How To Make Money On INSTAGRAM (In-Depth Free Guide)

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How To Make Money On Instagram Free Tutorial
How To Make Money On Instagram – Full Tutorial – Graphic Β© WealthPowerBoost. Photo Β© Shutterstock (under license)

Here is my full length MEGA free tutorial for how to make money on Instagram! πŸ™‚ It’s a biggie (12,500+ words) and goes super deep, so if you want to learn how to make money with Instagram, fasten your seatbelt and let’s go!

NOTE (Nov 2022): This tutorial needs an update; while most of the content is still applicable, Instagram has now given very strong focus to Reels and these should be the predominant focus of any campaign, given priority over images.

Content Index:

PART 1 – Making Instagram Work For YOU
PART 2 – Set Up Your Profile For Success
PART 3 – Posting
PART 4 – Hashtags
PART 5 – The Caption Box
PART 6 – How To Build A Following Using Shared Content
PART 7 – 11 Ways To Engage Your Fans
PART 8 – How To Turn All Of This Into Cold Hard Cash
PART 9 – Data Mining And Analytics
PART 10 – WRAP UP: The Meta-Picture aka The “Helicopter View”

Related Post: AVOID These 15 Things That Will Probably Get You BANNED On Social Media (Plus How To Get Un-Banned!)

PART 1 – Making Instagram Work For YOU

1.1 – Introduction

Instagram has astonishing social, creative, collaborative and business potential for people from all walks of life. An outsider might think it is exclusively for the excessively vain, the beautiful, the wealthy and the famous – but be prepared to open your mind because there is a GOLD MINE of opportunity here for the savvy user.

The first and most important thing to note is that you don’t necessarily need an Instagram following of your own in order to make GREAT money from Instagram!

You don’t even need your own photos, your own camera, or to be “one of the beautiful”.

This might come as a shock for some but it’s a fact: If you don’t already have a following of your own, you can buy one, you can build one or you can leverage the following and imagery that others already have. You can also use Instagram as an incredible networking tool – enabling you to find mentors, new clients, fans, allies and partnerships. Instagram is officially big time – and there are various ways to work this system.

1.2 – Inside Knowledge

With every social media platform there is real inside knowledge that is absolutely necessary in order to crush it. Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Pinterest and the rest all have their own individual characteristics and tricks of the trade to learn. Only a minority of people are able to figure these ninja skills out for themselves and the rest are left wondering if they are inferior in some way (you are NOT inferior, you just weren’t let in on the game!)

The good news is, it is not a closed shop. Anyone can learn this. But you do have to put some study in and learn from real social media experts. However this first hurdle causes so many to fail, because they don’t know where to find them.

Usually, you pick this knowledge up NOT from major media outlets (who are just cashing in on their domain authority and cranking out mediocre articles on whatever headlines get the most Google searches). And by the way, very often, major brands completely suck at social media.

You will not necessarily even pick this knowledge up from Gurus who have all the talk (and a $2000 training course to sell you). No, you will find the real knowledge, typically, from younger, independent, vibrant entrepreneurs who are crushing it and are excited about sharing what they have discovered.

Typically what happens with a new social media platform is that smart younger entrepreneurs and creative types figure it out first. Quite often, they are so proud of their success that they will “Shout it from the rooftops” – often for free. Seek these people out and learn from them. Honestly in my 8 years of blogging I learned more from either free or reasonably priced tutorials than from super-expensive ones. Yes, I did spend $2000 on a course once and it was the biggest disappointment of my life. Don’t buy a thousand-dollar course.

When you crack social media, it IS exciting. It gets crazy. The first time you go viral and get 2000 product orders and you only have 150 in stock. When you send 300,000+ visitors in a day to your website and crash the server (been there done that). Or when you go from zero to one million fans in a year (been there done that twice). Look for that excitement, combined with legitimate examples and the sharing of actual insider skills, rather than just hype.

