With Instagram topping one billion users, there’s huge potential to reach an expansive audience, which means there are more business opportunities, thus more brands venturing into Instagram marketing. All of these brands want representatives and partners to show off their products and get them to reach a wider audience. Enter: influencers.
Anyone with an Instagram account over the last 5 years has no doubt heard of the influencer explosion. Mega celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, Cristiano Ronaldo and the like can make huge dollars on their sponsored posts– up to half a million dollars! But even non-famous people can build up their audience and make big dollars on even just one post. Danielle Bernstein, for instance, is a beauty blogger who makes roughly $20,000 on a sponsored post.
How To Get Sponsored On Instagram As An Influencer
The numbers aren’t always that high, but it definitely speaks to the possibilities that exist to make some big bucks on Instagram.
What’s a Sponsored Instagram Post, Anyway?
A sponsored Instagram post is a post that is paid for by the advertising brand or company to expand the reach of the ad and hopefully convert viewers into buyers. There are two standard ways that companies do this: via Instagram ads, or influencers.
Instagram ads is a paid service through the platform that will boost your post and expose it to more viewers in your target audience (based on age, sex, location, interest– things you can set when you post the ad). It’s a type of “tapping the algorithm” that gives you an edge in showing your post to more people with or without high engagement levels.
These posts are created by the company and paid directly to Instagram.
The other type of sponsored posts, however, are less official and are done through influencers, which are people that have a high following and therefore can promote a company’s product by including it in their posts however they see fit. This is valuable because you have a person with a loyal audience who is viewing your product in real context. Companies are willing to invest in influencer partners that they feel can truly bring value and ROI to their brand. You’ll often times see these posts marked with a hashtag like #ad or #spon, because the FCC has rules about being upfront about advertising on social media.
You may think that it’s a crazy idea that you’d even be able to get your posts sponsored if you’re not jet setting around the world or hanging out with the rich and famous. Don’t write yourself off just yet– you could truly be more marketable than you think.
When you think about credibility, if you see someone who represents you as a person, you’ll be likely to trust them. You’re much more likely to relate to someone who is a quote-unquote “normal person” as opposed to some disconnected celebrity. There is a lot of validity in normal people marketing to normal people. Engagement rates are really high and it’s easy to build relationships.
And the negative naysayer attitude you’ll definitely want to leave behind if you want to be an influencer— all of your focus and energy has to be on building yourself up and maintaining your confidence and presence.
In this article we’re going to break down the 5 must-haves to get sponsored on Instagram as an influencer, regardless of your current follower count.
Time is money, so let’s get into it!
1. Find Your Niche. Build Your Identity.
The very first thing you need to do is identify your niche– A.K.A, your specialty. What exactly are you going to be posting about? Will you focus on healthy eating habits and recipes? Are you going to dive into the best beauty products with tutorials and reviews? Will you be a go-to restaurant reviewer? There are endless possibilities, but the more specific you are, the better.
Once you’ve got your niche, next you want to create your “identity,” or your personal brand. In order to stand out as an influencer, your overall aesthetic should be identifiable and defining. If someone is to look at your posts, or read a message from you, or watch a live video, all of this should seamlessly flow with a consistent identity and aesthetic. This element is key in building up your authenticity and credibility.
Once users start to see your content and see a level of consistency and identity, they’ll start to accredit you with authority in your niche and trust you as an expert. If you start to become inconsistent or start popping up with a bunch of content or visuals that seem out of line with your personal brand, this could cost you credibility. Stick to your niche and your identity.
Another good way to extend this is to create a personal blog, website, or have another channel available (such as youtube or facebook) that also projects this same image. This may seem overwhelming at the get go, so don’t worry about rushing to it, but when you feel comfortable and confident you can start to expand in this way.
No matter what, you should always be looking for ways to demonstrate your versatility and really amp up all of the things that you have to offer.
Set up your bio and contact info
Upon setting up your profile, make sure it’s as clear and specific as can be. Everything on your profile landing page should create a cohesive image including your profile picture, overall aesthetic of your posts, as well as your Instagram handle, story highlights, and bio.
You can take advantage of putting your contact info in your bio so that people know how to reach you and where they can connect with you. Don’t forget, this is not just for followers– this is for brands and potential partners. Your goal is to become sponsored, so everything you do on your profile should be done with the underlying goal of being a productive brand partner.
When you have your outside website or profile to link to, here in your bio section is where you can add the direct link. Nowhere else on Instagram is it possible to leave a direct link, so putting it there will give followers and potential sponsors alike a place to reach out or review what you have to offer.
2. Define Your Audience
After you’ve got your niche developed, you need to think about who is going to be your principal audience of viewers, and what type of people you’re going to target as followers. Furthermore, if you know your audience, you’ll have more of an idea what type of brands or services might be likely to sponsor you as an influencer.
Some of the basic demographics you want to identify is age, location, profession, and gender. Then, you’ll want to think about some more specific information, such as what time do they usually access the platform and actively use Instagram, what are some challenges or desires they have in life, and what type of other accounts in your niche they follow.
