How do you create an Instagram account that will catch the eye of the big brands, exactly what deals are done and how much money can you make? In this extract from Read This if You Want to be Instagram Famous, Nia Pejsak lifts the lid on the most secretive (and lucrative) side of Instagram.
Most people will be familiar with the concept of being famous…but Instagram famous? Of course Instagram doesn’t exist in a bubble, and the majority of the most-followed accounts on Instagram belong to people (and brands) which had a high media profile before the ‘Instant Telegram’ app was just a twinkle in Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger’s eyes. The exception being the number one account, with 219m followers – which is Instagram’s own account (of course). After Instagram, the top slots are occupied by the usual selection of pop stars, sports stars and models – but interestingly the top ranking brand (with 74.1m followers) is the completely celebrity-free National Geographic, which just goes to show the enduring power of the penguin.
Kardashianesque-levels of fame won’t be achievable for most people – and not just because they don’t have an army of social media managers overseeing their accounts for them 24/7. But Instagram is not all about quantity – if you can achieve a level of Instagram fame, and can boast a loyal and engaged following, then you can become what’s known as an influencer. And while you might not make Kardashian-levels of cash either, it is possible to make money from posting your pics, and one of the easiest ways of achieving this is is to collaborate with brands. As consumers become less tolerant (and more cynical) of traditional advertising, brands are using Instagrammers to give them something money can’t buy – a ready-made and engaged audience and, more importantly, credibility.
While the lines between advertising and editorial are well defined (and regulated) in tradition media, as far as social media goes, the lines are more blurred. The ASA does have (and enforce) guidelines, but public platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are almost impossible to comprehensively police.
So once you’ve amassed a loyal following and are what might be considered an ‘influencer,’ how do you go about turning this into cold hard cash? In the latest of his Read This series, editor Henry Carroll asked Nia Pejsak, a marketing manager for a leading fashion house, to lift the lid on the most secretive side of Instagram. Read an excerpt from the book below.
How can aspiring Instagrammers increase their chances of being approached by brands?
Brands look for someone who will resonate with their target market. In fashion, for example, that person should be an authority on the brand’s particular style and lifestyle values. Make sure your followers feel like they are getting a glimpse into your world as brands really value that personal connection. I would recommend creating a list of your target brands and, as your account grows, keep in mind whether the lifestyle you’re showcasing mimics that of the brand.
Don’t forget to consider brands outside your specific field, too. For example, a distinctive food account will attract the attention of fashion and travel brands because it’s an effective method for getting their product to a new audience and reinforcing their wider lifestyle values.
How many followers does someone need before they become an ‘influencer’
People tend to fixate on follower count, but engagement is perhaps more important from a brand’s point of view. Engagement refers to how followers interact with a post. Are they just scrolling past it in their feeds or do they choose to ‘like’ the post or comment on it? If they do comment, what are they saying? For example, there’s a swimsuit model with over a million followers. If you look at the comments that her post attracts, a lot are from ogling men more interested in what’s under the swimsuit than the garment itself! This highlights what a large part of her million-plus following actually consists of, and a swimsuit brand would be better off partnering with another, smaller account that is followed by girls actually interested in the fashion. So, in terms of being an influencer, in this the smaller account would score higher.
What factors determine how much an Instagrammer should charge?
A simple calculation, such as the percentage of likes/comments vs following, is an effective way of analysing your average post engagement against similar accounts. Brands will look at this too, as it exposes whether an Instagrammer with a high following actually carries influence or not. But then one has to take into account the number of posts that you’d be expected to make about the brand, whether that’s just on Instagram or across other social channels; whether they are exclusive posts or shared with another brand; and whether you are expected to come up with original content or simply post existing images. Many of the top influencers on Instagram started as bloggers, so they are able to offer packages that include a post on their websites. Another factor is the creativity that you’ll bring to the post. Is the brand getting content that can be on their channels, or even a whole photoshoot that they might use to sell product on their website? This can be sold in as added value.
So what are the going rates?
Once you’ve built up a decent number of followers you can begin charging. But don’t even think about buying followers, as this will always result in low engagement and brands will see right through it. So basically, Instagrammers with a follower count in the hundreds of thousands with good engagement will typically charge around $500 to $1,000 USD per post. A takeover could earn anything from $2,000 to $10,000, depending on the length of time and number of posts. Being signed for a whole campaign such as a package that includes ads, in-store imagery and a set number of posts for the period of that campaign could earn around $20,000 to $30,000. There are whole other deals too, which include commission on product sales. These are generally reserved for brand ambassadors, but that could be up to ten per cent on total sales.
Would you recommend working with an agent?
For sure. First and foremost, they’ll have established relationships with brands which you’ll get access to. They can help you strike better deals and also enable you to piggyback on the bigger influencers on their books to build up your profile faster. This can include ‘spend over’ deals, where brands are offered a package that includes posts by the top influencers and some ‘free’ bonus exposure via posts by the smaller accounts.
Any other advice for aspiring Instagrammers?
Be personable. Instagram is a crowded space, so stand out as genuine. Captions should be snappy and grab people’s attention. What’s your personality or tone of voice within the caption: serious, friendly, funny or cheeky? Encourage engagement! Ask questions, interact with your audience through comments and give reciprocal likes/comments to your peers. See Instagram as a community, not a competition. Extend your reach by posting something that’ll resonate with your audience and make them tag their friends. Partner with other influencers to double your exposure as you’ve both got a different audience to gain. Be scientific by keeping an eye on your stats to see which of your posts get the best engagement. Brands will expect you to have a document outlining this and the key selling points of your account.
Nia has worked in fashion marketing management for brands such as Mulberry, Lacoste, Minkpink and online retailer Net-a-Porter. She is currently studying for a Masters at the London College of Fashion. Follow her on Instagram @NIAPEJSAK
Read This if You Want to be Instagram Famous will be released on 17th April 2017