A boss might pose with a sports car, but posing with a sports car doesn’t make you a boss…

1.3 – Most Of The World Is Stuck At Step One, But You Don’t Have To Be

Consider the following “equation” of business success:

Visibility To Your Target Audience –> Offer Of Value –> Engagement –> Call To Action –> Action Taken –> Lead Acquisition –> Offer More Value –> Sale –> Offer Ongoing Value –> Repeat / Lifetime Customer

When it comes to Instagram, the majority of people are floundering on step 1 – Visibility To Your Target Audience – because they don’t already have a following, don’t know how to leverage the following of others, and haven’t figured out how to pick up a following, even after getting dolled up and doing photo/video shoots day after day. So even if they have tons of value to offer, how can they offer it to more than 23 people? Actually make that 21 people, when you exclude their mom and their dog. πŸ˜‰

Then there will be those with the “opposite problem” – they have a big following but don’t know how to turn it into ca$h money. Don’t worry, we are going to provide answers and solutions from all angles.

1.4 – Is This For Me?

Ask yourself these questions:

1) Is what I am offering visually appealing? Can it be made more visually appealing?

2) Am I willing to share content that is not directly related to what I am selling?

3) How much time do I have available for this? Of course, if something is working like gangbusters then who wouldn’t find time for it? But to start with, this question needs to be addressed. Building a following organically takes a significant amount of time and consistent effort. If you don’t have time, leveraging the following of others might be a far better course of action.

If you are thinking “this is just not really me” then another option would be to outsource this entire social media thing to an agency; which can be very effective, but is really outside the scope of this tutorial. If you are going to do that, look for a proven track record of actual engagement and profitable campaigns, not just numbers of followers, which can be faked. The agency should be able to guarantee “real” followers (as opposed to fake account followers which do not engage and would be a sure fire way to sink your IG’s engagement, possibly in an unrepairable way). They should also be able to generate a positive return on investment.

That’s it for the introduction. Next we are going to look at how to get started building a following of your own.


PART 2 – Set Up Your Profile For Success

2.1 Be Someone Worth Following

A simple communication of the good life, good looks and family values from top influencer @marianodivaio

Be really good at presenting your best self, and be really good at what you do. There’s nothing worse than over-promotion of something that is of inferior quality. You have to have something to give, something to communicate; if all you are thinking about is taking and getting, you are not on target in business. Fix this first. You already have such a lot to give. You are one of a kind, you have learned a million things and experienced an entire universe through your own utterly unique lens. This IS value. Now you have to figure out how to give it – how to distill it to its essence, magnify it to the stars and then communicate and offer that value through the medium of Instagram.

Be aware of your strengths. Ask yourself “What do I have to offer?” or “What are my strongest cards?” Is it your pretty face? Your chiseled abs? Your ability to motivate people? Your unique awareness of beauty? Your knowledge? Your vivid imagination? Your enviable lifestyle? Your skills? Your way with words? Your understanding of different cultures? Your appreciation of nature? Your sense of humor? Your body of work? Your ability to take whatever life throws at you and just keep on going, no matter what? It’s important to focus on your strengths and present these in their best light.

2.2 Username Tips

Give it some thought and kick around a few ideas because a good IG username is very valuable. You can of course use either your real name or a brand name (one that you came up with, not someone elses!)

Good brand names should be snappy, memorable, stylish, simple and look good as well as sound good. They are easy to say, easy to memorize and hard to mispronounce or misspell. Rhyming, rhythm and alliteration are pluses. When you have got it right, you can sense it. It has a certain pop, a certain “rightness” to it. You know when you have nailed it. It is a unique sense of certainty that something is going to do well, rather than hoping. Everything starts to fall into place. You have a limit of 30 characters, and the name must contain only letters, numbers, periods and underscores.

You can create up to 5 IG accounts from the same device. So, nothing is stopping you trying out a few “flavors” or brand ideas until you nail the one that clicks. Note that if creating multiple IG accounts you will need different email addresses for each one. If you try to open several email accounts in a short period of time from the same provider, such as, expect to get deleted. So if you need multiple accounts, I would suggest one Yahoo, one Gmail, one and so on. I haven’t experimented with different IP addresses / proxies here but no doubt there are tutorials on how to create unlimited email accounts while flying under the radar…

If you are creating a new brand you should also make sure you are not stepping on anyone’s intellectual property – do a google search, a domain name search and a trademark search for your chosen brand name. If you come up with a great, unique name, scoop the domain name even if you are not building a website yet. I would also recommend keeping your own folder of brand ideas and making a note of new inspiration whenever it comes to you. Good brand ideas are gold!

