If this is your year to build your brand and establish your business on Instagram, then you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to thrive as a creator on Instagram, from launching your account and gaining followers, to diversifying your income.
Last time, we unpacked how to grow your audience. Today, we’re going to talk about how to make money by partnering with brands.
Brand partnerships are one of the key ways professional Instagrammers make a living. Influencer marketing is here to stay, and as a creator, you have lots of value to offer.
Wherever you are in your journey, we’re here to support you. Let’s get started!
Brand Partnerships on Instagram
When asked how an influencer makes money, this is what most people typically think of — branded content, sometimes known as ‘spon-con.’
If you’ve ever seen an influencer post about a product or company with that telltale [AD] at the end of their caption, that post was the result of a partnership.
What’s a brand partnership?
If you’re aspiring to earn money from Instagram, the concept of brand partnerships probably isn’t new. But it’s actually a very broad category, and partnerships can take many different forms.
Basically, all partnerships are a deal negotiated between an influencer and a company. The influencer promotes the brand and is compensated in return, either financially or with free product.
Commonly, that looks like creating posts, Stories, or Reels that feature a product. Some examples of branded content would be:
- Tagging a fashion brand in an #OOTD (outfit of the day)
- An in-depth tutorial explaining how to use a product
- Mentioning a supplement in a healthy eating vlog
While there are many types of brand partnerships, we’ll highlight two that are a little bit different, and deserve special consideration — influencer whitelisting, and affiliate marketing.
In this type of brand deal, an influencer ‘whitelists’ a brand by giving them permission to use their account and content as part of their social advertising.
This means the brand can boost the creators’ posts and use them as in-feed ads, just as they would their own content. These posts, which wouldn’t appear to the creator’s own followers, are known as ‘dark posts.’
It’s an ideal, win-win strategy. The brand’s ads get a fresh, more organic feel, while the creator gets seen by hundreds or thousands of new people, potentially growing their own following.
We could easily write an entire article about affiliate marketing. Basically, the affiliate model means that instead of getting paid by the brand directly, you’ll get a commission on goods you influence others to buy.
This is done by using a special link to the product that’s tracked to you, or by offering your followers a special promo code.
Affiliate marketing is very popular, and it’s in no way limited to influencers! For example, many people earn money this way by creating a website that’s optimized search engines, then populating it with affiliate links.
But it’s an undeniably good fit for Instagram creators. Imagine offering your audience 10% off a product you love, then making money when they take you up on it!
You might be interested in: 8 ways creators can earn money on Instagram in 2022
How do I find brand partnerships?
As you become more established as an influencer, brands will start reaching out on their own — especially if they can see that you know your niche, and have a strong connection with your audience.
Like so much else in the creator game, it all comes back to amazing content. “Focusing on creating quality content is the most important thing I've done,” says Tatiana Morand of @torontobrunchclub (9.7k followers). “If I'm not creating posts that look good and bring value to my audience, why would a brand want to work with me?”
“Focusing on creating quality content is the most important thing I've done. If I'm not creating posts that look good and bring value to my audience, why would a brand want to work with me?" - Tatiana Morand, @torontobrunchclub
Own your niche
Dave Hoos, who runs marketing for leading influencer agency The Outloud Group, has seen this in action. “The more a creator works to lean into their niche and foster a strong relationship with their audience, the better,” he says. “Creators that do this will increase their trust and their engagement which is a core factor for brands looking to sponsor influencers.”
“As with everything, it takes time, so do persevere,” says Carmen Wilma, a marketer behind accounts like @apwasiwine (126k followers). “You’re not going to get deals or monetization from the very start. Just start pushing out content regularly about your niche and what you are an expert in. Being an expert allows people to have more trust in what you are selling!”
Reach out to brands
You can also reach out to brands directly, of course! Be strategic — look for brands who obviously focus on influencer marketing, and who would realistically be interested in your audience.
“I've gotten less shy about reaching out to brands that interest me and suggesting ways we can work together, instead of just hoping they'll reach out,” says Tatiana of @torontobrunchclub.
“I often keep an eye out to see what brands other creators in my space have worked with since I know they're already amenable to doing influencer partnerships,” she continues. “This also means that I will tag brands that I already use in my story, follow them, and reply to their story, so that I'm on their radar. This increases the chance that they'll reach out to me, or that if I reach out to them, they can at least see that I'm already using them.”
