Similar to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, users create a profile and post content. You can follow other people’s accounts, see their photos and videos, react to content, leave public comments and send private messages.
Instagram has become big business, with thousands of Instagrammers earning money from their photos, either full-time or as a lucrative hobby
In short, it’s all about ‘influencer marketing’. Traditionally, people were influenced by celebrities – copying what they wore, where they went or what they ate – as well as by journalists or broadcasters who could reach a high number of readers, listeners or viewers.
But social media means anyone now has the potential to become an influencer. The key is to grow your social media following to the point where companies will pay you to picture, plug or mention their product in your posts.
“It’s all about how much people like and comment”
People seen as having influence over what their followers wear or do, and the things they buy, are known as ‘micro influencers’. This term typically refers to social media content creators with a following of between 1,000 and 100,000 accounts.
How much influencers are paid to mention a company or product varies from a few quid to hundreds or even thousands of pounds.
To be a successful influencer you need to pick a subject you’re passionate about and that has visual appeal, such as fashion, travel or pets. The aim of your posts is to build a loyal following of other people interested in the same subject.
As Instagram is a picture-led platform, the number one rule is to post high-quality images on a regular basis. Pay special attention to your account bio (biography) as this is the first thing people see when they click on your page. Your bio is also the only spot on Instagram where you can insert a clickable link – most people link to their blog or business.
Engagement is the name of the game on Instagram. It’s not just about your follower count but how often people interact by ‘liking’ and commenting on your photos. As engagement increases, so does your earnings potential.
Instagram hashtags (#) – topic labels you give to your posts – are another key way to encourage engagement. Using the right combination of hashtags can help expose your feed to large and targeted audiences.
Philip Story, chief executive of marketing agency Enchant, suggests asking your followers a question or asking people to comment and give you their ideas. “Be super-active in commenting within your community, not just on your own posts. Search for the hashtags that you are active within, and contribute to the community. This will help you grow quickly,” he says.
Once you’ve built up significant engagement on your feed, it’s time to start building relationships with brands. Once again, interaction is crucial – follow brands you like, view their stories, comment on their posts and follow similar people. You need to be seen as both ‘on brand’, and also with the potential to open the brand up to new consumers through your following.
“Connecting with brands on social media can be as simple as commenting and engaging with their posts, interacting with their stories or striking up a conversation – essentially becoming a brand loyalist that’s known to them,” says Doone Roisin, co-founder of influencer platform Sweet P Social.
“Your aim is for brands to pay you”
Your aim is for brands to pay you, either by offering you a freebie or cash, for a ‘sponsored post’ or collaboration. Make sure you stick to Advertising Standards Authority rules though, by using hashtags such as #ad, #sp or #sponsored if you’re paid for a post.
Exciting as it may be, experts advise new influencers against taking every paid opportunity that comes their way.
“There will be brands and agencies which offer money for influencers to post something that might not necessarily suit their personal brand, and the money can be understandably tempting,” says Fiona White, head of PR at digital marketing agency I-COM. “But remember your post will be there for future brands to see, and if it doesn’t fit in with their ethos they are unlikely to partner with you further down the line.
The past couple of years has seen the launch of several websites and apps which connect brands and influencers. These include Buzzoole, Indahash, Sweet P Social, Takumi and Tribe. In most cases, you need a minimum of 1,000 followers to sign up. All five of the platforms listed above are free for Instagram influencers to use, as they make money by charging brands commission on top of any posts they purchase.
The fees charged by influencers can vary according to how many posts they are making or the brand they are endorsing.