Instagram is the most famous visual-first social platform in the world. With over 1.2 billion active users reported in 2020, Instagram offers a reach larger than Tiktok, Snapchat, and Pinterest combined.
But visibility aside, can you make money on Instagram? Or, better yet, can you do it successfully if you’re a small business or an average person with just a handful of followers?
In this post, we’ll go over:
- Whether it’s easy to make money on Instagram.
- How many followers you need to make money on Instagram.
- Three proven ways to make money on Instagram.
Let’s dig in!
Is it easy to make money on Instagram?
Yes and no.
Instagram provides a ton of opportunities to make money on the platform, from the in-app shopping features to product tagging and lots more. In a Facebook commissioned research of 21,000 people, Ipsos even found that 80% of users turn to Instagram to decide whether or not to buy an item.
But in order to make money, you also have to know what you’re doing. Herein lies the problem. Many people don’t know how to create a money-making Instagram marketing strategy. It’s why you see questions in Facebook Groups, Quora, and even on Instagram from people who are frustrated Instagram isn’t working for them, like the following one on Quora:
Making money on Instagram is hard work, but the results can be profitable and rewarding when done properly.
How many followers do you need to make money on Instagram?
It depends. If we look at the bottom five accounts on Hopper’s Instagram Rich List 2020, we see each person has over 6 million followers apiece.
But does Instagram pay you for followers?
Definitely not. If they did, people who buy Instagram followers would be rolling in money. In fact, if you look closely at the Rich List you’ll see something else going on. See the account with 6.4 million followers (Jay Alvarrez) ranking above the one with 9.2 million (Gordon Ramsey)?
Now let’s sort bottom to top by follower count and see what happens. It becomes even more interesting. An account with 2.5 million followers comes in at 91st place in the Rich List.
Did you also notice that a majority of the accounts with lower follower amounts on the list fall under travel?
It’s a given that the more followers you have on Instagram, the more money you can make. But your numbers don’t have to be as high as you may think because engagement rate, niche, and your monetization method all affect how much you can make.
Take Foundation’s Ross Simmonds, for instance, who shared with his readers how he makes a few thousand dollars from Instagram with only 7,000 followers.
How to make money on Instagram: 3 proven ways
Although there are some big differences between Instagram and other social media platforms (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, and even Pinterest) when it comes to making money on them, the tactics frequently overlap.
Here are some of the best ways to make money with Instagram marketing even if you have 10,000 followers or less.
Sponsored posts for brands (aka Influencer marketing)
Sponsored Instagram posts are posts you create and share on your Instagram page promoting a brand, event, or offer in exchange for compensation. Sometimes this will mean giveaways for your audience, free events, or even paid products.
For example, Eva Keller, owner of Discovering Hidden Gems made $200 from this 30-day influencer marketing campaign on her account with 3,000 followers.
The number of brands that engage influencers to do sponsored content has been rising steadily since 2016, and for good reason.
Influencers carefully build an audience that recognizes them not only as experts in their fields but also as someone followers can relate to. Brands, on the other hand, may be perceived as large corporations just out to sell stuff.
That’s why brands partner with influencers — to humanize their brand, gain the trust of more Instagram users, and ultimately make sales.
As of 2020, influencers collectively posted brand-sponsored content on Instagram 6.12 million times!
But how much can you make from sponsored posts per month?
Angelica Castaneda, who’s done sponsored content for many fortune 500 brands, said she makes between $500-$2,000 a month with 42,600+ followers.
Castaneda shared with us her top three tips for making consistent income with sponsored posts:
Do your research
“Join groups in your niche on Facebook for advice and support,” she advised. “There will always be others who have done it longer and make more, etc. to learn from.”
A quick Google search for “Facebook group for [NICHE] Instagram influencers” is a good place to start.
And with regards to boosting reach, Castaneda said to “Learn about Instagram’s algorithm for the best exposure and reach. This not only helps in growing your audience but also provides the best impressions for your client’s sponsored post you were hired for.”
Create quality content
Quality content is a big separating factor on Instagram. Castaneda’s posts frequently get over 1,000 likes and around 40 comments.
In a recent post, we see a well-lit, high-quality photo of her family with an engaging caption, which takes some skill to execute well.
“Learn about photography and be consistent with it. Instagram is a visual platform and all about beautiful, quality photographs.” Castenada recommended.
But it’s not just better quality photographs you should invest in. According to Dulay from Collabstr, high-quality video content can land you sponsorships as well.
“We also noticed a higher demand for Instagram creators who posted Reels,” he noted. ”Most brands seem to be gaining interest in this type of short video content over the traditional static feed posts that we are used to seeing.”
Invest part of your earnings
When the goal is to make money, it’s hard to envision spending. But that’s exactly what Castenada said you should do.
“To further your growth and success, it’s imperative to invest,” she said. “Whether that is upgrading your camera, getting a tripod, or hiring a virtual assistant, investing in your brand will give you more ROI.”
As for Eva Keller, she said the key to landing sponsored posts as a micro-influencer (an Instagrammer with a small number of followers) is joining as many sponsored post networks as you can. Some of her most successful ones include Intellifluence, Sway, Blog Meets Brand, and Brand Backer.
