hashtags. To find creators who align with their values, Bolt searches for profiles with “sustainability” in their bio, or creators who have used hashtags similar to that.
Or if they’re searching for someone in a local area like Poland, they’ll translate “sustainability” into the native language and filter for that word in Modash’s bio filter.
Daniel’s partnership with Bolt is an excellent example of Bolt’s brand-aligned campaigns. Daniel posts satire, roasts, and lore about city planning, which perfectly aligns with Bolt’s mission. Although his audience doesn’t fit Bolt’s usual criteria, his content style is a great match, so they collaborated on UGC.
For big cities like Berlin, Piia might also filter for the city’s name in the bio. And since Bolt wears many hats and has multiple products, like Bolt Foods for delivery service, they also search for niche hashtags like #foodie to find creators who create recipes and food content.
Their partnership with Justīne is a perfect example of a niche influencer collaboration, specifically catering to Bolt Food.
According to Piia, using Modash is the method Bolt relies on the most because it’s quick, easy to scale, and minimizes errors — every influencer they stumble upon using filters already fits the criteria they’ve set.
2: Talent agencies
Often, Bolt would find an influencer via their outbound recruitment, and discover they’re represented by a talent agency. In this case, the agency often suggests more creators from their portfolio who might be a good fit for Bolt.
Those introductions from talent agencies have been good enough that Bolt deem it worthwhile to build good relationships with managers.
Piia mentioned using agencies to source creators is relevant for certain locations — like European markets. It comes with added administrative benefits too. Instead of managing influencer relationships yourself — finding, briefing, invoicing, etc. — you primarily have to maintain a relationship with the agency.
And it’s great to have someone in your team with local knowledge. Plus in niche markets (Azerbaijan, for example), the talent agency might help overcome language barriers and communicate more smoothly with potential creators.
Bolt’s collaboration with Aysel Nəsirova is an example of how you can find bigger creators in a niche market by working with a talent agency.
But finding influencers using agencies isn’t in a silo. When an external agent sends a list of their creator partners your way, it’s still good practice to vet their profiles and determine if they fit your brand.
Piia uses Modash’s influencer analytics tool to check an influencer’s audience data, engagement rate, posts’ performance, fake followers, etc.
(That can be done one by one, or in bulk by importing a list)
3: Other methods (referrals, Googling, searching social media)
Bolt uses several other methods infrequently to source creators, collectively adding up to around 10% of new influencers.
- Referrals: while Piia’s team is responsible for running influencer marketing campaigns globally, Bolt has a local marketing team present in most countries they’ve expanded to. Asking local marketers for their suggestions for influencers comes in handy because they’re on the ground and know who’s truly influential, creative or a great fit to represent the brand. Plus it’s good to get feedback from a local team to ensure the influencer you’re choosing to partner with has a good reputation in the market and hasn’t been involved with any controversies in the past.
- Searching on social media platforms: in their free time, Piia’s team might casually scroll on social media platforms to find relevant creators — mostly for brand-specific campaigns. Since the algorithm caters to your needs quickly, it’s possible to get lucky and unearth a gem. It might also come in useful to scroll and learn the latest trends, what’s getting the most engagement in the market, and stay up-to-date in general.
- Googling or asking ChatGPT: sometimes, Google articles and ChatGPT can give you a nice list of influencer profiles to check for potential collaboration opportunities. For example, Piia might search for "creative influencers in Nigeria" or scroll through the nominee lists of different influencer awards.
As with the agency method, Piia uses Modash to analyze every influencer thoroughly before moving on to influencer outreach.
Why Bolt stopped doing inbound influencer recruitment
While we’re discussing what Bolt does use to find influencers, it’s also worth touching on what their team doesn’t use.
Recently, Piia decided to move away from sourcing influencers via inbound methods (like inviting applications through their website).
Why not accept applications? Piia has a small team at headquarters (it’s just her and one other influencer specialist). The volume of applications equals a ton of administrative work which isn’t worth it. Most applications were from smaller creators who aren’t a good fit for Bolt. Outbound searching gives you more control (reach out directly to influencers you know will be a good fit) instead of sifting through a plethora of applications.
The same applies for recruiting customers as influencers. The majority just aren’t a good fit, and reviewing those applications just isn’t the most impactful thing Bolt’s small team could work on.
Bolt’s learnings after collaborating with creators in 15 markets each month
The learnings from our conversation with Piia can be distilled into four points:
1: Don’t try to be everywhere all at once (especially if you don’t have the resources)
Bolt reaches far and wide when it comes to tapping into new markets. But for influencer marketing, they intentionally focus primarily on Instagram & TikTok, and some YouTube. In the beginning, they focused only on Instagram because TikTok didn’t exist then. Once TikTok started gaining popularity, Bolt started testing it for influencer marketing and continued because of getting good results.
Entering a new platform is no cakewalk. You have to build a network from scratch, learn the nuances of the algorithm, test different content formats — the list goes on. It’s good to have some focus — especially if you’re a small team with limited resources.
The lesson is simple: do a great job on a smaller number of platforms rather than a mediocre job of being everywhere. It’s good to test new things, but be realistic about your resources.
2: Ask locals about influencer reputations when you’re expanding to a new market
When you’re hiring for any role, you generally do reference checks. Why not with influencers? Especially in unfamiliar local markets.
Sometimes, an influencer’s metrics look good, but their market reputation is tainted. Perhaps they recently said (or did) something controversial. A local contact can help you know the facts before it’s too late.
Bolt has a local marketing team in almost all of their markets, to help with that, but you don’t necessarily need one to get an insider opinion. If you’ve already found one trustworthy influencer in a market, ask them to become your reference check. Whenever you find another influencer in the same location, ask them to verify if the influencer has a decent reputation.
3: Talent agencies have their place
Bolt is a great example to show that successful companies mix and match their tactics to find local influencers — especially when expanding into newer markets.
Even when influencer search tools are the default, there’s still several multiple sources.
Building good relationships with talent managers you encounter via outbound efforts is an excellent opportunity. If you get to know them and build a good rapport, they'll send more talented creators your way. Sure, you still have to check their performance and content, but it’s still a significant load off your plate when done right.
4: Be flexible in your filter criteria
Piia’s team embodies flexibility in almost all their influencer marketing efforts. While they usually match for a location match of 70% or more, they’re pretty adaptable with everything else.
Their follower count is context-dependent, based on the size of the market. This also clears pricing doubts. You can find relevant and real followers by subtracting fake followers from the number of followers in the target location.
And since Bolt doesn’t have a strict niche for its standard campaigns, it partners with a variety of creators from various domains — fashion, beauty, travel, humor, and lifestyle. Having a local audience is the most important thing.
Lastly, Bolt doesn’t restrict themselves to a set number of creators they have to partner with each month. Sometimes, they might only work with a few big creators. Other times, they might work with a larger number of smaller creators. It keeps shifting depending on their budget and influencers’ prices.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an influencer marketing newbie or a veteran — adaptability is crucial to your success. Don’t be too rigid with your criteria and be open to experimentation.
Find influencers like Bolt
Bolt is an excellent example of a flexible influencer marketing strategy:
- They recruit creators from over 15 markets every month as a team of two
- They find excellent influencer partners with whom they can build long-term relationships
Take them as an inspiration to what your influencer marketing efforts could look like globally — given the right tools, processes, and buy-in for the channel.