How to Make Money on Instagram

How to make money on Instagram?

Australia’s deadly wildfires (late 2019) brought to the public one interesting story. Kaylen Ward—an Instagram model—managed to raise $700,000 for its victims and her 30,000 followers.

How?

She asked her followers to donate $10 or more to charities she selected. And if they followed through and sent her the receipt as proof, she’d send nude photographs of herself.

Regardless of whether you agree with her approach or not, one thing’s for sure: Instagram is a powerful, far-reaching social media platform.

Philanthropists aren’t the only ones using Instagram to raise money. Others have used the app to make a living, taking advantage of their online popularity to become full-time Instagram influencers.

And the beautiful thing about it is that everyone has a shot.

Instagram is a level playing field. Most IG celebrities you know—with a few exceptions—have started from the ground up. And more influencers are getting discovered with each passing day.

So even if you don’t have a huge following now, it does not mean you won’t find success eventually.

However:

It does take a lot of work to get to profitability. And it’s certainly not for everyone.

Do you think you have what it takes to make money on Instagram?

In this lengthy post, we’ll go over some of the strategies that influencers have used to score big on the platform. You’ll also find tips on how you can maximize your account and set yourself up for the win.

Can You Make Money on Instagram?

Yes. You certainly can.

And you don’t need to have a ton of followers to do so, although that is undoubtedly a factor.

Companies realize that most of their customers, especially the younger generation, spend most of their time on social media. And as consumer behaviour continually changes, they need to adapt and keep up with the times.

Traditional media advertising isn’t as strong as it used to be.

For one thing, social media advertising is dominating print ads. And so, brands now rely on social media influencers to reach their audience. And there are no signs of this trend changing anytime soon.

This is made even more evident by how much the biggest influencers are paid per post. Kylie Jenner reportedly makes $1 million per Instagram post. Other celebrities make anywhere between $700,000 and $800,000.

But it’s not just celebrities. Even self-made models and fashionistas are making money through endorsement deals and sponsorships on Instagram.

The great thing about Instagram is that it welcomes influencers from all sorts of categories. Some stick to one niche and become good at it.

Aside from celebs and models, Instagram is home to food bloggers, photographers, lifestyle bloggers, designers (fashion, interior, etc.), beauty ambassadors, fitness instructors, and more.

It’s important to note that not every influencer makes money through endorsements. As you’ll see later, there are different ways you can capitalize on Instagram’s popularity.

Take the case of TV food presenter Jamie Oliver who, as of this writing, has over 7.6 million followers.

make money instagram - can you make money - jamie oliver

Aside from his frequent updates, Jamie uses Instagram to promote his projects and cookbooks.

So that’s it, right?

Start an Instagram account, publish amazing posts, and become a millionaire? Is that all it takes?

As you may have guessed, it’s not that simple. There are several factors that you must keep in mind before starting your journey.

Before you begin, ask yourself the following questions.

How Many Followers Do You Have?

As was said earlier, you don’t need to have that many followers to be successful on Instagram.

However, you’d still need a decent amount. How else are you going to reach people? What business would sponsor an account that has limited reach?

Based on their source, The Washington Post says that Instagram influencers who have more than 7 million followers have an average rate of $150,000 per post.

make money instagram - can you make money - washington post

Does that mean you’ll have to get that many followers to earn a decent profit for your efforts?

Of course not!

There’s an even more important factor you must consider. Ask yourself this:

How Engaged Are Your Followers?

That’s right. It’s not enough that you have a lot of followers. They need to be engaged, as well.

Some brands will prioritize user engagement over follower count. And they do this for a reason. They want to work with influencers with a strong relationship with their followers.

Why?

Because influencers are called precisely that for a reason — they’re able to persuade users into buying a product. Their influence is strong enough to affect their followers’ spending habits.

You may have followers in the millions. But if none of them are looking at your content, leaving comments, or liking your posts, then brands will have a hard time justifying working with you.

This means even if you have the budget to add fake followers to your account, it won’t amount to anything. You want real people to react to your posts.

