How to find an influencer to promote your business

Have you been thinking of hiring an Instagram influencer to promote your optical business? You’re not alone. The use of influencers is on the rise. But in order to get your money’s worth, you can’t just find an influencer, you need to carefully vet them. Just checking their follower count is not enough!

What is an influencer?

It’s someone who isn’t exactly famous, but has an impressive number of followers. Their photos are well-lit and professional, they’re doing fabulous things in fabulous places, and they strike a balance between perfection and relatability. Their captions often sport the hashtags #ad and #sponsored, because companies and businesses pay them to promote products and services. They may be well-known within a niche, like fitness, gaming, beauty, or eyewear.

Forbes estimates that the influencer market will hit $2 billion this year. And RetailDive found that 70% of millennials have a strong preference for recommendations from non-celebrity blogger peers.

Finding influencers by hashtag

Find an influencer with real influence

A recommendation from a credible influencer with a trusted voice can be absolute gold for your business. Hallmarks of a good influencer include a large following, in the tens or hundreds of thousands, or even the low millions. They engage regularly with that audience, commenting and liking often, and getting tons of engagement in return. They post often, usually daily.

But there’s a dirty little secret you should know. For every legit influencer, there are a thousand pretenders, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. Some are attracted to the idea of getting rich quick by posting pictures of themselves. Others take a shortcut from the daily slog of engaging with people online, and simply buy followers to look popular. They don’t have the time, patience, or know-how to build a community, but they want the rewards. It’s this frivolous, “pretend job” image that gives influencers a bad name and makes them a target for late-night comics.

via GIPHY

But don’t laugh! An influencer that your audience believes in and finds appealing can direct a lot of eyeballs toward your business.

The question is, how can you find an influencer who is really influential, and has the audience that you’d like to reach?

Here are the steps I use to find the right influencers for my clients. You can do it, too – it just requires some homework.

Step 1: Start with hashtags

Using Instagram’s search function, find 5-10 hashtags that make sense for your audience. If you’re a local business, start with your city name (like #scottsdale). If that hashtag has more than 1 million posts, look for variants (#scottsdaleaz, #scottsdalearizona, #absolutelyscottsdale). Also try narrowing down to your neighborhood (#northscottsdale). As you type into the search bar, Instagram will show a list of related hashtags, so be sure to browse that.

Local hashtags will help you find an influencer with local pull

Avoid hashtags that are too broad, especially if you’re a local practice or optical shop. You want an influencer who’s going to come to your shop, interact with you, and make custom content. A hashtag like #eyewear (4.3M posts) will bring you top posts from frame brands, your competitors, practices in other cities or countries, influencers who aren’t local to you, and even online eyeglass stores. None of these are useful for promoting a local business.

Now that you have a list of relevant hashtags, look at the top 9 posts for each one.  A really influential post should be in the thousands of likes, or at least the high hundreds. It should also have dozens of comments, which are an even better measure of true engagement than likes.

Put the authors of these top posts on your list.

Step 2: Narrow your influencer list

Look at each influencer. Do they fit the bill for you? Are they the right age (i.e., old enough to manage their own eyecare), in the right location, have the right attitude? Do they wear glasses or sunglasses? If you want more kids and families in your practice, pick an influencer who’s a mom or dad. If your shop’s brand is luxury, pick a high-end fashion blogger. If you’re trying to attract a population of nearby tech workers, look for a hot nerd. Get the picture? You want to show that the kind of person who gets their eyeglasses from you is someone your target audience wants to be.

Whittle your list down accordingly. But don’t strike someone from your list if their follower number is only 1K-5K. Those are called “microinfluencers,” and 10 of them can be more effective than one influencer. They also cost less!

Step 3: Weed out the fakers

A sad fact of modern life is that many people buy followers. The follower number is a vanity metric that, if artificially inflated, makes people look more important and influential than they are. And those who have bought followers are not going to help you one bit to spread the word about your business. The followers they purchased are “dead accounts,” dummy profiles with little to no activity that are churned out by the thousands, usually overseas. Here’s an example of a “click farm” in China, where 10,000 phones have been automated to like and follow 24×7:

Buying likes and followers is incredibly cheap. Click farms are usually located in developing countries, use child labor, and pay their workers pennies. Using click farms is not just social media fraud that undermines trust in social platforms, it’s a terrible thing to support.

