Instagram is one of those social media networks for the cool kids. It is more or less app based, and focuses on you showcasing your life, wants, and desires via photos.
It might not seem obvious at first but Instagram is an excellent way to make money online, after all it does boast over 400 million active users per month!
Since Facebook purchased Instagram, they have started to focus on how best to monetize it, which is great for them, but how can you leverage Instagram to make money?
There are several ways of course, but before you even think about earning from Instagram, you have a lot of hard work ahead of you.
You see, you can’t simply create an account, take a picture of yourself in a funny hat and expect the money to roll in!
Instead you need to actively build a following on Instagram.
How do you go about that?
Find a niche
As with any marketing endeavour, you can’t please everyone so find yourself a niche to focus on! You will be more likely to entertain your audience and profit that way.
Post Quality Photos
This almost goes without saying, but if you post crappy photos or photos of boring subjects, no one is going to be interested in your account.
Beautiful photos will attract more likes and more comments, and more followers, so be sure to curate everything you do.
Tag & Link
Like in Twitter, using appropriate tags for your photos will help ensure that your pics reach a wider and interested audience.
It’s a good idea to review other accounts in your niche area and keep an eye on what tags are trending so that you can stay relevant.
Instagram also allows you to add links to your photos, so make sure you do. You can link to anywhere, be it your blog, other social network profile, or even a direct affiliate link.
If you are planning on using Instagram to make money, then you need to be serious about your posts.
Have a content plan or at least post consistently. Once a day is good, more can be better depending on your niche and audience.
Posting regularly keeps people coming back to your account, meaning more eyeballs on your photos.
Have a blog/presence on other networks
This might seem counter intuitive at first, but remember that what you’re really selling on your Instagram account is yourself.
People are inherently nosey, so they will want to know more about you. Instagram itself is pretty poor when it comes to socializing, so maintaining an active blog and/or social media accounts is a great way to interact with your audience and also feed people to your Instagram account.
OK, so you have started building a following, how do you make some cash? Here are my top 4 ways to make money with Instagram.
Sell your photos
Sounds pretty simple right? But how do you go about it?
Well, you could simply ask your followers like Brooklyn based photographer Daniel Arnold did. He netted over $15,000 in a single day!
While this can work for some people, there are other options.
Sites like MobilePrints allow you to showcase your Instagram photos and people can buy prints of them.
Alternatively you could use a site like Twenty20 which is an up and coming stock photo site based around using peoples Instagram photos.
Both of these sites offer fairly decent rates, for example, you can earn anywhere between $2 and $32 per photo sale with Twenty20.
You can’t rely solely on these sites to promote your work, so you should be tagging each and every photo and provide a link to the sites that people can buy from.
Become a brand influencer
One of the most difficult, yet arguably one of the most profitable ways to make money from Instagram is to become an influencer (sometimes referred to as a Brand Ambassador).
In short and influencer is someone who is popular on the network and who brands might leverage to promote their products.
Most often you would be paid to post a sponsored post, highlighting the brand or one of their products.
Some brands will simply pay you a flat fee, others may also pay per like, and others still may just send you free stuff instead.
Finding a brand to become an ambassador for is this most challenging aspect.
I wouldn’t even recommend bothering doing this unless you have at least 10,000 followers and are regularly getting 1,000 or more likes per post.
In fact a lot of brands have the above figures as their absolute minimum requirements to work with them.
It’s possible that some brands or their representatives might reach out to you directly, but more likely you will need to make first contact.
Be prepared for rejection though, as it’s a highly competitive arena and brands are, rightly so, very choosy about who they want representing their image.
If you’re aim is to become a brand influencer, then you definitely need to focus on making sure that you have a large and active following and that your online profile (website, Facebook, Twitter, etc) is professional and above board with no remarks that might affect their brand integrity.
There’s nothing wrong with using Instagram to promote things via good old affiliate marketing!
As mentioned above, you can place links in your posts, so why not link them to your blog for a full on feature review, or even directly to the product sales page itself?
Of course, your image still needs to be interesting and beautiful while remaining relevant to whatever you’re promoting.
As with sponsored posts, not every one of your posts should be promoting something. Keep the old adage in mind of providing value before selling to people.
I’d also recommend using a link shortening service such as Bitly as it helps keep links from looking spammy and also masks affiliate links.
Promote your own business/products
Finally, if you have your own business of your own, why not use Instagram to promote it?
If you sell food, you could post pictures of your customers enjoying their meal. If you sell skateboards, show some half-pipe action!
More service orientated? No problem, use things like screenshots or even just shots of office antics!
As with the affiliate marketing aspect, make solid use of links to get people to the right location to buy.
The Bottom Line
Instagram as a marketing tool is both powerful and different. If leveraged correctly it can definitely be used to make a profit, be it as a side gig or to promote your main product line.
The main factor is to build up your own brand awareness as your follower count (and active one) really is the key to making money with Instagram.