2.3 – Profile Pic

This gets seen as a 40×40 pixel thumbnail everywhere your posts are seen, so make it count. It will also be framed in a circular window on your homepage, so be aware that the corners will get trimmed; you may need to adjust your image’s “edge padding” to get this right. If you are great looking, and your profile is about *you*, as in “the brand is YOU” then post your best (i.e. most popular) headshot as the bio pic. The pic needs to “work” as a thumbnail – this is important. If you can’t decide, ask some friends to rate a few different thumbnails and tell you which is best. If “your brand is not YOU” then you can use your logo.

2.4 – Logo

If you are selling a product or service, your logo is an essential component of your brand identity. Stuck for a logo? You can make a monogram logo out of interwoven initials, in keeping with time-honored tradition, as we did with our interlocking “MW”. Try a few ideas and settle for the one that pops. Here’s a great one from @SignatureSocialMedia:

If you don’t want to design it in-house, you can probably outsource it to a graphic designer for a reasonable rate on or Give them a mock-up / sketch of what you want and examples of fonts, colors and styling you like. Request an Illustrator vector file to pave the way for future editing or printed materials – and a transparent-background PNG file at various sizes such as 1080×1080 (pixels), 400×400, 200×200 and 150×150 so that you can layer your logo on top of other images.

Adding your logo to all your pictures will watermark them (meaning others will have a harder time ripping them off); as well as looking cool.

2.5 – Account Security Essentials

A quick-but-important note on this. Use simple usernames BUT use complex passwords. Instagram hacking is a thing! Watch out for those stupid emails that say something along the lines that you have been locked out and you need to confirm your ID in order to continue using Instagram. Don’t click the damn thing! It’s most likely a Phishing scam to steal your login info and then post spam from your account. I would also recommend enabling two-factor authentication. (Profile > Edit Profile > Privacy and Security > Two-Factor Authentication)

SUPER IMPORTANTit appears that hackers may have compromised the push notification system, sending the typical “someone has tried to access your account, please reset your password” type message as a push notification rather than an email. Do not respond to these! Your ‘password reset’ is the actual hack that will give them your info! Amazed that people still fall for this en masse. Under all circumstances, go directly to Instagram and log into your account the usual way; chances are you will find that you can still log in as normal…

There has been much speculation about the cause(s) of Shadow Banning. A shadow ban is a choking of engagement by reducing or even eliminating the visibility of posts in the “gallery” for your hashtags and / or in the newsfeed of your followers. While most blame it on over-zealous spam filters, it does appear that there is a clear correlation between shadow banning and account security breaches. Take heed of the following thread I found:

This has the most classic hallmark of a VERY clever hack – the fact that users are completely oblivious to the fact that they have been hacked. I wonder if it occurred to any of them to change the password again and sign out all other locations? Anyway…

2.6 – Your Bio – In Depth

Getting your Bio right is mission critical. The good news is, it’s never too late – you can go back and improve it at any time! πŸ˜€

Let’s dive deep on this: Your Bio is of prime importance because it is the one and only place on Instagram you can post a link. It’s your most valuable piece of Instagram Real Estate. (Hint, you can also sell it like a piece of real estate too! We will come to that later.) There is a HUGE difference between the amount of traffic generated by those who get the bio right and those who don’t. So you need to make the absolute most of this opportunity.

The very best way to drive traffic from your bio is to offer something free. But not just some average little crumb of value. Something extraordinary. Something that really should not be free, because it is too valuable. It should also be something that directly addresses the needs and desires of your target customers. So that the kind of people whose attention you want to grab, are the kind of people who will click.

The “High Value Freebie” strategy works for many reasons a) it gets the click b) it provides you with an opportunity to establish yourself immediately as a source of VALUE. In business you need to demonstrate and give value right from the outset. It’s absolutely crucial. In the other person’s mind, no matter how cool you are, you are just more background noise until you offer something that they actually want. Whereas if you establish yourself as a source of value, everything else you do from then on will get a higher click through rate. Selling will be easier because you have already shown that you have good stuff and that you are abundant with it, rather than second rate and stingy.

Giving is also fun. When you have something cool, you feel more liberated to shout about it because you are not taking anything from anyone, you are just giving! It’s the easiest sell of all. Have you ever walked in from the kitchen of a party to the packed living room with a gigantic, delicious, freshly cut cake? You just have to shout “cake!” and you are mobbed by smiling people. This is the effect you should aim for with your Instagram Bio!

