One of the ways in which influencers from all industries are trying to monetize their social media influence is through Instagram affiliate marketing. With Instagram becoming so popular globally and having an active and engaging audience, Instagram affiliate marketing is one of the top ways in which influencers can monetize their social media followings – 1 of 9 ways I outlined in my How to Make Money on Instagram post.
For influencers who utilize Instagram as an affiliate marketer, the goal is to drive as much traffic as possible through their tracked links to their marketing partners’ websites. With Instagram boasting engagement greater than the likes of Tumblr, Twitter and Snapchat – or any other social network for that matter, Instagram affiliate marketing provides a plethora of opportunities once you join, whether as a brand looking to promote product or as an affiliate. If everyone else is marketing on Instagram, so should you!
This post will look at Instagram affiliate marketing from both the angle of the influencer as well as the brand. Since this will be one of my longer posts, here’s a short bullet point summary so you know what to expect:
- How Instagram affiliate marketing words – the basics
- How can you promote links on Instagram when you can’t link on Instagram?
- The benefits of Instagram affiliate marketing for brands
- Which types of Instagram users will succeed in Instagram affiliate marketing
- Popular affiliate marketing marketplaces
- Understanding the laws around FTC disclosures
- Making the transition from Instagram user to Instagram affiliate marketing
Even if you’re not interested in Instagram affiliate marketing, this post should give you some tips on how to yield more influence on Instagram!
So, how does Instagram affiliate marketing work?
It’s done by establishing partnerships between a user who is the affiliate marketer and placement of some sort of introduction or advertisement of a company’s products or services on the marketer’s website, social media post, or anywhere. The affiliate marketer depicts the product or service in their postings and earns commission on each sale that is made that can be attributed to their post, such as through a URL link that has been customized with unique affiliate code added to the end of it in the description of the post. When these affiliate promotions are being done on Instagram, we call it Instagram affiliate marketing, but affiliate marketing is clearly not limited to Instagram as a platform!
The brand being advertised and promoted gains inherent customer interest and the influencer profile working as the affiliate is used to engage its user base towards the product being advertised. The influencer earns some cut of the sale made by the product being advertised. So, it is mutually beneficial for both the brand and influencers to work together. That’s why affiliate marketing is influencer marketing’s new best friend!
How Can Affiliates Promote Links on Instagram When You Can’t Link on Instagram?
I’ll cover some more specific advice for affiliate marketers later in this post, but one of the immediate questions you probably have is, compared to blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, et. al., Instagram does not allow you to place a link every time you post a photo. So how can affiliate marketers on Instagram get people to enter a link with their affiliate code into their browser and buy product? There are actually a few ways, once you get creative and think outside of the box:
Affiliate Link in Your Bio (Permanent)
The obvious one is to use the link in your bio to forward people to the site. This works well if you are always promoting the same brand, product or link. You then tell people to click on the link in your bio. Ideal if you are a brand ambassador and exclusive affiliate for one brand.
Affiliate Link in Your Bio (Semi-Permanent)
If you want to promote a different product with each post, you can still use the link in your bio but will need to update it to the latest affiliate URL each time you publish a new post. You can still tell people to click the link in your bio, but if someone should discover an older post promoting a different product, they will land at a different landing page, so this is not the most efficient way to do Instagram affiliate marketing.
Use a Linkable Instagram Gallery App
Large ecommerce brands began using Curalate’s Link2Buy as a way of setting up a virtual shop of clickable Instagram posts in your profile. Over the years there are other tools that have come out offering the same functionality, including the popular Linkin.bio service offered by the Instagram app Later. What happens is that you set the link in your bio to be your personalized Instagram gallery app URL, and then once someone selects that, they are brought to a screen of clickable Instagram posts leading them to your affiliate links. You can actually see my Linkin.bio page for an example of what I mean – you should do this on a mobile phone to see how it would look when clicking on my Instagram bio https://instagram.com/nealschaffer.
Include the Affiliate Link as Swipe-Up in Instagram Stories (Business accounts with 10,000 followers only)
If you happen to have a business account and 10,000 followers, you should see the option to add a swipe-up link to your Instagram Story to make it easy for your followers to visit the website on the other side of your affiliate link. This is a killer reason to upgrade to a Business account, but the potential for getting less engagement because of how the pay-to-play social network algorithms work is what is preventing me from doing so.
Include the Affiliate Link in Your Photo, Photo Description or Instagram Story
This is by far the least effective, but if you use a URL shortener like Bl.ink and create a branded URL that is easy to remember and short enough to type, some of your avid followers just might take a screenshot of your photo or description and then input the URL manually into their browser. If you can utilize a coupon code in lieu of a URL, this will make it easier for your followers to remember.
The benefits of Instagram affiliate marketing for brands
We all can imagine the benefits that Instagram affiliate marketing can have for people, but what about the benefits that it brings to brand to engage in more affiliate relationships?
Increased brand awareness, engagement and following on Instagram
When a picture of a product or service is posted on Instagram, the user (influencer) often tags the brand or service that it belongs to or at least mentions the product and/or company. If it is tagged, people seeing the post can directly interact with the post by opening it, liking it or moving ahead to inquire about it. This is a win-win situation for both the marketer and the influencer as it increases incoming traffic and also creates a potential profit situation if a sale is made. At the least it generates more brand awareness for the product – for free!
From a brand perspective, Instagram affiliate marketing can foster the creation of new relationships with influential users that only spell more and more opportunities. When a brand works with an influencer and sales are generated, it opens up new channels for continued business, not a one-time promotion like most traditional advertising campaigns. These corporate relationships could deliver great benefits to both parties, as brands are eager to get featured on Instagram and its media and users get monetary as well as PR benefits with these partnerships. It is they type of collaboration that not every influencer wants, but there are many who do.
With over 1 billion users, Instagram affiliate marketing offers little choice for marketers to not make a profit out of these partnerships. Nowadays, Instagram has seen a definite increase in in PR and marketing channels over the platform whose sole purpose is to advertise brands and different products. This way, both the brand and a placement platform see increased revenue and higher engagement with followers as Instagram affiliate marketers.
At this point, it seems worth elaborating that in these affiliate partnerships the only thing that is of absolute importance is trust. Trust counts as accountability to your end of the bargain against the other party in a partnership as well as the trust your brand/promotional platform has developed over the userbase. Social media influencers or PR firms look for value in a brand that they advertise for as Instagram affiliate marketers while brands and products only rely on the level of trust they see in the opposite party. So, what are the few ‘must haves’ that should be looked for in a partnership?
Which Instagram Users and Brands Will Succeed in Instagram Affiliate Marketing?
Those that offer brand value to their community
In Instagram affiliate marketing, both partners to the game should have a consistent value of their brand. The Instagram influencer adopting a product to advertise or give shout outs to should be well trusted by its many followers and it should hold a positive influence over them. There should be no negative buzz about them if a user gets to know about your brand through them. Likewise, the brand should have a competitive influence as well and must be a product or service that has inherent value in the market.
Those that have a “good” following
This is particularly important for the influencer. There is no ideal amount of followers that one should have, but a “good” amount of followers to start with would be in the 5,000 to 15,000 followers range, or in engagement terms, receive at least a consistent 100 likes per photo, assuming that their fanbase consists of real people and NOT bots or paid followers. Even if an Instagram influencer doesn’t carry as big a following is others, the most important thing is for those followers to be actively engaged to the influencer’s content and page. These are known as micro-influencers or even nano-influencers (who have less than 5,000 followers) and they have great importance for a new startup product that might not be able to afford working with macro-influencers
Those that have relevancy
It is highly unlikely that a fashion and beauty influencer account will ever publish anything other than that subject on their portfolio. Hence, mutual relevancy between affiliate and brand is of the utmost importance in Instagram affiliate marketing. For this, it needs to be evaluated if your posts will fit into a person’s feed and that the audience will enjoy it. This requires rigorous searching and going over every detail in every single post the affiliate has made so to find relevancy for a brand or product that is to be marketed on their platform. For influencers, this means that you should be equally choosy among the products that you represent so that they are relevant to your community because you are what you tweet.
For individuals looking to get into affiliate marketing by becoming an online influencer and generating passive income via their following, Instagram is a great platform that connects businesses to potential customers. But how do you go about finding companies to work with? Let’s take a look at some marketplaces that can help facilitate that.
Popular Affiliate Marketing Marketplaces for Instagram Affiliate Marketing
First of all, how does one shift from a normal Instagram user to becoming an affiliate marketer on the platform? The process is simple: Choose the correct affiliate niche that suits you and sign up to it. There are dozens of affiliate marketing programs available that each caters to different niche of businesses ranging from fashion, sportswear, etc. The few most common affiliate marketing platforms today are mentioned below.
ShareASale is one of the largest affiliate networks and has about 4,000 merchants listed on the platform. They have purpose built metrics that select the best offers available and deliver payouts on the 20th of every month. Their set of offers for data driven campaigns include:
- Earnings per click
- Reversal rates
- Average Sale Amount
- Average Commission
Flexoffers provides a solid array of tools and features to aid in marketing campaigns. Flexoffers connects bloggers, content creators and other types of publishers with small, medium and large budget advertisers & brands. They have tens of thousands of different affiliate programs to choose from. They have divided these affiliate programs into dozens of broad and hundreds of sub-categories, which makes the publisher’s life easier to find exactly what would fit into their niche. Flexoffers also delivers its own affiliate program which can be referred to others and if they earn a commission, you also get paid which is one of the major differences of it among Instagram competitors.
CJ Affiliate is one of the biggest online affiliate platforms and have nearly every major retailer listed on their platform. Regarding marketing for businesses, CJ have an ample amount of advertisers that make It easy to compare different offers. With over 3,000 advertising partners, they have lots of creative sizes and affiliate link options. Moreover, they implement a net-20 payment term which ensures payments are paid out timely each month.
Rakuten is one of the oldest affiliate partner networks and displays a series of slick features to differentiate from other platforms. Instead of having to manually select which ad you want to run on your blog, Rakuten lets multiple versions rotate with only one small piece of code. Rakuten also allows for more flexible “deep linking” to individual merchant landing pages, this allows for increased customization of the types of campaigns you can run.
However, a few of its disadvantages or drawbacks is that it has around only 1,000 partners which is a low count compared to the likes of CJ Affiliate or ShareASale. It also has unpredictable payment nature for affiliates and only pays when commissions are collected from partners.
AWIN claims to work with over 13,000 active advertisers and affiliates currently and operates in 11 countries. It is now regarded as one of the most established affiliate networks in the UK and specialize in almost all niches of affiliate networks. They particularly specialize in sports, fashion, beauty and travel products. However, there is a minimal fee charged to join AWIN as an affiliate which would be returned once you’re approved as an affiliate. The platform operates worldwide, but most of its partnerships are made with the British and other European merchants.
Once you have chosen your affiliate marketing platform and apply to work with relevant brands, you will start getting accepted and will want to go gung ho on Instagram. Not so fast! Affiliate marketers need to understand the rules of the road when it comes to endorsements.
You Might Also Like: Types of Blogs That Make Money
Before you begin Instagram affiliate marketing, understand the laws around FTC disclosures
I could not publish this post without a reminder that if you are posting something for financial gain in digital or social media, you need to disclose this relationship with your audience. While I am not a lawyer and you should seek one out for proper legal guidance, the FTC has clearly indicated that the hashtag #ad should be used in your post – and it should be “easily noticed.”
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s move on to learn more about Instagram affiliate marketing before we jump in deeper.
Transitioning from an Instagram user to Instagram affiliate marketing
So, if you’ve bought into the potential of Instagram affiliate marketing, here are some things to keep in mind as you slowly begin to publish more content promoting your affiliate relationships. Before implementing these, however, please read my guide to the 7 Instagram mistakes to avoid as well as Instagram expert Jenn Herman’s guide on what NOT to do on Instagram!
Increase your Instagram following
While influence doesn’t necessarily equate with having a larger following, the more real and relevant people that see each time you post on Instagram, the higher the chance that you will be successful at Instagram affiliate marketing. For those who haven’t heard my podcast on the subject, I urge you to listen to my podcast on How to Grow Your Instagram Followers and Engagement. You can do this pretty much the same way as building other social media following for your personal account and that is by socializing with others. The easiest way to do this on Instagram is to comment, interact and follow relevant people and accounts that are related to your niche. The ideal thing for a beginner in this domain is to leave around 5-10 comments per day which will enhance attention towards your affiliate profile.
Use Instagram hashtags sparingly
Hashtags on Instagram are how visuals are searched for, so you either have them and your posts are immediately more visible or you don’t have them and you are out of the matrix. People use hashtags for just about everything, so why not use it to attract profiles and brands towards you? It is a gradual process indeed, but using thorough hashtags that are related to your domain actually works in building credibility overtime. Their relevancy has to be kept intact, though.
Be cool about it
The best form of Instagram affiliate marketing would be to attract potential product users to your page, but for this, patience is required. Be cool and don’t rush things! Moreover, your posts should ooze a good vibe and not just try to blatantly promote a product that needs to be sold. For this to happen on Instagram, the photograph posted should be a high quality picture that has several details. It shouldn’t just be of a particular product, but should rather have some intriguing aspect to it. For example, the picture could advertise a clothing line but the picture would be of a person standing in a beautiful scenery and it naturally gives off a good feeling about the clothing line mentioned. The greater the picture, the better. You don’t have to be a professional photographer, but you do need to create your own style on Instagram to differentiate yourself and succeed.
This is an art and not a science, so check out these posts for further eeading:
- What types of photos get the most likes on Instagram?
- How to create content for Instagram
- How to edit Instagram photos like a professional
- Top 11 tips on how to optimize your Instagram captions to boost engagement
Contests and giveaways
Running contests and giveaways for affiliate marketing is a strategy like none else. It can be a promotional venture for followers to interact with a particular brand via your portfolio and they could get rewarded as a result. These contests could generate specific hashtags that would boost affiliate marketing further and get more attention to the brand via your influence. However, this will only be successful after you’ve built a bit of a following. Check out our guide on how to run an Instagram contest.
This can be a solution at the beginning of your affiliate marketing journey while attempting to build a following. You could sponsor your profile on Instagram to add followers and engagement. In this respect, Instagram lets you choose what demographic and what interests you want to target with your sponsored ad. Note that while you need a business profile to boost posts directly within the Instagram app, you can still advertise on Instagram through your personal profile if it is attached to a Facebook Business Page and you utilize the Facebook Ads platform.
Instagram affiliate marketing can also be aided by advertising your account of content placed on it on other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The key to doing is to share differently designed posts on each platform to get people interested across other places but be sure to link it back to the original Instagram page of the brand or product being advertised. This is especially relevant if you’ve built a larger following on other social networks.
Run a blog for affiliate marketing
Along with procedural activities in promoting your influencer account to gain followers at first and then as affiliate marketer over Instagram, you can also run a blog that shares the same niche as the affiliate profile. People reading the blog will interact with the influencer profile just as much and if they see good work there, bingo. You also have the benefit, if your content is good enough, to get indexed by search engines and receive free traffic!
If all of this has convinced you that Instagram affiliate marketing is a prospect for you as an influencer or as a brand where you want to recruit some influencers on affiliate terms, you need to only make sure that your portfolio stands out from the rest. For this, existing relationships should be exercised and work should be done to partner in newer ones. Strategies regarding clear goals should be set with expectations in accordance. This way, neither party would be disappointed and you will be able to reap much fruit out of the amazing affiliate marketing platform that is Instagram.
Affiliate marketing doesn’t always have a good name in society, but when done right by the right person for the right brand in the right community, it can be a true win-win-win for everyone involved. I hope this post has helped you see Instagram affiliate marketing in a different light regardless if you are a brand marketer or an affiliate marketer.
Questions? Advice or experience to share? Go ahead! We’re all ears!
Final Note: The Importance of Instagram Engagement
You will be more successful at Instagram affiliate marketing if you follow my advice on increasing Instagram engagement. It will mean you are building a larger community of those that genuinely engage with you, and thus indirectly it increases the chance that they will engage with your affiliate-related posting.
If you’re looking to quickly determine your average Instagram engagement rate, try this free Instagram engagement calculator to instantly see how you score by clicking on the below image!
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Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.
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