3 Strategies for Making Money on Instagram

Instagram is one of the latest hubs for fashion and entertainment. Its content usually falls somewhere between a tabloid and a beauty parlor ad. The people who go there are looking for things to make them feel good and to share what makes them feel good with their friends. 

71% of Instagram’s users are under the age of 35, meaning that Instagram’s billion or so clients are an incredible market for youth advertising and branding.

It should come as no surprise that now people are creating systems of cash flow on Instagram, using that market to sell their branded content or help others do so. The three main ways to start raking it in on Instagram are to influence, market, or sell.

This is a beginner’s guide to getting started, no matter which you choose.

Influence

The term “Instagram influencer” has entered popular usage since people started discovering the economic opportunities provided by Instagram.

It refers to people, usually who have a big follower base and a record of successful engagement on the platform, who have influence over their followers.

By becoming an Instagram influencer, you make yourself a tempting investment for someone who wants to promote their brand without doing the legwork of finding a follower base of their own. All you have to do is post about a product or service and that counts as a promotion to your thousands of followers. You don’t have to do any commercial activities at all to fulfill this position.

With any luck, you’ll be able to do this with brands that you use anyway. Don’t get discouraged if that doesn’t happen right away though. Remember that the brands that select you will do so based on your profile and until you find success as an influencer, you may not score the biggest deals.

Also remember that if you promote things too heavily, you may lose influence over your followers, who are receptive to how forced your marketing campaigns might seem. Brands are looking for authenticity, not shilling.

The trick to becoming a successful Instagram influencer is finding that balance between the authenticity of someone whose advice matters and the revenue of someone who is capitalizing on their interactions on the platform. You need to check every brand you sponsor against your own audience and identity.

If you know that this is what you want to do, how do you get started?

Personal Branding

Remember that before you start selling other people’s brands, you have to have a brand of your own. The way to garner devoted and broad followership on Instagram is to have a niche and form a genuine connection to it.

Since the brands looking for your services as an influencer will be comparing your personal brand to the one that their product or service intends to use as marketing, the more specific you are in your brand, the more likely that you will be another brand’s perfect fit.

Your Instagram Audience

Clearly, you need a devoted audience if you’re going to become a successful Instagram influencer. Remember that 81% of influencers have between 15,000 and 100,000 followers. If you’re reading this article, you may not have that yet.

How do you grow your own fanbase? Other than choosing that specific niche and getting your followers invested in content that’s tailored to their interests, posting regularly is a tried and true strategy to getting and maintaining a large following.

Most of the successful influencers post at least once a day.

Brand Partnerships

When you have that followership that makes you look like a good investment for a brand, you’re then probably wondering how you find a brand to begin with. How do you make them notice you?

The easiest way is to just choose a brand you want to sponsor and ask them. A direct pitch that includes information about you, your specific audience, and your relationship with Instagram could be the way to get noticed by the brands you respect.

Read this guide on how to seek out and speak to influencers so you can present yourself to them the right way and eventually forge a professional and profitable relationship with your chosen brand.

Another way is to sign up for platforms specifically devoted to helping Instagram influencers like you find a brand to sponsor. These websites include AspireIQUpfluence, and others. They exist to help you find the brands that are likely to want your sponsorship.

Legal Reminder

It may seem like a good idea to use your Instagram profile to post ads and market your sponsor’s material to your audience. Just remember that in America and the UK, it is illegal to advertise something without making it clear that it is an advertisement.

To make sure you stay in the good graces of the American Federal Trade Commission, remember to use the right hashtags to alert your readers that a post is an advertisement from a paid partnership with a sponsor.

Market

As an Instagram influencer, you have a mostly hands-off approach to your sponsor’s business since you aren’t responsible for their products or sales at all. You’re basically an ad machine for them. As a marketer, you would make your Instagram money with a more direct strategy for getting your followers to buy the service or product that you’re selling.

“Affiliate marketing” is a pretty scummy term nowadays. Since it’s run rampant online, affiliate marketing is now associated with all kinds of scam activities and fake businesses.

However, it’s still a real business that, when done professionally, can make you honest money on Instagram. All you’re really doing is providing your followers with a link to products that you recommend for a percentage commission of the sales from your sponsor. 

Sounds easy, right? Doing so without also losing the faith of your followers is the key to making the marketing strategy profitable.

Respecting your Followers

In the case of influencing, you only needed to find people generally interested in the topic or services you were advertising. In the case of affiliate marketing, your relationship with your core followership must be more focused on the specific products you want them to buy. After all, this strategy requires that you sell something.

Find an audience that might have an interest in the products that you’re hoping to advertise. If you’re sponsoring a film company’s products, find a niche of film lovers.

