Partnering with social media influencers (also known as brand representatives) on Instagram was the best decision I ever made for my small business.
Let me rewind a bit. When I first started using Instagram for my online shop (SilverFire Books), any measly amount of growth I had was slow.
To be fair, I think that’s true for any new account on a social platform. It feels like rolling a large boulder up a steep hill.
Or, another analogy: like Celine Dion singing into an empty cave. It might sound incredible, but with no one there to hear, it’s getting you nowhere. (Yes, you’re Celine Dion in this scenario. Just go with it!)
Instagram is one of the most important platforms for creative & product-based businesses. In fact, I believe it is the best social platform for brand exposure & engaging with potential customers (Forbes.com agrees).
Keep in mind that I consider Pinterest to be a search engine, not a social media platform (more on that here), and I think both platforms should be used in conjunction.
But unless some miracle happens and you go viral out of the gate, rocketing you into the stratosphere of Instagram fame (hint: I wouldn’t bet on it!), it’s tough to get noticed at first. And yes, that’s even if your images are beautiful and you’re engaging with other users.
I know all that sounds a bit depressing, but don’t worry! I have a solution for making Instagram work for you, and not the other way around.
Of course, posting pretty photos, using Instagram stories, and consistently commenting are all important for Instagram growth. But I have an even better strategy for you: brand representatives.
What are brand representatives?
Brand reps are social media influencers who promote your products and share your shop news.
You send them your products for free. In return, they mention you in their Instagram stories, they post about you on their feed, and they mention your shop in their Instagram bio. Typically, you would give them a discount code to share with their followers.
This is a mutual partnership. Both parties should benefit and neither one should be taken advantage of.
Try not to have unreasonable expectations for your reps. But you should make it clear from the beginning what you’re asking them to do and hold them accountable to it.
Enter your email below to get the brand rep templates I use myself sent straight to your inbox!
Why are brand reps so important?
Two words: social proof. It’s just like word of mouth, but on a grander scale. It’s one of the most important factors people take into consideration when deciding whether or not to buy something.
Brand reps show that you’re a trustworthy brand, and they put your products in a positive light without you having to toot your own horn. 🙂
Just as important, brand reps help you grow. Since I first started partnering with influencers, my Instagram following doubled (almost tripled). I’ve seen more engagement and traffic with minimal effort from myself. I’ve even had reps go beyond Instagram: they’ve shared my products on Twitter and linked to my business in their blogs.
This is especially wonderful for small business owners, who need to grow but have very limited time (and money) to spend on outreach and marketing. I’ve seen better return on investment with brand reps than with any other marketing strategy I’ve tried.
How do I find brand reps?
Start by following some social media influencers in your niche. You can find them in the Explore page on Instagram or in the Top Posts under a popular hashtag in your niche. That should give you some idea of the types of people you’d like to work with.
For example, when finding brand reps for my small business, I focused on users in the #bookstagram community. I knew those influencers were interested in books, and that their followers would be, too.
For an Established Business:
If you are somewhat established and have some influencers already following you, great! It may be time for you to hold a Rep Search. I’ve found that these give me huge exposure and are a lot of fun!
Here’s a previous rep search post of mine as an example:
Download the guide below for the templates I use (plus some helpful tips).
For a Newer Business:
If your business is newer, you may want to start out by Direct Messaging influencers instead. You’ll want to give a little information about your business and your products, and ask if they’re interested.
If they say yes, use the guide & templates (download from the form above) to craft your expectations for the partnership. Make sure to include what you’ll give them in return!
Most importantly, make sure you’re engaging with your audience, even if it’s small. The best strategy for success on Instagram is growth coupled with a high engagement rate. While you implement your plan for brand reps, be sure to follow these 7 ways to increase your Instagram engagement rate as a small business.
You can reach out to influential bloggers in the same way. Ask if they’d be interested in writing a review of your product, or including it in their next gift guide post.
I recommend sending them a DM on Instagram. They’re probably more likely to check that than their email. But email is fine if that’s the only option!
Lastly, one word of caution: when all the extra orders start rolling in, be sure you’re stocked up on shipping & packaging supplies! There’s nothing worse than having a bunch of orders and nothing to ship them out in. 🙂 Here’s a list of ideas for creative packaging to help you out.
Now, go forth and find your dream brand reps!