What if I told you Instagram is a goldmine, would you believe me?
If you’re like most people, you wouldn’t…
Because Instagram is a fun app you use to check out your friends (maybe even stalk a few people).
I mean it’s a great app…but a goldmine? I must be crazy.
I can prove that Instagram is one of the best places where you can make money in 2019…
But only if you know how to use it.
There are people — the so-called “influencers” — who are just like you, who look like you, and who have the same friends you do.
Yet they rake in five and six-figures every month from Instagram.
What’s their secret?
How can they make so much money with one simple mobile app?
I won’t tell you that you can achieve Kylie Jenner’s success or that you can get 1 million Instagram followers in one year.
What I want to show you today is how you can use Instagram to make money and break free from the shackles of your day job.
Are you ready?
Then close your Instagram app for a second — I know you must have it running in the background right now — and take a deep look at this guide because it can change the way you will ever use Instagram.
Let’s jump right into it:
Become a master of persuasion
How can they be “influencers” when they’re constantly flaunting their sculpted half-naked bodies, showing off their (probably rented) Lamborghinis, and making silly pranks?
What these people don’t get is that being an influencer doesn’t have anything to do with intelligence, skills, or knowledge.
What all influencers have in common is that they’re master at persuasion. Whether they know it or not, it misses me. The point is that they know how to persuade people.
A deeper look at the subtle nuances that make an influencer persuasive is that they play with two key psychological levers:
On the one hand, aspiration means that people want to be something they’re currently not; they want to learn, improve, believe, and dream they can be something more than what they are.
When some of the 13 million people who follow Michelle Lewin see her posts, they want to be as thin, healthy, and attractive as she is.
In some ways, they could be like her if they ate as healthy and trained as hard she probably does. They may not get the exact same body as her, but at least they’d get close enough.
Through that aspiration, Michelle can sell and recommend products or services that help people achieve their aspirations.
She’s not writing a sales pitch like most salespeople normally would; she’s just taking advantage of people’s desires. She opens the doors of such desires through her posts; the selling is a given after they’re in.
On the other hand, possession means that people want to physically get their hands on something they want. It’s the same psychological trigger than aspiration, but while the latter is more of a “spiritual” possession, the one I’m referring to right now is materialistic.
You aspire to be thin and sexy? Buy this protein shake. Get this course. Eat this food (whose manufacturer coincidentally pays me to promote).
Both aspiration and possession go hand in hand; you won’t buy a product to learn to make more money if you don’t aspire to be wealthy. Conversely, you won’t aspire to be wealthy if you don’t care about possessing money.
I won’t dwell any deeper on the psychological studies that show how the limbic system affects our neocortex and how the anthropological evolution of our brains makes us look upon people who we consider of higher status than us.
Nope, sorry, that will bore the heck out of you.
If you do want to learn more about the art of persuasion, then you can check out any of the following books that taught me everything I know about influence and persuasion:
- The 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene
- Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman
- Influence, by Robert Cialdini
- Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely
Whatever you do on Instagram, remember to focus on playing with people’s desire to aspire to become better than they are and their need to possess the tools to do that.
With this said, let’s see how you can start making money from Instagram.
Pick the right niche
The first and most important part of making money from Instagram is that you need to pick the right niche.
You can’t expect to generate any revenue from selling auto-parts or needles (geez, just the thought of that makes me cringe).
Your niche is the specific space in which you develop your influence.
If you take a look at some of the most famous and profitable influencers (here’s a good list), you will see the majority are in the same niches:
Whatever the niche you pick, you first want to make sure there’s enough aspiration and desire.
Action Step: Pick your niche
With the assumption that you will pick a niche taking the previous two points into consideration, it’s time you actually decide on the niche on which you will work your influence.
One method that you can use to pick your niche is to think about the current skills and passions you have.
Here’s a shortlist of questions you can use to guide your decision:
- What’s the #1 thing you’re most passionate about?
- What activity makes you the happiest and proudest?
- If money wasn’t a concern, what would you do with the 16 hours you spent awake?
- What unique skills or talents do you have that no one else has?
For the time being, disregard money in your decision. You want to get at least a dozen niches that are focused on a single target. “Health” or “fitness” wouldn’t be a good niche as they’re too broad; “keto dieters” is perfect because it focuses on a single type of person — the ones who follow that diet.
Once you’ve picked the niche on which to work, you can then start to think about how you can get Instagram followers and make money from it.
How many followers do you really need?
While you can make money with Instagram, you need to have a certain amount of followers to make a decent amount of money.
In the simplest terms, the more followers, the more money you can make. The reason is simple math: more followers equals more potential buyers.
This doesn’t mean, however, that you need 1 million followers to make your first $1,000 — what matters is the engagement and quality of your following.
