While many of the other social networks have saturated Instagram continues to grow. And what more it is growing as fast as it ever did, making it one of fastest growing social network today. Instagram has 400 million users as of 2016. According to the instagram blog 80 million pictures are shared everyday on the social network. The forester report suggests that Instagram has leads in the brand engagement, and has about 20 times more engagement rates than Facebook and 210 times than of twitter!
The new gen social network such as Instagram and snapchat has put a tremendous amount of power in the hands of the millennials, a demography which is not afraid of spending money. How you can make the most of the opportunity that Instagram presents?
There are primarily two ways you can put the social network to your advantage:
- Permeate your brand and increase reach.
- Make money/living off the Instagram
Permeate your brand and increase reach
Today, all kind of brands use Instagram from Nike to Starbuck and from your neighborhood restaurant to a small hotel. These brands use everything, from the traditional marketing techniques such as running contests and sponsoring events to innovative marketing techniques such as creating customized hashtags and pushing their products/ brands through popular Instagrammers (social media influencer).
Make money/living off the Instagram
- There a number of ways a brand or just about anybody (yes you heard it right, ordinary people like you and me) can make money from Instagram. To list a few important ones:
- Promotional posts
- Affiliate marketing
Getting started with Instagram
Using Instagram is a fairly straight forward process. Signup for an account, sign-in and set up your profile and start posting. That’s it!
Signing up with Instagram is simple and fast.
- Use computer or mobile
- Username @id – use your website name. If it isn’t up yet, make sure to block the domain! – Or use an identity that could be a brand name.
Right after the signup you need to head to the profile section to fill up all the key details. I know you really hate filling in the ‘private’ information. But hey you want to be successful on Instagram or not? If your answer is ‘yes’ then it is critical people should know a few things about the man (or woman or brand) behind the screen. Now, here is the good news, filling in Instagram profile is not as lengthy process as Facebook. It’s short and simple just like twitter. Heck, you can even use twitter bio-generator to get some quirky lines for your bio: http://twitterbiogenerator.com
Below I have broken down different sections (and elements) that you need to spruce up (and not just fill in) within the Bio:
- Bio description: For a business/brand it’s best to be to the point, clear and focused. One line or maximum two lines work best. In the case of individuals use a quirky or funny bio which would at the same time send the message what your profile is all about. Key here is to write something that would burn instantly in people’s mind and make them think ‘huh, I got to check this one out’ You just got a new follower! (or a stalker if you are unlucky)
- Hashtag in the bio: Not as critical as twitter hashtags in bio, but use one or two hashtags that best describes your profile. Note, don’t use very generic hashtags – eg #travel, instead be specific and drill down to #budgettravel.
- Contact info: I can almost hear you grudge. Why should I make my contact info public? The answer is in this Instagram Guide, keep reading! Provide your Email (just create a new gmail account, will ya?) or twitter or snapchat where you can be reached. Alternatively, you can provide your kik id, which is a very popular way of communication between Instagrampreneurs.
- Url in profile: Perhaps the most important section of the Instagram, if you are looking to make money from Instagram chances are all your hard work would ultimately come down to this. Here are a few ideas on what you can provide in the URL section:
1. A link to your website: It’s common sense, isn’t it?
2. A CTA or call to action: Now what’s this CTA stuff? In the simplest terms you can understand CTA as something that makes you money or moves closer to make you money. e.g. You can add a link of a landing page and capture the email of the user. Why email you ask? It’s basic email marketing 101. These are your qualified leads through email you push your product or service to them. $$$! Ting!
I recommend you to use a Url shortener service like bitly to track your Instagram traffic. Another advantage of using Url shortener is that it masks your long ugly links and makes them more presentable. e.g. Take a guess which brands are using these shorteners:
Posting in Instagram
Instagram is a unique platform which allows you to post only from a mobile device. Here are a few tricks of the trade:
First things first, Instagram is not a place where you can get off by saying something stupid or post mediocre pictures. It’s neither a platform to rage war (think tweet war) nor to share those clickbait articles (think facebook buzzfeed kind of stuff).
Post the best pic, invest in a good camera if you have to. Play with Instagram filters and other enhancement options before you post a picture. But at the same time remember it’s best to practice moderation then to excessively overdo things. Don’t ruin the picture by making it look fake (e.g. overdoing HDR or pixelization due to excessive sharpness).
- Branding the pics: Putting your stamp on the pictures makes long lasting impression on people who are seeing your pictures. Use a logo, or a tag line or website – whatever suits you the best to make your mark. Now, branding a pic every single time you post is quite a lot of pain, so consider bulk watermarking the pictures. The simplest solution to is to use a tool, which I also use extensively – paint.net. What more, the desktop app is free to use.
