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11 Steps to Monetize Your Instagram Following

Instagram started out as an image-sharing app. Over the years, it has evolved into something much more valuable to marketers.

After Facebook acquired it, it grew to become number 3 on the list of the 15 most popular social networking sites with more than 1 billion monthly users. It falls behind Facebook and YouTube.

Step One: Define Your Audience

If you’re starting from the ground up, it is crucial to define the audience you want to attract. Unless you know exactly who your target audience is you could be wasting time and effort and end up attracting the wrong type of people. If the audience you cultivate isn’t in line with what you want to sell, you will have a hard time monetizing your Instagram following.

Think about what it is you want to market and sell through Instagram whether it is through sponsored posts, affiliate marketing, or your own products. Take some time to develop customer avatars for the various personas in your target market. The more well-defined these are, the better off you will be when trying to build your target following.

Step Two: Start Building Your Following

Whether you build your following before or after your marketing efforts doesn’t really matter. Before you can monetize your Instagram following, you have to have one. The more you have, the more you are seen and the greater your chance of turning leads to sales.

There are many ways you can grow your Instagram following. These include liking photos in your Niche, simply asking people to follow you, running contests, and running Instagram ads. it’s also important to research hashtags that are relevant to your niche and use them in your photos to extend your reach.

Step Three: Always Include a Link and Call to Action

Though you can only include a single live link on Instagram in your bio, It’s always important to include product links and links to your blog if you want to make money on Instagram through sales.

All your posts, whether they are images, videos, or stories should include calls to action with information about where your followers can go to purchase the item. Make sure to use product tags linked to your Facebook catalog to allow users to make purchases directly from Instagram.

Step Four: Create a High-Quality Feed Aesthetic

No matter how many new features Instagram adds, it is and always will be about sharing beautiful images. Nothing will encourage your prospects or monetize your account more than high-quality images.

Focus on sharing images and videos that show your followers what your brand is about and appeal to the visual senses. Tell them your brand story, and show off your products.

But beyond the individual images, think about how each piece plays into your overall feed aesthetic. Pay close attention to the colors you use as research indicates color influences buying decisions by around 85% and color increases brand recognition by 80%.

Spend some time planning your feed so you can see which posts look best to each other and which post do not. Though it may seem like a waste of time to plan, planning your Instagram feed could save you time and enhance your overall aesthetic.

There are free tools like Planoly available that allow you to drag and drop without actually posting anything until you’re ready. Once you find out where you want everything to go, you can use scheduling tools to save even more time.

Step Five: Make Use of the Right Hashtags

Hashtags help categorize and improve the discoverability of your content. Instagram allows for a maximum of 30 hashtags but it seems using 10 to 15 helps you get the maximum effect.

 While it may be tempting to use random hashtags, you’re better off conducting a bit of research beforehand to use the ones that are relevant to your post and will help you reach bigger audiences.

Remember, some hashtags even those that are seemingly innocent such as #dogsofinstagram are banned because of high spam activity. Check your hashtag list to make sure you’re not inadvertently using any that has been banned.

If you want to ensure the hashtags don’t ruin the aesthetic of your captions, you can place a few line breaks between the end of your caption and the list of hashtags. You can also include them in a comment on the post.

If you choose to do this however, it’s worth noting that images are shown based on the time they are posted rather than when the hashtags were added. This means that you will want to immediately add the hashtags in a comment as soon as the image or video is published to your feed.

Step Six: Build Relationships With Other Content Creators

As someone who is just getting started with monetizing Instagram, quality content and compelling captions are only going to get you so far. An important part of growing your influence and reach is building relationships with other content creators inside your niche.

You could always get in touch with them and ask for a shoutout on one of their posts or you could actively engage with them and their followers on their posts. Better yet you can work together with them to create content together that you can both use.

Step Seven: Choose Your Monetization Methods

 There are numerous ways to monetize your Instagram following in the ways that work best for you depends highly on your Niche and your overall go. If you are a brand that has products and services to sell, it makes sense to use your Instagram following to drive traffic to your website and promote sales there.

If on the other hand, you are an influencer, it may make more sense to focus on sponsored posts and affiliate marketing.

Instead of randomly trying monetization methods with your audience, focus on what you think your audience will respond best to the next steps, we will focus on various ways to monetize your Instagram audience.

Step Eight: Offer Sponsored Posts

Once you have cultivated a large enough following to reach influencer status whether it is a micro-influencer or a macro influencer, you can leverage that influence to promote Brands. After you have established thought leadership within your Niche, you can start monetizing your Instagram audience with sponsored posts.

 Brands often partner with influencers for sponsored posts that help them spread the word about what they’re offering. Typically these posts revolve around the product itself with a small review from you.

Though it may be tempting to take every sponsored post you can get your hands on for the sake of money, it’s important to remember that doing so will cause your audience to alienate you. And without an audience, you are no longer an influencer.

 As such, you should practice moderation with your sponsored posts and carefully consider whether or not it’s a good fit for you and your audience. Your sponsored posts need to blend in with your content so there is not seen as overly promotional.

Step Nine: Use Affiliate Marketing

One of the easiest ways to monetize your Instagram following is to become an affiliate marketer. Essentially, you are a brand ambassador for the products and services you use and believe in.

Your audience may find it helpful if you share a discount code or link within for the products you’re promoting on your page. Whenever someone makes a purchase through your link, you get a percentage of the revenue.

Affiliate marketing is a good starting point because there were any real barriers to entry. Most products have a self-enrollment program so all you need to do is sign up and they will provide you with the link to share on Instagram and other social platforms.

 The key is to use compelling copy and attractive photos that give users a reason to consider the product you’re marketing.

Step 10: Sell Your Own Products

If you have a strong personal brand and would rather not promote other companies on your page, you could always use it to market your own products.

As long as you have a strong following, you can design and sell your own products such as books, merchandise, cosmetics, and clothing. As long as the items relate to your niche and speak to your audience, you can use Instagram as a platform to sell them.

Step 11: Keep it Real

Above all, regardless of which monetization methods you choose, the key to maintaining a highly engaged audience is to keep it real.

Authenticity and transparency are important to Millennials and Gen Zers, so if you come off as nothing but a constant sales pitch, you will turn off your audience and likely decrease the chances of making any kind of money with the Instagram platform.

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