One of the ways in which influencers from all industries are trying to monetize their audiences and social media influence is through Instagram affiliate marketing. With Instagram becoming so popular globally and having an active and engaging audience, it 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 marketing platform, the goal is to drive as much traffic as possible through their tracked links to their marketing partners’ websites. With Instagram boasting an engagement rate 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 products, 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 works–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 and making the most of affiliate programs, this post should give you some tips on how to yield more influence on Instagram!
Before we get started, though, Instagram has announced back in June of 2021 that they will roll out an affiliate marketing program of their own that will make it extremely easy for creators to monetize the links that they share–and products that they tag–on the platform. When that is rolled out it will be the first officially supported affiliate marketplace built inside a social network, but not everyone has access to it yet.
If you are interested in getting access to it, I recommend that you set up an Instagram Creator account and keep checking your Professional Dashboard and wait for it to show the magic words: Set Up Affiliate.Until then, stay up-to-date with what Instagram is officially offering here.
So, how does Instagram affiliate marketing work?
Instagram’s official affiliate network is designed to establish 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 that is able to be accessed via Instagram. The affiliate marketer depicts the product or service in their postings and earns a 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!
The brand being advertised and promoted gains inherent customer interest and the influencer profile working as the affiliate is used to engage its audience towards the product being advertised. The influencer earns some cut of the sale made by the product being advertised. This system is mutually beneficial for both the brand and influencers, which is why affiliate marketing is influencer marketing’s new best friend!
I’ll cover some more specific advice for affiliate marketers later in this post, but one of the immediate questions you probably have is this: compared to blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, et. al., does Instagram allow you to place a link every time you post an image? Unfortunately, the answer is no. So how can affiliate marketers on Instagram get people to enter a link with their affiliate code into their browser and buy a product? There are actually a few ways, once you get creative and think outside of the box, and here are the simplest steps to follow:
1. 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. This approach is ideal if you are a brand ambassador and exclusive affiliate for one brand.
2. 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 and could aggravate your audience, negatively influencing engagement rates.
3. 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. To utilize these tools, you set the link in your bio to be your personalized Instagram gallery app URL, and then once someone selects that image, they are brought to a screen of clickable Instagram posts leading them to your affiliate links. I use Tailwind’s Smart.bio link tool to create my own linkable Instagram gallery, so check out what it looks like by clicking on the link in my Instagram bio https://instagram.com/nealschaffer.
4. Include the Affiliate Link as a Link Sticker in Instagram Stories
You used to need to have 10,000 followers to be able to do this, but back in October of 2021, Instagram announced that all users could now add a clickable sticker link to Instagram Stories to make it easy for your followers to visit the website on the other side of your affiliate link. It’s never been easier to generate clicks to your affiliate offers than through Instagram Stories!
5. Include the Affiliate Link in Your Photo, Image Description or Instagram Story
This is by far the least effective, but if you use a URL shortener like bit.ly 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.
6. Use an Affiliate Promo Code in Your Photo or Image Description
There are some affiliate programs that might offer you a promo or coupon code that is linked to your affiliate account. This way, people can simply go to the online store to purchase and use your promo code for a discount. They get a discount and you get a commission–a win-win!
Wait…advertise? Well, yes! You can advertise an affiliate offer on Instagram. This costs money, but you get the ultimate clickable link: The “Shop Now” button that appears at the bottom of the image. If you have an affiliate offer that can generate a large commission per sale, you might want to experiment with this.
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 brands 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 if a sale is made. At the very 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 can 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 the type of collaboration that not every influencer wants, but there are many who recognize the value of the system.
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 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. Without trust, both the influencer and the brand will suffer in the form of lost followers and lost revenue. 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 have 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 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 as others, the most important thing is for those followers to be actively engaged with the influencer’s content and page. These are known as micro – influencers or even nano – influencers (people who have fewer 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 relevance between affiliate and brand is of the utmost importance in Instagram affiliate marketing. Before selecting an influencer partner, evaluate whether your posts will fit into the individual’s feed and the audience will enjoy it. This requires rigorous research and attention to detail to ensure that your affiliate marketing campaigns are capitalizing on your branding and your potential marketer’s platform. For influencers, this means that you should be equally choosy among the affiliate products that you represent, so that they are relevant to your community. After all, you are what you tweet, right?
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 these partnerships.
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 with it. There are dozens of affiliate marketing programs available that each cater to different niche of businesses, including fashion, sportswear, travel supplies, etc. The few most common affiliate marketing platforms today are mentioned below.
If you’ve been online in the past few years, you are likely already very familiar with Amazon. What many people do not realize, however, is that Amazon partners with influencers to generate revenue. While you might think of e-commerce when you think of Amazon, and the increasing growth of the company, Amazon Associates is also one of the largest affiliate marketing programs currently available to influencers. Amazon is perhaps unique amongst its peers for the sheer volume of products it offers–all within the same store or site. The breadth of Amazon makes it an ideal affiliate marketing platform for newcomers and long-time affiliate marketers, alike.