You want people who check every post you publish, who comment, share, and actually care about your content.
When you’re getting started, you will be a “micro-influencer.” There’s a lot of discussion around the bar that separates influencers from micro-influencers or even “nano-influencers.” What’s truly important is that they’re people who have less than 10,000 followers and still charge for branded post or make some affiliate money.
According to Joe Gagliese, co-founder of a top influencer agency called Viral Nation, “a micro-influencer [can] get a minimum of a few thousands dollars a post.”
The whole goal of making money from Instagram, however, isn’t to publish one post a month; you want to be constantly working on new business opportunities which altogether will bring you a hefty income.
Gagliese said that “The micro-influencers can make anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000 a year.”
You may be far away from buying that Ferrari 558 you so much want (but don’t need), and still you will be making more money than most people in their regular day-to-day jobs.
The best 3 ways to make money on Instagram
With all this said and done, you must be wondering: how do I really make money on Instagram?
Sure, all this theory sounds fine, but most Instagram influencers aren’t reading psychology theory books on persuasion; they’re just posting stuff that people like, nothing more.
There are many ways you could potentially make money from Instagram, the three most common being:
- Sponsored posts
- Selling your own products
- Affiliate offers
Let’s take a look at each one individually.
Publish sponsored posts
A sponsored post happens when a brand pays an influencer to post featuring an offer of theirs.
Sponsored posts can vary in price depending on the following number and its engagement. The more followers and the more engaged they are (i.e., the more they like, comment, and share on average an influencer’s posts), the more an influencer can make.
The Verge found that an influencer like Janea Brown, with a following of 33.5k people, can make between $2,500 to $4,500 per sponsored post.
33,500 engaged followers isn’t a small number, but it’s far from the millions most people would imagine an influencer needs to make a substantial income from Instagram.
If a woman like Janea Brown can make over the average income of an American white collar worker with one post, that proves the power of sponsored posts to make a comfortable living from Instagram.
An important point to mention is that a sponsored post should openly disclose the paid relationship between the influencer and the brand.
The reason for such disclosure aren’t just based on ethical grounds — there are legal reasons as well.
In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been threatening people that got paid to publish content in behalf of a company and disclose their commercial relationship upfront.
In April 2017, for example, the FTC sent over 90 warning letters to influencers that were violating their rules about endorsing and advertising products.
The FTC is serious about the public endorsement of commercial relationships between influencers and companies, so much so that they have even warned celebrities of the stature of Nicki Minaj and Ellen DeGeneres.
Even though influencers have been the ones getting the short end of the stick, both parties — that is, you and the company with which you work — are responsible for providing these disclosures.
As the FTC indicates in their code of federal regulations:
When there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement (i.e., the connection is not reasonably expected by the audience), such connection must be fully disclosed.
The solution the FTC has suggested to influencers who want to work with companies is to add a hashtag somewhere in the post that indicates the relationship, including hashtags like #sponsored, #spon, #ad, #paid, or #partnership.
What’s important is that you’re clear in the way you disclose the relationship you have with the brand.
Recommend products for affiliate commissions
Similar to the sponsored posts, you can make money by posting other company’s offers and getting a referral commission out of it. The only difference is that while in the former a company pays you to post with their product, with an affiliate offer the company doesn’t pay you to post; they only pay you when you make a sale.
There’s no difference between the traditional content-driven affiliate marketing strategy with Instagram affiliate marketing; the only difference is in the medium.
You still want to feature the product you’re promoting in a way that best represents and connects with your audience.
For example, Joe Wicks, the man behind The Body Coach, has many affiliate offers in his bio link.
Once you click on his profile link, you’re taken to a link tree (basically, a menu with links) where you can check his offers, many of which are clearly affiliate.
Such partnerships bring him affiliate income which he can generate almost passively.
While the relationship between the brand that you’re promoting and you is more indirect that in the case of sponsored posts, you still need to disclose the relationship.
The FTC has been clear about the way you need to disclose your affiliate relationship:
In some instances – like when the affiliate link is embedded in your product review – a single disclosure may be adequate. When the review has a clear and conspicuous disclosure of your relationship and the reader can see both the review containing that disclosure and the link at the same time, readers have the information they need. You could say something like, “I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.” But if the product review containing the disclosure and the link are separated, readers may not make the connection.
If you’re not sure whether to add a disclosure, then the FTC would tell you to do it anyway:
The same guidance applies anytime you endorse a product and get paid through affiliate links.
It doesn’t get any clearer than this.
To play by the FTC’s guidelines, before you post your affiliate promotion, state at the bottom that you get a commission.