This is even truer for companies that are using Instagram to reach out to their customers. Adding content just for the sake of doing so will not do you good. Your posts need to be strong enough to resonate with your audience. Give them content that resonates with them.

make money instagram - can you make money - nike

Nike’s Instagram page isn’t just about promoting their products; they’re also promoting a lifestyle. And this resonates very well with fans of the brand. Currently, they have 99.9 million followers.

If you want your business to have the same kind of engagement, you’ll have to think about the types of posts you should be posting.

What Is Your Niche?

Your niche matters too.

Sure, you could have thousands of followers. But if your current demographics are all over the map, then companies would have to assess if you’re a good fit for them. They are, after all, trying to reach a specific audience. They’d instead work with someone who can introduce their brand to the right users.

This concept also works for influencers who are making money from merchandise opportunities.

Take Grump Cat for example. The account’s followers are well-aware of the memes surrounding the feline. Selling Grumpy Cat shirts and pet products won’t work if its audience simply doesn’t get it.

make money instagram - can you make money - grumpy cat

Luckily, Grumpy Cat’s 2.7 million followers are more than happy to spend on its products.

Some pets—yes, even foxes—can get sponsorship deals if companies see that these influencers are being followed by users that could benefit from what they have to sell.

make money instagram - can you make money - juniperfoxx

The JuniperFoxx account has worked with companies to promote products like pet tinctures.

How Can You Improve Your Follower Count, Engagement, and Niche?

Let’s start with the easiest (being you have direct control over it) — niche.

If you are a brand that’s trying to get some online traction, the answer comes easily. You have to stick to your strengths.

For example, if you’re a travel backpack manufacturer, all your posts should promote travelling with your product in either the foreground or the background.

But if you have a personal account and you’re trying to decide what to focus on, then you must consider all your options. According to Influence.co, the top-paying niche on Instagram is travel followed by entertainment, lifestyle, and fitness.

make money instagram - can you make money - influence.co

However, the same report says that user engagement is better in the photography, art, and design categories.

make money instagram - can you make money - influence.co engagement

Do keep in mind, however, that you could gain a more robust following in less followed (or particular) categories.

There may not be a massive audience for custom peg dolls, but those who do will all converge on your Instagram page because there aren’t as many influencers that are covering this niche.

make money instagram - can you make money - goose grease

Goose Grease Shop is just one example. Their posts have garnered them 17,200 followers.

With that settled, let’s move on to followers and user engagement.

How can you improve both?

The great news is that the tips below will fix both problems. Here are some of the things you can do to improve both follower count and user engagement.

Follow a Schedule — Consistency is the key. When people follow you, they expect to hear from you regularly. Your followers are invested in your content. Therefore, you should know when to deliver.

Study Photography and Photo Editing — While it’s certainly not a requirement, having some basic understanding of photography can help you produce quality images that would engage your audience. You only want to deliver the best photos. So, blurry phone photos will not do you any favours. For starters, you’d want to understand image composition. There are also classes for social media photography if you’re up to it. YouTube is also a good resource if you’re looking for free tips.

Stick to a Category — Again, it’s all about consistency. If you’ve been posting travel photos, don’t shift to tech news out of the blue. That’s not what users signed up for in the first place. It also affects your branding. If you’re a brand with multiple product lines, find a way to make your posts uniform.

Bring Out the Hashtags — Content discovery on Instagram relies on hashtags. So make sure you use the right ones to make sure people see what you post. All Hashtag has a hashtag generator that makes it easier to produce tags based on what’s currently trending. Just be careful about possibly overdoing it. You don’t want to appear spammy.

Use One Filter — Instagram is a visual medium. And so, filters play a role in making every image consistent with one another.

Explore Instagram Stories — Yes, IG Stories only last 24 hours. But they serve another purpose. They let your users know that you have posted new content. This incentivizes them to check out your page every day if you post regularly.

Get Feedback — Polls are a great way of engaging with your audience. Not only does it make it easier to come up with content ideas, but it also keeps your followers involved. It makes them feel like you’re listening to what they have to say.

