How do Instagram influencers grow their following and make money?

The lives of online influencers often seem interesting, exciting and glamorous – and those who work hard to build up a loyal follower base can also find it’s a good way to make money.

Georgia Kelly, strategic partner manager at Instagram, says she loves seeing people grow their brands and businesses.

“Creators are at the heart of culture on Instagram; they set trends and signal what’s next,” says Kelly. “It’s so exciting to witness that, and we want Instagram to be a place where they can both grow their personal brand and make money.

Georgia Kelly says Instagram’s worked closely with content creators (Instagram/PA)

“It’s tough for creators starting out – not least during a pandemic – so we’ve worked really closely with them and tried to put ourselves in their shoes, so we can build products and features that can be genuinely useful,” she adds.

Instagram has various initiatives to support its creators, such as recently testing out the use of IGTV video ads. It allows Instagram to support creators using IGTV, by offering them payment for ads shown. Kelly says there has been positive feedback from content creators and advertisers.

The website has also expanded access to a ‘paid partnership with’ tool, which clearly shows when a commercial relationship exists. According to the platform, this allows people to be up-front and build trust with their fans about when they are being paid to post content.

In October, it also launched Badges for Instagram Live to more than 50,000 creators globally, opening up more monetisation options. Badges can be purchased by viewers during a live video and they appear next to a person’s name. Fans buying them will stand out in the comments and unlock additional features, Instagram says. It has also been testing out shopping initiatives in the United States, and hopes to bring this to more markets soon.

Instagram content creators TOPJAW (TOPJAW/PA)

Fancy yourself as an influencer? Here are some top tips from filmmaking duo TOPJAW (@topjaw) who create food and travel content. TOPJAW is run by Will Warr (@willwarr) (31) and Jesse Burgess (@jesse_burgess) (29) both from London. Here’s what they say…

What Instagram features do you use to help you earn money?

“We’re primarily a long-form (longer and more detailed) content creator. With brand-sponsored content, we work hard to integrate ads in the most natural and humorous way possible, maintaining the same energy and charm as the rest of the content.”

How can you get started and encourage people to follow you?

The pair advise being as authentic as possible. “When we speak to our audience like we would our friends, that’s when we see the most engagement and growth.”

It’s also important to keep content “real”, as though you’re giving others an insight into your life “behind the scenes”, they add. “There’s nothing wrong with curating your Instagram feed to look slick and cohesive, but just don’t completely strip it of the character.”

Is there particular content that you find gets people interested?

“Tone of voice is key to TOPJAW. We write how we speak, with all the hyperbole, sarcasm and of course the jokes at each other’s expense. It’s all part of the TOPJAW brand and one of our USPs.”

Posts with close-up faces, action and food – and possibly all three together – can also really grab attention, they add.

How do you maintain a following once you’ve built it and stop people getting bored?

“Our long-form content is just food and travel. Sure, our personalities and relationship shine through, but it is heavily sandwiched between fast-paced cinematic informative content, resembling a Netflix show on fast-forward.

“Instagram allows followers to get a clearer insight into our lives, interests, other relationships, and wider friendship circle.”

They say consistency is also important, and caution against the temptation to “over-post”, adding: “Quality and relevance is key. Prior to posting anything, we stop and think, do our followers reeeaaallly want to see this?”

How do you work with companies. Do they approach you, or do you approach them?

“It’s reasonably rare for us to approach companies. We’re always planning and working on self-produced and self-funded content, as we are still growing.”

They do have a list of “dream companies” they’d love to work with, but note: “We find that we are in a much better position regarding creative control and fee negotiation when the brand has approached us, rather than the other way around, so we tend to play the waiting game.”

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