Instagram continues to be a growing force in social media. Facebook has proven their ability to adapt, and with their acquisition of Instagram for $1 Billion in 2012 they don't look to be slowing down. Instagram is now valued at over $100 Billion and has over 600 million active users.
In this post I'm going to teach you exactly how to make money from Instagram sponsorships as a normal user with just a few thousand followers.
What is Influencer Marketing?
Instagram influencers are people who have influence or the ability to affect the buying decisions of others (we are talking business here).
Influencer marketing is when businesses use these influential people to promote their products. This could be through paid sponsored posts, free products, or equity partnerships.
Anyone can be an influencer.
I do not recommend walking around telling people you're an Instagram influencer, and I personally think it's super tacky when you write it in your Instagram bio. If you're a true influencer people will know it.
I'll cover in this post how to separate yourself as an influencer so businesses and brands know they can work with you.
I want to show you some really crazy numbers first…
MediaKix released a study that preditcts the spend on Instagram influencer marketing in 2018 to be around $1.6 Billion. They project that number to reach $2.3 Billion in 2019.
That's a lot of moo-lah $$$
Check out this projection chart..
We are looking to potentially hit $10 Billion in 2020.
The reason why brands are moving more of their advertising budgets to influencers is because they understand the power of the referral.
People trust influencers they like. They don't trust generic ads.
It's the same concept as celebrity endorsements but on a smaller scale. Michael Jordan made Nike the most popular basketball shoe in the world because people loved him and wanted to play like him.
Same goes for influencers on Instagram. People want to be like their friends or the people they follow. Even if they are people who only have a few thousand followers.
You don't need 100K followers to get paid for Instagram posts.
It obviously helps the more followers you have, but you can get paid on Instagram for posts even if you only have a couple thousand followers if you do it the right way.
In order to “do it the right way” we need to understand Instagram better…
Let's take a look at the user demographics for Instagram. This is very important to know and understand because this is the exact information the marketing analysts are looking at when they decide how they are going to spend their money.
Sprout Social is the king of social media demographics so I'm going to share their data with you. All credit to them.
The big stat that pops from the data is this:
59% of 18–29 year olds use Instagram.
That is the one piece of data that really jumps off the page to me and to advertisers. Brands know that millennials use Instagram.
I hate the word millennials but that's what we're going with…
Here's a key concept to get into your head right now.
BRANDS LOVE MILLENNIALS!!!
Millennials are influencers, they are forward thinkers, they demand change, they want innovation, they want freedom, they want loyalty.
It's easy to look at some of the most successful brands in the world and quickly see why they are winning – they won the millennials.
Look at Apple. They dominated the millennial market early on, and the brand loyalty they've built is the strongest we may ever see.
Look at Subaru. Almost every campaign is targeting millennials. They know how strong brand loyalty is with vehicles and if they can establish that with young people early on they'll have them for life (and their posterity).
If you are 18-29 you've got a great opportunity to become an influencer.
To be honest I'd even go all the way from 18-49. The 30+ year old demographic on Instagram is growing like crazy. People want to feel younger and look younger, and Instagram helps them feel that.
How many followers do you need to be an influencer?
You're going to hate this answer but there is no limit.
If you have 500 followers but all 500 of those people love you and trust your opinions you are influential to them. Brands probably aren't going to buy into you with numbers that low, but micro influencers are becoming more popular than ever.
A micro influencer is anyone with 1,000 to 10,000 followers.
There's probably a good chance you fit in that range. Anywhere in that range presents you with a great opportunity to get an Instagram sponsorship from brands.
We're used to thinking of influencers as people having 50-100k+ followers but let's start to think of how you can build a personal brand as a micro influencer.
If you want to know a great way to grow your Instagram account you need to read this article.
The key parts of an Instagram account
Businesses look for specific things when determining whether or not you are the right fit for their brand.
To set yourself up for influencer success you need to think like the brands you would endorse. Think of your favorite brand… If you were working for the brand as the Instagram marketing director, what type of accounts would you look for? What would their profile look like? What would their bio say? What would their theme be?
I use this tactic all the time when I'm fishing. You gotta think like the fish… “If I were a fish, where would I choose to hide?”
