Instagram is one of today’s most popular and profitable social media platforms. With practice, you can learn how to make money on Instagram by using the app’s unique features.
Take a little time to explore the app, and you’ll quickly understand its appeal: Instagram’s focus on visuals is almost addictive. A quick search for your favorite topic or interest can reveal a nearly endless stream of pics and short videos. There’s an Instagram hashtag for almost everything, from #makeuptips and #homedecor to more niche subjects such as #vintagebeercans or #powerwashing.
Due to its almost universal appeal, Instagram has become a place to promote products, monetize artwork, and create an income stream. Its design allows its users to target potential customers and help artists expose their work to a wide audience. It makes it fun to learn how to make money on Instagram.
Instagram 101: Getting Started
Don’t get ahead of yourself and start thinking about how to make money on Instagram until you have the basics of the site down. These basics include:
- Phoneography skills
- One passionate focus
Phoneography is a term for photography produced with a phone. Instagram is all about phoneography and visuals. If you don’t have an artistic eye or enjoy taking photos with your phone, then learning how to make money on Instagram may not be worth your time.
To get a feel for the app and practice your phoneography skills, set up a practice account. Experiment with Instagram’s filters and explore accounts that interest you to help you develop ideas for your own feed.
Before you can make money on Instagram, you’ll need a feed with an “aesthetic,” or a consistent style across your entire feed. If you like using filters, pick one or two and stick with them to keep a unified feel. Google basic photography tips such as the rule of thirds, cropping versus zooming, and when to use the flash.
When you have your aesthetic developed, it’s time to figure out what you will sell.
Selling Your Passion
An Instagram account that’s designed to bring in money will differ from a personal Instagram account, which might feature pictures of your friends and trips you’ve taken. If you will use an Instagram account as a source of income, then you need to create an account with a narrow topic or focus.
The essential element for how to make money on Instagram is having one passionate focus for your feed. Since you’ll most likely be posting every day, choose something you’re already passionate about.
Check out some of the following Instagram accounts to get a sense of how the platform can be used in different ways to promote a central purpose:
Pepper and Pals feature videos and pics of the account owner’s pet birds. The account owner sometimes creates memes or funny captions about their pets, developing a friendly, youthful, informal vibe.
FalseKnees is an original, hand-drawn webcomic with new comic strips regularly posted on Instagram. The artist uses Instagram to promote their art and direct traffic to their website. The account focuses on the webcomic alone.
The Dogside is an Instagram account for the nonprofit Soul Mutt, which supports dog adoption. The account regularly posts professional-quality photography of dogs and puppies, interspersed with posts promoting the foundation.
If you’re serious about making money from Instagram, then take the time to choose something you can post about and chat about over the long term. If your passion is genuine, it will come through in your feed.
TurboCharge Your InstaGame
Once you have your Instagram account set up, it’s time to gather followers. Accumulating followers is a key element in how to make money on Instagram. They are the fuel that will turbocharge your Instagame.
Unfortunately, all followers are not equal. You want to aim for quality followers that connect you to a network of similar accounts. This is where things get tricky; if you want to make money on Instagram, you should aim for at least 1,000 followers. The push to gain followers sends some Instagrammers into a shady territory of bots and purchased accounts.
To develop a quality follower base, you need to become comfortable using hashtags to interact with your followers and broaden your exposure.
What Are Hashtags?
Hashtags connect your posts with other posts on the same topic. For example, let’s say you have an Instagram account featuring your recipes. You’ve made some tomato soup, and you’ve posted a picture of the soup on Instagram. To spread the word about your recipe, you could add the following hashtags: #tomatosoup, #soup, #recipe, #souprecipe, and #homecooking.
Other Instagrammers who are interested in learning new recipes can track the hashtag #recipe. They’ll find your soup recipe, and if they choose to, they might like the post. They might also look through your Instagram account, decide that you’re posting material that interests them, and follow you. Eventually, you’ll gather a robust follower list of related Instagram accounts.
Getting to Know Your Followers
When you reach that 1,000 followers mark, you’ll find it impossible to interact with individual Instagram accounts. However, before you get to the Kim Kardashian level of followers, you have the chance to give your Instagram account an extra boost by leaving comments and liking your followers’ posts.
Comments, likes, and follow-backs are highly valued in the Instagram culture. These are so important to Instagram growth that some Instagrammers actually purchase likes or bots that leave irrelevant comments on random posts. This is not the way you want to go!
To have a quality Instagram feed, you need to come through as a genuine, authentic person who contributes to your specific Instagram community. It can be tempting to follow back every account that follows you. However, this can cause problems for you in the long run when your feed is full of unrelated posts or post by bots. Here are a few tips for interacting on Instagram:
- Use hashtags to find Instagrammers with similar interests
- Only add relevant hashtags to your posts
- Only follow accounts that interest you
- Leave friendly, specific comments
If you’re seriously interested in how to make money on Instagram, then be prepared to set aside some time each day to promote your account by interacting with other users. The more money you make from Instagram, the more time you must spend on these interactions. Some professional Instagrammers report spending hours each day commenting on and liking others' posts. As time-consuming as this may be, the actual human touch will come through in a sea of bots and purchased likes.
How to Make Money on Instagram
Building a follower base should be your first focus in the early stages of exploring how to make money on Instagram. To make money from Instagram, it's a good idea to aim for around a thousand followers.
While gathering followers, you can start the process of connecting with your favorite brands by tagging them in your posts. For example, if you post a picture of an enormous Lego palace you built with your child, you can tag the post #lego. If your Instagram account is focused on ballet, you might add the tag #capezio or the brand of your favorite pointe shoes to each post.
When you've built a solid follower list, you can start thinking about different avenues to generate income from your account.
Money Making Options
The most profitable way to make money on Instagram is through brand sponsorship. If you're a creative person, however, you can make money by selling your creations. For example, Pepper and Pals generates income through selling stickers and pins featuring their Instagram-famous birds. FalseKnees links to a page where customers can buy the artist’s work or commission original drawings. Print-on-demand companies, such as Printful, make this kind of arrangement easy.
The most popular account on Instagram belongs to singer Selena Gomez. If you look at her account (https://www.instagram.com/selenagomez) you’ll notice that many posts feature clothing by Puma. Since Gomez has a sponsorship deal with Puma, her account not only becomes a place for her to express herself to her fans, it also becomes an advertising venue for Puma.
In this case, Gomez is doing the job of an influencer. An influencer is an internet personality with enough followers to "influence" consumers to buy a particular product or brand. Becoming an influencer is the ultimate way to earn money through Instagram.
When you have at least a thousand followers, you can explore influencer opportunities. A number of companies exist with the purpose of matching influencers with sponsors. These include ShoutCart, FameBit, and TRIBE, among many others. Contact as many of these companies as possible to expand your reach. Even if you don't get a major brand to sponsor you, smaller, indie brands might be interested in partnering with you.
Unless you’re Selena Gomez or a Kardashian sister, it’s unlikely your Instagram will reach over a hundred million followers. By keeping a consistent aesthetic, focusing on one subject, and interacting authentically with your followers, however, your Instagram account will be primed for success.