“Check them daily or weekly,” she said of the networks, “and apply to anything relevant to your content” to increase your chances.
Executing this tactic with ManyChat
More engagement can result in higher pay when doing paid partnerships. Another tactic creators are using to connect with their audience is Instagram Automation — a fancy term for interacting with your followers automatically using a platform like ManyChat.
For example, say you post an Instagram Story for a sponsored brand post. One of your followers loves your Story and mentions it on theirs. You can automatically follow up with them in Instagram direct messages using ManyChat.
Instagram Automation is an easy way to build trust with people; and the more people trust you on Instagram, the more likely they become brand fans and engage with your content.
You can also auto-respond to comments on your paid posts to create more engagement with followers.
Sell products and services
While sponsored content is the most common way to make money from your Instagram presence, not everyone is a fan.
Stacy Caprio of AcneScar.org, for example, thinks it’s better to drive traffic to your own products and site.
“My advice to make money on Instagram is to promote your own products as opposed to doing sponsored or affiliate posts, as you’ll make much more per sale and long-term,” Caprio shared.
Whether that is a digital product you host on Shopify, or a physical one in a brick-and-mortar store, Ross Simmonds of Foundation shares some useful tips:
Reverse engineer successful accounts
Think like a marketer. What is already doing well for other accounts in your niche?
“Reverse engineer the content that is interesting to your ideal customers and the type of content generating the most engagement,” he said. “Use that for inspiration on your own account to attract the right people, and then be intentional and relentless with your own promotion.”
If you are wondering how to make money on Instagram without followers, shout-outs is a great way to leverage other people’s followings and is one of Simmonds’ top tips.
“One of the best ways to earn money on Instagram is to receive shout-outs from other accounts targeting a similar niche/audience as you and having them promote your product.
“If you can encourage them to tag your account in the post as well, that’s a plus because now you can capture their audience as your own and begin to sell additional products to them long-term through your own Feed and Instagram Stories,”
Executing this tactic with ManyChat
Whether you’re a business owner or creator, there are many ways to sell your products on Instagram. One problem both groups often face is manual messaging with their followers. As your Instagram account grows, so does the amount of messages you get.
This seems like a burden at first, but with Instagram Automation by ManyChat, you can sell on the social media platform with ease.
Sellers can use tools like Conversation Starters, buttons in Instagram Messenger your followers can tap to chat with you, to provide customer support or answer any product questions to help close sales.
If you plan to run Instagram ads, you can automate conversations with potential customers from feed posts or Stories. All a viewer needs to do is send you a keyword in Instagram Messenger and the chat will start right away. Send demos, lead magnets, coupons, or anything else you promote in your ad.
And if someone needs human support, you can always jump into a live chat from the ManyChat dashboard. You can also assign team members to different chats and send customers to an automated chat — and it all happens inside Instagram Messenger.
By using Instagram Automation by ManyChat, Frazer Brookes, a prominent network marketer and influencer, saw:
- 40% lift in Instagram Story engagement
- 440 more organic leads since using IG Automation
- 200 sales page views in a 30 minute time window
Make money with affiliate products
Just like with selling your own products, bloggers and Instagrammers can make money through affiliate marketing. The only difference is that instead of creating products and managing support tickets, you’ll be sending people to a merchant on an affiliate platform, like Clickbank, in exchange for a commission.
Adam Meskouri, founder of Genfluencer and owner of the popular Instagram account Gadgetstrings, said that “getting affiliate codes to promote towards your audience theoretically creates unlimited income, and is entirely dependent on how much you want to make.”
Most affiliate posts look like this:
(Notice the #aff hashtag? It’s not just a way to tell affiliate posts apart from other posts, but it’s also a way to stay FTC compliant. So keep that in mind if you become an affiliate.)
One good thing about affiliate marketing is that even smaller accounts that would otherwise not get sponsored posts can get started.
“Brands are also more likely to provide affiliate codes to smaller pages, especially considering that there’s no risk involved,” Meskouri said.
To make money on Instagram using affiliate programs:
Focus on growing your brand
Brands use Instagram to find engaged audiences so Meskouri advises focusing on page growth and engaged followers than on monetization, initially.
“The most important prerequisite to making money on Instagram is having an existing brand,” he shared.
Add a clickable link to your bio
Your bio is prime Instagram real estate. Don’t forget to add a clickable link with your affiliate code to your Instagram bio.
If your account has more than 10,000 followers, you can also add links to your stories for more impact.
Use good captions, a promo code, and call to actions
What are you saying when you share your posts? Why should anyone buy what you are selling? Use your Instagram caption to tell a story, and if you have a promo code, add it in there.
Also, remember that links in Instagram posts appear as plain text so invite readers to click on your bio link, just like in this Celeb Style Social post.
Making money on Instagram
Instagram has a ton of money-making opportunities for influencers and small businesses. It may be hard to tell with all the noise larger accounts with bigger followings make, but engagement rate matters just as much as follower size. And that’s where small accounts can trump bigger ones.
Invest in building a high-quality following and you can start making substantial income with sponsored posts, affiliate marketing, or selling your own products on Instagram.
And no matter the business model you choose to monetize your Instagram account, don’t forget to set up an Instagram business account so you can leverage the extra platform features to grow your account and income faster.