“I often keep an eye out to see what brands other creators in my space have worked with since I know they're already amenable to doing influencer partnerships. This also means that I will tag brands that I already use in my story, follow them, and reply to their story, so that I'm on their radar" - Tatiana Morand, @torontobrunchclub
If you think a brand would be a good fit, send them an email, or maybe a DM if it’s a very small company. Be as clear and professional as possible, and include concrete evidence for why they should work with you, like stats on your audience and engagement pulled from your Analytics page. Creating a media kit is a great way to show your professionalism and the value you offer.
You can also try registering for influencer marketplaces. These are online platforms that make it easy for marketers to find creators who are open to work without manually digging through Instagram themselves.
The golden rules of branded content✨
So, you’ve secured the bag? Congratulations! Here’s how to make your branded content shine.
What makes a sponsored post great depends on your unique style, your audience, and who you’re working with. But there are a few basic rules to follow with branded content, no matter what.
Direct from IG, here’s what you need to know.
- Choose your partnerships carefully.
“It's important for influencers to be able to say no to brands they're not genuinely excited about,” says Hoos of @outloudgroup. “I've seen influencers that will promote two competing brands back to back, which not only erodes trust with the brand sponsors, but tends to make their audience trust them less.”
Tatiana of @torontobrunchclub agrees. “Sticking with sponsored posts that are actually in line with the rest of the content you're posting will help ensure those posts still get good engagement,” she says. “Plus, you'll continue building trust since your followers will know you're only doing sponsored posts that actually work with your lifestyle.”
In other words, don’t jump at the first chance you get — make sure the connection feels true and real to you.
- Be transparent.
Honesty is everything, and your followers deserve to know when your content is sponsored. Instagram makes this easy with the ‘Paid Partnership’ label, or you can make sure your caption includes [AD].
- Keep it positive, but be yourself.
Your partner brands expect you to showcase their product and what you love about it.
But do so in a way that feels authentic for you!
Don’t just read out the main marketing points and expect your followers to respond. Bring the enthusiasm and make it personal!
- Follow the rules.
Make sure your post follows Instagram’s rules, preferences, and restrictions.
That includes no banner ads over images, and no separate ads spliced into your video content. You should also follow general best practices, like captioning video and filming in vertical mode.
- Know your worth.
Brand partnerships are a great opportunity for you — but don’t forget that you’re also providing real value to the brand! Especially when you’re first starting out, it’s best to be flexible on budget, but don’t afraid to ask for what you’re worth.
Tatiana of @torontobrunchclub has a clever strategy. “If you're looking to do a paid promotion or a brand reaches out to you, always ask what their budget is prior to stating yours,” she advises. “That way, you have the chance at a higher fee than what you might have gotten if you stated your price first.”
Creativity is the goal
Influencers are an enormous marketing channel. For many industries, Instagram has replaced the flyers and magazines of yesteryear!
As a creator, brands need you to help them effectively market their product. There’s so much exciting potential — but to tap into it, you need to become someone worth listening to, and that doesn’t happen overnight.
“Building authority, and being a leader in their particular industry, has definitely helped my clients monetize their content,” says Carmen of @apwasiwine. “Once people see that you are the expert in a particular topic, partnerships and brands will reach out to you to represent them.”
“Once people see that you are the expert in a particular topic, brands will reach out to you to represent them” - Carmen Wilma, @apwasiwine
You can probably guess what it takes to get there — consistently putting out incredible content, and really getting to know and connect with your followers. If you lay the groundwork of becoming a unique, confident creator, you’ll find yourself using all these strategies in no time.
Protect your business
Once you start making money, your IG isn’t just a fun pastime — it becomes a valuable asset, and a legitimate business! And just like any other smart entrepreneur, you need to protect the business you worked so hard to build.
Hacks are one major, potentially devastating threat to Instagram creators. From fraudulent blue tick offers to bogus copyright infringement claims, there are so many ways hackers can destroy creators’ valuable businesses.
Notch is the first insurance company that will protect you — and we’re built specifically for creators. Our Instagram insurance helps you keep your account secure, covers your loss of income in the event of a hack with daily payouts, and helps retrieve your account. Not just that, you can actually earn more from brands and land more deals if you have insurance for your account.
Brand partnerships are a milestone goal for many creators. It’s a key way to grow your network, flex your creativity, and get paid!
But there’s so much more to being a creator than working with brands. Stay tuned for the rest of our series about how to succeed as an Instagram Creator in 2022.
Next, we’ll be talking about how to diversify your income streams and build an account that’s a sustainable full-time job.