How Do Instagram Influencers Make Money?
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How Top Instagram Influencers Strike It Rich
Since it's inception at the end of 2010, Instagram has expeditiously grown to be one of the most popular social media platforms in the world, especially for Millennials and teen audiences. The photo-sharing app now claims over 400 million active users, and the platform’s top social media stars, known as Instagram influencers or “Instagrammers,” have amassed huge followings by consistently posting aspiration photos and regularly engaging with fans.
Because they command the attention of millions and have developed relationships with thousands or even millions of users, today’s top Instagrammers are in a unique position to collaborate with brands to make a living doing what they do best—creating and sharing incredible content to their engaged audiences across their social media channels. Exactly how much these social media stars can make through influencer marketing sponsorships and collaborations, however, may surprise you.
The Richest Instagram Stars Are Living Large
Successful Instagram influencers are in a position to make a lot of money, especially if they have the combination of audience reach and user engagement that brands are looking for. Popular blogger Danielle Bernstein, the creator behind the Instagram channel WeWoreWhat, says that she charges brands between $5,000–$15,000 to expose her 1.4 million followers to just one sponsored Instagram post. "I hate talking about money, but let's just say it's more than I could have ever imagined as a 22 year old,” Bernstein told Harper’s Bazaar in a 2015 interview. “I fully support myself, and it's in the mid-six figures.”
Social media stars with even larger audiences can earn substantially bigger payouts for featuring brands in their Instagram posts. Aimee Song, whose Instagram channel SongOfStyle has over 3.2 million followers, charges as much as $50,000 per big-brand collaboration, and the products she endorses often sell out within hours (The Richest).
Determining exactly how much money an Instagram influencer can fetch for a single post may be impossible, but Yahoo Tech has estimated the value of a sponsored post to be around $700–$900 for Instagrammers with over 100,000 followers, $2,000–$3,000 for Instagrammers with at least 500,000 followers, and over $50,000 per big-brand collaboration for Instagrammers with 1 million followers or more. A few of the Instagrammers who earn thousands or tens of thousands of dollars per brand-sponsored post are:
- Song of Style - 3.4 Million followers
- Sincerely Jules - 3.4 Million followers
- Luanna90 - 2 Million followers
- We Wore What - 1.4 Million followers
- Fun For Louis - 1.3 Million followers
- Wendy's Lookbook - 934K followers
- Gal Meets Glam - 848K followers
- Chriselle Lim - 611K followers
Instagram isn’t the only social media platform where influencers can make thousands of dollars per piece of branded content. On YouTube, many of the video platform’s top channels and YouTubers have become millionaires through pre-roll advertising income, brand sponsorships, and influencer marketing partnerships.
How Top Instagram Influencers Make Money
Successful Instagrammers can make thousands of dollars a day by partnering with brands to create, distribute, and promote sponsored content—by one estimation, brand-sponsorships and influencer marketing collaborations with Instagram influencers account for over $1 billion in advertising spending per year, with much of that going to social media stars (Huffington Post). For both aspiring Instagram influencers and brands looking to develop partnerships with the platform's top social media stars, influencer marketing opportunities are only growing. (In a recent article, we predicted that influencer marketing will become a $5–$10 billion market by 2020.)
While the amount each Instagram influencer makes per post is often contingent on reach, determining if the brand will resonate with an Instagram influencers audience is an important factor that companies must consider when constructing an effective influencer strategy and choosing a social media influencer to partner with.
Brands Beware: Instagram Influencers With Fake Followers
The increased viability of influencer marketing as an advertising strategy coupled with Instagram's immense growth has led many Instagrammers to manipulate their perceived reach by purchasing fake followers. Called "bots" by tech insiders, these fictitious fans can be bought for only a few dollars and, according to Business Insider, make up an estimated 8% of all Instagram accounts on the platform today. To ensure influencer marketing campaigns reach their intended audience (i.e. actual people), Luxury Spot author and Instagrammer Bryce Gruber recommends scrutinizing an Instagrammer's likes-to-followers ratio (should be 1.8%–2.5%), how many comments each post receives (7% of total followers should comment), and what kind of engagement the comments demonstrate (comments like "cool" or "USA" are likely the work of bots, not real followers).
3 Ways Instagram Influencers Partner With Brands
Brands across all advertising categories (e.g. fashion, beauty, automotive, travel, food, banking, etc.) have found Instagram's photo-based medium ideal for marketing collaborations with top Instagram influencers. Today’s most successful Instagrammers have amassed engaged followings within particular niches (e.g. men’s lifestyle, travel & adventure, fashion & beauty, yoga). By targeting Instagrammers whose niche interests align with each brand’s target demographics, advertisers can effectively message millions of interested consumers.