This mindset shift, also known as “moving the free line” is probably the most difficult and most critical thing for people to do in business. It’s VITAL to get out of scarcity mentality (even though you might be one paycheck away from getting evicted!) and into the mindset of giving freely. And it also sounds so fucking backwards; that’s part of the problem that holds us primitive creatures back. We are taught that in order to get money we have to put ourselves first and TAKE it. The idea of giving just seems like a dumb strategy to this primitive part of our brain that is screaming at us to hold on to what we have and to get more or die trying. This right here is a KEY shift – where you have the opportunity to grow massively as a person and leapfrog right over the majority of your competition.

Think about it. The bum on the street (I am generalizing) only accosts you because he wants something from you. He does not offer any value to you, and so you think “parasite” and just wish he would leave you alone. If only he could figure out how to provide something that people want… anything… he would not be a bum any more. But desperation makes us turn inward and think only of ourselves. It’s called “survival mode” and we have all been there at one time or another. But the way out of the trap of desperation, as tough and as paradoxical as it may be, is to consider the needs of others and start finding a way to serve them.

And you can ALWAYS find a way to improve others’ lives… if you are looking for one.

There are various ways you can spin the free offer. Product giveaways are great but have limited duration. Free tutorials are awesome and can be ongoing 24/7. For example if you are a stunning model doing great photo shoots, you could do makeup or hair tutorials. This also gives you a further option to sell products on the back end! πŸ˜‰ And you will get even better at doing your makeup if you have to teach it to someone! If you are like me and in content marketing, then offer free money-making tutorials. Make the tutorial relevant to your audience and make it as good as you can make it. If you sell kitchen hardware, teach how to prepare a slamming recipe or something related to the culinary arts. Give first. Make it awesome. You want to trigger the “wow reaction” before you pitch.

If you are running a store and really don’t have free products, put the bio link directly to your store homepage, to your special discount “loss leader” product or to your #1 hot selling product.

Emojis are known to increase conversions, so make the most of them; and put in arrows. It seems silly because everyone can see the damn link. But arrows pointing people at the place you want them to click, have been proven to work, over and over again.

Call to action –> arrow(s) –> your link.

Bio “Masterclass” example: FashionNova. @FashionNova is absolutely KILLING IT on Instagram. THIS is exactly how you do your bio:

The pitch needs to be strong, simple, brief, direct, to the point and persuasive: Who are you? What have you got? Why is it awesome? What should I do now? All the main selling points are laid out. Tip: In order to get the line breaks in there, like the above example, you may need to create the wording layout in a text file and then copy-paste it into your Instagram profile’s “edit profile” section.

There are other important ways to offer free value, even if you are “only selling” products, not giving them away. ALL successful businesses do this! Quiz Question: Can you see FashionNova’s free offer?? Yes, they are selling clothes not giving them away… but they are leveraging their huge following into an amazing free gift: “Tag Us To Be Featured”. If you take a photo of yourself in their clothing and tag @fashionnova, you could get featured and get yourself massive visibility – potentially 50,000+ likes on the post and a whole slew of new fans. You can be sure FashionNova are getting TONS of action from this – and can then post even more great pics of models wearing their clothes and competing to do so in the most attractive possible way! Boom! This is exactly how you leverage a following to generate massive sales, fans and greater visibility.

Note: the maximum length of your bio is limited to 150 characters. You can also now add clickable usernames and hashtags to your bio, increasing your options here.

2.7 – Your Bio Link – Best Practices

I do not like using or other link shorteners – because when scrolling, I am cautious clicking them. People like to know where they are going and I think they are less likely to click some random link! If you have a messy-looking URL or need to use a redirect for any other reason, set up a simple HTML redirect on your site. So for example set your bio link to:

Then create an HTML file called awesomeoffer.html which contains the following code:

And upload that file to your website. The user will be instantly redirected to http://yourfinaldestinationlink


PART 3 – Posting

Your posts will make up the majority of your IG visibility, so they need to work well as a collection in order to create an overall intriguing, inspiring, good looking profile of the kind that naturally attracts followers. Every aspect of what you post to Instagram is an opportunity to create value – the picture, the caption space and the comment section are all valuable real estate and should be capitalized upon correctly.

