The word is out there – people are making a killing from paid posts on Instagram. And now, everyone wants to know how they can do it too. While it might seem like a pipe dream for most to quit your job and become the next Instagram star, making some money is not as far-fetched as you might think. So how many followers do you need before you can make your first dollar from a paid post? Well, there’s no straight answer because it depends on what kind of paid post you use, your niche, and your audience’s engagement. Let’s get some basics down first.
Affiliates vs Sponsored Posts
There are two basic types of paid posts on Instagram where people can make money: sponsored posts and affiliate posts. The difference between the two types of ads is that with a sponsored post you get paid a flat fee upfront, whereas with an affiliate post you only get paid a percentage of the sales you drive. Because the pay structure is so different, the number of followers you need to make money with either a sponsored post or affiliate post are very different. Which one of the two is right for you depends on your follower count and your engagement rates.
Current Rates For Sponsored Posts
When you take on a sponsored post, you get paid a flat fee that is agreed on before it’s posted. The fee is usually dependent on how many followers you have, but ultimately it’s up to you to decide how much you think a post on your account is worth.
So what’s the going rate for a sponsored post on Instagram? In general, the going rate for a sponsored post is $2-10 for every 1,000 followers. I know this is a pretty wide range, and the reason for this is that where you fall in this range depends on your audience and your specific niche. For instance, if you’re a fashion blogger, where you know your audience is interested in buying clothing that they see on your account, you can charge a premium because your audience is already in a buying mindset. If your account’s niche is beautiful landscapes, you’ll likely be lower in the price range because your audience won’t be as targeted and won’t necessarily be in a buying mood.
You also need to account for how much your typical audience member would be willing to spend. If your niche is pricey real estate and your audience is composed of potential homebuyers, they are likely to spend much more, so again you could charge a premium. If you’re advertising iPhone cases at $10 each, you’d probably be on the lower end of the scale.
How Many Followers Do You Need For Your First Sponsored Post?
By knowing how much you could potentially charge per post, now you can figure out how many followers you need to make a sponsored post worth your time. Typically, it won’t be worth it for you to advertise for less than $25. Taking on sponsored posts can be time-consuming because you have to find the brands, communicate back and forth, agree on a price, take the picture or approve of the picture the brand gives you, and make sure to post at the specified time.
If you’re asking for $5 per 1,000 followers (average), then we can say it wouldn’t be worth it to place a sponsored post with anything less than 5,000 followers ($25 ÷ $5/1,000 followers = 5,000 followers). If you’re in a great niche and are asking for $10 per 1,000 followers, then you would only need 2,500 followers to make that same $25 ($25 ÷ $10/1,000 followers = 2,500 followers).
So You Can Get a Sponsored Post, But Should You?
You might realize soon enough that $25 is not worth your time and effort and instead wait until you have the appropriately sized audience. Not only does placing sponsored posts take a good amount of time, but it can also add an extra level of stress that might make the whole experience a lot less fun. Before you seek your first sponsored post, decide how much your time is worth and think about some of the other factors that go into producing a sponsored post.
One other consideration is that many of the potential advertising partners will want to supply you with a photo to post on your account, as well as a caption they write up for you. This is by far the easiest method, as they supply you everything you need to just post and get paid. It’s the easiest thing for them too, as they control everything, don’t have to send you a product and wait for shipping, and they get to dictate a picture and caption that is most beneficial to them. But that’s where the problem rests – they will more often than not supply you with photos and captions that don’t fit your Instagram feed, feel out of place, are not in your personal style, and won’t sit well with your audience.
If you decide that you don’t want your advertising partner to supply the photo and instead want the product so you can take the picture yourself, you have to factor in both the value of the item and your time. Most companies will want to send you the product as a form of payment (or at least partial payment), and that would make sense if you have a small amount of followers. You wouldn’t expect a company to send you a $25 item AND pay you $25 for a post when you have 5,000 followers… it wouldn’t make sense for them. But when you have 100,000 followers and you’re charging $500 per post, getting that $25 item is much less of an issue.
Also, if you receive a product to review and take a picture with, don’t forget to account for the amount of time it takes to get that perfect shot. If it’ll take you an hour to get that perfect picture, edit the photo, and come up with a caption, that $25 might not look so attractive after all.
How Affiliates Work
When you sign up to be an affiliate for a product, you earn a commission based on a percentage of sales that come directly through a special link or unique discount code you’re given. So for instance, let’s say I sign up to be a Nike affiliate. I apply, get a special link that they can track, and whenever anyone clicks on that link and then makes a purchase, Nike will send me money for a percentage of that sale. Since Instagram allows you to place one link in your bio, you can take this opportunity to place an affiliate link of your choice in this spot.
The Number Of Followers You Have Is Not Important For Affiliates
Unlike a sponsored post where you get paid a flat fee depending on how many followers you have, for an affiliate post you only get paid when you convince your audience to buy a product or service. Therefore, while a sponsored post is for the most part dependent on the amount of followers you have, an affiliate post is much more dependent on the engagement your account has. For this reason, there is no minimum amount of followers that you need to secure an affiliate partner and start making money. If you have a very involved, active following, even if it’s relatively small, you can start advertising products and making money off commission.
If, for instance, you have 1,000 followers but routinely get 500 likes and 50 comments on your posts, you could do just as well advertising through an affiliate link as someone with 10,000 followers who gets the same amount of engagement.
There is a minimum engagement you should strive for before advertising affiliate links becomes worth your time and effort. And just like sponsored posts, this will depend on the specific niche of your Instagram account because the commission you can earn from each affiliate sale is extremely wide ranged.
Affiliates Are Great If You Have a High Engagement Rate
The commission rates for affiliate links vary widely – from 2% of sales to as much as $500 per referral. Consumer goods, such as clothes, pet products, sports and outdoors gear, etc, typically have 5%-15% commissions. Digital products, such as ebooks, online software, and online courses typically have much higher commission rates, such as 25%-75% of the total sale. And good referrals for high-end products, such as real estate loans, can command as much as $500 per qualified referral.
Since most people are interested in advertising consumer goods, I’ll focus on that for my example. Let’s say you’re advertising a dog product, such as a dog collar that costs $20 and you’ll earn 10% commission. And let’s say you get 1,000 likes on average. If out of those 1,000 engaged followers, 10% click on the link to visit the site, and 10% of those that visit the site actually make a purchase. How much will you make? Let’s do the math:
$20/collar x 10% commission = $2 per sale
1,000 engaged followers x 10% site visitors = 100 visitors
100 visitors x 10% make purchase = 10 sales
10 sales x $2 per sale = $20
If you’re in a good niche and stand to make more than $2 in commission per sale, or you have a very dedicated audience and you’re sure you can persuade a good percentage of them to take your advice, you could do great advertising affiliate products.
The good thing about testing the waters with an affiliate link is that it can be a good indicator of how well your audience responds to ads. If your audience is very engaged and you drive many affiliate sales, then you know that when it comes time to take on a sponsored post, you can command those higher end values in the range of $7-$10 per thousand followers. With actual sales under your belt, you would have the data to convince brands that your higher advertising prices are justified.
Ready To Take On Your First Instagram Post?
Before you prepare to bombard your audience with paid posts, remember that you can only post so many ads before it becomes ineffective. Your audience can easily burn out on ads, so strive to limit your paid posts to less than 15% of your total posts. If you post once a day, that means having a maximum of 1 paid post per week. This is another reason why it’s better to wait until you have a good, strong following before you start taking on paid posts.
If you’ve done the math and you don’t quite have the following you need to make it worth your time to take on paid posts, don’t worry! Getting to 5,000 followers or more can be done in just a few weeks if done correctly. By focusing on posting quality, engaging content and socializing as much as possible, you too can grow your Instagram account and can be making money in no time!
Written by Joel Macias