Promote your own products
If you have your own ecommerce store — whether it’s a dropshipping store, an Amazon private label store, or anything in between — you can promote your products in Instagram just like you would in your email list.
Emily Skye, one of Instagram top fitness influencers, has developed her own paid app where she shares her workout plans.
A click to her profile link takes you to her app, which provides access to a “free trial.”
You can do the same with your own physical products, including the ones you sell on your own ecommerce store, as Logan Paul does:
A click on his profile link takes you to his ecommerce brand, which he also promotes throughout his posts:
The good news is that if you’ve earned your followers’ attention and respect, they will likely care about your offers.
The bad news is that you can’t put an image of your product, stick a “Buy Now” link in the description, and hope to make sales.
Instagram users use the app for one thing: networking. Whether it’s to see what their friends do, find new people to follow, or get inspired, they use it for non-commercial reasons.
If they wanted to buy something, they’d go to Amazon or any other eCommerce retailer.
The key lies in balancing the social nature of Instagram with your commercial intent.
Instead of showcasing your products for purchase like you’d normally would in your eCommerce store, you want to feature them as part of the life of your followers.
This “lifestyle” approach to selling is what most companies who have successfully leverage Instagram as a valuable marketing tool.
Meghan Rienks, an artist, designer, and writer, promotes many of her products in her profile, one of them being her new book.
Being an influencer is one way to make money using Amazon.
Not only she promotes it in her profile, but in her posts as well:
Instagram has long realized the power they have to help eCommerce store owners make sales. For that reason, nowadays Instagram offers “shoppable posts” in which you can add a product you want to sell within a post and get people to your product page right and make a purchase from the app.
While there are some restrictions on its use, the fact Instagram has developed the possibility to sell right from the app means they want you to sell your products.
Just remember to weave in your products as part of the lifestyle of your followers, and you will have much higher chances of making sales.
Define the products to promote and sell
We’ve covered the theory of what makes Instagram influencers so popular and how you can use it to become one. We’ve also talked about the three types of ways to make money from your Instagram posts.
The final question we must ask ourselves is, “what can I sell on Instagram?”
Let’s go over the main points behind the best products to sell on Instagram:
Instagram users don’t browse through the app looking for products to buy…but if they find one they like, they shouldn’t be pondering too much about whether it’s a good idea to buy or not. As a marketer, you want them to stop what they’re doing, look at your product, and buy it right there.
Instagram is the perfect place for these type of quick purchases marketers call “impulse buying.”
If you check most of the products influencers often sell, they’re cheap products, something that makes it easier for people to buy a product soon after seeing it on Instagram.
In the example above, you can see Zoe Sugg promotes Amika’s products, which cost between $10 to $25 each product — not cheap, but not overly expensive either.
The industry of companies appealing to these type of purchases isn’t small. According to a survey done by deals site Slickdeals, American buyers spend an average of $5,400 annually in these type of fast-paced purchases. If you consider the average American makes $48,251.57 a year, then that’s over 10% of their total yearly income!
From all the people who make such type of purchases, youngsters seem to be the top group (not a surprise if you consider they’re also the same audience that uses Instagram).
According to a CreditCards.com poll of more than 1,000 U.S. adults aged 18 or older, “only 21.8% of older millennials and 23.3% of Gen Xers say they have never made this type of purchase.” A simple math lets us realize that almost 80% have made an impulse buying. In other words, a lot of people.
Small and light products
Following the criteria explained above, it also helps to make your followers make an impulse purchase if it’s a small and light product (which also helps to make it cheap, a good catch-22).
Most influencers like to showcase the products they sell while holding it into their hands. Also, they like to show it next to themselves (often their face), something that raises the value of the product due to the “halo effect.”
That means, anything close to the influencers will receive the same respect and attention as the influencer. By showing the products next to them, they raise the perceived value of the product.
What’s more, a product that’s small and light will be much easier — and cheaper — to ship, something that will lower the final costs of the product.
As a rule of thumb, if the product doesn’t fit into the palm of your hand, your product is too big. Conversely, if the product doesn’t fit easily within a photo, then you should pick one that fits easily within a selfie.
The last criteria that a great product to sell on Instagram should have is simplicity. The simpler the product, the better chances you have of tapping into the impulse nature of your followers.
Products like shown before — makeup, food, workout programs, gadgets — are all easy to understand and thus people can easily make a decision to purchase them fast.
When you have multiple technical features to analyze, you will deter your potential buyers from making the purchase right in the spot.
The whole idea of impulse buying is that people make purchases on the spot. The more they need to think about the way the product works, the less likely they are to buy; the opposite being true as well.
As a rule of thumb: if you have to explain what the product is about and how it works, it’s too complicated.
Show products that are simple in nature, and they will have a much easier time making the decision to buy.