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When most people open Instagram on their smartphones, they see an opportunity to post pictures of their weekend activities, #selfies with their #besties, and images of the delicious meal they had for dinner. Many more see a chance to check up on their favorite celebrities and connect with the brands they love. Others, though, see an opportunity and think about how to make money on Instagram.
And for a good reason! Of the many social media platforms out there, Instagram is uniquely positioned as a vehicle for income generation. It is hugely popular, highly visual, and offers many practical ways to make money with a slew of attractive features.
An Overview of Instagram's Audience
Ultimately, the reason you should try to make money on Instagram boils down to its popularity. Since its inception in 2010, this free photo and video sharing app has become one of the top 4 social media platforms online.
According to Backlinko, it now boasts a whopping 1 billion active monthly users, equating to almost 25% of internet users worldwide! In addition, Instagram was also one of the top 5 most downloaded mobile apps in 2020 (with only WhatsApp, Facebook, TikTok, and Zoom coming above it), demonstrating its sustained growth (something that's no mean feat in the ever-changing tech space).
Instagram's enormous audience reach isn't its only strength, though. The medium itself also contributes to its potential. For instance, its visual nature facilitates story-telling and helps develop a relationship with an audience. It's also lower-touch and more accessible to engage with than written-form content (try digesting as many long-form blog articles as Instagram videos, and you'll see what we mean!).
Rates of engagement are sky-high, too, and hashtags enable you to extend your reach even further (as well as tap into a specific audience and capitalize on current trends). You get the idea: Instagram's full of money-making potential.
Can You Make Money on Instagram?
People can and do make money on Instagram! We aren't talking about trifling sums either. We'll take a closer look at this topic next, but with some influencers earning 6-figures on Instagram alone, the sky's the limit on how much money you can make.
However, attaining monetary success on Instagram requires time, commitment, and hard work. So, while there are plenty of effective strategies to speed the process along, don't expect to create a profile, post a few photos, and start rolling in Benjamins overnight.
How Much Do Instagram Influencers Make?
The good news is you don't need a vast following if you're wondering how to make money on Instagram. Far from it! According to Business Insider, a few thousand followers is enough to start generating money as a side hustle, and 100,000 followers can produce a flourishing full-time income.
Although there's no ceiling on what you can earn, the amount you make depends on two interconnected factors: the size of your following and the level of engagement your posts receive (the specific niche you're in can make a difference, too, with categories like travel, beauty, and fashion being particularly lucrative).
Although a large following can help, size certainly isn't everything. After all, having 1 million followers sounds great, but what if only a tiny percentage of them see or respond to your posts? It's hardly enticing for a brand that wants as much exposure as possible, so engagement (i.e., likes, shares, and comments) is the real secret to success. Having fewer followers with a higher engagement rate is always preferable when learning how to make money on Instagram.
How to Make Money on Instagram: 4 Effective Ways
We've looked at why Instagram's such an excellent social network for earning money and addressed how much you can expect to make. Now let's consider four specific ways people earn a living through the platform:
1. Sponsored Posts and Stories
Sponsorship's arguably the simplest, most common, and most lucrative strategy for anyone wondering how to make money on Instagram. That is when brands pay you to promote their products and services in your feed.
Imagine that you're consistently publishing pictures and videos of your cat doing funny things. Whether they reach out to you or vice versa, a company like Petco might be willing to pay you to feature its products in forthcoming posts. Then, you'd walk away with money in your pocket after mentioning them in the caption, including a branded hashtag with a link to their business, and sharing it with your audience!
2. Affiliate Promotions
Affiliate marketing is when you promote a brand's products or services to your audience and receive a commission every time someone buys something through your referral. Promoting affiliate offers is another popular approach people take when learning how to make money on Instagram. However, unlike sponsored posts, there's no guarantee you'll earn anything!
That isn't to say affiliate posts can't be profitable, though. On the contrary, they can pay more than sponsored posts if you can generate enough sales. That, as you can imagine, is where having an engaged audience is so valuable.
3. Instagram Shopping
Do you already sell products via an online store? If you aren't already using it, Instagram Shopping could be a perfect new sales channel with which to experiment.
A dream come true for e-commerce store owners, you can post photos, videos, and stories that include your products and tag up to 5 of them at a time (up to 20 if you're posting a carousel). People can then view those products in the app and click through to your store to buy them.
4. Monetizing Content
That could be the best option for anybody wondering how to make money on Instagram with minimal effort! Just as you can monetize YouTube videos by allowing businesses to advertise on them, Instagram lets you do the same. Once you've set them up, IGTV (Instagram TV) ads deliver 55% of any advertising revenue generated through your videos (assuming they're at least 2-minutes long).
Similarly, badges enable you to monetize any live videos you produce. Think of them as tips. As you're filming yourself via the platform, viewers can buy badges (worth $0.99, $1.99, or $4.99) that put money straight into your account.
Tips for Earning Money on Instagram
1. Focus On Engagement
While it's tempting to focus on your follower count, it makes more financial sense to focus on engagement. After all, as we've noted, the more likes, shares, and comments your posts receive, the more valuable your profile becomes to brands. Here are a few ways to boost engagement even if you can only work part-timbe:
- Go live, post carousels, and use Instagram Stories
- Get to know your audience (so you can give them what they want)
- Respond to comments
- Create eye-catching posts that are relevant to your audience
- Be authentic and show your true personality
- Use calls to action in captions
2. Don't Go Overboard with Sponsored Posts
Sponsored posts are an effective way to make money on Instagram. However, there's a caveat. Posting them too frequently can frustrate your followers and cause them to lose trust in you.
Instead, try social media maestro Gary Vaynerchuk's “jab, jab, jab, right hook” approach. In other words, focus on giving value freely in every post and only occasionally ask for something from your audience via a sponsored post. Likewise, make sure you believe in (and, in an ideal world, actually use) anything you promote.
Common Questions About How to Make Money on Instagram
How Long Does It Take To Earn Money on Instagram?
Building the engaged following that's fundamental to success takes time and perseverance. How much time is anybody's guess! The more high-quality content you post, the sooner you'll start making money.
What's the Best Way to Make Money on Instagram?
Once again, this depends! It's different for everyone. Everything from your specific niche to the size and nature of your following comes into play. Try experimenting with the various options to find which works best for you.
How Many Followers Do You Need to Make Money on Instagram?
You'll struggle to make money on Instagram with fewer than 2 to 3,000 followers. Remember that engagement trumps numbers, though. Someone with 1,000 loyal fans could make more money than a creator with 100,000 unengaged ones.
People on Instagram are making serious money, and there is no reason you cannot do the same.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.
Danny Newman is currently writing and traveling his way around the world in a bid to figure out exactly what he’s doing with his life. He’d love you to follow along with his journey over at What’s Danny Doing.