3.1 – Post ONLY Great Pics And Videos

Mediocre content won’t cut it. This hardly needs to be said. The good news is, you have an almost infinite amount of data available to learn from: You can see what works by looking at what has already worked. You are already an individual, so you don’t need to try to reinvent the wheel. Do what works. Look at how the most engaging content is presented and collect a “swipe file” of winning content for inspiration.

If you scroll through a selection of the big Instagram accounts you can quickly see what are their most popular pieces of content. You can also look through your own past posts on Facebook, Pinterest or wherever – and take note of which of your pics got the most likes and shares. Do more of that. Note also that your pics don’t have to be photos of you in order to convey your vibe. What gives you the feels? Post what you absolutely love. Trigger an emotion. Inspiration, humor, beauty, touching, motivational, fun – etc.

Here’s a great IG from @ecruz_n – a girl who loves to dance, so she puts on her favorite tunes, throws shapes and captures it on video:

She’s a “natural” – with great musical taste, great moves and a great figure. Genuine, positive, classy and fun – leading to rock solid engagement, sponsorships and big performance opportunities.

3.2 – Engagement is the magic word

Remember – the size of your following is not what is important, the size of your engaged following is what is important. How many likes and comments your pictures are getting is a better metric than the overall number of followers. At the time of writing I noted that our earlier example @FashionNova posted 25 times in the last 24 hours, and everything is getting 10k-100k likes. Half a million likes per day?? That’s insane. You can be sure that they are driving spectacular sales with this kind of engagement. Instagram Masterclass! This is a fashion brand that is GOING PLACES. I’m sure they have a whole team working on a business like this; gorgeous models, professional fashion photography, totally professional e-commerce website (running on Shopify!) Take notes – even if you are not in the fashion niche – because any business can pick up some gold from this kind of study.

3.3 – Where To Get Raw Materials For Your Images

If you are creating new graphics, such as quote pics, understand how copyright works, and how to utilize public domain images and Creative Commons. There are huge numbers of awesome public domain images on Pixabay, Pexels, Unsplash and others. You can utilize these images as backgrounds for quotes and more. Tip: choose the ones that have the best ratings, likes etc. Important: Don’t steal images. You can’t just go to google and help yourself – because you don’t want to risk all that work with an account ban when someone reports you for copyright theft. If you share other people’s Instagram images, ALWAYS tag their account correctly with “@TheirUserName” – so you are giving them a little helping hand.

3.4 – Image Size Notes And Rules

The maximum image size now for Instagram is 2084×2084 pixels – this may be bigger than the graphic source files that you will be working with; and if you use an “image size” function to scale up photos or other rasterized images, you will lose sharpness.

The optimal image size to aim for is difficult to decide – as the image might be displayed on any number of smartphones, tablets or computers – each of which have different resolutions and numbers of pixels! If you can’t do 2084×2084, 1080×1080 is a good size to aim for (this is the width of the iPhone 6+, 7+ and 8+ screen), and I would say at the bare minimum use 612×612 – which is the size the image will display at in the desktop Lightbox.

Instagram “story” videos can be 3-15 seconds long and 640 x 640 pixels. Main feed videos can be 60 seconds.

3.5 – Image Creation Special Tools And Tips

For creating fast and easy “text posts” aka quote pics – check out the numerous apps available: 15 Free Apps To Create Your Own Picture Quotes For Instagram

For adjusting images and fine tuning their aesthetics, take a look at VSCO app.

For photo editing we suggest Canva (free) or of course Adobe Photoshop (paid but totally amazing and fully pro)

For awesome and fun text animations check out Legend.

To create interesting cinemagraphs (known to increase engagement), check out Flixel.

For high-energy time-lapse effect videos, check out Hyperlapse.

3.6 – Post Frequency

Post as often as you can without compromising quality. Posting at least 1 or 2 times per day is ideal. The more you post, the faster your following and engagement will grow. 7+ posts per week is considered optimal – but only 5% of accounts post this consistently. It’s a challenge as you need to keep it fresh, keep it high quality and keep going. A lot of people come unstuck here because they either get bored or have other real-world things to do. You can see the value here of being yourself, as it is more effortless and enjoyable.

How much is too much? Honestly, the more the better – so long as it is good quality. I am not sure what the actual posting limit is but you probably won’t run into it: Millionaire Mentor are posting as much as 10x per day and it doesn’t seem to be hurting them. FashionNova goes even harder: They have 37,378 posts as of Aug 2018, and when you consider that IG opened for business on 6th of October 2010, that means they have racked up at the very least least 13 per day on average for 8 years. It’s not hurting them; quite the opposite. Their engagement scores are fantastic.

