How to Earn Money on Instagram as an Affiliate MarketerMay 03 2017 03 May 2017 18 min. read
Facebook marketing has its merits, but the most recent social media marketing hype for affiliates is now on Instagram.
The app has over 700 million monthly active users, and a staggering 400 million daily users, making it a massive social media portal with massive potential for marketing opportunities.
As an affiliate marketer, your key objectives are to drive traffic to your site by effectively using as many communication channels as possible. Considering the millions of potential customers that you can tap into on Instagram, there are a sea of sales opportunities waiting to happen once you join.
Instagram’s app engagement ranks above Tumblr, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest as well as LinkedIn and in addition to being able to gain recognition among relevant niches and market segments, there are plenty of ways to earn money through Instagram which will be covered in the following guide.
Image Credit: TechCrunch
The Ways to Make Money on Instagram
Many are mystified by the concept of Instagram kings and queens who earn thousands a year, sometimes even a month, just by posting pictures of their everyday life (or at least, what they project as what their regular days look like).
While this is believable for celebrities with millions of followers, it can be surprising that having as little as 10,000 followers can earn you up to £15,600 a year, and having 100,000 or more could land you as much as £156,000 annually!
But what is the earning model behind these impressive numbers? Exactly what kind of revenue streams can an Instagram account have and, most importantly, which of these is most relevant for affiliate marketing businesses.
Identifying Revenue Sources for Your Instagram Account
There are quite a few ways you can use the social media app Instagram to make money especially now that Instagram for Business has launched. This can be both directly and indirectly and the difference between these two approaches will be explained briefly below.
Direct Ways to Earn Money on Instagram
As an Instagrammer, you can also earn money by selling the photos you post, or by charging companies for tags, product placement or posts on your page so they can reach your audience (think of it like AdSense).
In other words, direct methods of generating revenue involve a quick and simple exchange of either your audience’s attention or the photos that appealed to your followers. There are, of course, more elaborate and sustainable ways to generate revenue with your account, which we will explain next.
Indirect Ways to Earn Money on Instagram
If selling off your pictures or page’s identity in exchange for a quick buck don’t interest you, then there are other indirect ways to earn money as an aspiring Instagrammer without selling out the identity of your brand and account.
In the same way that you would use a website to funnel in relevant viewers to sell products from publishers, if you are an advertiser that is, you can also use your Instagram account to driver traffic to either the publisher’s product, or to your own site.
There is a lot more to Instagram affiliate marketing, but first you are probably wondering just how ambitious are any of these money-making methods are, and how many followers you would need to get started.
How Many Instagram Followers Do I Need to Earn Money?
When it comes to how many Instagram followers you need to earn money off your account, there are a lot of factors that come into play such as engagement and how many of them are “paid followers”, which we will get into later.
Essentially the number of followers you have and how that affects your account’s ability to earn depends on how you want to make money. If you are interested in advertising for other brands and doing sponsored post then with 3,000 followers or more your starting rate is at $75 a post.
If you are using Instagram to promote your own business or site where your base of operations is, then you should be less concerned with the number of followers and more interested in acquiring loyal and engaged followers who are part of your target market.
Before diving into user engagement and how to track this using Instagram analytics, let’s break down the ways you can earn money on Instagram further:
- Earning Money with Instagram Photos
- Using Instagram to Earn Money via Affiliate Links
- Generating Revenue from Sponsored Posts
Easy Steps to Earning Money from Your Instagram Account
Quite a few methods have been outlined so far in this article, but let’s break it down into quick actionable steps for each method depending on the goals and objectives for your Instagram account.
Earning Money with Instagram Photos
If you are interested in the artistic side of Instagram's commercial potential, then you may want to focus on using the app to find popular niches and create photos for them. Those photos can then be sold on a wide variety of stock image sites (a simple Google search will yield plenty).
If you are looking to use Instagram to build a long-lasting and engaged audience rather than make a quick buck off photos, then the choice of images you post are crucial to getting your target market’s attention, which is where the use of hashtags comes in.
Using Hashtags to Generate Likes and Followers
Pretty pictures are important, but without the right tags nobody will see them, nobody will like them, and nobody will learn about your fantastic Instagram page (or the products that you are trying to promote).
And just like that, a potential sale is lost!
There are two schools of thought when it comes to Instagram photo tagging, and depending on your perspective or style, one may work better for your account than the other.
The first view is that you use as many relevant hashtags as possible, which are essentially like targeting keywords for your photo. Unlike a website, visibility on Instagram depends largely on the hashtags you decide to associate with your account’s photos.
There are quite a few applications and tools to use to come up with the most relevant ones. One example is All Hashtag where you simply enter a keyword that relates to your post and you will get up to 30 hashtags generated (which is Instagram's maximum number allowed per post).
Then there’s the less is more theory:
The opposing view on hashtags suggests that overloading your post with so many tags looks desperate and does not guarantee higher visibility. Advocates of this view claim that have a few well targeted keywords is sufficient and that this also makes your post seem more genuine.
Either way, photos are the key to drawing in an audience, starting from likes that will boost your post and hopefully draw the eye of people interested in whatever you are promoting and start following you.
Using Instagram to Earn Money via Affiliate Links
Not only can you use blog posts and SEO optimized articles to promote products, but whether you are a publisher or advertiser you can take advantage of the Instagram craze in a variety of ways.