Tag Other Influencers — If there’s a good reason to tag other influencers, you should do just that. Doing so will expose you to their audience and encourage their followers to engage with your post. It could even lead to collaboration if you play your cards right.

Have a Contest — Those who have a marketing budget can try launching an Instagram contest. There are no set mechanics; these are usually left up to the page owner. However, one of the more common types is hashtag contests, where users post photos with hashtags that you announce. Whoever manages to meet all the requirements and submits the best entry wins. Just be sure that you meet Instagram’s guidelines for promotions.

Be Yourself — Nobody likes hearing from a robot. Go and express yourself. Show some personality. Be funny if you feel like it. Be sad when you’re stuck in a depressing situation. Let your audience be there for you. Be real with your followers. Stay honest and true to your feelings.

These aren’t the only things that you could do. But these would be a great start.

Keep at it, and it wouldn’t be long before you start seeing positive changes to your Instagram account.

Make Money as an Influencer (Sponsored Posts)

Now we discuss the ways you can earn money on Instagram, the first of which is through sponsored posts.

But before we proceed, we would need to define what sponsored posts are to avoid any confusion. The term can refer to either one of two things:

In the first scenario, a brand creates a post then pays Instagram to promote it to a specific audience. Essentially, you’re buying ad space on Instagram. If you’ve ever seen a post on your Instagram feed from a brand that you don’t follow, you see this type of sponsored post in action.

In the second, a brand pays an influencer directly to promote them in one of their posts. This is when you see posts from people you do follow that features a product or service. Some influencers would include a hashtag to clarify if the post is sponsored or not (like #sponsored or #ad).

The remainder of this section will focus on the latter because that’s more in line with what people think of when talking about sponsored posts.

However, let’s take some time and discuss the first type.

Buying Ads on Instagram

If you’re a business that needs to increase your revenue through social media advertising, Instagram isn’t a bad option. Not only does it get eyes on your product, but it also saves you from the difficulties associated with building a following on the social media site.

With the right kind of ad, you can make a lot of money on IG.

make money instagram - as influencer - ig business

There are six types of sponsored posts that you can buy. These are:

Stories Ads — This makes use of IG Stories to push your product to consumers.

Photo Ads — This is your typical IG photo post. A picture can be square or landscape format.

Video Ads — Use video content to stand out on all feeds.

Carousel Ads — Similar to photo ads only this time, users can swipe to reveal even more photos.

Collection Ads — You can use collection ads to help users discover, browse, and purchase your products. You can add call-to-action buttons within the post to bring users to your product landing page.

Ads in Explore — These posts appear under Explore, which is where IG users go when they want to discover new content based on their interests. Unlike their regular feed, posts in Explore does not come from people they follow. This is a great feature for those brands that fall under a certain niche.

make money instagram - as influencer - collection ads

Again, this is meant as a short introduction to Instagram Ads, the first type of sponsored post. If you want to learn more, check out Instagram Business.

Negotiating Directly with Brands

The second type of sponsored post will have influencers work with brands directly to publish promotional content.

You have two options as to how to proceed. You could either build your IG profile, get your numbers up, and wait for businesses to get in touch. Or you could go ahead and get in touch with them once you’re confident that your Instagram page is worth the sponsorship.

If you’re waiting for brands to approach you, the best thing you could do is to maximize your IG bio. Instead of a generic profile, give brands a reason to invest in you.

Take these Instagram influencers, for example.

Alvaro Rojas not only makes his profiles stand out by mentioning he’s the youngest Spaniard to visit every country in the world, but he’s also mentioned what he’s doing now. Even more important, he provided his email and Facebook page for anyone who’d like to contact him.

make money instagram - as influencer - alvaro rojas

Francesca Murray takes the bio game one step further by including notable publications that have mentioned her. She also makes it very clear what her niche is (sharing beauty tips for women on the go). This information is very useful for potential advertisers.

make money instagram - as influencer - francesca murray

Murad Osmann provides his accolades as an influencer. He mentions that he’s been crowned by Forbes as one of the top 3 travel influencers.

make money instagram - as influencer - murad osmann

But if you’re gunning for a more direct approach, contacting brands is the way to go. It might seem crazy, but influencers are doing this. In her blog post, Liz of Blue and Hazel recounts how she managed to work with brands with only 1,000 followers to her name.

make money instagram - as influencer - blue and hazel

So, yes, it is possible. And brands won’t laugh at your face for trying. They are always on the lookout for new influencers who can promote their products. Even if they don’t get back to you, at the very least, you’ll be putting yourself on their radar.

