Instagram has evolved into one of the most powerful social media platforms on the internet.
According to Instagram’s page for businesses, 9 out of 10 users follow one or more brands on the platform, which means it’s an excellent place for businesses to connect with potential buyers.
But you don’t need to be a multi-million dollar company or a huge Influencer like Kylie Jenner to make money on Instagram. Anyone can leverage Instagram to make money if they understand how to use it and monetize it.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to make money on Instagram by growing your follower count and applying monetization strategies.
How to Build an Instagram Following
Before you can use Instagram to make money, you need to build a following, so you have an engaged audience to market to.
Building an Instagram following is a mix of art and science. You can utilize the following methods to gain followers.
1. Choose a Niche
If you want to make money on Instagram, you must choose a topic to post about and stick with it! It can be difficult for an account to grow an engaged audience if you post about things seemingly at random and without direction.
You want your audience to have similar interests so that you can showcase products and services you know they love.
Popular niches on Instagram include pets, health, lifestyle, business, travel, photography, and food.
2. Optimize Your Instagram Profile
Your profile is a critical component to gaining followers. Use a search-friendly username and an eye-catching profile picture so that when people visit your page, they are drawn in by your photo. Next, add a catchy bio to tell users what they can expect when they follow you.
Your bio also allows one link for you to send audiences to your blog or a landing page. Even if you don’t have a website, it’s a good idea to have a landing page to collect email addresses so you can communicate with your Instagram followers outside the platform.
Use an email service provider like ConvertKit to help you easily create a landing page where you can collect email addresses. (It’s even free for the first 1,000 subscribers!)
Last but not least, make sure you make your account public!
3. Create Dynamic Instagram Posts For Your Target Audience
Your content is where the magic happens! Good content will convert users to followers.
Post interesting, eye-catching, and high-quality content that your target audience will engage in. You can ask a question, give a relevant tutorial, or tell a visual story with pictures. Use Instagram Stories and Reels to reach even more people.
For example, for an account in the pet niche, you could post a Live video on how to brush your dog’s teeth.
4. Follow a Consistent Posting Schedule
Consistency is key. Fortunately, there are several tools you can utilize to schedule posts ahead of time so that your account looks more active than it actually is!
Tools like Buffer and SocialBee allow you to upload images in bulk to your social media feeds so that you don’t have to spend time uploading every post individually.
If you can, schedule a few weeks’ worth of content ahead of time to maximize the potential for growth!
As for frequency, experts recommend posting to your Instagram feed no more than once per day and no less than 2-3 times per week. However, if you have the capacity, you can add Stories more frequently – up to two per day.
5. Leverage Relevant Hashtags
After your caption, use a relevant but not excessive amount of hashtags. Using too many hashtags will make you seem spammy to other users, and Instagram’s algorithm doesn’t like that!
A good rule of thumb is 1-3 per post, but some brands do well using up to 11. Experiment with hashtags to discover the sweet spot for your account.
As for which hashtags to include, use research tools like All Hashtag or Inflact’s Hashtag Generator to find the best tags relevant to your niche. You can also check out which hashtags other accounts in your niche are using.
6. Engage with Users
When someone comments on your post, respond. Engaging with users will increase the likelihood of them following you and staying engaged in the future.
In addition to commenting on posts, reply to users’ direct messages when they message you, even if it’s just a short “thank you!” or “got it!”.
7. Promote Your Instagram Account on Other Platforms
Shout out your Instagram account on other social media channels like Facebook to expose it to a larger audience. Include your IG handle at the bottom of your emails, business cards (if you have them), and website.
How to Monetize Your Instagram Account
After you have built an audience of engaged followers, you can start monetizing! There are several methods to make money on Instagram; here are some of the best strategies:
1. Pitch Brands for Sponsorships
A sponsored post is anything you publish on your account in exchange for payment. The average sponsored post pays about $300, making sponsorships a lucrative venue to pursue as an Instagram influencer.
Create a list of brands that target your follower demographic and contact them about potential partnerships. Create a media kit with all your account stats and engagement rates, and email them with your pitch.
Another way to get noticed is to tag brands you want to work within your posts. This can catch their attention and show them you have an engaged audience that would be the perfect fit for their brand.
One influencer, HerFirst$100K, shared that she earns $8,000 per IG post, (which includes three stories), and she has 370K followers.
2. Sell Your Own Products
If you make physical or digital items, like home decor, jewelry, t-shirts, ebooks, pillows, or crafts, Instagram can be a great place to sell them!
With Instagram Shopping, you can sell physical products directly from your posts. Shopping posts are just like regular posts, but users can tap to see product tags and view prices.
If they choose, they can tap the product they’re interested in and be taken right to your landing page.
The trick to selling products on Instagram is to showcase your products often with tutorials and behind-the-scene looks. Encourage your customers to also share their pictures and videos of the product to reach even more people.
If you’re selling services or digital products, you can link to your store from your bio and promote your products in your posts. In your post description, let your audience know they can find a link to your store or services in your profile link.
3. Join Affiliate Programs
Like partnering with brands, affiliate programs allow you to partner with companies and receive a commission on sales or leads.
Search for companies that sell products relevant to your niche and sign up as an affiliate. There are lots of great affiliate platforms that help you find brands and products to promote, such as LTK and ShareASale. They allow you to create a unique tracking link so that when someone purchases after clicking on your link, you earn a commission.
You may not be able to link in your posts, but there are other strategies you can use to drive users to your affiliate links. One way is to create a webpage on your own site with all your affiliate links that you promote on your Instagram account.
When you post about these products, you can mention in the comments that they can shop for those items through the link on your profile.
Another way to leverage affiliate marketing on Instagram is to find affiliate programs that provide a unique discount coupon code to affiliates. This way, no link is required to track the sale, and users will be likely to use your code at the checkout because they save money by using your code.
4. Live Badges
This is a newer feature that enables followers to support micro-influencers during live broadcasts with “hearts” that can be purchased for $0.99-$4.99.
Instagram lives are an opportunity for creators and influencers to connect with their audience by video in real-time. You can use Instagram Live to show tutorials, host a Q&A session, give tours, and more.
To enable badges, go to your professional dashboard and select “Grow Your Business.” From there, you can toggle the Badges icon “on” when you go live.
Encourage badge donations from your followers by getting them involved with your lives. Ask them what topics they want you to cover next. If you show your appreciation for your supporters, and they’ll be sure to return the favor! You can learn more about Instagram Badges here.
5. Instagram In-Stream Video Ads
IGTV is Instagram’s vertical version of YouTube, where creators can host long-form video content.
Instagram is in the process of rolling out a new feature that will allow creators to monetize their IGTV videos with ads. Like YouTube, the ads will play when users click on an IGTV video from their feed and will be around 15 seconds long.
They are still in the process of testing out the video ads with a small group of US-based Instagram creators and advertisers. However, it will eventually roll it out to more eligible users over time.
Making money as a content creator on Instagram takes effort and dedication. First, you need to create a business account and post content to grow your audience and establish yourself as an authority figure in your niche.
Once you have an engaged audience, you can implement these five monetization strategies for a potentially impressive income.
All that’s left for you to do is grab your phone and get started. Go ahead and have fun with it!
Originally published November 30, 2015. Content updated December 2021.