Instagram for Affiliate Publishers
Instagram accounts for affiliate publishers are an entirely new network of potential advertisers, and through a simple search you can find some incredible pages that are more than willing to promote your products.
The key is to find accounts with followers that share interests and characteristics with your target market, one efficient way to check this is to look at analytics (there’s more on the subject coming up later in this article) as well as other brands they are affiliated with and if they match with the industry and products you are working with.
Instagram for Affiliate Advertisers
Instagram is a powerful advertising tool, and as an affiliate advertiser you can use a successful account to either drive traffic to your main site, or even as an affiliate advertising page of its own!
The social media app allows tracked links to added to your Bio section or in the description of each post. It is recommended that you shorten the link (try using goo.gl) just to maintain your own brand integrity and avoid making your account look like a shop front.
Assuming you are selling multiple products, you can adjust the hashtags and post photo depending on the product you are promoting, which makes this medium just as flexible and somewhat simpler than optimizing an article or blog post for example.
What if I don’t have enough followers or traffic?
One quick and relatively low cost way of driving traffic to your Instagram account is by purchasing something called a shout-out. This is where you pay a higher ranking influencer, an account with a lot of followers and, ideally, high levels of engagement on the account, to link and endorse your page.
You can choose to approach pages directly by sending a personal message with your proposal, or you can use programs such as Shoutcart, where you can browse accounts to find your niche and, hopefully, potential customers for the product you intend to promote!
Generating Revenue from Sponsored Posts
The number of followers you would need to start diving into Sponsored Posts as a revenue stream starts about 1,000 followers, which marketing experts like Neil Patel believe 5,000 is the number you should have before going there.
Of course, if you aren’t quite there yet you should not ignore the option, but rather start focusing on building up a coherent collection of pictures and improving your hashtag skills. If you are already there then you can start looking for partners.
An important aspect of looking for media partners to promote is that you should avoid supporting brands that are not relevant to your account’s identity. If you are an iGaming affiliate for example, using a gaming Instagram account to sell laxative teas isn’t going to get you far.
The key is to have followers that are relevant to your brand, and if you do want to sell sponsored posts make sure they fit with the image your account is projecting, since Instagram is all about image(s)!
Buying Followers, Boosting Posts and Other Instagram Hacks
Follower apps, generators and other Instagram hacks are extremely saught after. These are particularly of interest to companies and individuals who value how popular their account looks, versus how engaging it is.
Isn’t the whole point of Instagram to engage customers?
While buying an additional 5k followers may make your account seem more legit to a potential customer, it also negatively affects the overall engagement of your account thanks to the formula becoming even more skewed with more followers and less likes and comments (since they are usually fake accounts).
In the same way that sending out email marketing campaigns to fake email lists won't work, buying fake followers will not increase sales or even activity on your account as they are usually powered by bots and have no real sales potential.
Also, this will negatively impact your account's analytics!
That’s right, there’s Instagram analytics, and for media partners and experienced professionals, those are the numbers that they’re looking at rather than the follower count on your profile. We’ll explain the key statistics that determine just how good your account is at making money.
Instagram Analytics and the Importance of Follower Engagement
Follower engagement is a term that is thrown around a lot, and it is a fancy term for how many likes and comments each of your posts gets.
Simple enough, right?
Where things get complicated, especially when using hacks and apps to purchase followers and boost that big number on your Instagram page, is that these followers won’t boost any of the engagement stats of your account because they never found your page out of legitimate interest.
You can, of course, purchase Instagram likes, although this whole approach to Instagram is superficial and despite getting you quick results, these likes and followers are unlike to convert to actual customers or revenue.
And the whole point is to make sales!
The only way to earn sustainably is to focus more on attracting relevant followers by investigating hashtags and trends, followed by relevant content generation, rather than buying followers and likes for the sake of seeming more popular than you are.
One way to track your account’s engagement is by using Instagram Analytics tools such as KeyHole, where you get a comprehensive look at which posts people found most interesting. You can also examine other accounts using this tool to get inspired about new posts that work for your audience.
Things to Consider Before Using Instagram to Earn Money
Taking all this information into consideration, there some crucial steps to successfully earning money on Instagram whether you are an affiliate advertiser looking to expand your reach and content, or a publisher hunting for advertisers on a different media platform.
- Choose an identity and be consistent.
- Be strategic about hashtags: research!
- Collaborate and form partnerships within your niche.
- Study your competitors and take notes!
The key to success on Instagram is visual coherence and engaging images. Keep your identity clear and consistent and relevant followers will come!
Approach hashtags in the same way you do keyword research for your website or blog. If you haven’t worked with such mediums then think of it like this: hashtags are like search words, and when tagging you can see how many posts use each hashtag.
What does this mean?
The more posts associated with a hashtag, the more popular the hashtag. However, it is always good to search the hashtag yourself and see what kind of posts are related to it and how similar accounts to yours are approaching that trend.
Aside from spying and learning new tricks, working with related pages is important and the more partnerships you make, and the more likes and comments you put on relevant pages, the more views you will get on your own page.
The beauty of social networks and apps like Instagram is that it is a highly collaborative media outlet, and the best way to have an outstanding and high converting page is to stay dynamic and flexible depending on your audiences interests and feedback.
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