So a while back I shared an instagram post about how my family now earns money from my account & thanked everyone for following along and supporting us. I know folks can get irritated by sponsored posts, so I wanted to remind everyone that I am a real person who spends a lot of time on this platform, and part of the pay-off for me being able to earn some income from it. There was a lot of questions & curiosity about the world of social media “influencing” (that word makes me seriously uncomfortable) so I promised a blog post. It is a big topic that I kind of don’t even know how to dive into, hence why I’ve procrastinated writing this, but I’m giving it a shot.
Social media (in my case primarily instagram, but I do have a sad neglected Facebook page and pinterest account too) influencing, is basically when you have a public account that you are using to share product. Some people sell their art or their airbnb or whatever, I “sell” our lifestyle.
There are two ways I know of to earn money from your instagram account. One way is affiliate links- some brands have their own affiliate program, or there is a site called Reward Style that allows you to link to a bunch of different popular brands. When someone clicks your link and makes a sale you get a commission, usually about 10%. I am not going to talk about affiliate links because I don’t do them very often. They work better if you shop at mainstream retailers like Target or Nordstrom, as most indie designers aren’t on there.
The second way to earn money through instagram is by taking on sponsored posts. This means that a company pays you to post about their item. The general going rate is $100 per 10 thousand followers. But this is flexible, and depends on things like how quality your content is and how engaged (number of likes and comments) your followers are. There are a couple of ways to get sponsored posts, either brands will dm or email you directly or you can sign up for an influencer platform that matches you with campaigns. My favorite platforms are Popular Pays & Whalar. I also have a had a little luck with Revfluence. My least favorite is Social Native, as they offer ridiculously low pay. Oh and, once your account gets large enough, you may be able to get an agent to act as your middleman.
Okay, that is all well and good you may think, but how do I even get up to 10k or more followers to start charging? Well, I can only offer my experience. I have grown my account to about 30k in about 2 and half years, which I think is kind of “average growth” for someone who is trying to grow their audience. Some grow much faster, and some grow much slower, but 10k a year is pretty standard,- if you’re doing the right things. (EDITED to ADD: this 10 thousand followers per year growth rate is pre-algorithm. My personal growth rate has slowed way down- I gained 3 thousand followers total in 2017. I thought this was specific to me but after reading your comments, I think everyone is growing more slowly these days.)
And what are the right things to do? First of all, the obvious: focus on your content. You need to be posting images that will grab people’s attention. You should take some time looking at other peoples feeds and deciding what you want your niche to be and how you want to capture it. Over the years I have moved from a “cute baby” feed to more of a “desert lifestyle” feed. And I have found that my favorite style of of photography is the “kind of posed, but not too posed” look. I find inspiration in the feeds of people who capture little moments with a beautiful eye, like @jamiestreetphoto and @houseinhabit. I have noticed that highly posed thematic feeds in the style of @allthatisshe are very trendy and growing fast right now. (Another type of feed that seems to be experiencing a lot of growth on instagram right now is home decor.)
In order to gain the attention of followers, each individual image should stand alone and be interesting, but you must also tie them together to give your feed a cohesive look when people look at it as a whole. Do you want to be light and airy like @casajoshuatree, white and minimal like (I can’t think of anyone haha! but this is a very popular editing style), moody and dark like @twentyventi, warm and earthy like me?? etc etc. Again taking a look at other’s feeds for inspiration can help a lot here.
Oh and as if that’s not a lot to think about already, a good caption helps too. This is really an (often overlooked) opportunity to share a little more of your personality. Some people, like @householdmagnyc, use their captions almost like a mini blog post, and that can add a lot of value to the post. I can get lazy with captions, but I do see that my posts with good captions are the ones that generate a lot of discussion and engagement, which is fun!
Speaking of discussion and engagement, this is also vital when growing your account. Find your community and support each other! Like and comment on other people’s pictures. Make friends and give them shout outs! Get social on social media! Engagement is key on instagram, as an algorithm controls what posts people see by putting posts with a high ratio of likes and comments on the top of people’s feeds (so uh, like and comment my pics please and thanks!).
While we are on the topic of genuine engagement, please do not be tempted to buy followers. Aside from any ethical concerns, you will shoot yourself in the foot because those fake followers will not be engaging with your posts, so you might get lost in the algorithm. Also, with a discerning eye, it’s pretty easy to accounts that have bought followers- usually they have a bunch of followers and not very many likes or comments on their posts. Brands are getting savvy to this too, and they use services like social blade to check if someone’s followers seem genuine. I would think the same holds true to buying into loop giveaways to gain followers, the followers you gain through these giveaways are probably not genuinely interested in you. (I am talking about loop giveaways only here, hosting a giveaway for a brand you love can be a great way to gain followers!)
Growing an instagram following is a lot of work (fun work, but time consuming for sure), so it is very exciting when you reach the point where you start to receive offers for paid campaigns (offers of gifted goods in exchange for posts started happening for me at around 7000 followers, and paid post offers at around 20k)- but you have to be careful here. I think it is very important to stay true to yourself and be very selective about what you take on. People get turned off very quickly by posts they feel are disingenuous and you don’t want to lose your hard earned followers. I primarily focus on ethical brands, which is part of what I am known for. Sometimes it’s hard finding brands that match my niche and still have a budget to pay. But it is very important for me to stay true to what I am known for and what my followers are interested in. For example, I once did an ad for Kmart because I needed camping gear, so I when I got the offer, I figured why not get it for free and get paid too! But my followers were very turned off by it, and I ended losing a lot of them over it. (Oh and fyi, in case you were wondering I still do those small, ethical company posts for free, because that is my passion and I want to give them my support!).
Hmm, okay I hope that answered some of your curiosities about instagram growth and influencing. Please please feel free to reach out with any questions you may have!
Here are a few resources I have learned instagram growth tips from:
Oh and if you need help editing photos here are a couple of resources for that: