In 2020, brand posts on Instagram had 4x more engagement than on Facebook, and Instagram users have become more engaged after the intense months of Covid-19.
Short-term method for affiliate marketing on Instagram
You can simply share your links and if you have a big enough following, make some income.
However, you cannot add links to your posts, and if you have a small following, you cannot add links in your stories with the Swipe up feature (which is currently being phased out and replaced with the link sticker).
To add links to stories, you need to have a business account (which is easy to create), but you also need at least 10K followers.
If you don’t have that big a following, you can use some other ways to share your link:
1. Add your affiliate link in your bio
You have 150 characters to write a short bio about yourself, and you can include one link. You can make this link your affiliate one (shortened and cloaked, and preferably branded too, with a tool like Pretty Links, for example).
Now in all your posts, add a CTA for your followers to check out the link in your bio.
However, this method becomes challenging when you want to create multiple posts for multiple affiliate products. You have to update your bio link each time you create a post, and every time you do, it becomes invalid for an earlier non-related post.
You can use a service like Linktree or Linkinbio to add multiple links on one webpage, and share that URL in your bio. So by clicking on it your follower can see all your affiliate links on one page.
But I would strongly advise not to adopt this method for affiliate marketing. It comes across as sales-oriented and spammy, and could turn your followers off. You can do it to create a gallery of your blog posts or (free) resources, though, like Hubspot does.
If you participate in an affiliate marketing program that provides you with a coupon code that your followers can use to sign up for the brand, then you can mention this code in every piece of content you create.
However, most brands prefer to use links for their affiliates for digital marketing, so this option may not always be easily accessible or scalable.
3. Run ads and sponsored posts
Of course on any social media, you can create ads in different formats. On Instagram too, you can turn any post/ story/ reel into an ad to expand your reach and gain more visibility for your content.
The more people see your content, the higher the number of people actually clicking on your affiliate link to buy.
You can also create sponsored posts, which are essentially content you create for a brand you’re promoting, and in return get paid by the brand. This method would work especially well if you have a big follower base, because you’re extending the brand’s reach to people it may not be able to reach by itself.
You know a sponsored post by the disclosure right below the profile name. Here’s an example.
4. Create shoppable posts.
This is one of the latest features of Instagram, where you can add products to your profile, and direct your audience directly to them. This is how it works:
Step 1: Create a business account on Instagram.
Step 2: Upload your products/ catalog with the Catalog Manager on Facebook.
Step 3: Go to Settings -> Shopping and choose the product catalog you created on Facebook.
Step 4: Tag the products in your posts, both old and new.
Step 5: When someone clicks on the tagged product in your post, they are directed to the product details on Instagram or on the brand website.
You can also make use of other features like Live Shopping and Instagram Checkout (only available in the US currently). With Live Shopping, users can directly buy or save products as you.
See the video below for the complete process.
However, these above methods are not only short-term, but are also limited in reach and returns. Here’s why:
These are just sales links, which benefit you directly, maybe more than your audience,
People use Instagram to learn, get entertained, and observe. Being sold to might put them off.
The links don’t build engagement and connection with your audience.
That is why your affiliate marketing strategy on Instagram should follow a more long-term approach.
The fundamental principle is really simple. People buy from you (or follow your advice to buy) when they trust you.
The ultimate goal of affiliate marketing on Instagram should be to gain more followers and get them to engage with you and trust you over a period of time.
So a sustainable and profitable Instagram long-term strategy for affiliate marketing is really about building that trust, and it is done in a series of steps.
Step 1: Create a powerful brand
If you just share affiliate links, you are just a salesperson, and who ever built a genuine relationship with someone who only wants to sell them something?
Your brand, your positioning, and you, should stand for more. A good point of reference would be influencers or celebrities. They have their own personal brands which draw in followers, who in turn want to use the brands the influencers endorse.
Just remember a few key points:
Choose one or just a few niches to associate yourself with.
One of the key elements of branding success is to have a specific target audience, and connect with them. If you try to become an affiliate for too many brands, you’re not specialized in anything, and it’s harder to convince people to buy.
Visual-heavy brands like food, fashion, beauty, and travel, are very easy to create content for, but they are also more competitive.
So if you are doing affiliate marketing for brands whose target audience is in an older age group, Instagram may not be the right channel for you.
Step 3: Create valuable content to help your audience
Your content strategy should focus on helping solve a problem of your target audience, provide information, or even entertainment. You could demonstrate how to solve a problem in general, or by using your affiliate product/ service.
You could also create reviews, product comparisons. In fact, you could repurpose any of your written blog posts into multiple Instagram posts and stories.
A few points to remember:
Keep your content fresh, interesting, and engaging. Goes without saying, use good-looking visuals. Use a mix of photos, videos, carousels, posts, stories, iGTV, Insta reels, live videos. You can create custom visuals quickly using free slide templates with tools like Canva.
Bonus: These steps can also help you get featured in the Explore of Instagram, so people who don’t even know about you or follow you currently can still see your content.
Step 4: Engage with your audience through your Instagram content
You need to build a genuine relationship with your audience to gain their trust. So when they comment on your posts or other content, definitely thank them for commenting and reply to them.
If your followers feel valued and appreciated, they are more likely to stay loyal.
Step 5: Direct your audience to your website content
Your link in bio should ideally be a blog post or some other content on your website which provides a lot of value, and also includes your affiliate links.
So not only do you create content on Instagram which is visually stimulating and interesting for your audience, you direct them to more beneficial content.
As you keep repeating this process of providing value without asking for anything, you will build a loyal following of people who value you, trust you, and are happy to purchase the brands you recommend.
Ask your followers to engage with your content: like/ tag/ comment, for the chance to win a free giveaway. See the example below.
Step 7: Build your email list and share valuable content
To take this strategy of relationship-building to the next level, you can also include a lead magnet in your blog post. So when your Instagram follower clicks on your link in bio and lands on your website, he/ she can also see your lead magnet and sign up for your newsletters.
This is a big sign of engagement and trust from them. And as they say, the money is in the list.
Step 8: Share valuable content and/ or links with your subscriber base
Keep creating content and sending it to your contact list. Once in a while, in between sharing your content, you can also write one email about the brand you passionately recommend, tell them why you think this brand can be beneficial, and share your affiliate link.
But remember to have always shared content of value before you send such a sales pitch email.
Whether you take the short-term approach or long-term, a good way to get visibility for your Instagram profile is to get a shoutout. You can build relationships with other Instagrammers or even influencers and get these shoutouts for free, or you can buy shoutouts too.
As you can see, growing your affiliate marketing business through Instagram need not just be limited to the social network. It’s also not just about links. It’s about your brand, your relationships, and the value you provide.
If you follow this approach, you won’t just make money through one link a few times, you can simply focus on helping your audience, and watch the money flow in, month after month!
Poulomi Basu is a marketing consultant who helps small businesses and entrepreneurs develop their brands and optimize their websites with SEO strategies and content writing. After having worked in branding and marketing in multinational companies across Asia, Middle East, and Europe for over 17 years, she started her own business Ignite Marketing in 2016. Her mission is to help and coach small business owners to achieve their business objectives through digital marketing. You can find her sharing tips and thoughts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
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