What’s important is that you know your brand and audience before reaching out. Your brand is your niche. So, look at all your posts and see what your audience reacts to the most. That way, when companies ask you what your IG page is all about, you can provide a definitive answer.

But it also works both ways.

If you feel like the brand is not suitable for your audience, you can let the brand know that your partnership wouldn’t be a good fit. It might seem silly to turn down an offer. However, having the wrong brands on your page might turn off other potential partners in the future.

If there’s a specific brand you’d like to work with, you can check out other influencers they’ve worked with before. This would give you a better sense of what kind of posts that brand is after.

You get to see the IG posts themselves, the hashtags used, what filters work, and other details that you could use to sway companies into working with you.

When you do finally send your emails, make sure that you don’t make it about you. Let brands know how you could make their IG campaign a success.

You should first introduce who you are. Then talk about your audience and what they like. Next, share your thoughts about the company’s product. Finally, let them know how you can help promote their brand.

It helps if you have other platforms you could use to promote like a blog.

Also, use a separate email for contacting businesses. Don’t use your personal account, especially if your email address doesn’t look professional. It goes without saying that the best email would contain your IG handle.

Now, are these the only roads you can take?

There are two more paths to get brands to notice you.

You can join influencer marketing platforms. These are third-party companies that connect influencers with brands. Opting for one of these companies is beneficial for both parties.

Influencers are vetted, so the brand feels comfortable with the influencer. As for the influencers, you’re sure that the companies on the site are really interested in collaborating.

There are many influencer marketing platforms ripe for the picking. Upfluence and AspireIQ are as good of a place to start as any.

make money instagram - as influencer - aspireiq

These platforms are pay-to-use. But in most cases, the brands are the ones who shoulder the cost. Influencers can register for free.

But if any of the options above are not resonating with you, there’s still one method you should try. And that’s hiring an agency.

However:

This is not for everyone. Most agencies will only work with prominent influencers. Viral Nation, for example, works with social media giants like Lilly Singh (||Superwoman||) and Lewis Hilsenteger (Unbox Therapy).

make money instagram - as influencer - lilly singh

But if you think you have what it takes to be part of an agency, go for it.

Make Money as a Business Owner

It’s not just influencers who could make money on Instagram. Businesses too need a place where they can interact with their fans.

As a business, you have to play two roles — the influencer and the product.

And it’s not just about promoting a product anymore. It becomes a quest to give your customers a brand that they can trust.

How do you make this happen?

Start by building a culture that people can trust. When users follow companies on Instagram, they want to know more about the business. They want to see what goes on behind closed doors. They’d like to meet the people that handle all their orders.

So, why not give it to them?

Giving people a behind-the-scenes look at your facilities makes them feel involved. Kylie Jenner, who launched Kylie Cosmetics, posts behind-the-scenes footage of photoshoots for the brand.

make money instagram - as business owner - kylie jenner

As a bonus, the footage features a product that (at the time of posting) was just about to be launched. It gives her followers a sneak peek into what they can expect in the future. And by looking at the number of views (760,000+), it appears that her audience can’t get enough of it.

But you don’t have to stick with behind-the-scenes videos. You can also post company milestones just like what Mercedes-Benz did when it unleashed their new Smart EQ models.

make money instagram - as business owner - mercedes

Or sometimes it’s all about promoting a certain lifestyle. This is what Calvin Klein does with their Instagram posts. They recently did a feature on the life of Alyson Stoner where she walks around with her CK outfit while touring her favourite LA spots.

make money instagram - as business owner - calvin klein

And you don’t have to stop there. As more and more people are turning to Instagram, the kinds of posts that brands publish are getting way more creative. You simply need to find new ways to stand out from the crowd.

