Instagram has been touted as a great social media platform for marketing and making money. Users and businesses are asking; how can they make money with Instagram? There are two primary ways you can make money on the platform, depending on how directly you want to use the platform.
Sell Photos Directly
The story of Daniel Arnold has made the rounds recently. Arnold, a starving photographer, was spending days at a time taking photos and posting them to Instagram with nothing else to do. On the even of his 34th birthday, he realized nothing he was doing would make money, and he needed a quick cash infusion. His solution? A message to his followers that, for a limited time, he would sell prints of any of his pictures for $150. The response was overwhelming and incredibly lucrative.
Arnold is a proof of concept. If you have interested followers and a large base of photos, you can simply sell them for a profit. You can do this yourself, if you have access to a photo printer or print service of suitable quality. Or you can contact a third party company to handle the actual printing and shipping, for a nominal fee.
Two such services are Instaprints and Twenty20.
Instaprints is a simple service. All you need to do is sign up with your Instagram account. From there, the service pulls in your photos and makes them available to its users in its photo search. You can, of course, choose which photos are imported, if you want to hold some photos back. Once your photos are imported, you select what types of products to sell, what sizes and the prices. Instaprints has a flat fee it attaches to each type of product, to cover materials and production. Through the site, you can sell your art and photography on canvas, metal or framed photos, as gift cards, greeting cards and posters. They even offer custom iPhone cases. Once you’ve set your prices, all you need to do is wait and pull in money from the sales.
Twenty20 is a similar service, offering a wider array of potential products, including t-shirts. You sign in through Instagram, choose which photos to import and tweak them as necessary. Of particular interest is the ability to assign and tweak search terms to make your images as visible as possible. Twenty20 sets the prices, unlike Instaprints. The site also offers a way to sell your photos as stock, though you may be better off using actual stock photo companies for that. Both sites pay through Paypal once each month.
Use Instagram as Part of a Content Marketing Program
All of the above is useful for users with a photography habit and a lower revenue stream than they would like. They aren’t, however, all that useful to businesses. Often times a business will produce and share images on Instagram that are not suitable for printing on sale; advertising, product announcements, quotes with testimonials and the like. Most people buying prints of Instagram photos are doing so because they want the art, more than to support the artist.
As a business, the way to use Instagram to make money is to use it like any other social media network. That means two things: building followers and putting them to use.
- Use customized links and banners on your website, in your newsletter and on other social media profiles, whenever possible. These are much more attractive than the typical Instagram logo plastered along a social media sharing bar.
- Run contests to attract users. Tell them to follow your Instagram account for a chance to win a prize. A basic raffle is a great way to build followers, even if they don’t all stick around. You can also run a flock promotion, where you operate a Kickstarter-like ladder of stretch goals for follower counts. At each tier, a new promotion or new clue towards a product launch or contest is released.
- Share new posts regularly. Instagram is not quite as popular as Facebook, with a smaller user base and less global awareness. When you share a post frequently, it raises awareness of your account and entices users to investigate.
- Share posts on Instagram, and make sure you use creative images when you do. A bland headline advertising a new post on your blog may attract some followers, but a creative and attractive image will bring in more just for the sake of the art.
- Remember Instagram is a social media network. This means you need to use it like one. Post comments, share posts, interact with your users; all of the natural uses of social media are important.
Putting Followers to Use
- Create and share interesting images of the products or services you sell. Instagram users tend to have a fine perception of artistic merit. They are attracted to artistic content more than promotional content.
- Ask for testimonials and use them as promotional content. Quotes from satisfied users, given with permission, overlaid on creative images builds both your content profile and your user engagement.
- Ask for user photo submissions and turn them into a slideshow on your primary website. This builds user engagement, it gives you free content and it draws users to your site, where they can explore and see your calls to action.
- Use interesting images to promote your other media campaigns. Post a new video? Create a collage of scenes and link it. New blog post? Share a related image with a link. Hosting a webinar? A dynamic image can attract users to sign up. Instagram works for you in much the same way as a billboard or static image ad.
Instagram can be a great resource for incoming links and incoming users. It’s a fickle platform, however, and it will take some experimentation to find what sorts of images work best to promote your content. Don’t be afraid to use video, as well; a few well-produced videos can be very powerful advertisements. Tag everything, share everything and promote everything; that’s how you make money with Instagram.