instagram influencer research step by step guide

Step-by-Step Guide to Researching Instagram Influencers

While influencer marketing is on the rise there is a great demand for researching and reaching out to influencers on top social media channels. And although it seems like an easy task to accomplish, when you actually get to finding social media influencers it quite often turns out to be a complete mess. Where do I start? What do I search for? These are a few of the questions that go through your mind while you stare blankly at your mobile screen.

All of us have been there, right?

So let’s go through a step-by-step structured guide on how to find Instagram influencers for your brand or business.


1. Define your influencers

When doing influencer research, we are not putting up a list of random top accounts on Instagram, but rather trying to find Instagram users who are more likely to influence the target customer of your brand or business. So obviously you need to narrow down the 500 million monthly active users by some sort of targeting and build your influencer profile. It all depends on your goals.

For example, let’s say you have an Etsy shop that makes custom jewelry pieces and you want to reach ladies of 18-30 living primarily in US, where you have more reliable shipping options. But you have a limited budget and can’t afford spending 10k USD on a single outfit post or video. So considering all of these limitations, your target influencer is;

  • an english speaking
  • female
  • fashion/lifestyle/jewelry blogger
  • from US
  • with a follower count below 100k

This is an important first step in the influencer research process, because it answers your main question as to WHAT you need to search for. Now let’s see HOW we can search for these people.

2. Search with hashtags

There are 4 search categories on Instagram (Top results; People; Tags; Places) and you have to limit yourself with those when doing Instagram influencer research. The biggest problem with Instagram search is that it doesn’t work for search terms more than 1 word and it makes influencer research quite complicated.

For example, when you search a random word in “Top” category, it will bring up suggestions with top results combining user accounts, hashtags and places. This search category is not much of a help for influencer research, so I suggest using the “Tag” category right away.

Think of a few hashtags that your influencer “persona” might use. If we go back to our example of an Etsy custom jewelry shop, we’re looking for fashion/lifestyle/jewelry bloggers. So we can use this hashtag to start with: #jewelryblogger.

instagram influencer researc guide

As you can see in the screenshots, Instagram not only suggests relevant hashtags but it also gives you the number of times the hashtag has been used, which indicates its popularity. Before jumping right into the posts and shortlisting influencers, I want you to focus your attention on the 3 sections of Instagram search results page.

  1. Related hashtags
  2. Top Posts
  3. Most Recent Posts

For a broader and richer influencer research, I’d recommend researching a few more “related hashtags”. Quite often you will come across hashtags that you might have not thought of but that are highly relevant to your business, so it definitely makes sense to go through them.

Top posts usually point to either brand accounts or users with a solid following, who are already very popular.

Most recent posts though are more likely to bring us to the target (up to 100k followers) accounts and it is essentially your main field of research. Pick the type of photos that you would want your brand to be featured in and head over to the account. If the user corresponds to your influencer profile, then make sure to add her to the list.

Repeat this step as many times as you feel necessary to build your list.

3. Search Instagram bios

Not all Instagram influencers “optimize” their handles with keywords (unfortunately 🙂 ), but the vast majority optimizes their Instagram bios with all necessary information. Sounds like a gold mine for this research, right? Sadly, Instagram doesn’t support the bio search feature, which brings us to this small search hack.

So if you want to search Instagram bios for keywords, you can head over to and search: ‘keyword’.

It doesn’t work with 100% accuracy, but especially when you can’t find a relevant hashtag to search with, this comes in handy.

Let’s go back to our example. What would a target influencer write in her bio that we can search for? I’d start with “lifestyle blogger” and let’s see what we get.

instagram influencer researc guide

So I go one by one checking the search results and right from the 1st page I discover 3 potential users matching our influencer profile.

instagram influencer research

4. Browse suggested accounts

When you find at least one user that matches your influencer profile, you can then go ahead and start checking the suggested accounts. (Just hit the small arrow right next to the “Follow” button). I frequently use this Instagram feature to find similar accounts that qualify under my Influencer profile.

browse suggested accounts instagram influencer research

In our example, we can try and browse the suggested accounts for @simplytaralynn, who appears to be the influencer we are looking for. In the suggested accounts, I found Julie Fagan, who is also the type of influencer we’d want to contact.

instagram influencer research taralyn

I would suggest to do this on the web and not mobile app, because it is so much easier to browse multiple accounts at a time.

Building the Instagram influencers list

Depending the goal of the research you need to collect various information about the influencers, for instance, instagram handle, full name, website (if any), follower count, direct contact (usually email). I like to gather all of this data in a simple google spreadsheet and then go through the list a few times, to make sure the users in the list truly qualify for the campaign and then only try and reach out to them, which is yet another challenge.

So to summarize, here are the 4 main steps to follow when researching Instagram influencers;

  1. Define your influencer profile
  2. Search with hashtags
  3. Search Instagram bios
  4. Browse suggested accounts

If you are new to influencer marketing, make sure to check out the Beginner’s Guide to Influencer Marketing and 3 Ways You Can Use Influencer Marketing to Grow Your Brand.