Influencer making video.
Social media influencers have become a powerful way for small businesses to reach customers. — izusek/Getty

Influencer marketing may once have been the punchline of a joke about lazy millennials on Instagram, but it’s become one of the most powerful ways for small businesses to reach customers. Influencer campaigns have been shown to generate eleven times higher ROI than normal outbound marketing campaigns.

Small businesses can get in on influencer marketing without shelling out big bucks. Some micro-influencers can stir up quite a bit of interest among their followers at as low as $50 per post. Here are some great ways to find influencers in your particular industry.

Use a networking platform

PeopleMap is just one way to find an influencer in your specific vertical. The site connects companies to budding influencers and micro-influencers for a low subscription fee. It’s used by brands like Warby Parker, Etsy, and Outdoor Voices, but the pricing tiers make it very affordable for businesses of all sizes.

[Read more: How to Find an Influencer to Help Boost Your Word-of-Mouth Marketing]

One benefit of using a networking platform is that each influencer approved by the platform has a verified, authentic following. One report estimates that there are about 150 million fake Instagram accounts plaguing the platform. If you’re going to spend your hard-earned marketing budget on influencer marketing, make sure your partner’s content is getting views from real followers.

Look in your comments

Head to your social media platforms to see if there are any standout followers who comment consistently and positively. Has anyone shared their genuine excitement over a recent product launch? Do they answer questions other followers have about your product or service? This person might be one of your best brand advocates, and a natural fit for your influencer campaign. Brand advocates can also be found in your “tagged in” posts and direct messages.

Check out your competitors

Visit your competitors’ profiles to see if they’ve been working with any influencers. If you’re new to influencer marketing, researching competitor profiles can help in a few ways: They may either spark ideas on the types of influencers your business can pair with, or serve as an example of what not to do. Learn from their campaigns and identify the right profile of influencer to replicate on your own channels. Put in a little extra time reading comments on your competitor’s page, and you may even zero in on the perfect influencer for your marketing campaign.

[Read more: How to Leverage Influencer Marketing]

Use your loyalty program

Does your small business run a loyalty program? Dive into your customer data to identify who your best customers are — from those who are the first to try your new products, to your returning customers and positive reviewers. These customers are probably already acting as brand advocates, spreading the word about your small business. See if you can activate them on social media by giving them access to exclusive content or incentivizing them with a freebie. These influencers may even work for free since they already love your brand.

Do some networking

A trade show, networking event or another special event in your community can be a good place to find influencers. If there’s a branded hashtag for the event, search for the hashtag on social media channels to see which accounts use it frequently. Or, if there’s a keynote speaker, learn more about the person; they could be a potential advocate for your brand. Don’t be shy about following people as you meet them — this is how you learn more about their social presence.

Run a contest

A contest can be a quick way to see who has the most influence on your behalf. Run a contest asking your followers to bring people to your store or to sign up for your email list. The person with the most referrals can win prizes or discounts. This is a fast, fun way to see who’s able to actually help you convert sales.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published November 15, 2019