Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Instagram, which simply began as a photo-sharing app, has evolved into a powerful digital marketing tool, thanks to brands and influencers using it to reach a wider target audience. Today, Instagram has more than a billion active users per month. Approximately 80% of these users follow a brand, and nearly 60% of them turn to Instagram to discover new products.
With the right knowledge and tools, you can grow your followers and make money on this platform, even if you're not a well-known celebrity. Here are five proven ways to make money on Instagram with a decent amount of followers. You can combine these revenue streams in order to maximize your profits:
Related: 5 Ways You Can Turn Your Instagram Account Into a Revenue-Generating Machine
1. Sponsored posts
Brands use influencer marketing to promote their products, because it's highly effective. Instant Famous says people trust word-of-mouth recommendations and content shared by the people they know more than brands themselves. As a result, buyers look for referrals from their peers when purchasing an item.
Because of that, brands turn to influencers to promote their products rather than doing it themselves on their profiles. On the other hand, organizations that protect customers, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), require influencers to disclose sponsored posts or content to create the transparency users crave.
You can make money on Instagram if you have an already-established community of engaged followers. Honestly, you don't need a huge following to start earning as an influencer, because brands focus more on the engagement rate than on following. Therefore having in-person interactions with your followers can attract more brands — which means more offers — even if your Instagram account has less than 1,000 followers. So then, use those loyal followers who hang on each recommendation you post on your account to find great brand partnership opportunities.
2. Affiliate marketing
Sponsored posts are not the only way to make money on Instagram. Working as an affiliate can help you monetize your account. Indeed, you can publish sponsored posts on behalf of brands and their affiliate.
You make money through affiliate marketing when your follower purchases a product you recommended in your content or on your account. They can do that by clicking on the affiliate link or using a promo code when buying the item. The brand tracks the number of sales completed through your recommendation and pays a commission. This can be a percentage of the profit the company makes after these sales.
Affiliate marketing can be an easier way of making money, because you can begin with the products you're familiar with or already use. To get started, just research whether your preferred brands are part of affiliate marketing networks, fill out a request form, and if approved, start promoting their products on your Instagram account and other channels.
Additionally, you can search for the best affiliate programs in your niche and join those. Some of those programs include Amazon Associates, Shareasale, Impact, Clickbank, Sage Financials, FragranceNet.com and BH Cosmetics. Simply insert a clickable link in your bio, or create clickable stories, and proceed to promote these affiliate links on your posts and profile.
Related: This Is What's Driving the Next Wave of Growth in Affiliate Marketing
3. Selling your own digital and physical products
Some Instagrammers make money by selling their own digital products. The good news is that this social media platform focuses on visual things, and users visit Instagram to get inspiration and discover new products. Therefore, selling on Instagram is easier as long as your products have a strong visual appeal.
Some trending digital products on the platform are graphic design, LUTs, presets, fonts, typefaces, etc. The most trending physical products include beauty, apparel, accessories, home décor, outdoor and sporting goods. Alternatively, you can offer services such as fitness coaching, online courses, photography, recipes, etc.
Fitness enthusiast, Lucy Davis, sells eBooks on Instagram. The Instagrammer made more than $22k from her eBook, which she created and marketed on Instagram. So, if you're struggling to build followers in order to attract sponsored posts, try creating digital products, and promote them on Instagram. You will get more followers, keep them engaged, and they will likely purchase your goods.
4. Serve as a brand ambassador
Sponsored posts are common on Instagram. However, some brands prefer establishing long-term partnerships with influencers. As a result, they use them to promote their products as their brand ambassadors.
The high level of influencer marketing on Instagram makes it an ideal place to source for brand ambassadors. Therefore, you can seek opportunities to collaborate with large brands on Instagram to promote their products. These companies will send you free products to review and promote on your account. The lifestyle blogger, Jay Alvarez, posts videos and photos on his different channels. Brands invite him to be their brand ambassador — a great opportunity to make money.
Related: 6 Immediate To-Do Items for Instagram Influencers
5. Offer social media marketing services
Brands have added social media marketing to their marketing strategy because of its strong sales potential. They use these platforms to promote their brand, products and services, because they can find their target audience on these networks.
It's not easy for brands to run ads or post engaging content on Instagram, and the competition is growing every day. However, it's easy to cut through it with professional assistance. For example: Instagram expert, Jenn Herman, has been offering social media marketing services to big brands. These services include training, consultations and developing social media strategies. You, too, can make money on Instagram by working with brands as a social media expert.