By Lilian Raji
Lilian Raji is a strategic communications and PR adviser who helps companies understand their marketing problems, then designs and executes strategies to solve them.
Happy spring, my dear readers!

Forgive my long absence. I’ve been traveling the world and spent much of January channeling the girl from Ipanema. I won’t tease you here with details of my extraordinary, mind-opening month in Brazil—that’s what Instagram is for!

Head over to my Instagram page to see more about my travels.

Even if you’re not interested in Instagram-induced travel jealousy, go over to the social media site anyway because this, dear readers, is where we’ll focus for the next few columns.

The lovely Susan Posnock of Jewelers of America recently invited me to do a webinar on “Harnessing the Power of Social Media Influencers.” If you missed it, no worries! You can catch a replay on my website.

I cover the big topics, including finding the right influencers, not falling victim to influencer fraud and keeping the Federal Trade Commission off your back.

This webinar brought an avalanche of questions. And, as you know, I’m all about the questions! I promised webinar viewers I’d cover each question in detail here over the next few months.

So, here we go.

Q: Dear Lilian,

How can I find a valuable micro-influencer and woo them in my small community?

Where Do I Begin?

A: It’s clear many of you realize it’s time to jump into the influencer marketing game. But based on this month’s question, you don’t know where to start.

Simple. Start in your own backyard.

We’ll save the topic of macro- vs. micro-influencers for a later date and focus on micro-influencers for now since this question came from a retailer.

So, my friend, are you now on Instagram as I instructed? If not, go ahead; I’ll wait.

Ready? Fantastic! Who’s following you on Instagram?

No one? Well, that’s going to have to be another article.

Hundreds of thousands of people? Fabulous! Let’s go through them to find some local influencers for your business.

We’re looking for your followers who have more than 1,000 followers of their own. Check out their posts and make note of which people get a lot of likes and a lot of comments.

Also, make sure you actually like what the person is posting about—in the literal sense, not just by tapping the Instagram heart.

It’s important you like what your candidates post because you’ll be engaging them to boost your reputation. If she has more than 1,000 followers but posts regularly about clubbing baby seals, well, my strong recommendation is a hard pass.

Also, please don’t limit yourself to people who post only about jewelry. You want lifestyle and fashion types whose followers comment on their style.

You’re not just in the jewelry business; you’re also in the style business. Jewelry is personal, as we all know, but it’s also a person’s style signature. Focus on this bigger picture.

Once you’ve exhausted your followers, mosey on over to your competitors’ Instagram followers and keep building your list of potential local influencers.

All’s fair in love and jewelry, amirite?

You want at least 50 candidates with more than 1,000 followers each. If your and your competitors’ followers aren’t making the cut, it’s time to get strategic.

Go through your customer list and identify those special customers with influencer-star personalities.

Also, most cities have local magazines that follow the lifestyles of the city’s most glamorous. In Atlanta, we have The Atlantan, Los Angeles has Los Angeles Confidential, Philadelphia has Philadelphia Style, etc.

Open your city’s publications and start making a list of all those pretty people posing for pictures.

Now, this is where it’s helpful to have a 17-year-old who’ll categorize this next task as “fun.”

Look for Instagram accounts for everyone on your list, and vet them accordingly. It’s going to take a while, but there’s no other cost-effective way to do this.

There are a million websites that promise to help you find influencers, but they don’t come cheap. And I’ve yet to find one that does an exceptional job in keeping you from becoming victim to influencer fraud. (We’ll cover the topic of influencer fraud in a future article, or learn more now by listening to my aforementioned webinar.)

In the midst of all this, don’t forget to pull email addresses from your candidates’ profiles. I can never find email addresses when I’m looking at Instagram on my laptop, but they show up on my phone. If you’re having the same problem, use your phone.

I recommend email instead of DMs (direct messages on the app). Call me old-fashioned, but I believe emails set a professional tone. You’re going to be engaging in a business relationship and it’s always best to begin in the right direction.

However, if you can’t find an email address, then by all means, DM away.

You’ll send an email that reads something like this:

Hi [NAME],
Our team here at [YOUR COMPANY] has been following you on Instagram, and we love how you present yourself. We were especially impressed by [THINGS YOU LIKED ABOUT THEIR POSTS].

We’re interested in collaborating with you on some projects/events we have coming up. Can we set up a call to talk further?

Warm Regards,

Short and sweet.

You want to have a conversation with them so you can get a good feel for the person. I personally prefer in-person meetings, but save that for your final short list. Right now, you’re trying to get your 50 names to a manageable 20.

Why are we beginning with 50, you might be wondering?

Because you want to cast a wide net. Once you start communicating with your potential local influencers, you’re going to discover quickly that you really don’t like many people on your list.

The more names you have, the less you’ll feel pressured to deal with nonsense requests and diva-like behavior. Save yourself the trouble of having to begin this process again by starting with a big list and then narrowing it down.

Now, dear readers, I’m going to have to end on a bit of a cliffhanger. We need much more time to discuss what happens next, and that will be my next column.

In the meantime, I’ve created an Influencer Marketing Toolkit that’s filled with useful templates. It’s free, and you can grab it here.

Until next month, my darlings! And remember, I’m always here for your most pressing strategic communications and PR questions. Ask your questions here.

Lilian Raji is a strategic communications and PR adviser who helps companies understand their marketing problems, then designs and executes strategies to solve them. Learn more at Submit questions for Lilian to answer here and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

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