An influencer with a high number of dead accounts following them is basically sending your message to a rack of robot phones like this. What you want is a trusted voice who speaks influentially to exactly the audience you want to bring into your business.

Now, everyone has some fake accounts following them – even you. But an influencer who buys followers has them in large numbers. Fake accounts might actually be the majority of their followers.

So how can you tell if an influencer has bought their followers? There are a few methods.

Use SocialBlade to find unexplained follower spikes


SocialBlade will show you, for free, the last 14 days of follower/following/media activity for any Instagram account (or 30 days on the SocialBlade phone app).

A normal pattern for an account who doesn’t buy followers is a slow and steady rise over time.

Normal growth pattern for an influencer
Normal follower growth for an influencer

A user who buys followers will show a sudden, abnormal burst of hundreds or thousands of followers added in one day. If this miracle can’t be explained by actual account activity – they had no posts that day, they didn’t do a bunch of following themselves, and they weren’t in the news for sleeping with a Kardashian’s boyfriend
– then they likely bought those followers.

Unexplained spikes in influencer follower growth indicates buying followers
Sudden, large spikes in follower growth usually means an influencer has bought followers

Now, a spike of about 250 new followers doesn’t seem like much. But if someone buys 250 followers a week for a year, suddenly they have 13,000 followers – and a saleable position as an influencer.

If you ignore the bought followers and look at the normal activity for this user, they’re really at -23 followers for this two-week period – so their influence is actually flat or declining slightly.

If you see unusual spikes like this in a user’s profile, take them off your influencer list.

Use HypeAuditor to assess their audience

An audience assessment will not only reveal suspicious account activity, it will tell you whether the audience they have is the audience you want.

For instance, if you’re an eyecare practice in New Jersey, you probably want to target women 35 and up, and both genders 45 and up, in your state. (Women tend to be the health managers of their families, so targeting a mom brings you sales for her, her spouse, and any kids. Presbyopes spend more on their glasses and aren’t well-serviced by online stores.) Given that, the following HypeAudit report on an influencer would be pretty disappointing:

Don't hire an influencer that doesn't speak the audience you want

Is this account from someone in Turkey? Nope, it’s a US account, and the user posts in English. But they likely buy followers from someone in Turkey – and apparently Nigeria, Yemen, and Azerbaijan. This is all you can conclude if they have high followings there, but no natural connection to any of these countries.

You can also see the primary language spoken by their audience. If you’re marketing in English, and only 34% of their audience would understand the message, then this influencer is not a match.

Don't hire an influencer whose followers don't speak your language

HypeAuditor also tells you what you should pay per post for an audited influencer, based on market prices. This gives you leg up in negotiations.

Know estimated post prices before you hire an influencer

HypeAuditor is free to analyze one user, and $99 to analyze the next 10. Save $100 in your price negotiations and it’s paid for itself!

UPDATE: Use my code PEGGY43 and get 3 HypeAuditor credits for free.

If an influencer’s audience looks bought, or just isn’t what you’re trying to target, take them off your list.

Detect real engagement with FakeCheck

FakeCheck very smartly compares an account’s likes and comments numbers to others of their size to detect real engagement. See, you can buy followers, and you can even buy post likes, but you can’t really buy comments for your own posts. So any comments are likely coming from real users.

With this account, comments only appear 29% as often as is common for an account of their size. So you should drop your engagement expectations by about 70%.

Find out their true engagement numbers before you hire an influencer
Low comments indicate low engagement and possible suspicious follows.

Small variations of 5-15% from normal are likely not a sign of anything fishy. But 70% off? Something’s not right. Take this influencer off your list.

I found some great influencers! What’s next?

Okay, now you’ve weeded out the fakers and found accounts local to your business that have real influence. How do you enlist them as influencers? And how can you make sure they do what you ask them to do?

All that will come in my next blog post, where I show you what’s next after you find an influencer: how to reach out to them, what to ask for, how to get it in writing, and what you can expect to pay.

