How to Become an Instagram Star (and Make Money Doing It)

Instagram star
••• Getty Images/stock-eye 

These days some of the most famous and wealthiest celebrities have never appeared in a movie… or in the pages of gossip magazines. The mainstream public has never heard of them. Yet, they are quietly making money by catering to dedicated groups of fans.

It’s all thanks to the Internet, which has allowed just about anyone to become famous—or at least "Internet famous".

The photo-focused social media site Instagram, which has been owned by Facebook since 2012, is one of the online avenues to fame. As trivial as it may seem, there are many people who are making serious second incomes, and even creating full-time businesses, using the Instagram platform.

So let’s check out how to become an Instagram star. You certainly won’t be making money right away. But by consistently following a strategy for raising your profile on the network, it can easily turn into a very lucrative line of “work.”

Instagram Star Case Studies

Jen Selter is a Los Angeles Based fitness guru who earns up to $20,000 per post promoting beauty and nutrition products. She has 11.5 million followers. Her main source of income is promoting her own digital information products, in her case a fitness plan. In all, she makes about $4.5 million per year.

Danielle Bernstein is a personal style blogger with 1 million+ who makes money blogging, earning between $5,000 and $15,000 per post with sponsored content from fashion, cosmetics, and apparel brands like Lancome.

Shelcy Joseph is another fashion star but on a smaller scale. She (and her sister who collaborates her) makes a few thousand per month from an Instagram profile. They work about five hours during the week on the account—with more work on weekends. She charges about $75 for a sponsored post. She also gets gifts—free merchandise worth thousands.

Of course, these are just a few examples. Market watchers say brands spend $1 billion or more every year on sponsored posts.

Best Practices for Building a Following on Instagram

So how do these Instagrammers make it work?

One of the best ways to learn how to become an Instagram star is to use the tools already available to you on the site. They are perfect for growing your audience and extending your influence. Before you can make one dime with Instagram you have to have followers.

First pick a theme for your Instagram page, whether it’s fitness, travel, fashion, cute animals… the list goes on.

Your theme should be carried through to all your posts. And it should be in your bio, which you should fill out completely. This is basically a summary that can serve to attract followers. Make sure you have a clear photo for your profile too.

Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty.

  1. Get your own hashtag (you’ve seen these on social media before; they look like this: #WORD). This hashtag should be related to your theme.
  2. You should start cross-promoting with your dedicated hashtag on other social networks, in your blog, on your website, on your Facebook business page… everywhere you can.
  3. Also, be sure to use other hashtags that are popular across the network and that relate to your theme.
  4. Get social by following other people, especially those who like your photos or who cover topics similar to yours.
  1. Follow and comment on more well-known accounts with lots of followers, like those of celebrities. Don’t just spam (“Follow me!”)—make well thought out comments.
  2. Do research by looking at popular hashtags in related topics and jump on trends.
  3. Connect your Instagram profile to your Facebook page and Twitter account. That way when you publish something on Instagram it goes to those network simultaneously… getting your posts even more attention.
  4. Engage with followers by putting on contests and quizzes (and giving out prizes), asking questions, and starting conversations.

    Try all of these strategies. Find out what gets you the most followers and then run with those specific methods. Then you should be well on your way to attracting a large—and growing—audience.

    As far as your photos and photo marketing strategy there are some best practices here too.

    1. Be sure to post photos that are in line with your overall theme. Be consistent.
    2. Post good photos. This might go without saying. But if you’re looking for one of the easiest ways for how to become an Instagram star, it’s this. The photos should be unique, awe-inspiring, funny, well composed… above all, don’t be boring.
    3. Post photos regularly. You need content to attract new followers and retain the followers you already have. Keep them engaged and interested by keeping a regular posting schedule.
    4. Always caption your photos. Include all the hashtags as mentioned above—experts say you shouldn’t use more than 11. But also be sure to include your attention-grabbing comments about what’s in the photo or what you were thinking when you captured that image. Tell a compelling story.
    1. Post at the right time of day. For most audiences, early morning and late afternoon work best. But if you have an audience in another time zone, be sure to keep that in mind.
    2. You don’t need an expensive, professional camera to craft good photos. Even a smartphone can work, especially if you make good use of the filter options available.

    Monetizing Your Success

    As you’ve seen, top Instagram stars are able to make real money simply by being active on the social network. The reason? Big brands have recognized that customer engagement is huge on Instagram.

    One popular way to make money is to promote products in your posts. If you have a significant following, the world’s top brands, as well as up-and-coming brands, will come calling because you are an “influencer.” In other words, a trusted source for your audience. You can make hundreds per post at the beginning and steadily raise your rates into the thousands.

    You can also promote products as an affiliate. With an affiliate network, you get a commission for every product sold following your post. You simply use a special link in your call to action that tracks the purchase back to you. Amazon has an excellent affiliate program.

    Another option is to use your Instagram account to promote your own product, whether it’s digital or physical. You simply link back to your online store in your posts.

    When promoting anything, be sure to always include a call to action and a link to the product.

    Your Next Steps to Becoming an Instagram Star

    There’s no time like the present to learn how to become an Instagram star. With more than 800 million active members every month, this social network is more popular than ever, so there’s plenty of room for new Instagram influencers to cash in. You can also accelerate your success by using paid ads on Instagram.