- Finding the best pics and prepare them to post: Pixabay and Pexels are the two best aggregator of free pictures. By free picture I mean absolutely free! It’s free for modification and commercial use and best of all you need not to provide any attribution. Both of the website provide search and tag functionality to help you look-up just the right picture. Unsplash is another free website sharing fine quality pictures but its content is already included in the above two aggregators.
Now, over to editing. Canva is a great online tool for basic editing. You can add quotes (to create picture quotes) add vector objects and so on. I recommend you to use Instagram template provided by the Canva for optimum size. To use Canva for Instagram editing, begin your workflow with a template and replace the default picture with one of yours by using upload functionality.
- Cloud Storage: Use Google drive or Dropbox for storing images. Remember to keep your pics organized by grouping them in meaningful pattern. e.g. based on geographical region, travel themes such as budget travel. Save the pictures locally on your phone. Proceed to create a gallery shortcut on home screen and point to the Instagram album that you want to upload. The shortcut can easily be created by using the image gallery widget.
- Captions: Writing descriptions that get attention: Always write a bit of description to the picture you are uploading so that people can understand what it is all about. The perceived value of an image increases dramatically when you add an interesting text to go with it. And in turn it increases your chances of getting a like from a viewer. The more likes you get, the more people see your pictures and as a result your profile visibility will also increase.
But hold on, here’s a twist, you can also use the caption to add a CTA. E.g. “Tag a travel buddy.” Or “Clink the link in the bio”
I believe you are already familiar with the term. In simplest form hashtags serve the purpose of grouping the user posts together under a common theme. Also, you might or might not know is hashtags helps discover your post. Instagram (just like twitter or Facebook) keeps a track of hashtag and allows people to search by hashtags and find pictures. Note, unlike twitter or FB, Instagram doesn’t display a list of top trending tags. Tagging is especially useful for a new account with less followers. As your account grow to tens of thousands of follower your dependence on tags would decrease and you would use only a maximum of 2-3 tags or sometimes none at all.
Before you jump start using a hashtag, spend some time on researching the best hashtags for your niche. Make use of a website like tags4likes which keeps a list of top tags under a particular niche.
A word of advice, don’t use all the top tags but choose a healthy mix of most popular, moderately popular, and less popular hashtags. The reason is the more crowded a hash tag is the faster your post will be buried deep under the sea of the pictures making use of the same tag.
Tag Limit: Instagram allows upto 30 tags to be added to a post. I suggest you use far less than the threshold number using too many hashtags makes the post look spammy.
Optimally using tags: Breakdown your hashtags into two groups. Put the most important in Group 1 (3-4 tags max) and the rest in Group 2. Post the group 1 tags in the caption of the image; Group 2 tags will be posted as the first comment to your pictures. This is particularly helpful if you are planning to automatically post the post on to twitter network. Long captions can easily break the twitter’s 144-character limit.
Create your own hashtags: Accounts with larger following can easily create tags of their own. Encourage the users to use your tags to get a free featured post, or create some contest around these Instagram hashtags.
Instagram list down the trending pictures for every hashtag, if you have got enough likes (usually 1000+) your picture can be picked up as top post allowing you to reach even more people. Don’t worry if you think you have no chance of getting on a top position for hashtag, your picture still be featured at top in the latest post category. This is also the reason why you should post pictures multiples times a day.
Unlike twitter and Facebook you cannot schedule your post on to Instagram as the social network has opened only limited features through API. This actually is a major reason behind the social network’s success as you have to grab your phone and post pictures yourself. By not allowing post automation, the personal interaction of its user with the app remain intact.
That being said there is still a way to semi-automate the process. Yay! You can use Hootsuite or Latergram which will send a notification (you need to have their app on your phone) at a scheduled time. A tap on the notification will open the picture in Instagram and from there you can post as you do normally.
While posting a picture (or a video) you can set a geographical location (any location of your choosing, the autocomplete helps you). A instagram hack is to post a CTA (Call to action) in the location. “Click the link in our bio”. But as always be cautious with its use and don’t overdo it, your action will be raising red flag to instagram otherwise.
Building a Instagram Follower Base
Building follower base on Instagram gets to very basic of any social network.
- Follow other Instagram users and expect them to follow back. Of-course not all of them will follow back, hell, not even half of them will follow you back. If your ratio hinges somewhere around 20-30% you are good, if it is any lower than this then probably you are not targeting the right group of users to follow. Here are couple of ideas that you can use to find people to follow:
1. Go to top Instagram accounts in your niche and copy their followers.
2. Search the popular hashtags, and copy the likers of the top pics.
- Shout for shout: In simplest terms shout for shout means, you promote someone and they promote you in return. It is pretty simple to implement and can be very effective. This is how it is done: Contact Instagram accounts in the same niche with similar or marginally more followers. If you approach someone with huge number of followers, it’s highly likely your request would be declined. So, save your energy and talk to your peer accounts.
