Affiliate marketing and Instagram marketing are each multibillion-dollar industries—merge them together and you’ve got the potential for a lucrative side hustle. Affiliate marketers on Instagram get paid when their followers purchase a product they’ve recommended.
Instagram makes an ideal platform for affiliates, not just because half of all Instagram users shop on the platform every week, but also because the platform’s content formats—images, videos, and livestreams—showcase the 360-degree view most people need prior to purchasing.
This guide walks through how to set up an affiliate marketing account on Instagram, with seven tips on maximizing your commission.
How to start affiliate marketing on Instagram
Before we tackle how to make money on Instagram, follow these three steps to prepare your account for affiliate promotion.
1. Switch to a Creator account
To run an affiliate marketing program on Instagram, you’ll need to turn your Instagram account into a Creator account. Here are the steps:
- Open your Instagram account.
- Select Settings.
- Go to Account.
- Tap Switch to a professional account and choose Creator.
- Choose the category that best describes your affiliate niche.
- Enter your contact information.
Instagram Creator profiles are designed for bloggers, influencers, and content creators. It gives you access to tools that will help you grow your affiliate business on the platform—including advanced insights and simplified messaging.
You can see your follower growth, audience demographics, and manage questions from people interested in your affiliated products by dividing your Instagram DMs.
2. Choose the right affiliate partners
To make money on Instagram with affiliate marketing, you need to discover brands that pay commission on sales you make.
There are two places to start:
- Affiliate marketing programs. Brands in all niches encourage customers to promote their products in exchange for commission. Popular programs include Shopify, Amazon Associates, and the eBay Partner Network.
- Affiliate networks. Platforms like ShareASale, Rakuten, Awin, and CJ Affiliate allow marketers to generate custom links, track commission, and receive payouts from one dashboard. Note that many programs within a network have different commission rates.
While these two routes to monetization have the lowest barrier to entry, you can expand your affiliate marketing business by pitching to work with the brands you already know and love.
Roughly 80% of brands work with affiliates, though many high ticket affiliate programs are invite-only (or at least require some digging). Proving you’re already a loyal customer to the brand will help you secure affiliate links to share on Instagram.
3. Build your influence
When it comes to Instagram affiliate marketing, quality is more important than quantity.
Instagram influencers with fewer than 10,000 followers can demand roughly $193 per sponsored post, according to a survey by Statista, proving you don’t need tens of thousands of followers to build a new revenue stream through the app as an affiliate marketer. You just need a few people who know, like, and trust what you say.
To make money with Instagram affiliate marketing, the goal is to become an influencer in your audience’s eyes. Only then will you stand a chance at diverting them toward your affiliate links.
Instagram doesn’t pay creators directly; creators monetize by finding sponsors for their content or via affiliate links.— Li Jin (@ljin18) October 1, 2020
This means the most successful IG creators induce a desire among viewers to buy something--i.e. making them feel that what they already have is insufficient.
Tips to build your Instagram influence include:
- Post when your audience is active. There’s not much point in posting new Instagram content if your followers aren’t around to see it. Find your optimal posting times in Instagram Insights.
- Be consistent. Help people know what to expect when they hit the Follow button for the first time. Consistently sharing new content also gives followers more opportunity to engage—a factor considered in Instagram’s algorithm.
- Share mostly non-promotional content. Keep your content—and recommendations—credible by posting mostly non-promotional content. We like the rule suggested by Marc Bromhall, founder of Beginner Surf Gear: “I adopt the one-in-20 principle, so only 5% of my posts are affiliate posts. Any more than that and you run the risk of eroding trust and credibility with your audience.”
- Pick a niche. The goal is to be known as a trustworthy source of information, news, or entertainment in the industry you sell affiliate products within. Take Jake Thomas, founder of Golden Hearts, for example. He promotes pet products for golden retrievers, so it makes sense that his Instagram page shares photos of cute dogs.
Seven tips to making more affiliate sales on Instagram
Once you’ve got your Instagram affiliate account set up, the hard work doesn’t stop there. Use these seven affiliate marketing tips to maximize your income potential through Instagram.
- Label affiliate products as a paid partnership
- Create an Instagram affiliate storefront
- Add affiliate links to your Instagram bio
- Create a discount code Story highlight
- Record product demonstrations
- Use hashtags to expand your reach
- Track affiliate performance
1. Label affiliate products as a paid partnership
Given the surge in the number of Instagram users incentivized to share products with their followers, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) laid out strict guidelines on how marketers must disclose their relationship with an affiliated brand: “When the review has a clear and conspicuous disclosure of your relationship and the reader can see both the review containing that disclosure and the link at the same time, readers have the information they need. You could say something like, ‘I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.’ But if the product review containing the disclosure and the link are separated, readers may not make the connection.”
Instagram recently launched a feature designed to help affiliate marketers meet these FTC endorsement requirements. The paid partnerships label, shown in this Instagram post from Chantel Mila, clearly indicates that the affiliate marketer is incentivized to share the brand’s content.
But it’s not just the FTC’s good books you’ll land yourself in by being honest with affiliate recommendations. Lattice Hudson, founder of Lattice & Co, says, “I don’t suggest you obscure the fact that it's affiliate marketing, since then you come off as spam, deceptive affiliate advertising, and promotions.
“Be truthful and fair with your [audience], establishing true relationships through authentic content. They won’t return if all they perceive is a commercial motive—that you don’t have their best interests in mind.”