Once you have established this info, you’ll have a much stronger target market and a much better understanding of what your audience may be looking for in your content. If you say, “I’m targeting 20-45 years olds,” it means far less than if you say “I’m targeting 25-45 year old men and women in Los Angeles county who typically use Instagram on work breaks in the morning and afternoon, and prefer restaurant and food content for ideas on where to go next.” This is much more powerful and can inform your content in big ways. Of course, the specifics will vary depending on your niche.
3. Post On Time and Consistently
You’ll want to first establish when your content is most likely to be seen by your audience. You can view some information about when your audience is online under Instagram analytics in the audience section (you have to have a business profile to use this feature, so make sure that you have a business profile activated).
After identifying the optimal time for your audience, you should decide on your post frequency; how many times a day will you be posting? When are you going to include an Instagram story, and when do your posts go out?
Many of these decisions you can make after testing, and you’ll start to get to know your audience once you begin posting and finding what content gets the most engagement and what works for you. Make sure, however, that you’re consistently posting and don’t start to go back and forth between posting, or not posting at all, or posting at completely different times. Your followers will get used to seeing your posts, so you want to keep on schedule and stay consistent. You’ll seem less credible if you start to become wishy-washy with your posts.
4. Use Hashtags and Tag Brands
Instagram is a platform of tagging, and in this section we’ll talk about the importance of both using hashtags for reach, and tagging brands for promotion.
Hashtags are traditionally known as the way to get your post under more eyes by expanding discoverability and reaching more audience members. You can use up to 30 hashtags per IG post and even more in the comment section, but it’s debated on how many hashtags you should actually use. It’s generally accepted that around 11 is the optimal number, but it truly depends on how your posts perform and what your aesthetic is.
One thing to keep in mind is to make sure your hashtags are not too general. If you use a hashtag like #tuesday for example, you’ll see about 1.2m posts as opposed to #tuesdaybeatuy, which has 1.2k. You can do research on this by looking up a variety of hashtags, and once you see some you think could work, take a look at the type of posts that appear on this hashtag page. If they seem to fall in line with the type of content you’re posting, it’s probably a good choice for you. If it strays too far in another direction or isn’t really as connected to your content, maybe choose another one.
Geotags are also very important because they link you to the specific location. This is useful because it zeroes in on the area and can help to get you more local and relevant attention from people in that specific area. If brands are looking to target a specific location, your geotags can definitely help you out there.
Another thing you want to do in addition to hastagging and geotagging is tag the brands directly. If you visit a specific restaurant, tag that restaurant. Put the photo location geotag to their restaurant. If you’re wearing a specific kind of makeup, tag that brand.
A good tip for doing this is to start with local, small businesses and work your way up. It’s a great idea to start off with brands in your local area that may be looking for partnerships within your niche. Grab some of their stuff and mention them in your posts. Build your relationship with them and it can be a great foundation for working as a sponsored influencer.
Doing this can also help to build up engagement from your followers and show brands or potential partners that you know how to get your community to engage. Be sure to always respond and promote conversation on your accounts, and having a quick response time and visible presence on your account will show brands that you are a valuable sales partner that can build a relationship with their followers. They can count on you to respond and get their information out there.
5. Pitch Yourself
Now that you’ve started to build a base of content, followers, and relationships with small businesses or brands, there’s no reason why you can’t start putting yourself out there in a more direct way. It’s totally okay to pitch yourself as a sponsored influencer to brands, and we’ll tell you exactly how to do it.
First, you want to start with the right brand. If you are pitching to a brand that doesn’t really use the platform through sponsored content or isn’t really looking to bring any partners onboard at the moment, you’re pretty much wasting your time and energy, as well as setting yourself up for rejection.
Find brands that are enthusiastic about working with sponsored partners, and it’s okay to start small. Look in your area for companies in your niche. Starting there can give you a higher likelihood of finding sponsorships, which allows you to begin building your portfolio and experience for higher sponsorships down the line.
Once you’ve selected a few brands, reach out to them. The best method will probably be by email, but depending on the brand, maybe there’s also a contact on their website for opportunities or even via Instagram itself. When in doubt, stick to email.
Make sure you don’t send out a mass email. Send each brand an email one by one, and be sure to tailor it to the brand you’re contacting. Be authentic and really make sure you’ve researched the brand and know it well before contacting.
In the email, be sure to include a description of who you are and your brand identity, what you do and what you specialize in, and any field-related achievements or knowledge that build your credibility and expert potential. Make connections as to why you’re a good partner match for the brand; you should also include your handle, follower count, and average likes/comments along with any other relevant analytic data you find will help you.
If you decide to reach out to a brand via their website or via DM on Instagram, be sure to include the same type of information.
When you are doing this type of negotiation with brands, make sure you know how much your sponsorship is worth and how much you’re going to charge per post or per a certain number of posts.
When all is said and done, getting sponsored on Instagram definitely isn’t without its work. It takes a great deal of time, work, and patience. That being said, it’s incredibly effective if you find a way to set yourself apart in your niche, build a strong presence and active relationship with your followers.