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11 Ways To Find Perfect Instagram Influencers (Free & Paid)

July 24, 2023
13 min
Rochi Zalani
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Instagram is the OG influencer marketing platform. But how do you find Instagram influencers who are the right match for your brand? It’s a herculean task to ensure you aren’t flogging a dead horse by wasting time, money, and resources on a creator partnership that brings you no return on investment.

Here are 11 ways to discover Instagram influencers who fit your brand just right.

1. Use an influencer search tool to find Instagram influencers

It’s no surprise using an influencer discovery tool is the easiest way to find Instagram influencers. It’s quick, reliable, and scalable.

There are lots of influencer search tools in the market, but I’m biased towards Modash (duh!) because it lists every creator with 1k+ followers -- 71M+ total Instagram creators, with coverage in every niche, every country, and every city 🙂. You can add a wide variety of filters to set your criteria like follower range, location, bio keywords, and more.

Don’t take my word for it: try it (for free!) for 14 days and see for yourself.

The best part of Modash? It’s ridiculously easy to use.

Step 1: select Instagram on the choice of platforms. On Modash, you can search over 200M+ creators across not just Instagram, but also TikTok and YouTube.

Step 2: apply your influencer and audience filters to get a list of creators who check every box you need. Evaluate for things like:

  • growth rate
  • follower range
  • audience’s age
  • engagement rate
  • followers’ location
  • average reel plays
  • …etc.

A pro tip would be to apply the filters slowly and not all at once to avoid potentially missing out on influencers who were a good fit.

Step 3: evaluate each influencer on the list by checking their influencer analytics. Modash gives you insider info on everything you might want to know about a creator — from popular posts and engagement on recent posts to audience credibility and followers’ data.

Examining your potential creators in detail ensures you don’t waste time contacting influencers who don’t align with your requirements.

2: Hunt on Instagram using Explore page, hashtags, and keywords

There are three ways to find influencers on the Instagram app:

Use the ‘Explore’ page

Instagram’s “Explore” page helps you discover content you might like. It shows photos and reels. If you have a brand account on Instagram or watch content related to your products, you’ll discover Instagram influencers who create content in your brand’s niche just by scrolling.

If you want to partner with influencers who create excellent videos, scroll only the reels instead of the Explore page. This is how I randomly stumbled on one of Maya’s reels, who makes delicious vegan recipes and mouth-watering Reels.

Following creators in your niche is an excellent way to train your explore page to show you relevant influencers. The algorithm picks up on your preferences and exposes you to similar types of Instagram influencers.

Use hashtags

Search for niche-specific hashtags on Instagram to find influencers who create content in your niche. If you sell beauty products, search for #skincare or go more specific like #skincareproducts or #beautyproductsreview.

If you want to find influencers who have done paid sponsorships, search for hashtags like #ad or #sponsored.

Use keywords

The problem with hashtags is they can give you a large volume of poor results. For example, if you search for #chef, anyone creating a home cooked meal and using the hashtag is displayed — regardless of whether they’re a creator. To make the vetting easier, search for keywords without the hashtag, and Instagram will show you people with your targeted keyword in their username.

With this method, you find creators with relevant keywords in their usernames or names. Similarly, instead of a profile, also try searching related variations like “healthy recipes.” It’ll take a bit of trial and error, but you might land on a gem of a creator.

The con with using the Instagram app to find creators: it’s labor-intensive and time-consuming. Plus, you have to go back and evaluate your shortlisted influencers to check if they meet your criteria.

3: Discover similar influencers to the ones you already love

Maybe you already have an Instagram influencer you like. But you can’t partner with them for whatever reason — their rates are out of your budget, you want to add new creators to the mix, or something else.

But knowing what you already like is a huge time-saver. Search for similar influencers using Modash’s influencer lookalike tool. For example, I wanted to find influencers like Danielle Brown and found 601 creators identical to her.

You can also do this on Instagram using the button right next to the message option, and the platform will suggest similar accounts.

The problems with using Instagram:

  • It’s manual
  • It isn’t nearly as accurate as Modash
  • There are far fewer relevant related accounts available. In the image above, Instagram recommended Selena Gomez as a similar creator to a food influencer 🙄

4: Check who your followers follow on Instagram

Run an eye on your audience’s “following” list to find Instagram influencers they trust. Who is a common creator in your niche whom many of your followers follow?

They’re likely trusted by other potential buyers, too, and would be a perfect match for your Instagram influencer marketing.

If this method is too time-consuming for you, consider running a survey to ask your followers the creators they turn to for product recommendations. Like Megha and Vibha of Fuzzycurls asks their followers to share their curl queries, use Instagram Stories’ question sticker to ask your audience their favorite creators.

This method is great if you aim to find influencers your audience trusts and already follows. But it is very manual.

5: Search on Google (or ChatGPT)

Write “your industry + Instagram influencer” on Google, and you’ll get a variety of listicles talking about top-notch Instagram creators in your market.

ChatGPT is another hot, new AI tool to use, like Google. Ask it a question, and it gives you a response. For example, I asked the tool to share the best micro-influencers in the beauty industry on Instagram, and it showed five creators.

But, ChatGPT is trained on old data — meaning it might not show Instagram creators who recently started gaining popularity.

With Google and ChatGPT, the more specific you are, the better. For example, if you’re finding micro-influencers, search “micro-influencers on Instagram in {your industry}” to only receive results for relevant, smaller influencers.

⚠️ Remember: you still have to vet and analyze influencer profiles recommended by Google or ChatGPT to check if the influencer meets your criteria and is a good fit for your brand.

