Communications Strategy

How to Launch an Influencer Program

By Traci Mazurek

When you hear the term “influencer,” does your mind conjure up images of an impossibly glowy millennial who seemingly subsists on avocado toast, golden milk lattes, and acai bowls? You’re not alone. Those influencers may be right for your brand, but your brand’s best influencer could also be a working mom, a dad who’s into running, or a small business thought leader. So how can you establish an influencer program for your brand? I’ve outlined some insights learned from launching and executing the influencer program for Whole Foods Market 365 (going strong since September 2017!):

Set your goals

What do you want to accomplish by working with influencers? Do you want to increase awareness of your brand with your current customers, a new demographic, or in a new location? Are you more concerned with volume or relevancy? For 365’s influencer program, we specifically set out to find a smaller group of influencers who can eventually become established ambassadors for the brand, rather than working with a larger group of smaller influencers who may or may not resonate with our target audiences.

Establish your budget range, but be realistic

Influencers with over a million followers will generally cost a few to more than a few thousand dollars. If you’re willing to pay more per influencer to establish a smaller group of brand ambassadors, you can typically find influencers who are more mid-tier, or in the 30K-300K range. If you prefer to spend less per influencer to work with a wider net, you’ll want to look more in the 1K-25K range. Keep in mind that this can depend on your market as well; an influencer with 100K followers in Akron, Ohio may still have lower rates than an influencer with 30K followers in Los Angeles.

Do your research

So where to start? Look at your own tags and mentions! Do you have followers or positive mentions from users with a significant number of fans? Start there – they’re already interested in your brand. From there, search relevant hashtags on Twitter and Instagram; are you looking for #fitmoms, #vegansofATX, or #girlswholift? Listening platforms like Spredfast Intelligence, Julius, and BuzzSumo can help you identify influencers in your target audience as well.

Once you’ve selected a list, narrow it further by looking at attributes such as location, brands with whom they’ve previously worked, their content, the quality of their imagery and writing, and their social media channels. An influencer may have a high number of followers, but may end up having low engagement rates or content that isn’t in line with brand standards.


So you’ve selected your influencers – now what? Once you’ve worked out an agreement, don’t forget to send them key brand messages, a framework for their content, and requirements around number of posts, tagging the brand, and how to refer to the brand. However, give them the freedom to create content in their own voice; after all of this effort, the last thing you want is for your influencer to come off as inauthentic when talking about your brand.

Don’t tie yourself down

Before establishing a year-long relationship with an influencer, start small, with a blog or Instagram post. Once you’ve had a chance to see how their content resonates with your audience and have worked with them for a bit, then you can decide to continue the relationship or let an influencer go.

There you have it – you’re ready to launch your very own influencer program. Jonesing for more? Comment below, send us a tweet @heyINKco, or slide into our DMs – we’re happy to help.