How to make money from your Instagram posts (and affiliate links)

So you’ve spent ages posting stuff you like on Instagram and you’ve built up a bit of a following.

There’s no grand plan. A few months ago, you thought you’d just share the odd pic of a nice landscape, some beautiful clothes or crazy cupcakes – and see where it goes.

But your Instagram profile has gained a bit of a following. Things are going *well*. You’re even following others in the hope that they’ll follow you and you’ve now built up a few hundred followers.

But now you’ve been doing it a while. It was fun at first, but now you’re starting to feel like it’s a job. Granted, you still enjoy what you’re doing but life is crazy and there’s plenty of other things in life (things that pay more) that need your attention.

You’ve also read a bit recently about the YouTube ‘influencer’ who is making £££s by talking about products via their YouTube or Instagram profile.

You’re thinking: “How can I get some of that action?”

The answer is: Not easily (see – we told you we’d be upfront and honest) But as with everything in life, with hard work and graft, it’s possible to make money from what you’re doing online, effectively ‘monetising your hobby’.

Reality check

The things you read about YouTubers earning £millions are true – but they’re rarer that you think. Big YouTubers (also known as ‘vloggers’ or ‘influencers’) are earning what they do because brands are savvy to how consumer buying behaviours are changing. After years of ignoring interuptive ads which scream ‘buy this’, consumers are much more sophisticated in how they’re swayed and influenced. On the one hand, consumers are very savvy and know now to search online themselves for impartial reviews. On the other hand, those same savvy consumers are also a bit odd (or ‘dense’) because they’re strangely willing to temporarily ignore their internal ‘bullshit’ alarm and read a promotional Instagram post by their favourite celeb on the health benefits of kale water (oh, you’ve seen that post too?)

Brands and advertisers are happy to pay big bucks to get their products featured in promotional posts because they’re typically seeing a return of $6.50 in revenues for every $1 they spend on influencer marketing (according to a recent Tomoson study). Instagrammers with hundreds of thousands of followers can make between £300 to £3000 per post. Assuming you’re posting every day and dropping the odd sponsored post in there, you could start to pull down some serious income.

Your modest Instagram channel may not yet be able to command £10k+ per post (a figure we’ve been quoted by a very popular YouTube influencer in the past – and that was two years ago) but it’s possible to make *some* return of some sort (be it freebies or cold, hard cash). But how exactly? And how do you do that without putting of your slightly forgiving but highly cynical fans?

Sponsored comments below your photos

Start small and be authentic so you don’t shock your followers. Imagine checking your feed and seeing a big ‘15% off shoes’ pic in your stream. Just no. Yuk. Start small with comments and you can carry on doing what you do while selling space underneath your normal content. It could be a generic paid-for mention of a brand or (for those willing to pay more) it could be a mention or tag to another user’s Instagram account. Do what works for you. Just remember not to do it too often.

Sponsored product photos

As well as selling promotional ‘text’ space, you could agree to post a brand’s photo (£), a video they send you (££) or work with the brand to create something entirely bespoke for them (£££).

Be creative. Sometimes brands approach ‘grammers’ and sometimes ‘grammers’ approach brands – and offer to create something. We don’t know who approached who for this post (and whether it was part of a competition or was done for free) but check out this amazing Starbucks video by artist Valerie McKeehan.
Note: If you do agree to post something decent on your feed, make sure you agree how long the promotional content will appear on your feed.

Scarcity sells, so don’t just assume you’ll leave that post on your profile for ever. Agree on the number of hours or days that it will appear. Really. You’ll thank us for it.

A word about selling Instagram space and charging people

Remember one thing: DON’T FEEL GUILTY. This is your profile and you’ve worked really hard to build it up. A magazine or website wouldn’t think twice about selling space on their property because that’s the norm. It’s what they do. A brand who wants to advertise should (and usually will) realise the value of what you do and why you do it. A brand is paying to be featured by you because you’re talking to their target audience. Your fans trust you and that’s a really rare thing. You don’t want to piss off your followers and any paid-for activity has that risk. So if it helps you rationalise what you’re doing, consider selling space as ‘danger money’.

