The money’s starting to flow into Instagram.
Thanks to the visual social network’s growing active user base, major ROI on direct response advertising, an average annual follower growth rate among brands of 100 percent and new advertising formats and capabilities being rolled out regularly, companies are investing heavily in Instagram-based promotion.
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For influential Instagram users seeking to cash in on the size and engagement levels of their followings, the outlook couldn’t be brighter.
Let’s not forget – it took several solid years for the YouTube economy to gain enough momentum and maturity to get where it is today, with creators able to earn handsomely from sponsors and even share ad revenues with YouTube itself. Today we’re just starting to see Instagram reach a similar scale of economy.
Then again, if you’re an Instagram influencer, then you’re probably already aware of some of the opportunities out there that can earn you money, most of which are based on selling sponsored posts to brands.
It makes sense that advertisers would be interested in having their messages and products embedded in these visuals. Brands are seeing an average of $6.50 in revenues for every $1 they spend on influencer marketing, according to a Tomoson study.
The opportunities are therefore colossal for influencers, too.
Harper’s Bazaar recently estimated that Instagram users with hundreds of thousands of followers can make anywhere from $500 to $5000 per post. If you’re one of these people, and you’re posting every day, with about 15 percent of your posts being sponsored, then earning upwards of $100,000 over the course of a year is hardly a stretch.
Not all of us are interested in selling sponsorship one post at a time, though. There are many more ways to make money by being influential on Instagram.
Let’s take a look at three emerging platforms that offer compelling monetization approaches.
1. License your photos
Instagram images that drive the most engagement are generally those with honest grit and casual candor, so if you’ve got any posts that are especially strong visually, it’s likely that this is an asset you can profit from.
Thanks to the recent, long-overdue backlash against stock photography, brands are waking up to the need for more authenticity in their visuals. And as a result of this increase in demand, several new marketplaces have launched to match brands with semi-pro photographers.
The Foap marketplace is among the best reputed of the bunch, and with a flat fee structure (buyers shell out $10 per image, which the platform and the photographer split 50-50), it’s extremely easy to navigate.
Simply install the free mobile app, upload the images you want to make available, and start seeing your fee tally rise. Best of all, the same photo can be sold an unlimited number of times, so skilled photographers have plenty of earning potential. If you aren’t finding enough demand here for your images, check out the “missions,” whereby brands post assignment-contests and the winning photographer receives $100 or more.
2. Create custom products to sell
Got an idea for a great tee shirt design that your Instagram community would love?
Tampa-based social e-commerce platform ViralStyle makes it easy to create and sell products to your audience. Simply create the product, connect your social media accounts and email marketing lists to promote the campaign, then sit back and watch the sales come in.
Set your “campaign” to run for a limited time to create a sense of urgency and exclusivity. The system will take care of upselling, retargeting and even advertising across social networks.
The company prints the shirts on demand and ships them directly to your customers, and there are no order minimums.
In this example of a ViralStyle campaign, NBA star Iman Shumpert’s fashion brand, Post 90, leverages the player’s Instagram following to promote tee shirt sales.
3. Cash out and move on
Social media activity isn’t always as glamorous as it’s made out to be, and visual platforms like Instagram can be especially taxing on practitioners who often feel intense pressure to maintain images of perfection.
It’s possible that you’ve had enough of the Instagram life and are actually looking to monetize your account so that you can leave it behind.
With ViralAccounts, you can make money selling ownership of your Instagram feed and other social presences.
Ownership transfer is completely legitimate according to Instagram’s terms of service, so if you have a rather large following and you want to move on to something else, you can get paid for the work you’ve put into building your audience.
Businesses can leverage this service by purchasing relevant accounts for their niches and acquiring loyal audiences in bulk.
What comes next
The media industry may be just now realizing the visual engagement power of Instagram, but many have been using it to build strong tribes for years.
You may be using Instagram as a vehicle to promote your non-Instagram business, or you may be using it to connect with people, with monetization being a secondary goal that will sort itself out when the timing is right.
Either way, thanks to growing demand for Instagram influence, the opportunities are out there.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.