The initial stages of becoming an Influencer are really exciting – growing your following, creating content and figuring out what makes you stand out. But what happens when it’s time to earn money on Instagram and start charging brands for access to your following and social influence?
At Sidewalker Daily we work with Influencers and Creators to monetize their businesses and successfully pitch to brands. We also work with many brands to build their Influencer marketing campaigns, so we know how things go on both sides of the equation. We can tell you that with the right strategy in place – and dedication to your growth – that earning money on Instagram is totally possible! In this post we wanted to go over some of the most important things to consider before you know if you’re ready to earn money on Instagram.
There Are Some Things You NEED To Know Before Starting to Earn Money On Instagram.
Sometimes it’s tough to tell when you’re ready to take your online brand to the next level and learn how to earn money on Instagram in return for all the hard work you’ve been putting into your blog and social accounts.
Because we are often responsible for deciding which Influencers get chosen for certain press trips or projects, we frequently get asked the question, “how do I get considered for an Influencer campaign or how many followers on Instagram to make money?”
If you’re expecting a magic number, we unfortunately won’t be much help because determining the fees for your rate sheet isn’t as easy as it seems. Of course, we could pull numbers out of a hat and and say for example “If you have 50,000 – 250,000 followers with 2% – 5% engagement, you are in the running to become America’s Next Top Influencer,” but we all know life isn’t always black and white and often when working in a space that is continuously evolving, a frequent response to tough questions is, “it depends.”
The secret to effective Influencer marketing is not really how many followers someone has, it’s how many engaged and loyal followers they have, i.e. the question of “how strong is their social influence?”
Yes, you have a lot of followers, but do you have influence over them? Do they listen to what you have to say and follow your recommendations? If you’re not sure then you definitely need to test your influence (grab our free Influence testing worksheet) and understand the ins and outs of your following before starting to charge brands to work with you.
Don’t get us wrong, if you’re an amazing content Creator, the number of followers you have may not matter to brands or they may not care how strong your social influence is because your work speaks for itself. They may be looking to work with you more for your content creation abilities, not necessarily because of your social influence. But that’s a different conversation altogether.
Before we get into specific questions to ask yourself, here are two major things to consider before deciding if you’re ready to earn money on Instagram:
1. Understand Your Influence
Remember, if you’re not pitching yourself on the production side (photo or video), and you’re positioning yourself as an Influencer – we hate to break it to you baby girl, but you better have some influence.
So before we get down to business and help you figure out if your social influence is strong enough to start earning money on Instagram, let’s discuss how Influencers are categorized by marketing professionals. Just FYI, everyone has their own internal system but we’ll give you a broad overview of the three main categories we use when defining Influencers:
- Micro Influencer: Less than 30,000 followers
- Power Middle Influencer: Between 30,000 – 250,000 followers
- Social Media Celeb: Over 250,000+ followers
Then of course there are traditional celebrities with large followings who are considered influencers in their own right and are technically competition, but for the sake of this article we’re only going to discuss the three categories mentioned above.
“Micro Influencers” and “Power Middle Influencers” are starting to earn money on Instagram because their social influence is considered to be the most engaged and authentic.
We’re huge fans of Micro Influencers and Power Middle Influencers because their social influence feels trustworthy and authentic. Their audience is often very engaged and loyal which is a huge benefit for brands looking for sales, new customers and fans.
Based on our experience, most Influencers with less than 250,000 followers are still using Instagram as a side hustle and haven’t yet ditched their 9-5 to pursue blogging full-time, or have multiple “hustles” to stay afloat. That means they often have less pressure to earn money on Instagram so they keep their sponsored posts to a minimum. As a result, they typically have more organic and authentic content for their followers to consume.
They also feel more relatable because they haven’t crossed over to Social Media Celeb status yet. Being able to connect brands with followers who engage with your content is a great sign you’re on track to start charging for posts and earning money on Instagram.
Yes, brands will get visibility when working with “Social Media Celeb” status Influencers, but they may not get the engagement or results they really should be considering to call their marketing campaign a success.
Brands have realized that they should spread their Influencer marketing budget across a multitude of Influencers instead of working with one giant Influencer who has really high rates. They can also target their exact audience demographic.
Here’s what we mean:
Say a country’s tourism board focuses on different categories such as romance, culinary and adventure. They may want to use their budget to work with
- a travel blogging couple,
- a travel/food blogger, and
- a travel/adventure blogger.
Because these are accounts that have really niched down, their following is likely filled with people who are interested in these defined categories as well as are looking for travel recommendations and inspiration.
On the other hand, if the tourism board collaborates with a Social Media Celeb with 2 million plus followers, yes, the messaging can reach a large audience but a big portion of that audience may not be travel enthusiasts and if they are, still may not be interested in the specific categories (romance, culinary and adventure) that they promote as a country.
Depending on a brand’s internal goals, their Influencer marketing budget may be spread across Micro Influencers and Power Middles instead of all of it being poured into Social Media Celebs.
So if you’re an Influencer with a not so huge following, but amazing content and a loyal audience, hang in there…we believe in you!
2. Track Your Conversions
The only catch (there’s always a catch) is that not all brands and travel brands understand the inner workings of Influencer marketing and are blinded by “big followings.” At Sidewalker Daily we do our best to educate brands on the theory that “not all followings are created equal” and encourage them not to be swayed by “big numbers.” But ultimately, brands have the final decision on who gets selected for the certain trip or project.
This is why it’s so important to learn how to pitch to brands and show them why you’re the perfect fit for them. If you want to earn money on Instagram, especially through brand partnerships, then you have to learn how to position yourself. What do YOU offer that a brand simply couldn’t resist?