- Run competitions: You need to have a sizable following before you could run competition asking people to participate. So, clearly it’s not for noob Instagram users.
- Call for action!: An interesting way to increase the reach of your post is by asking users to tag themselves or their friends. In you caption you can use a comment like – “Tag your travel buddy.” Or something like “Tag your fashion bestie”
- Analytics: A part of building user base involves continuously analyzing your current activity and figuring out what is working and what is not. e.g. Find out the optimal timing for posting a picture on Instagram so that you get maximum engagements and maximum followers. You can use Iconosquare, a freemium tool for the same.
How to monetize Instagram?
You will be pleased to know there are countless ways you can make money off instagram. Here are a few top ones:
i.) Sell Shout outs
So you already know what is a shoutout and what is shout4shout, now give it a little twist and do paid shouts. Why would someone buy shouts? Simple – You have much bigger account with a power to influence your Instagram following. So the smaller account comes to you and ask for a shoutout, first you negotiate a fees, $5-$20 usually, but you can go really steep depending on your influence (aka follower count and engagement percent). Second, you post a pic they provide and tag their account id. e.g. a caption would look like – “ taken by @id” The easiest, fastest money you’d ever make! Now, do you believe the power of Instagram?
ii.) Affiliate programs
Think affiliate program as a way of making money by a sale generated by your recommendation. You like a movie, you recommend to a friend, do you make money? Obviously, no. But there are several online companies available which pay you for bringing in a sale. Using an affiliate program, you can either sell a digital product or a physical one. Some of the most popular online affiliate programs are – amazon (physical goods, digital products), ebay (physical goods), clickbank (digital products), bluehost (webhosting) etc.
But before you jump in and signup with these and start using the link in your bio, here’s a caveat. You need to understand the terms and conditions of each one of these as some of these may not allow social media traffic or mobile traffic. Clever instagrammers bypass this limitation by cloaking their affiliate link so that the affiliate doesn’t know if it’s social media/ mobile traffic. The practice borders on grey side and if detected would lead to the closure of your affiliate account.
But need not worry, there is one more way, an ethical way to bypass the limitation. It’s simple, direct the traffic to a landing page (your website page) and post your affiliate link in the page!
As a bonus I’ll provide the names of a few top affiliates that Instagrammers use without cloaking or landing page:
Sharesale – get paid for lead, sale and clicks.
Ebates is another great option – you’ll find big retailers such as amazon here.
iii.) Redirect traffic to a website
Similar idea as above, create a content driven website and put in the AdSense units around on the page. User clicks on the ads, you make money – plain and simple.
iv.) CPA – usually means filling up surveys or capturing leads (email/ phone)
CPA is a tricky beast to deal with when it comes to making money on Instagram. Many of the advertisers don’t like mobile/ social traffic and using so would violate their TOS. But again, clocking and landing page to the rescue.
CPI is very similar to CPA, you drive the traffic to Google play store/ Apple app store, user installs the app and you make money. $$$! Ting!
vi.) Build email list
Collecting emails is perhaps the most sophisticated and the best way to make money of your popular Instagram account. How does it work? Direct the traffic to your landing page – offer them something for free (remember the free giveaway has to add some value to the subscriber, don’t give crappy, half-baked products!) and ask their email. Once you have their email, you can go through the whole email-marketing bit to make money from the list. Like they say, the money is in the list!
vii.) Sponsored post
This is much like selling shout out, the only difference here is usually it will be the brands who will contact you to cover their products. Maybe you’ll post a picture of your happy feet in some luxurious Bali hotel or pose with that $1000+ Gucci handbag and so on…
viii.) Selling pictures
Hmm… how about that for originality? But remember in order to sell pictures, you either need to take great quality pictures (goes without telling, isn’t it?) or if it’s not a high quality stuff, atleast your picture needs to be something special, i.e. it need to capture a moment. e.g. a snow leopard jumping on a mountain goat! You got the gist?
Either a DSLR or a great camera phone (iPhone 7 you say?) is a must if you are serious about selling your pictures on Instagram!
Couple of websites worth mentioning which help you sell are: Twenty20 and Instaprints. You can also build your flickr portfolio with Instagram pictures by connecting the two accounts (using IFTT, explained below.) Once your pictures are posted on flickr you can set a price against them. Cool?
Yes! You can directly sell on Instagram, all from within the post. Inselly.com is a nifty tool which allows you to turn your Instagram feed into an eshop. Set the item price and shipping policy, also you can use PayPal for receiving payments. And what more, with inselly you can list upto 100 items for free! There is no listing fee, no commission (till date) on the sales you make.
Instagram is one of the top social networks that ordinary people can employ to make serious money. Of-course just as in any business, it requires understanding, dedication and a lot of patience.
To your success,
– Vidyut Rautela