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Affiliate marketing has long been dominated by bloggers turning clicks into cash. Today, Instagram is the real money-maker in the game, with influencers functioning as a friendly bridge between brands and customers.
To generate results, influencers must strike a balance between promotional content and authentic recommendations, tips, and tricks. Below, we’ve compiled a list of the best practices for Instagram affiliates.
1. Affiliate Posts Must Fit Your Feed
With Instagram affiliate marketing, both the influencer and the brand should get value out of the relationship. As such, it’s important to remember that success comes from establishing trust. This means that you’ll need to introduce affiliate products in a way that feels genuine.
Here are some examples of how you can ensure that your posts don’t come off as overtly “promotional”.
Make Sure You Believe in the Product
It’s hard to promote something you’ve never used before and still make a convincing case for making the purchase. As such, it’s important to be selective about the products you choose to promote.
If you partner with clothing brands, take pictures that show how it works with your existing wardrobe. Beauty and makeup stuff? Try offering a short tutorial in your next Instagram Story.
Show How the Product Has Made Your Life Better
To convince people that buying this product is worthwhile, you’ll want to show off its value in your feed. Essentially, this means you’re promoting products in a way that sounds like you’re just helpful. Would you tell your friends or family about this product, if not, maybe sit this one out.
This example from Glad to be in First does a good job promoting this cookbook. She’s enthusiastic (see the avocado toast mention), so it sounds like a genuine endorsement. Still, she points toward the affiliate link and shouts out the brand.
Don’t Spam Your Followers
Your followers shouldn’t feel pressured into buying products. Post after branded post will take a toll on your follower count. Patience pays off here. Your best bet is interweaving affiliate content into your feed with unbranded posts. Followers are quick to drop their influencer allegiance when they feel that they’ve “sold out”.
2. Use Paid Promotions Sparingly
Sponsored posts are only available to those users who have Instagram for business accounts. If you haven’t already upgraded to business class, head over to Instagram and make the change.
Sponsored posts allow you to embed a clickable link inside your posts and promote your posts to the exact audience you’d like to reach. It’s a powerful way to grow your following and increase sales.
But you shouldn’t pay to boost your content all of the time, or else you’re just giving Instagram your commissions. Make sure you set a budget that you’re comfortable with and track your results.
For more ways to grow your audience, read our guide to help you gain more followers on Instagram.
3. Make the Most of the One Link in Your Bio
Instagram only allows one live link at a time. Which can get in the way of promoting every product to your audience at once.
When you market the product in an individual post, don’t forget to point followers back to the link in your bio. Because there’s an extra step on Instagram, as opposed to a blog where you can embed personalized links anywhere, you’ll need to make sure you prompt your audience.
Use Instagram Stories to Share Links
Instagram Stories are a great way to promote affiliate links. You’ll need a business account to make the most out of this feature, otherwise you can’t add live links to your Stories.
If you have a business account, you can apply to add shoppable tags to your stories and link to products that way. Business accounts do not automatically come with the shopping feature. We recommend checking out Instagram’s Help page for more on who qualifies as a merchant.
If you don’t have shopping permissions, you can use the “swipe up” trick instead. Smalltalk Social created this Stories campaign using Canva. Shoppers can swipe up to buy the books on Amazon and Smalltalk receives the commission.
Use Link-in-Bio Apps
Later’s Linkin.bio is one example. It allows you to add links to individual Instagram posts scheduled through their tool. The idea is to turn your page into an optimized landing page.
There’s also LinkTree, which supports up to five links at a time. According to their marketing page, one bio link can support multiple destinations. Another example is lnk.bio, which offers a free entry-level plan for new influencers who want to try out the tool before committing.
Link-in-bio apps are typically a paid service, but they do offer an efficient workaround for influencers promoting more than one product at a time.
These apps track which posts users are clicking on and will present a custom link each time. This means you’re not constantly changing the link to match your latest campaign, thus not losing out on commissions.
Cross-Promote Affiliate Links on Other Channels
Don’t limit yourself to Instagram alone. Instead, leverage your other networks like Twitter and Facebook to share the same links. The idea isn’t to cut and paste the same content across all channels.
Instead, tailor each post to according to the platform you’re posting on and link to your original Instagram post. Take, for example, the tweet below. It highlights an Instagram giveaway and points followers toward a specific action.
Another idea is running a blog. The blog should fall within the same niche as your Instagram page, offering another platform for connecting with your audience and promoting your product links.
Focusing on creating good content will help you rank on Google Search, which, in turn, can help you grow your Instagram following. This is only a viable option if you have the time to write regular content and you’re a competent writer. If that’s not the case, stick with the socials.
4. Use Hashtags the Right Way
Hashtags might seem simple, but they’re actually the best way to increase your reach organically. Like Twitter, Instagram hashtags work to organize video and photo content.
Relevant, targeted hashtags allow you to get discovered by new audiences, thus adding up to more followers, more engagement, and more referrals.
As you can see below, a short caption, followed by several hashtags that relate to vegan foods, healthy eating, and smoothies, can attract a wide range of foodies.
You’ll want to use a combination of hashtags, some which boast a high posting volume and others that boast comparatively less. It’s easier to rank for less popular hashtags.
Start your research process by looking at the hashtags you’re following. What are other people in your niche posting? What about your competitors?
From there, type relevant examples into an app like Leetags or Hashtagify.me. Both options will help you narrow down some good options for getting the word out. Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags, but the optimal number is closer to 10.
Stay away from generic tags like #blogging or #socialmedia. These unimaginative phrases won’t do anything but attract bots or people outside of your target audience.
5. Disclose Everything (and We Mean Everything)
Transparency is everything. And in the affiliate game, transparency is required by law. It’s important to note that if you are posting something for financial gain on social media, you need to disclose this partnership to your audience.
The FTC guidelines state that branded hashtags and #sponcon should be “easily noticed”.
The Best Affiliates Focus on Being Themselves
Affiliate influencers of all sizes help brands connect to their customers by being transparent and helpful. Yes, you’re selling from your account, but your audience needs to believe that you care about the products you promote.
The most important consideration is selecting a program that offers the products that resonate with your followers and from there, creating compelling content that gently promotes your links. Skip the hard sell and embrace authenticity instead.
Finally, affiliate marketing isn’t the only way to make money on Instagram. You can also sell products, services, or even pictures.