For example, Package Free Shop uses Instagram to leverage user comments and testimonials. The company found that its users ask the same questions. So, they used IG Stories to answer some of the more frequently asked questions such as their return policy.

make money instagram - as business owner - package free shop

The Perfect Bar added a story that showcased stellar customer reviews of their products.

make money instagram - as business owner - the perfect bar

Then there’s newsjacking which is the practice of injecting your brand into a news story to get attention. This tactic can be hit-or-miss, but when done right, it gets people talking.

You can try to insert your brand into different news stories with sports being the most common. However, there are instances when brands jumped into conversations about politics, developing stories, and others.

To be discovered, you’d have to use hashtags that are related to the news. And you’d have to make a post as people are talking about it.

While newsjacking is commonly seen on Twitter, there are examples from Instagram too.

Smarter brands can anticipate the news and prepare a post right before it happens. This is usually the case on live TV events like football matches and reality competition season enders.

But newsjacking doesn’t have to be about news. You can join any trending topic. Memes, for example, make great gateways and are usually non-controversial.

Dunkin’ joined the whole LinkedIn-Facebook-Instagram-Tinder meme by posting their entry using IG.

make money instagram - as business owner - dunkin donuts

Not only does the post let Dunkin’ show some personality, they’re able to promote their products by capitalizing on a trending meme.

Snickers tried the same thing last Halloween. Because the movie IT was playing in theatres, they created this image to get some love from their followers.

make money instagram - as business owner - snickers

Brands can also insert themselves through quirky holidays. Sephora made their presence felt during the National Lipstick Day. While people are talking about what lipsticks mean to them, the brand made Instagram posts celebrating the holiday and used the hashtag #NationalLipstickDay to get traction.

make money instagram - as affiliate marketer - zara.png

Find a newsjacking opportunity that could fit your brand. But do exercise caution. You don’t want to seem like a brand that’s taking advantage of every breaking news story.

And if possible, stay away from issues where you don’t belong. Even if you have clear intentions, other users might find your post tacky if you jack tragic stories.

Keep it light and have fun with it.

Make Money as an Affiliate Marketer

Affiliate marketing has been booming as of late. But most of them are using blogs to promote their products.

Did you know you can also use Instagram to promote affiliate products?

Yup. That’s right. Rather than focus on building a website from the ground up, you can just create an Instagram account and let the magic happen there.

So, how do you get started?

Well, first, you’ll need to join an affiliate platform. There are many affiliate marketing programs out there, but for first-time affiliates, you’d want to stick to the more popular ones.

Amazon has an affiliate program called Amazon Associates. Since the company is one of the largest retailers in the world, you’d have little trouble finding products to sell.

make money instagram - as affiliate marketer - amazon

With Amazon, you get a 10% commission for every product you sell. Even better, you don’t have to pay anything to join the program. It’s one of the most accessible affiliate programs to join. And you’re partnering with a company with a proven track record.

But if Amazon isn’t doing it for you, there are other affiliate programs in the market like ClickBank. This company offers lifestyle products that span different categories. ClickBank offers commissions as high as 75%.

make money instagram - as affiliate marketer - clickbank

Also, they have recurring commissions — meaning that as long as the customer continues to subscribe to a product, you’ll still earn a commission.

Rakuten also has an affiliate program that you might want to check out.

You can utilize different tactics to get the attention of your followers. Cassie Andrews Style uses coupon codes to get her followers to take action.

make money instagram - as affiliate marketer - cassie andrew style

Affiliates will find better success if they stick with a niche. For example, Tiffany White focuses on nail care. All her posts are related to her niche.

make money instagram - as affiliate marketer - tiffany white posts

On her bio, you’ll see a link to Bliss Kiss, a nail care company with an affiliate program.

make money instagram - as affiliate marketer - tiffany white affiliate link

 

Should her followers find the products appealing, they could use Tiffany’s link to buy them online, which earns her a commission.