Let's break down the different parts of your Instagram account:
- Profile Pic
- Bio Description
- # of Followers
- # of Followings
- Story Highlights
- Profile Grid
- Photo/Video Quality
- # of Likes
- # of Comments
These are all the aspects of your Instagram account that you want to think about improving. Improving each of these areas will help you grow your Instagram and attract the right Instagram sponsorships.
The number of followers you have is the first thing brands will notice when looking at your account, but the next thing they will look at is engagement.
Engagement = # of Likes + # of Comments per Post.
As a micro influencer, engagement rate is extremely important. You can get sponsors for Instagram with just a couple thousand followers if you have good engagement.
Standard engagement rates for Instagram users with 1,000 or less is around 15%. A post for someone with 1,000 followers would get around 150 likes.
Accounts in the range of 1,000 to 10,000 followers have engagement rates around 7.4% on average. When you get up to 100,000+ followers, engagement rates tend to slip to around 2%.
To calculate your engagement rate, simply divide the number of likes + comments you have on your post by your total number of followers. If you're in the micro influencer range, you should strive for 10% or higher.
How to improve engagement rate
The best way to improve engagement is to take better photos.
Hashtags will get you some extra likes, but many of those likes come from automated services. These are important though and will help boost your engagement rate, but don't use spammy hashtags just to get likes. Sponsors can sniff this out.
Focus on improving your photo/video quality. The photos that tend to get the most likes and comments are the photos that are amazing!
If you're able to take photos with a DSLR camera then do that.
If you have access to Adobe Lightroom or another photo editing software, edit your best photos so they are the best quality they can be.
iPhones and other smart phones have great cameras, but they still don't match the quality you can get with a DSLR. If you have no other choice, do your best with your smartphone, but keep in mind photography principles. It might be worth your while to buy a book on Photography, or watch some YouTube tutorials to improve your skills.
Find a good photo editing app and make your photos really stand out from the crowd.
Improving quality is the best way to increase engagement, but simply asking for it can work wonders too.
Be very strategic with your captions. Ask questions and drive conversation in the comments. If you haven't read my article on comment pods you should check it out. It's one of the best strategies to grow your Instagram account and spike engagement.
Ask people to “double tap” or like if they agree with what's being portrayed in your photo. It's amazing how well this works.
A simple photo of you having a picnic with friends with a caption that includes, “Double tap if you love summer picnics!” will do wonders for your engagement.
Remember. It doesn't hurt to ask.
How do you find sponsored post opportunities?
If you're a micro influencer you probably won't have a steady stream of offers coming in. The micro influencer market is growing rapidly, but it might take a little more work on your end.
I'll get to some great places to go to find opportunities, but first I want to mention a few things you should do to set yourself up for success.
1. Make your profile public.
You will find it near impossible to get paid for sponsored posts as a private account. Not only that, but you'll have a very difficult time growing. If you want to make money on Instagram, make your profile public.
2. Include your email address in your bio.
This is a simple trick that actually works wonders for micro influencers. If someone from a brand stumbles upon your account and sees an email for contact, they will find it much easier to reach out to you.
3. Link to your personal blog or website.
I recommend anyone who is even considering making money online or through Instagram to have a blog or website. I'll actually teach a lot more about why I feel this is so important on this website, but for now if you want to know how to start a blog, how much it costs, and all that good stuff read this article.
4. Tag your favorite brands in your photos.
This works very well for local brands. If you go eat at a local place, or shop from a local store, tag them in your photo. They'll not only appreciate it, but most likely take a peek at your photo. That might lead them to checkout your profile. If they like what they see, you might have an email waiting for you with an opportunity!
5. Geo tag your photos.
Don't forget to tag your location in your photos. If you're at a specific place, tag that place not just the city or state. This will help brands learn where you are and where you go and understand what you can offer to them.
Those are a few simple tactics to help get discovered organically.
Now let's talk about ways you can reach out to brands you love for opportunities.
Instagram marketplaces are websites where brands can connect with influencers to promote. There are a handful of good sites out there, and you should know that many of them have minimum follower requirements, but a lot of them should be within reach for many of you.
Instagram Sponsorship Websites
Tribe is a popular Australian based platform with an app as well that allows you to connect with many brands looking for a worldwide audience. The minimum requirement is 3,000 followers.
There are hundreds of brands on Tribe and many of them are working with micro influencers.