6: Track brand mentions to find Instagram influencers who already love your brand

Someone’s got their eye on you. 👀

Many nano-influencers and micro-creators post reviews of brands their audience might be interested in and tag your brand account. Find these nano-influencers and partner with them if you like their content.

This method also applies if you’ve done a product seeding campaign or influencer gifting. Check if the seeded or gifted Instagram creator has posted about your brand on their Stories or Reels. For instance, Benefit Cosmetics gifted their products to Instagram influencer Ankita Chawla, and she posted about it on her Stories.

How to monitor the posts or stories your brand is tagged on? Instagram gives you notifications, or you can go to your profile and click on the “Tagged” button to check the content you’re tagged on.

But notifications for Stories expire within 24 hours and are easy to miss if you don’t have a pulse on your DMs. A social listening tool like Hootsuite allows you to track all content you’re mentioned in with no sweat.

7: Look outside your immediate niche

Let’s say you’re a business in the crypto industry. So, of course, you’ll find influencers who exclusively talk about crypto, right?

That’s one way. And when you’re just beginning, starting with core niche creators makes sense. But what happens when you want to scale your influencer marketing game?

Maia Pedro, the Influencer Marketing Team Lead at Bitpanda, also faced this challenge: he realized most influencers in the financial realm are male and have a predominantly male following. But his goal was to find influencers who spoke to different audiences. He thought outside the box and found entrepreneurs and gamers also provide an entry point to crypto.

(Listen to our podcast with Maia to learn more about his influencer marketing strategies.)

Once you lay the land on Instagram, widen your horizons by experimenting with influencers of adjacent niches who can help you tap into a new customer base. Take Baron Ryan — a writer and influencer — promoting…Nintendo Switch.

It seems out of the general norm at first, but the comments keep complimenting the ad. Influencer marketing is a creative game. Don’t be afraid to take some calculated risks.

8: Create a brand ambassador program to attract Instagram creators

Brand ambassador programs attract influencers like moths to a flame. What’s better than Instagram creators proactively contacting you to promote your products?

How to create a brand ambassador program? Start by building a landing page to get inbound traffic from Google and redirecting all interested influencers to one place. Next, share the details of your program on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and other distribution channels you use. Ask your employees and existing influencer partners to share it with their accounts to widen your reach.

Ensure you highlight the benefits of joining your ambassador program and make the requirements crystal clear. This post by Luxury Hair by Lex is a good example of checking all the boxes.

⚠️ Remember: you might have to weed through the chaff in your applications to find the perfect brand ambassadors for your business. Why? Many Instagram creators who aren’t the right fit might also apply just to get in on the free products and/or/or commission.

The biggest mistake would be to let everyone inside your brand ambassador program. Ensure your program only contains Instagram creators who are the right match for your strategy.

9: Ask for referrals from your existing Instagram influencers

Do you already work with a handful of Instagram creators? Asking them for referrals is a solid way to find similar influencers. Here’s your script to tweak:

Hey {influencer name}, We loved partnering with you on {1-2 personalized lines about the campaign you partnered with them on} and can’t wait to chat about future collaborations!

In the meantime, we were wondering if you had any recommendations for creators like you on Instagram? We’re looking to partner with similar influencers for our new campaign, and an intro from you would be super helpful! Specifically, we’re looking for Instagram creators who…{send some requirements like follower range, niche, engagement rate, and other metrics you’re looking for}.

Do you have anyone in mind who might be a good fit for {company name}? No worries if not!

Hot tip: also ask for referrals from creators you’ve partnered with on TikTok and/or YouTube. Influencer marketing is a tight-knit community, and often your old pals might have a referral for someone who’s a good fit for your brand.

10: Work with an Instagram influencer marketing agency

There are a gazillion full-fledged and Instagram-specialized influencer marketing agencies in the market. The pros of working with an agency is you hire experts to do a majority of the legwork for you: from hunting to outreach to payment.

How many tasks an agency takes off your plate differs from agency to agency, but you can expect a much lighter workload if you outsource Instagram influencer hunting to them.

The cons? They’re expensive, and you can’t be 100% sure they’ll find you the perfect creators for your brand. Many agencies only recommend influencers in their database, meaning you lose out on a big pool of Instagram creators who might be a match for you, but are never discovered by the agency you hired.

To eradicate this disadvantage, vet the influencer marketing agency thoroughly before hiring them and ask them for their database details and limitations in advance. It’s better to hire an agency specializing in Instagram if you have the budget.

11: Check the Instagram presence of your existing TikTok and YouTube influencers

Why not go deep instead of wide? If you’re already actively practicing TikTok influencer marketing or YouTube influencer marketing, check if those creators have an Instagram presence.

Many creators cross-post their TikTok videos on Instagram and YouTube shorts like Hailee Catalano:

You’ve done the legwork of finding TikTok influencers or YouTube creators: do the smart work of throwing some extra bucks to partner with them on Instagram, too (if they have a valuable Instagram presence).

Often an influencer has varying audiences on different platforms. Still, even if they overlap, repetition increases awareness and boosts the chances of potential customers remembering you (and not tuning you out).

Finding Instagram influencers the easy (and reliable) way

Instagram is one of the hottest platforms for influencer marketing — which is also what makes finding the right influencers on it extremely difficult. With these eleven methods, you have a sense of direction in where and how to hunt for Instagram creators.

But the most reliable, easy, and scalable way is to use Modash: it has no learning curve, lets you feed your requirements, and analyze the influencer’s profile within minutes. See for yourself at no cost with a 14-day free trial.

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