Pura Vida Bracelets is an accessories company with over one million Instagram followers. So we tracked down their CEO, Griffin Thall, to find out exactly how they got there.

Here’s the epic influencer marketing strategy that made them famous—along with a four-step playbook for how to launch the same program for your small business.

The cool part? You don’t need a giant budget or team to start. “We started at zero, and I think others can do the same,” says Griffin.

Influencers—what the heck are they?

Influencers are simply people who have grown a following on social media. As a result, they make a serious impact on their fans’ purchasing behavior. Maybe it’s because they have an enviable lifestyle, or maybe they take decadent photos of desserts. Whatever the hook, their fans respect what they say. And therefore, they buy the things they buy.

That’s also why they’re perfect folks for companies to leverage, no matter your follower count or filtering skills.

Pura Vida Bracelets collage

Step 1: Decide if an influencer strategy is right for you.

Unsure about the whole influencer thing? Two things to keep in mind:

  • It’s best for visual products and services. Instagram is a better fit for companies that are able to visually portray a compelling lifestyle that their product contributes to, like food, retail, or health and wellness.

Step 2: Get a snapshot of the influencers in your space.

The next step is to understand what kinds of influencers live in the Insta world. Here are three kinds of influencers you’ll encounter:

  • Micro-influencers. These people have between around 5,000 to 25,000 followers. Micro-influencers will be more inclined to accept your product in exchange for photos and shout-outs to your company. This group often has a hyper-engaged group of fans.
  • Mid-range influencers. After you see success with micro-influencers, target influencers with even more reach. Namely, people with 25,000-100,000 followers. Typically, this band will charge you for a partnership.
  • Insta celebs. These are people who have over 100,000 followers, and will definitely charge you for any sort of brand partnership.

Once you understand the influencer scene, sift through the site and write down the people you like who are connected to your industry. Pro tip: You can usually find their email address in their bio.

Pura Vida Bracelets influencers

Step 3: Reach out to influencers that fit your “vibe.”

Now, find someone who embodies what you want your brand to represent. Here’s how you can start the outreach:

  • Make a list of 500 influencers. Include their first name, last name, email address, follower account, and then drop it in a spreadsheet.
  • Calculate the engagement percentage for the influencers you’re excited about. An engagement percentage is the number of likes and comments a post receives divided by the number of followers, and multiplied by 100. Let’s say one of your influencer’s posts has 5,000 likes and 75 comments. If they have 50,000 followers, their engagement rate would be 10.15 percent (5,075/11,000 x 100). Research says a percentage between 1.64 and 3.48 is fairly good, while 3.48 and above is considered pretty high
  • Come up with a compelling first email. Make it feel really personal, says Griffin, like it’s obvious that you follow them and already know what their brand is about. Look for people who would get some value out of working with you. For instance, starting with someone who has a million followers isn’t the way to go since they most likely wouldn’t get a lot out of your partnership.

To craft that perfect email, Griffin has three pieces of advice:

  1. Offer them value. Give your influencer something for free (read more in step four).
  2. Talk to them like you’re a friend, not just a random follower.
  3. And be nice.

Step 4: Send them free products or services that you think they’d like.

Your goal: To get your influencer to work with you. But to get that nod, your influencer needs to feel like they’re a match for your brand. Or in other words, they need to feel like they’re getting something out of the relationship. For many influencers, a free product or service is enough of an incentive, and for others, you need to pay them in addition to the swag.

Unsure about what you could offer? Just think about what product or service would be attractive. If you own a nail salon, you could send a nail polish color that matches some of the outfits they’re wearing in their photos. Or if you own an interior design company, you could send them a candle or pillow that would look good in their home. The more Instagrammable the swag, the better.

According to Griffin, “It’s about pairing your brand with influencers who can tell a better story than you can.”

Even if you’re not in an industry where influencer marketing is typically done, you may want to give it a try. Why? Because it can really differentiate your small business from others in your space. While it takes some work to get going, done right, it can be a powerful way to catapult your reach.

“It’s a lot of behind the scenes work,” says Griffin. “Emails, calendar booking, time management. But at the end of the day, we trust what they create. That’s why we do it.”

Kira Deutch Kira Deutch is a former Gusto editor. She has a background in publishing and content marketing for startups.
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