Pretty sweet deal, right?

Now that you have an affiliate marketer, you’ll need to be able to promote your links. And you’ll have to be smart about it. Adding links to the bio section is just the start.

One thing to keep in mind: Instagram limits the number of links you can add to your bio to one. You also can’t add links to your post captions. So, you must pick the right link to include in your profile.

Fortunately, some services allow you to add more links to your IG bio just like Linktree. It will enable you to link to multiple pages from your bio.

Here’s how it works:

Your bio will still contain one link. But when users click on it, they’ll be presented more options. Clicking on any one of them will bring the user to that page.

make money instagram - as affiliate marketer - linktree

If you are promoting more than one affiliate product, you can place them all under one link. And when you want to post a new product, you don’t have to replace that link on your bio repeatedly. You can do it all from Linktree instead.

There are similar products to Linktree like LNK.BIO.

Adding swipe-up links to your IG stories is also a great idea. That’s because you can add live links to Instagram stories. You can promote top-sellers through swipe-up links and include a link so people can get to the product page much faster.

Note: Swipe-up links are only available for verified users. So, you’ll need to clear that hurdle before you can use it.

make money instagram - as affiliate marketer - zara

Fashion brand Zara uses swipe-up links to promote their other products. You could organize your products in the same manner. This puts your biggest sellers, front-and-centre. Your followers would be able to access these pages as soon as they check out your profile.

Whatever product you decide to promote, make sure that you’ve tried it out first and that you’re happy with it. It would be a shame to sell tons of products that your followers would find useless or substandard.

Your reputation will be on the line. Please make sure that your followers are getting their money’s worth.

Make Money as an E-Commerce Store Owner

Making money as an e-commerce store owner would work almost the same way as any other business owner (which had been covered earlier).

You’d have to set up an Instagram Business account so that you can promote products through sponsored posts (ads).

But as an e-commerce store, all of your products can be bought online. So there’s no need to promote a brick-and-mortar location. Instagram has a feature called Shoppable Posts.

Through this feature, you can have users shop directly from Instagram. Pretty neat feature, right?

But there’s a catch:

You need to be approved to incorporate shopping features into your IG account. What are the requirements?

You must comply with Instagram’s merchant agreement and commerce policies.

You must have an Instagram Business account.

You need to have a connected Facebook page.

You should only sell physical goods.

You should have your business account connected to a Facebook catalogue.

If you meet all the requirements, you can submit your account to Instagram for review. Details about the requirements can be found here.

make money instagram - as ecommerce - nordstrom

Nordstrom makes the most of it by tagging all the products on their posts. Of course, they don’t overdo it. If there’s no reason to tag a photo, they don’t.

You should also try to use it sparingly. Try adding it to every other post. Or save one post for the week that’s dedicated to promoting new product releases.

Instagram has built-in analytics to help you keep track of your sales. It will help you understand what products work and what don’t. It can also help you figure out what tags you should be using.

To make your shoppable posts effective, you’ll need to do some testing. You have to play with your copy, use different images, and other factors. If your first attempt doesn’t work, you need to continue testing. Don’t lose hope.

You’ll eventually land on a shoppable post that will make you money.

Use the analytics data as your guide.

Shoppable posts make it possible to buy products without leaving Instagram. Because you’re reducing the steps needed to make a purchase, you’re improving your chances of closing a sale. Do not take it for granted.

Conclusion

There you have it. These are some of the ways you could make money on Instagram.

There are many ways you can go about doing this. From influencer to a business owner, Instagram gives you all the tools you’ll need to make a profit from using the site.

But before you begin, remember that it will take some time before you see any progress. You’d have to improve user engagement before pitching to companies. You’ll have to increase your follower count if you want to be taken seriously as a brand.

As mentioned earlier, it’s not going to be easy.

But keep at it. Every IG influencer had to start from somewhere. Some didn’t even make a profit until they had followers in the thousands. If they can do it, so can you.

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Craig Campbell

I am a Glasgow based SEO expert who has been doing SEO for 18 years.

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