Complete Guide to Earning Your First Dollar on Instagram
Updated: May 26
On October 6, 2010, Instagram officially launched its platform for the first time, forever changing the social media landscape. Within the first 24 hours, over 25,000 people signed up for their own account. Today, this second most popular social media platform hosts more than one billion active monthly users, of which more than 500 million of those users log in on a daily basis. Over 200 million Instagram users will visit at least one business profile each day, and 130 million users will click on shopping posts every month. With all this incredible data, it’s no wonder more and more businesses are investing their time into learning how to best utilize this powerful social media channel.
Instagram has a variety of options for how one can utilize the application. Initially, all users were only able to post still photographs with captions to the platform, but in June of 2013, Instagram introduced video options, followed by “Stories” in 2016. Today, there are more ways than ever for users and businesses to utilize Instagram. Beyond the usual timeline video and picture posts, there are a few unique features that are growing more popular with the application’s users every day.
Instagram Stories are a feature where users are able to post pictures or video content in a slideshow format that will only be viewable for 24 hours before automatically disappearing. According to Instagram, this feature was made for users to share more of their lives with those they are close to on the app, yet businesses are also finding unique ways to leverage this feature.
The IGTV video was introduced in 2018 and allows accounts to post up to one-hour-long videos to the application. While previews of these videos can be posted to the application’s timeline, it will also link to the IGTV tab which also helps you to find other similar videos. The feature mimics the concept of YouTube or “flipping channels on a TV” without the hassle of ads or commercials to interrupt your viewing.
Instagram Shopping, a feature that is currently available to a limited geographic area at this time, gives your business account an immersive storefront for users to easily explore your products and shop featured products through your posts and stories. Business accounts are able to link their photos and videos to your product’s description page with pricing information overlaid on the post itself. There is a call-to-action button that then allows users to then leave your Instagram page to directly visit your webpage in order to complete the transaction.
Hashtags are another exciting option to leverage Instagram for businesses. A hashtag refers to a word or phrase that is preceded by the hash or pound (#) sign to link things that all fall under the same topic. Instagram now allows users to follow hashtags to be notified about relevant content that falls under categories that one may find interesting. Every post a user creates can contain a caption as well as up to thirty hashtags that will help in linking the post to other relevant content. This will then appear on the Instagram search page, on timelines of those who follow specific hashtags, and in areas of recommended content. It is a simple way to boost a page to a targeted audience.
In 2014, the application had identified how powerful a platform Instagram was, not just for users but potentially for businesses. This led to the launch of Instagram for Business, a way for users to easily differentiate business profiles from personal profiles. There are significant benefits to creating a business account, including trackable metrics on stories and promoted posts, insights on who your followers are and how they regularly interact with your page and a place to store your business’ essential contact information for easy access. This option also includes the option to create a type of eCommerce platform with your Instagram business account, utilizing the new Instagram Shopping features.
Instagram’s dedicated user base and business-friendly options make it the ideal social media platform for many organizations to try when looking to expand their online sales. There are a variety of ways to start earning money on this popular social media platform, including sponsored posts, affiliate marketing, offering paid services, or offering physical or digital products for purchase. It is important to identify what your target audience will find most attractive on your profile and then work within that medium.
There are various ways to drive more traffic to your website via Instagram. For example, Instagram sponsored posts are synonymous with “Influencer Marketing”, which is a form of promotion that is often executed by popular celebrities or influential social media users. These promoted posts are organic posts that you then pay to promote to a targeted audience, allowing you to boost a post and then select the age, location, and interests of the targeted group in addition to including a call-to-action. Organizations will partner with an “influencer” who is popular among the targeted audience to even further promote a product or service.
An influencer is an individual who is able to affect purchasing choices with a specific audience due to their industry authority, positioning and relationship that they have developed over a period of time. When organizations opt to work with influencers, they are creating a targeted campaign with actionable results that is then executed on the influencer’s profile with a call-to-action that refers interested parties to the company’s website with a trackable link. This allows all parties to review the analytics to see how successful the campaign was with conversion rates and follower growth. A successful sponsored post-campaign will not only have a clear understanding of the targeted audiences’ demographics but also a strong call-to-action and clear understanding of the analytics from a completed campaign in order to improve each portion in the future.