Each brand’s Instagram influencer marketing strategy depends on the company’s industry, the campaign’s KPIs, and the relationship between the Instagrammer and their audience, but typically, companies collaborate with Instagram influencers in the following ways:
1. Sponsored Instagram Posts & Product Placements
A sponsored Instagram post is an unparalleled way for brands to generate high ROI while marketing on Instagram. For a sponsored post, a company decides what product, service, and/or brand messaging they want to promote and chooses the appropriate influencers for the campaign. Instagrammers then create their own content, incorporating the product and/or brand’s message in a way that feels organic and authentic to the audience.
Throughout this process, it's important for content creators to stay true to the look and feel of their Instagram account to avoid alienating followers. Frank Body (@Frank_bod), a coffee body scrub, is an example of a brand that produces exceptional sponsored Instagram posts. Most audiences on Instagram susceptible to healthy living, beauty, and/or fashion has heard of Frank Body thanks to the brand’s calculated sponsored Instagram campaigns with top Instagram influencers.
2. Documenting An Event Or Experience
Beyond monetary compensation to promote a specific product or brand through sponsored Instagram posts, Instagrammers can get paid to capture an interesting experience, attend a brand-sponsored event, or travel to an exotic location. Many of the world's most prestigious hotels, airlines, theme parks, as well as national tourism departments are partnering with top travel & adventure Instagram accounts in the following ways:
- Travel And Hospitality Brands Marketing With Top Social Media Influencers
- The Best Travel And Adventure Instagram Accounts To Follow
- Digital Influencers: The Next Big Thing For Travel Marketing
Instagrammer Liz Eswein (@newyorkcity) recently extolled the benefits of being one of the platform’s top influencers in an interview with The Guardian, stating: “Instagram has taken me around the world. I recently came back from Chile for a project we are working on. I worked with the tourism board for Namibia. I recently went to Shanghai and before that Dubai and Turkey, all for clients. There aren’t words to describe how amazing an experience it’s been, to travel the world and be paid to go to all of these places to take pictures, which is something I love.”
From tourism boards to restaurants to nightclubs, brands are reaching out to top Instagram influencers to develop, implement, and manage immersive Instagram campaigns and sponsored content.
3. Hosting An Event / Event Appearances
While influencer marketing partnerships like sponsored Instagram posts and immerse experiences generate delayed ROIs through audience purchases, asking an Instagram influencer to host a grand opening, product launch, party, or other type of event (and bring their audience to one place at one time) is a way for brands to see more immediate returns. For this strategy to be effective, the social media star must have a strong following and celebrity-like status. Event hosting is also one of the most effective ways brands can collaborate with an Instagram influencer to drive immense brand awareness and traffic to marquee events.
Notable examples of brands collaborating with influencers to host events include Hallmark’s "Signature Style" campaign, which featured a collaboration with top fashion Instagrammer Atlantic-Pacific to bring attention to Hallmark's New York Fashion Week pop-up shop, and top men’s lifestyle guru Alpha M's Instagram promotion of popular subscription service Birchbox Man at a local opening to drive targeted awareness.
Resources For Instagram Influencers & Brands
For both aspiring Instagram influencers and brands who want to learn more about the fast-growing influencer marketing industry, we’ve assembled the following resources:
- The Best Branded Instagram Videos Of 2016
- How To Spot Fake Followers On Instagram
- How Banks Are Marketing On Instagram
- The Best Auto Brands Marketing On Instagram
- Sponsored Instagram Posts Help Big Brands Reach Audiences
- Brand Guide: The Best Instagram Sponsored Posts
- How TV Shows & Movies Are Marketing On Instagram
- The 3 Biggest Instagram Marketing Trends Of 2016
- How The Best Brands On Instagram Built Their Channels
- Nespresso's Instagram Influencer Campaign
- BMW's Instagram Influencer Marketing Campaign
- Are Instagrammers The New Bloggers?
- 3 Best Tips For Marketing With Instagrammers
- Meet The Top Fashion Bloggers On Instagram
- Brand Guide: Marketing On Instagram With Top Influencers
- Top Instagram Accounts: Travel & Adventure
- Top Instagram Accounts: Fashion & Beauty
- How To Create Sponsored Content With Instagram Influencers
- How To Find Instagram Influencers
- Why Instagrammers Will Completely Change Travel Marketing
Conclusion: Instagram Influencers Are Changing Marketing
While some brands research, select, and contact Instagram influencers themselves, many companies and PR agencies often elect partner with an experienced influencer marketing agency. Influencer agencies can expedite the entire campaign outreach process by accessing a long-established network of Instagram influencers and are adept at collaborating with Instagrammers to coordinate and succinctly execute effective brand sponsored campaigns.
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March 4, 2016 By Evan