Instagram influencer communities

Got a really big following? Not got much time? You could get an ‘agent’ (no really) and look at joining an agency that represents ‘influencers’ like you.

These marketing communities let you list your Instagram profile on a website where brands go to when they’re on the look out for a blogger or influencer. Each community will have rules about minimum followers but you’d be surprised at how few you need. If you need to get an idea of how big (and how normal) influencer marketing is, just Google ‘influencer marketing agency’ to take a look at the agencies and what they offer.

Earn commission from brands in your blog posts

If promoting brands or products in your social channels all feels a bit odd or grubby in some way, you could instead carry on with what you’re doing and use Instagram to drive traffic to your blog – which talks about your passion in much more detail. You can spend all the time you want showcasing what you’ve made / seen / driven / worn and then have a very transparent and obvious ‘Want to buy this? Visit the website now’ link to the retailer in question.

If you’re happy to promote a £multi-million retailer’s products for free then that’s fine. That’s your choice. You’re amazing. No, really.

However, many, many (and by this we mean millions of) blog owners earn a small commission for every product sale that happens as a result of a link on a blog. This is done by using something called ‘affiliate marketing’.

Affiliate marketing is such a huge topic of interest for blog owners (and social media owners for that matter) that it warrants its own post but for now, here’s a simple list of what’s possible.

How does affiliate marketing work?

There are affiliate marketing websites which act as middle men between you and the retailer which handle all the technology and payment side of things – or you can work directly with a retailer and they pay you a commission for each sale.

Put simply, instead of posting a normal link to a retailer’s website product at the bottom of your post, you instead post a ‘special’ website link, which when clicked, tells the retailer that a customer has come from your lovely blog and that if they end up buy something, it’s all thanks to you and you need to be paid a commission.

You can join a retailer’s own affiliate marketing scheme directly (for example, if you know you’re going to be sending lots of traffic to that one retailer). Alternatively, you can join an affiliate marketing website which works with thousands of retailers on your behalf (which might be a good idea if you’re referencing lots of different retailers).

To get those ‘special’ weblinks and adding them to your blog posts, you first need to join a retailer’s scheme or an affiliate marketing company’s scheme. Once approved (they don’t work with just anyone you know!) they’ll then give you your unique weblinks to add to your posts. Each time someone clicks on those / your links, the affiliate marketing firm will be alerted with a loud claxon (not really) and told that your blog has sent potentially valuable customers to a retailer and that a sale might happen.

We can go into this later, but the commission you get varies depending on the retailer. Obviously, if you’re blogging about cheap items with an average price of £2.50, your commission isn’t going to be huge (on average 2-5% of that). That said, if you’re blogging about high fashion items and directing traffic to a £750 leather tote, you’re going to get a much higher commission fee.

We can go into all of the affiliate marketing websites in a later post (there are lots, as you can imagine) but for now, let’s talk about one particularly nifty affiliate service called Skimlinks.

Skimlinks

Instead of giving you weblinks to paste into your blog posts or social posts, Skimlinks needs to be added to your website code (this is really easy if you have a WordPress blog – thanks to a Skimlinks WordPress app you can download in seconds). It then cleverly turns any of your normal links into affiliate links – as long as that retailer is part of the Skimlinks scheme. But don’t worry, you won’t see lots of ugly Skimlinks website links in your blog. Instead it does this in the background so someone clicking your link to ‘www.RetailersRUs.com’ will still see that same same link but Skimlinks will still remember to alert the retailer in the background.

Shopstyle

Another interesting brand – mainly for those who are interested in monetising their fashion blogs or social feeds – is Shopstyle. Sign up, choose the kids of products you like (there are thousands of retailers and product lines) and you can start to earn whenever someone clicks on one of your links.

So for example, when I want to link to a nice pair of shoes I’ve seen on ASOS, I add the product to my range of products, get the special link and then share it wherever I want – on my blog, in my social posts, wherever.

Try it. Have a play and see how you get on.

If you want to find out more about setting up a blog, improving your social media campaigns or how to drive more sales online, get in touch.

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