Want help to find an influencer and run an influencer campaign? Contact us.

Got questions? Ask me in the comments!


Instagram no-no: Don’t abuse photo tags

Instagram no-no: don't abuse photo tags

One of the more powerful tools for engagement that Instagram gives us is photo tags, or the ability to tag our Instagram images with the names of other Instagram users.  The person (or brand) you’ve tagged is notified, and then it’s likely to generate likes and comments from them, increasing your relevance to each other in the Instagram algorithm, and reinforcing your relationship.

But like all powerful tools, this one can be abused. And you may be the one abusing it!

Don’t be that guy. Here’s how NOT to use Instagram photo tags:

Tagging people not in the photo


It’s really not a good idea to tag someone as being in a photo when they’re not, unless you think they would understand and agree with the tag. If, say, you photograph a gift basket that several people contributed to, and you tag all the contributors, that’s reasonable. But if you take a photo of your office, and tag a bunch of potential patients in the hopes that they’ll come in, that’s just weird. It signals that you don’t know how to be social or use Instagram.

Tagging people you don’t know as a means of introducing yourself


Tagging is sort of like saying “We’re besties!” So it feels presumptuous when someone you don’t know tags you (especially if you aren’t actually in the photo).  Start more politely with a like and comment on one of their Instagram posts instead. Then if you work up to actually being in the same room and taking a photo together, you can tag that.

Tagging people but having no other interaction with them

This is one of the more naked grabs for attention, and it absolutely does not work. If you post an image and tag a bunch of influential accounts just to yank their eyeballs over to you, how will they feel about it? Used, probably. And how will they feel about you? That you’re an opportunist who doesn’t care about them. Not a good start to any relationship.

This is a case where a hashtag would be a better choice than a photo tag. Many Instagram users, especially brands, have official hashtags they encourage you to use. For instance, I tell people to tag their photos with #thesocialeye if they want me to feature them. See if your potential tag-ee has a hashtag, and if you’re not sure if you should use it, ask them via DM.

Tagging too many people in a day

Instagram limits tags to 20 per image. But if you’ve gone really crazy with tags, at a certain point it will not let you tag anyone else for a few days. And “Instagram jail” can sometimes mean not being able to do anything on Instagram for a while. That’s a pretty good reason to chill on the tagging.

Tagging people as an insult

Even if you’re kidding, don’t do this. There’s a fine line between comedy and abuse, and Instagram takes a hard line against the latter.

Photo tags: Remember the goal

Now you might be saying…

But know this. Incorrect use of photo tags can actually lead to the opposite of what you want on Instagram. You want people to trust, identify with, and vote for you and your business with their dollars. Treat their photo tag with respect, and you’ll be on the road to getting that. Treat it with disrespect, and they’ll be much more likely to unfollow you, block you, or even report you to Instagram for abuse or spam.

Want to know what Instagram says about tags? We got you.

Need more advice about social media? Contact us.

Come meet us at EyeInnovate 2018!

EyeInnovate 2018

If you’re reading this blog post, you’re probably interested in leveling up your business’s digital marketing. If that’s the case, and you’re in or near Southern California, I have an event for you.

EyeInnovate 2018

There’s a one-day conference happening in LA on November 6 called EyeInnovate 2018, and the speaker list is very impressive. Dr. Tanya Gill is going to be sharing her Instagram secrets, and you should listen, because @oaklandvisioncenter is the model I tell everyone to take pointers from. Dr. Alan Glazier, the creator of the very influential group ODs on Facebook (35K members!), will speak on Facebook changes and what you need to do there for your business.

These are the heavy hitters, folks. If knowledge is power, then these are your friendly neighborhood optical superheroes. And the agenda is packed with even more about SEO, merchandising, YouTube, and consumer trends.

I’ll definitely be there, because while I know a lot about online marketing for optical, things change everyday, and you should never stop learning.

In other words, it’s worth my time, and it’s worth yours.

EyeInnovate 2018
When: Nov. 6, 7:30am – 5:30pm
Where: Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles
Details: eyeinnovate2018.com

Register here. Still not sure? Enter their contest to win a trip to LA and two tickets to the conference.

EyeInnovate 2018 - enter to win!