Revfluence is another really nice site to find opportunities. Like many of the marketplaces, you can connect your YouTube, Facebook, and even blog to this service to get opportunities for all those platforms.
For Instagram you need at least 500 average likes/post, 3,000 followers, and 50 posts.
This marketplace is only available to creators using the iOS app. This platform is more suited for influencers with larger followings, but you will only be showed campaigns for which you can potentially qualify for.
On this platform you bid on price per like. Instead of creating a deal for $50 per post you might bid $0.12 per like on the post. If you were chosen and got 400 likes you'd earn $48.
It's a different style of influencer marketing but you can potentially bid very low and still get campaigns even if you're a smaller influencer.
This platform has over 500 brands including Lenovo, Kleenex, Sony, Hallmark, Walmart, Honda, and Budweiser.
It's a very technical platform with an emphasis on analytics and software.
Other Marketplaces to Try
These are just a few of the places to look for Instagram sponsored post opportunities. There are many other marketplaces online that you can sign up for as well.
Another strategy for finding paid Instagram opportunities is to reach out to brands personally.
As a micro influencer your best bet is to reach out to new or growing brands or companies. You may not get monetary compensation your first go around. It may just be free product in exchange for a post. But you could build a relationship and continue to grow as the company grows.
Look for local brands or businesses. There may be local food restaurants or boutique shops that you can support. These businesses are looking for local ways to advertise. If you have a large local following you can do very well working with local brands.
In addition to looking for local brands, you should look for brands that are clearly investing time, energy, and money into their Instagram marketing. Look for brands that post high-quality content, run contests, or spend money on ads.
An even smarter strategy is to look specifically for brands that are spending money on influencers. Look at other Instagram accounts of influencers in your niche and see what brands are sponsoring their posts. Reach out to those same brands and you'll find a lot of success!
When you find a brand to work with look for their email address. Sometimes you'll find low success rates reaching out to an “[email protected]” email address. A hack is to look up the employees of the company on LinkedIn. You can usually find a marketing or social media manager to connect personally with. Your chances of someone reading your email will increase drastically if you can find a personal email.
Jumper Media put out a great email template to use when reaching out to brands as an influencer:
My name is [name] and I run the Instagram account [hyperlinked @name]. My account focuses on [theme], based on my [related experience]. The people who follow me tend to be [various demographics and interests of followers], which seems like a good match for the audience your brand targets with marketing. I currently have [x] followers, and an [x%] engagement rate on my posts, and [plug in any related awards/achievements if applicable].
I think there’s an opportunity for us to benefit each other, and I’d like to propose a partnership. Here are my initial thoughts on how that might look:
[# of posts, payment terms, timeline, etc.]
Would this be something of interest for [brand]?
Thanks for your consideration!
Be short but be professional. Don't undersell yourself. Be confident in your influence and straightforward in your approach.
Think in terms of the person reading the email. They want to know what's in it for them?
How much should you charge for sponsored posts?
Let's imagine now that you've got 2,400 followers, engagement rate is at 15%, and a brand has somehow reached out to you about posting about their product.
How much do you charge?
Industry standard is around $10 per 1,000 followers. So right off the bat you could charge $20. That's $20 to post a photo of their product on your page.
There are many more ways you can sweeten the deal…
You could probably charge more by including something like:
- 6+ Instagram story posts
- Link to product in bio for 24 hours
- Free Facebook or Twitter promos as well
Create a package that you can offer to potential clients. Maybe for this specific account that we are imagining with 2,400 followers their sponsor package is:
- 1 Dedicated Instagram Post
- 6 Instagram Story Posts
- 1 Link in bio for 24 hours
- 1 Bonus Post on Facebook and Twitter
Price = $50
Now instead of charging $20 for a sponsored post, you can charge $50. You'll begin to quickly see that the number of followers you have and your engagement rate will be the most important factors that determine how much you can charge.
If you can grow your account to 10,000 followers you can probably charge $150+ per post no problem.
Becoming an Instagram Influencer is a very real possibility for anyone with an Instagram account and passion for taking quality photos.
Follow other influencers in your niche and learn from them. What makes them successful? Look at the quality of their photos. Analyze their grid and layout. What do their captions look like? Find out how often they post on their feed and their story.
As you start to make the small changes to your account you'll see your influence start to increase as well.
And who knows…
You may just find a full-time income!