To get started as an Amazon associate, simply sign up for the program and start recommending. From influencers who focus on healthy meals and share kitchen tools to make the task easy to fashion and beauty influencers who love to peruse Amazon for affordable fashion, Amazon is one of the most straightforward, well-known, and oft-used affiliate programs currently being offered.
If you’re new to Amazon Associates and the Amazon Influencer Program, here is a great step-by-step tutorial to get you started:
Further Reading: How to Become an Amazon Influencer – A Step-By-Step Guide
Clickbank is an affiliate marketplace that connects influencers and businesses or brands to create mutually beneficial relationships. Clickbank has been structured to function as a one-stop shop for both affiliate marketers and companies, because it allows brands and businesses to pay affiliate marketers directly through the site, and allows marketers to receive and transfer money on the same platform. Clickbank claims to have over 100,000 affiliates from whom to choose, which allows companies and brands to select from people from a truly substantial pool of affiliates.
Clickbank is also different from many of its peers in how many additional services it offers. Clickbank has a wealth of educational tools at the disposal of members, which can help affiliates and companies alike learn how to most effectively leverage the platform and affiliate marketing, in the process. Clickbank also functions as a source of e-commerce, and has been used to grow and scale businesses from multiple angles, not just affiliate marketing and influencer partnerships.
Here’s Clickbank’s official guide to getting started:
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
Here’s a great video to help you get started with ShareASale:
CJ Affiliate is one of the biggest online affiliate platforms and has nearly every major retailer listed on their platform. Regarding marketing for businesses, CJ has an ample amount of advertisers that makes 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 that payments are paid out in a timely manner each month.
Here’s a great video which explains more about Commission Junction:
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, which allows for increased customization of the types of campaigns you can run.
However, a few of its disadvantages or drawbacks include 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 an unpredictable payment nature for affiliates and only pays when commissions are collected from partners.
Here’s a great video tutorial on how you can get started:
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.”
Further Reading: FTC Influencer Guidelines: What You Need to Know Today
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on to learn more about Instagram affiliate marketing before we jump in deeper.
Instagram Affiliate Marketing Best Practices
So, if you’re interested in 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 11 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 Create Your Own Instagram Followers Policy to Increase Your Community and Gain More 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 with, 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 toward your affiliate profile.
Use Instagram hashtags appropriately
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 over time. Their relevance has to be kept intact, though.
Further Reading: 8 Powerful Ways How to Use Instagram Hashtags for More Exposure
Create your own visual style
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 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 beautiful scenery and it naturally gives off a good feeling about the clothing line mentioned. The more compelling 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:
Become REALLY good at Instagram Reels
The beauty about Instagram Reels is that you can reach people outside of your following, and when done right you can grab exponentially greater attention than you could with a feed post or Instagram Story. Reels take some time to learn and get comfortable with, but the other benefit is that if you become good at Instagram Reels, you can take your affiliate marketing outside of Instagram and expand it to TikTok, Facebook, YouTube Shorts, and even Pinterest Idea Pins.
Contests and giveaways
Running contests and giveaways for affiliate marketing is a strategy unlike any other. 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 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. When doing this, 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 bring in newer partners. Strategies regarding clear goals should be set, along with clear expectations. This way, neither party will 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 reputation, but when done right following the above steps by the right person for the right brand and 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, whether you are a brand marketer or an affiliate marketer.
Questions? Advice or experience to share? Go ahead! I’m all ears!
Final Note: The Importance of Instagram EngagementI cannot stress this enough, but 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 who genuinely engage with you, and thus indirectly increase the chance that they will engage with your affiliate-related posting. No matter how many followers you have, if they are not engaging, it will take you that much longer to become successful with your Instagram affiliate marketing.
Hero photo by Amelia Bartlett on Unsplash
Instagram Affiliate Marketing FAQs
One of the steps to generate income on Instagram is through affiliate marketing or partnership with brands. It aims to drive traffic via tracked links to the affiliate’s site. To be an affiliate marketer, you must first choose a relevant affiliate niche. Next, make sure you have a good number of followers, then sign up to affiliate marketing platforms.
Yes, Instagram is good for affiliate marketing. This is due to a fact that Instagram has engagement rates of between 2% and 7% — greater than Tumblr, Twitter, Snapchat, and other platforms. Furthermore, Instagram has an estimated 928 million advertising reach which is why brands prefer the platform for marketing.
There is no specific ideal number of followers for affiliate marketing, however, a good number of 5,000 to 15,000 followers is enough to become an affiliate marketer. Also, your engagement rate should be at least 100 likes per post. Don’t forget, marketers also track your performance and organic engagement!
An Instagram affiliate link is a link created specifically for an affiliate marketer. Once a follower clicks the link, it will lead to the site of the brand the affiliate is advertising. Marketers use affiliate links to measure the traffic driven to the site by an affiliate marketer. The link can be placed on Instagram bio or Instagram stories.
For beginner affiliate marketers, the first important step to do is to find your niche. Then consistently create high-quality content and engage with your followers to help grow your following. Once you have a good following and engagement rate, you can then sign up with any affiliate marketing platforms.