Written by Dustin Howes
When you hear the term "affiliate marketing," you likely associate it with content marketing rather than social media. Or, you'd confuse it with influencer marketing.
But, affiliate marketing is an excellent option for monetizing your Instagram and making a living off it.
Companies can use affiliate marketing to spread the word about their business and products. On the flip side, any Instagram user with expertise in their niche and a good following can become an affiliate marketer.
Let's look at how Instagram affiliate marketing works and how you can earn income as an affiliate marketer.
Instagram and Affiliate Marketing
Instagram has the highest average engagement rate per post (1.16%) among major social media platforms, according to Social Insider.
Affiliate marketing aims to capitalize on this engagement. Companies use Instagram accounts with engaged and loyal communities to advertise their products.
While this sounds similar to influencer marketing, there's a major difference between both forms.
To become an affiliate marketer, all you need is a decent-sized following and some industry knowledge. Then, you can join an affiliate network and partner up with one or more companies.
You then post affiliate links to these companies' products or services and get paid a small fee or commission every time someone clicks on your link and purchases a product.
SwagBucks, for example, has an affiliate marketing program where marketers earn a commission every time someone creates an account on the platform using their link.
How to Make Money as an Instagram Affiliate Marketer
Now that we've covered the basics let's look at how an affiliate marketer can earn a living on Instagram.
1. Build a community
While you don't need millions of Instagram followers to become an affiliate marketer, you still need an engaged community that trusts you enough to click on your affiliate links or use your affiliate codes.
Pick a niche and use hashtags along with the right tools to grow your audience. Make sure that your followers aren't bots or spam accounts. This is crucial for affiliate marketers, as bots won't interact with you or buy the products you advertise.
Essentially, you need to use your Instagram account to build a brand.
2. Register for an affiliate marketing program
Once you've built your community, you can apply to join an affiliate marketing program. Many companies, including Canva, Combin, and Qoob, offer these programs, each with their own terms.
Depending on the company, there could be different terms and conditions and an application process for joining, such as "X number of followers." However, most selection criteria should be relatively easy to meet when you have a dedicated community.
You can join multiple affiliate programs to increase earnings. If you decide to do so, use electronic signature software to sign and keep track of all your affiliate agreements.
3. Add links in all the right places
After joining an affiliate marketing network, you'll likely get a specific link, promo code, or affiliate tag. This is a specific link or code through which the platform or company can track your performance.
The more users click on this link or use the code to complete a purchase or sign up for a service, the higher your commission.
The key to getting people to click on the link is to place them in the right positions.
For example, adding a "Link in bio" to the CTA within your post's description is the most common way to lead followers to an affiliate link.
Experienced affiliate marketers often have a carousel link on their Instagram bio. This link opens to a website with multiple links to affiliate offers that users can browse and click on.
For users who don't want to take the extra step and visit your bio, you should also ideally post shortened links to images and posts using third-party tools.
Promo codes are also great in this aspect since they can be posted directly in the description.
4. Create your own website
As your community grows, it's a great idea to create your own website. You can use this website to showcase all your affiliate products and add links.
Here's an example from Jess Kirby's website:
Take it a step further and allow users to sign up for a weekly newsletter with all the best deals of the week or month.
Email marketing is one of the most efficient marketing channels, with an average conversion rate of 3.71%. Make a list of your best newsletter ideas before you start looking for subscribers.
Use this to your advantage and use weekly newsletters to showcase your affiliate products.
5. Create videos and blogs
Like all marketers on social media, you need to up your content game. Don't just create Instagram posts, add a link, and call it a day. You need an affiliate marketing strategy.
Use your website to start a blog. Your blog can have an overall theme, with some posts used for promotion. You can also use Instagram as a promotional tool for your blog.
There's no limit to the niche you can work in. Even every day, work-related niches like PEO companies offer affiliate programs.
Apart from blogs, you should leverage Instagram reels and IGTV, where you can add links to your videos.
Creating content across multiple platforms requires careful content planning and powerful scheduling software that can automate the many repetitive steps involved in affiliate marketing and digital marketing.
6. Explore paid marketing
Paid marketing such as search ads and sponsored posts can help your account gain popularity and lead users to your platform. This is a great way to boost affiliate sales.
Run paid search ads on Google, so users searching for products within your niche and industry are led to your Instagram post or website.
Sponsored posts are another way to increase your content's reach. You can also add a link to your sponsored post, so even if a user isn't following you, they can click on "Shop Now" to access your products.
The key with any paid marketing strategy is to track KPIs and result-oriented metrics keenly. Otherwise, you'll end up spending a fortune on mediocre results.
7. Use Stories
Over 500 million accounts use Instagram Stories every day. Marketers must leverage this and create Stories for their followers.
For smaller affiliate marketers, Stories can be a great tool for building engagement and growing your community.
For business accounts with at least 10,000 followers, the platform has added functionality for affiliate marketing. It lets you add links directly to your Stories. When there's a link on your Instagram story, users can swipe up to access the webpage. Make sure you are adding your affiliate link to this function!
As an affiliate marketer on Instagram, you can't just follow the post + caption + link template for all your content and hope for the best. Be creative, add long descriptions, tell a story, and connect with your audience.
There's no single strategy for Instagram marketing success, but your best chance is to mix creativity and passion with strategy and persistence.
Dustin Howes owns an affiliate marketing agency that is dedicated to helping companies maximize their affiliate marketing efforts. Through group coaching and private consulting, Dustin teaches program managers how to recruit the right affiliates, optimize working hours, and how to take the growth of the program to the next level. Learn more affiliate marketing tips at dustinhowes.com.