Just don’t go overboard with pushing the products. Provide links and sell the product in your posts, but let people find their way to your brand partner’s site organically and honestly. You need to keep your followers’ faith if you want to keep your cash flow secure.

Forming Partnerships

Remember when you asked a brand directly to let you sponsor them? Now, as an affiliate marketer, your potential relationship with them will be less direct.

By joining an “affiliate network” like Amazon Associates, you will be granted access to tons of brands that are looking for affiliate marketers. They exist to connect you with your sponsors so that you can find the right products to sell to your audience.

Making the targets of your marketing plan more specific will increase the chance that you’ll provide your followers with products that they actually want to buy.

Legal Reminder

Your partnership with those followers is also more important than ever since the trade commission rules will still apply to you when you become an affiliate marketer. Hashtags or reminders that help your audience realize that they’re looking at an ad are not only required by law but appreciated by many of your potential consumers. 

Sell

Until now, the strategies of influencing and marketing products on Instagram have allowed you to make money on the platform without the necessity of understanding e-commerce or making products yourself. The last strategy, selling your own services and products, is where you get your hands dirty.

Whether you have an existing product that you want to sell on Instagram’s platform, or you want to create one specifically for your profile, selling your own stuff is the third option available to you to make money on Instagram.

What are you Selling?

First, you have to figure out what you’ll be selling. If you’re a marketing expert, you may sell courses. You may be a photographer who wants to add a component of income to your work by creating products based on your portfolio.

Models like Alexa Chung create their own label to sell on Instagram. Their profile on the site essentially becomes its own brand and the products emerge out of it.

Whatever you decide to sell, make sure you ask yourself about your individual business plan. If you need a supplier or your own influencers, you need to know how to get them.

Profile Design

Even if you have a terrific product, it won’t do you any good if you don’t know how to accessorize your profile for a shopping-centric business plan.

Instagram includes many built-in features to help you with this, including product tags, shoppable stories, and its own checkout system.

If you decide that selling your own products and services is the way to go for you, you’ll need to make an Instagram business account to start. This will ask you to create a product catalog so that you can make your business plan based on Instagram’s unique digital infrastructure. After all, they’re your very own storefront.

To learn how to sell with Instagram shopping, check out this helpful guide.

Building your Profile in E-Commerce

Now that you’re managing your online profile with your sales in mind, you need ways of providing information and awareness to your potential consumers.

You should consider building a website for your business as a way to do this. It could include a few ads, and should probably start with a helpful landing page that guides people through the ins and outs of your business. 

Since you’re now handling products, this also means that you’ll have to fulfill orders and handle the logistics of sales and marketing.

You may find that you can’t handle the inventory as a solo business owner and might consider outsourcing to a company that can handle those logistics for you.

Shipping and delivery are time-consuming parts of any products-focused enterprise, so consider using this guide to e-commerce fulfillment as a way help you make the most out of your own business plan.

Tips to Get You Started

No matter which of these three strategies you decide to employ, here are a few tips to help you recognize your value as a money-maker on Instagram and better sell yourself to your potential sponsors or consumers.

How much are you worth?

As an Instagram influencer, you’re going to have to know what you’re worth to conduct your business successfully. This will tell you how much you can charge for sponsoring their products based on your own followership and their rate of engagement with your material.

Since all of these numbers can be difficult to grasp, here’s a guide on getting a grasp on the influencer rates and how they relate to your worth on the platform.

Know your competition

You can use other websites to figure out your competitors’ performance strategies and activity levels. Social media can be a valuable tool for monitoring the strategic conversation going on in your niche market.

Hootsuite also contains valuable tools for keeping tabs on Instagram search streams related to your field.

Know your customers

In addition to keeping tabs on your competition, you need to know what your customers expect of you and how to respond to them in a timely and efficient manner.

A Twitter study concluded that 71% of customers expect a response to their customer service questions in less than an hour. This means that your customer support structure needs to value efficient and immediate responses.

This also means that you need to respect your brand so that they respect it too. Don’t try to buy fake followership to pad your numbers (it won’t get you the sales you need and looks pretty unprofessional). Don’t miss your deadlines with your sponsors or customers.

You need to foster professional relationships within your business so that your brand partners and customers respect you and want your business.

Promotion

In addition to the many Instagram-specific tools available to make your business run more smoothly, you also want to consider promoting yourself on other channels to secure an even larger business profile.

You should use a website or a YouTube channel to create a system of content marketing that values multiple kinds of consumers and reaches several different audiences. By widening your field of influence without changing your niche demographic, you can reach the customers and sponsors who might be interested in your services in whole new ways.

Hootsuite provides a dashboard to help you manage all of these tips and strategies. It schedules your posts for you, measures your overall performance, and could be your hub for all the websites, social media profiles, and outreach tools that you use to promote your services to the people who want it.

It’s free to try and could be your ticket to making money on Instagram today.