2. Create an Instagram affiliate storefront
Back in June 2021, Instagram released news of its new affiliate features—one of which is an in-app storefront, similar to the ecommerce brand’s Instagram Shops, specifically for content creators using the platform.
Creators can showcase the products they’re affiliated with from their profile. The View Shop tab shows recommended products, with affiliates able to tag these products from their Instagram content to encourage sales.
The Instagram affiliate shops feature is still in beta testing, though it’s expected to roll out to US creators soon. In the meantime, work on testing the popularity of different affiliate products. When the feature launches for all creators, you’ll know which items should take pride of place in your affiliate storefront.
3. Add affiliate links to your Instagram bio
Instagram users regularly complain about the fact that they’re only allowed to include one link from their bio.
While the platform listened and took this into consideration for Stories (more on that later), affiliate marketers have had to find workarounds to divert Instagram traffic toward their affiliate links.
One popular workaround is a landing page link aggregator. Tools like Linkpop or Tap Bio allow affiliate marketers to build landing pages that contain multiple other affiliate links, like this example from Lily Pebbles:
Lily uses the same link across most of her social media platforms, and encourages followers to hop between them all through this landing page.
What’s interesting, though, is that Lily’s “Shop my favorites edit” link directs Instagram followers toward a site on her blog that displays the fashion products she loves. Each is monetized through a RewardStyle affiliate link:
4. Create a discount code Story highlight
Did you know that 88% of US consumers use coupon codes when shopping online? Work that into your affiliate marketing strategy by sharing discount codes with Instagram followers.
Instagram Stories work perfectly here. Not only is the Story format one of Instagram’s most popular, with over 500 million daily users, but affiliates can use the link sticker to divert people toward products—no diversion through your bio link required. (This replaces the swipe up feature Instagram previously reserved for accounts with more than 10,000 followers.)
Take advantage of this direct linking opportunity by sharing discount codes through Instagram Stories. Add affiliate links using the link sticker, like this example from Sprocker Lovers:
Take this money-making strategy a step further by saving your discount codes to a Story highlight. That way, coupon codes don’t disappear after 24 hours. You’ll also monetize first-time visitors to your profile by showcasing the discount codes they can redeem on affiliated products.
5. Record product demonstrations
Affiliate marketing works when Instagram followers know, like, and trust you enough to purchase the products you recommend. Help potential customers do that—without making them exit their Instagram feed in search of answers—by demonstrating how to use the product.
- Instagram Stories for vlog-style videos
- Instagram Reels for short, TikTok-style videos
- Instagram Live for live streaming product tutorials in real time
“The best Instagram affiliate content is typically in the form of recommendations and real life product applications, not sales pitches,” says Hector Ruiz, founder of BBQ Grill Academy.
“This is because an original recommendation tells viewers that you like this product or service that you might be marketing and how you use it in real life. Then, if they like what they see, they will click on the link to learn more about the product.”
For an example of this affiliate marketing tip in practice, see this Instagram video created by The Anna Edit. The post has a paid partnership tag to indicate that Anna is working with Armani Beauty, though each product used in the tutorial is linked from the caption—all of which are monetized with RewardStyle links.
💡Pro Tip: Product tutorials lend themselves well to Instagram carousels. Break down each step into an individual photo or short video and post them to your feed. Not only will repurposing the content give it more mileage, but carousels serve as a more permanent place to educate your audience about the products you’ll earn commission on.
6. Use hashtags to expand your reach
To build an affiliate marketing business that generates passive income, you need to build a sustainable stream of new Instagram followers. More eyeballs on your content decreases the risk of audience fatigue—when people grow bored of seeing the same content repetitively.
Hashtags help you expand your audience without much extra effort. Instagram users can follow hashtags inside the app, meaning your content could appear in their feed, even if they don’t follow your account.
To find Instagram hashtags, start with competitor research. Brands, bloggers, and publishers often use hashtags to expand their own reach. Look at the captions and first comment of Instagram posts shared by them for ideas.
Platforms also exist to show popular hashtags in any given industry, such as:
Before adding a hashtag to your shortlist, double check that it’s not prohibited. Seemingly innocent terms like #adulting and #beautyblogger, and #pushup are all banned by Instagram. Using them in your affiliate content could result in a shadowban.
7. Track affiliate performance
Earlier, we mentioned how an Instagram creator account gives you access to Instagram’s analytics feature, Insights. Use this data to analyze how successful your affiliate marketing campaigns are on the platform.
Key metrics to look out for include:
- Brand awareness. Use Post Insights to discover how people find your content—be that the Explore page, their feed, or directly through your profile.
- Profile activity. If you’re pointing followers toward a link aggregation tool, check how many people click the link from your bio.
- Engagement rate. Evaluate this by affiliate product on offer, type of content, and format. If tutorial-based Instagram Stories have a higher engagement rate than standard grid posts, prioritize them going forward.
Consult the data inside your affiliate marketing dashboard to corroborate Instagram data. While it’s hard to find a platform with granular tracking (like individual followers that purchased), keep an eye out for:
- Most and least purchased products
- Conversion rate for promoted affiliate items
- Affiliate conversion spikes around periods of heavy Instagram promotion
The future of Instagram affiliate marketing
Instagram is constantly evolving its platform to be more creator-friendly. That’s great news for affiliate marketers using the social media network as a tool to generate extra income.
Start on the right foot by immediately switching to a creator account, securing affiliate partners, and building your influence. Only then can you begin promoting affiliate products in a way that encourages followers to buy.