An easy way to identify the right influencers within your niche is to research who your audience is also following and engaging with on Instagram. There are many resources offered online to help identify the top influencers within each niche, but these usually cost money and can sometimes allow influencers to purchase their way on to the lists. Identifying who the competition is working with or researching those with high follower counts and good engagement via relevant hashtags can also be effective ways to find the right people to work with.
If you are looking to utilize Instagram to sell your own products, the first thing you must do is choose a niche option for your business account. Before you begin selling products or services via Instagram, be sure to build follower trust and engagement with consistent and relevant content. Interact with other business profiles that your customer base follows and answer all questions that come to you via direct messages or comments on posts. This can take time but is a crucial step to effective social media selling strategies.
Once you’ve built a solid platform of followers and have increased engagement, decide which products will be advertised via your Instagram page. Since Instagram is a purely visual platform, it is highly suggested, to begin with products that work well aesthetically.
Once you’ve built your strategy, connect the relevant posts for products with your eCommerce store’s URL. Connecting your business profile to your online web store will increase both web traffic as well as followers over time. Advertise any specials or sales regularly on Instagram and be sure that your page is an integral part of every sales campaign you run. With an ever-growing and active user base, Instagram is one of the most effective social media channels for online selling.
Another option for increasing online profits is to engage in affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is when an “affiliate” earns a commission for marketing another business’ products and successfully converts these into sales. This ties in closely with influencer marketing, as a social influencer will often speak highly of a brand’s product and provide a direct link to that same product for purchase or discount code that will then allow them to receive a small percentage of commission.
Since affiliate marketing is quickly growing in popularity, it is important to identify the right affiliate program to work with. Affiliates are much more effective when they believe in the brand or product that they are recommending. It is also important to find programs that fit within the niche that you have built with your brand to stay on-target and relevant for your customer base. If there are specific brands you use regularly, reach out to the organization directly to see if they have a referral program for you to use. Instagram is one of the most effective social media channels for affiliate marketing since it is simple to include those trackable direct links to the business’ eCommerce site.
Another product that performs well in sales via Instagram is to sell high-quality photos or videos through the platform. Because of the platform’s visual nature, business accounts that create aesthetically pleasing grids can often convert sales organically. Once an artist or photographer has established trust with well-curated content, it is easy to refer the customer to their website for a direct sale or utilize purchase platforms such as Etsy or Shutterstock for sales.
Dropshipping, a sales fulfillment model that allows a business to purchase products individually from a wholesaler who then ships them directly to a business’s customer, is another option for online sales. Once you’ve identified and established a wholesale supplier with drop shipping opportunities, you can then begin advertising these products via your Instagram account. Remember, once these sales have converted you will need to work with your supplier to ensure customer’s expectations are being met upon delivery!
The last type of product that sells well on social channels are digital services or products. These can include eBooks, webinars, online courses or templates. If your target customer is interested in purchasing these types of products, be sure that the graphics you use to advertise these intangible products are well-coordinated with your brand design. Research hashtags for other competitor products to see how they created a campaign leading up to the release of a digital product sale. Also, use each type of post on Instagram to fully promote your digital products, such as Stories, IGTV, and organic posts. If you partner with another business within your niche to produce the final product, leverage both audiences for optimum results.
No matter the product or service that you are selling, your Instagram strategy will remain the same. First, a business must establish itself on the social platform with the help of a consistent and cohesive presence in order to build followers and gain consumer trust. Engaging with your followers as well as similar business’ followers will increase your social reach over time, and then you will be ready to begin the sales process. With the record number of individuals who regularly use and interact on Instagram, it’s no wonder why businesses are educating themselves on Instagram selling strategies. After all, what better way to not only promote your products on a free platform with high conversion rates but also gain real-time insights into social trends?