When it comes down to the business side of your social influence and earning money on Instagram, conversions matter. You can use this to tell if your following is responding to your content in a way that could lean to making money as a Creator.
If you haven’t come across the term “conversion” yet, let’s break it down:
“Conversion” is a term marketing professionals use to talk about a marketing tactic that encourages a customer to take a specific action. For example, if a travel brand would like more followers on their social account and they hire an Influencer to promote that action, the conversion we would be tracking is how many people the Influencer got to follow the travel brand’s social accounts by their efforts.
Other general examples of conversions in marketing can be:
- email list sign ups
- rooms booked by a hotel
- link clicks
Basically, the question to ask yourself in evaluating your influence is, can you get people to take action i.e. book a hotel room, purchase a ticket, buy a product? Your ability to meet a client’s conversion expectations is a good sign that you can start earning money on Instagram.
2. When it comes to your social influence, the number of followers you have, and your account engagement – you’re the only one that knows if your numbers are authentic. Be honest with yourself.
You’ve gotten to this point where you have lots of followers who seem to love what you post and have to say. But are these followers for real? Here are a few great questions to ask yourself:
1. How did the majority of the followers you have find you?
- Loop Giveaways
- Third party promotions
2. Do you feel confident that your audience is interested in what you have to say and may actually take your advice and purchase what you are suggesting they should buy?
3. Are the comments and engagement you receive on your posts authentic or are they from others that are obligated to engage (for example, comment pods, family members, etc.). If the latter, you should try posting a few photos and requesting that they don’t engage with the posts, just to test the true level of engagement from your followers.
Another thing to be aware of is if your following increases, don’t be surprised if your engagement decreases.
According to Digiday, “A survey of 2 million social media influencers by influencer marketing platform Markerly showed that for unpaid posts, Instagram influencers with fewer than 1,000 followers have a like rate of about 8 percent, while those with 1,000 to 10,000 followers have a like rate of 4 percent. As following base continues to increase, like rate keeps decreasing. Instagram influencers with 10,000 to 100,000 followers see a 2.4 percent like rate, compared to 1.7 percent for those with 1 million to 10 million followers and more. Comment rate follows a similar pattern.”
An increase in followers and drop in engagement doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with your social influence or it isn’t as valuable. It just means it’s more difficult to track conversions as people may be viewing and consuming the content you are creating, they just might not be engaging with it.
3. Earning money directly from Instagram can be tough to conceptualize but the theory of a “1000 True Fans” really puts things into perspective.
We absolutely love the theory of “1000 True Fans” because it makes so much sense! The theory is that all you need is 1000 true, dedicated SUPER fans, to be successful at whatever you do – whether it’s being a social media creative or travel influencer, if you have loyal people in your corner then the chances of being successful are through the roof.
Think about it – when you have true superfans, they are eager to hear what you have to say and you can count on them to support you in whatever you do. They will purchase anything you promote, they will drive the distance to come see you if you’re doing a meet up, they will tell their friends about the cool things you are up to and they are more than happy to promote you whenever possible.
Let’s analyze this from a business perspective. If you can find 1000 unique people to purchase something that you receive $100 from, that’s a yearly income of $100,000. Not bad, right? The theory goes that you can adjust the amount of “True Fans” you need depending on your goals. For example, if you are selling Lightroom Presets for $200 each and you want to earn $50,000 a year, then you would need 250 Superfans to meet your goal.
This goes back to our point that you don’t need millions of followers to earn money on Instagram, but you do need to have followers that are loyal and truly interested in what you say and your recommendations. It’s like the famous saying, “quality over quantity” – it’s better to have less followers that are quality then tons of followers who really don’t care about you.
The key to being successful in this industry and earning money on Instagram is having the proof you need to show brands and partners that your social influence drives action. When brands spend their marketing dollars on promotions and collaborations with influencers, they want to see results aka conversions.
Related: Blogging for Money: 10 Tips To Get Paid Your Worth
Remember, when working with brands, you want to make sure you will be able to deliver on your part of the bargain. Once you start earning money on Instagram your professionalism and work ethic are in the spotlight and like in any small industry, word travels fast.
That’s why it’s so important to understand your social influence before pressing “go.” Of course, sometimes things don’t go as planned (which is part of life) but at least you know it may be because of an external factor, not necessarily you.
Understanding the strength of your social influence, what your followers like, and what they are interested in is invaluable. Make sure to keep track of any proof or examples of the power of your social influence so you can include them in your media kit when pitching to brands. The proof is in the pudding!
How To Earn Money On Instagram
If you’re an Influencer or Creator who has been posting consistently on social media or working hard to create beautiful content, it’s definitely time to consider earning money on Instagram! As a quick recap of what we went over in this post, here are the key takeaways we want you o leave with:
1. To decide if you’re ready to earn money on social media, you first need to understand “influence” and what it means for different levels of Influencers.
2. One of the bigget marketing terms to know at this point in your social media business is “conversions,” and you need to create a plan for tracking yours.
3. You can determine your Instagram and social influence by testing it, because then you can use this to apprach brands for partnerships.
4. It’s important that you’re honest with yourself when it comes to followers and engagement. At the end of the day, only you know if your numbers are authentic, and lying about them could result in disastrous consequences in your brand relationships.
5. If you’re finding it hard to conceptulize your ability to make money on Instagram, consider the “theory of 1,00 fans” which proves that it’s not the number of followers you have, but how engaged they are, that matters.
Whether you’re just starting to look into how to earn money on Instagram, or you’ve done it a little and are looking to make it more profitable, our exerts at Sidewalker Daily are ready to talk you through it! Book a one-on-one coaching call and we’ll come up with a targeted strategy for your business and get you headed down the right path to make money with your influence.
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