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Influencer Marketing on Instagram: The Next Frontier

This story originally appeared on PR Newswire's Small Business PR Toolkit

Editor's Note: This is the first in a two-part series.

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You've heard of . You know that it's massively popular. You know that some are using it in innovative ways to drive awareness and boost marketing results, but you don't think it's right for your . Or is it? Instagram is the newest frontier in marketing, joining the ranks of , , and as widely used platforms for . In fact, tapping into the power of Instagram to boost sales, grow your consumer base, and increase engagement with your brand is within reach with an campaign on Instagram.

Why Instagram?

Instagram is newer to the scene than other well-known and established platforms like Facebook and Twitter; it was launched in October 2010. But Instagram is already gaining massive adoption, particularly among millennials. In fact, 41 percent of Instagram's 300 million monthly active users are between the ages of 16 to 24, and 20 percent of global users between the ages of 16 to 64 use Instagram.

Beyond reaching massive numbers of users, Instagram is just now being tapped as a marketing platform, meaning it's not overly saturated with brands and marketing messages from companies who beat you to the punch. In other words, it's fairly simple to stand out from the crowd with a well-planned, strategic influencer marketing campaign on Instagram.

Instagram also makes it easy to connect with your audience in the authentic, humanized way today's consumers appreciate. By identifying key influencers who are already in-tune with the audience you're trying to reach, your brand is shared with your target audience in meaningful, genuine ways. Finally, the nature of Instagram provides a foundation for high levels of engagement. Instagram is built on an infrastructure of hashtags, tagging other users, liking, and commenting that facilitates the ongoing connectivity and interaction that brands are vying for.

What is an Influencer?

An influencer is any user of a media platform who has accumulated a large following and exerts influence over those who follow them. Often, influencers are established thought leaders in a specific industry, such as authors, well-known bloggers, CEOs, startup founders, and the like. But influencers can also be everyday users who have worked their way to influencer status by sharing valuable or engaging content and establishing trust among their followers.

It's not just a massive number of followers that qualifies an individual as an influencer, but the ability to elicit a response or action from their connections or readers that makes someone truly influential. It's this quality that makes an influencer particularly valuable to brands who are seeking to expand their reach and grow their own influence on the social web.

There are many ways to find influencers. The simplest method is simply searching for terms related to your niche or your brand to discover the most influential users who are already talking about your industry and closely related topics. The more engagement an influencer's content receives, the better results you can achieve.

Influencers can be compensated or non-compensated, which is where they do not gain monetarily, but are rewarded in other ways like with free products or a shout-out on the brand page, netting them more followers. If you're paying an influencer, it qualifies as a sponsored advertisement and this influencer's communications on your behalf should include a disclosure notifying the audience that the individual is being compensated in some form in exchange for the promotion. The same holds true if the compensation is non-monetary.

How to Find an Influencer That's Right for You

So what makes an Instagram influencer right for your brand or campaign? Not every influencer is well-suited for any particular company, product, service, or influencer marketing initiative. The right influencer on Instagram may not be the same influencer that produces results on Facebook or Twitter.

Search for influencers who have established authority in your niche, who have a voice in line with your brand image, and whose followers consist largely of individuals who match your target buyer personas. This is often called "context." Additionally, search for Instagram influencers who share intriguing, original content, or "creators."

Once you've identified the right influencers for your campaign, the next step is engaging them. Blindly emailing influencers and asking them to share your content may have worked a few years ago, but it's not a tactic that results in much success these days. Influencers, especially those in popular niches, are often overwhelmed with requests from brands.

Your next step isn't emailing influencers to ask them to share your content and promote your products; it's building an authentic relationship with them by following them, commenting on their posts, sharing their updates, reading their blogs, and interacting with them.

Now that we have identified the benefits of marketing your business on Instagram and highlighted ways to locate influencers on this channel, next week we'll talk about additional ways to engage and measure the effectiveness of social influencers.

Written by Sarah Ware, co-founder and chief executive of Markerly, an influencer marketing platform that advertises branded content.

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