Social media apps - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

How do Instagram stars and other influencers make money?

Few could have seen the impact social networks have had on modern society, with Facebook influencing elections, Twitter hosting Russian bot-farms, YouTube fostering the alt-right, and Tumblr creating communities for every kink in town. However, it is Instagram that has lead pack in terms of cultural impact in 2018 and advertiser money has followed.

For many of us, Instagram is a way to share the most beautiful version of our lives with the world, with images of the most colourful food to the cutest dogs, and waste away the hours seeing a glossy version of what everyone else is up to. However, for a growing number of “influencers” it is a way earn a living by connecting their fans and followers with relevant brands, services, and products.

It is difficult to gauge the number of followers you need to have before you are considered an influencer, as the size of the audience is defined by the breadth of the niche. To be considered a popular fashion or entertainment influencer will need hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers, but for smaller more specific themes you could be considered a “thought leader” with only a few thousand following you on the platform.

Many of the most popular Instagram accounts are held by real-world celebrities like footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and pop star Selena Gomez who each have over 140m followers. However, thousands of independent people have put the work in to grow instagram followers, often starting out on their own before building their profile with the help of a team of people to create and publish beautiful content that keeps people coming back for more.

Food, fashion, health, pets, tech, and luxury lifestyles are all popular niches on Instagram, and they can be some of the most lucrative sectors for advertisers, with multi-national brands looking to get their products in front of an engaged and relevant audience. People are already watching these accounts for inspiration on what to eat, what to wear, and where to be seen, and this gives brands a huge opportunity – one that influencers leverage into cold hard cash.

Whilst most people use Instagram to share their stories, most big names with hundreds of thousands of followers treat their accounts as a business, and secure huge advertising deals to promote everything under the sun from food and drink to smartphones to dog food. Sometimes these brands find relevant influencers themselves, but more often than not there are networks involved that specialise in matching companies and influencers in their niche – which means more campaigns for influencers and easier reach for brands and more money for everyone involved.