3.7 – Boost The Winners, Cull The Losers

Every snowball needs a shove to get it going. Running some ads or paying for some shoutouts can help your posts get that push that you need. When running ads and shoutout campaigns, boost your best stuff, not your worst. More on shoutouts and ads in section 7.1.

Not every image you post is going to be a winner. No matter how good you think it is, you can’t force the audience – and it is not always predictable. Sometimes you think a post is just ok and it goes completely ballistic, and other times you post what you think is a slam dunk and it just fizzles out.

What you will find is that the majority of your posts are in the middle range of popularity, with a few “outliers” both weak and strong. Delete the weaklings ruthlessly and take careful notes from the winners in order to deliver more of that to your audience and raise your overall game.


PART 4 – Hashtags

4.1 – Hashtag Overview

Hashtags are a key part of your Instagram strategy and must be used well for maximum benefit; primarily in order to assist with your being discovered by your people and growing your account at the most rapid possible rate. Hashtags can also help to increase your brand recognition, and to locate other users of a particular hashtag, who may have value for you to connect with.

4.2 – Hashtag Competition

Which hashtags are the best ones to use? Understanding how hashtag competition and hashtag targeting (section 4.3) work are absolutely critical and getting this right is super important. It’s astonishing to me to note that even some major brands are not doing this well or even at all. A sizable chunk of mainstream corporate culture is not hip to the game yet and this is good news for you, because it gives you a possible edge.

Most viewers explore a hashtag either by clicking it where it appears, in order to see more content with that tag, or by using the Instagram search box. Both of these methods will take them to the hashtag gallery for that tag. Each hashtag has its own unique gallery displaying content that has been marked with that tag.

It’s vital to understand how the hashtag gallery works: The first nine posts to appear in a hashtag gallery are “Top Posts” and this section works in a manner similar to the Google top search results. The most strongly trending posts right now with that particular hashtag are placed in these 9 top spots. These top 9 posts have been recognized and rewarded by the algorithm because of their high engagement.

These top 9 positions are what you want to target – as these will get by far the most clicks. The rest of the posts below these in the gallery are “Most Recent” – and because they are “below the fold” they get much less action. Here’s the hashtag gallery currently appearing for the hashtag #love:

Note also that if you refresh the page for the #love tag, the top 9 “stick around” (until something trending more strongly comes along and bumps them out of their spot), whereas the “Most Recent” are gone in an instant. This is because people are tagging #love at a very high rate and so the “rate of flow” for the “Most Recent” section of such a popular tag is perhaps 50 to 100 per second. You will also note that the content quality of the top 9 is generally way higher. This is where the exciting images are and people know it.

This next part is crucial to understand: If you explore the top nine posts on the #love hashtag, you can quickly see that these posts were all made by IG accounts with 500k+ fans. The reason for this is simple; when a page with a big following makes a post, it is quickly seen by a lot of people. So that post will pick up more likes, fast, and the algorithm will recognize it as a trending post.

Pages with big, engaged followings have a high “ranking power”. Whereas on the other hand, if you have only a few fans, you don’t have enough ranking power to compete for such an ultra-competitive hashtag.

The Top Posts section for the #love hashtag is so incredibly competitive that even for these big pages, it is something of a “lucky strike” to get in there.

Whereas if the hashtag has much less competition (say 1000 posts), you have a much stronger chance – simply by the laws of mathematics. Less people using that hashtag = a much smaller chance of really strong competition.

So it is absolutely vital with every hashtag you use that you pick a fight that you can win and ONLY use tags that you can rank for – which is dictated more than anything else by the size of your following. Then you can get yourself a slice of visibility and a flow of new fans, gradually working your way up to higher ranking power and the ability to use stronger hashtags.

I cannot overemphasize this. Extremely high competition hashtags are more than just a waste of effort for a small or medium sized account, they are taking all the wind out of your sails.

#Love has almost 1.4 BILLION posts at the time of writing:

There is essentially no point in using it – because your pic won’t make the top 9 and even in the lower part, will be immediately buried by a deluge of competition in the hashtag gallery. So all those “big” tags that you think you should be using – #catsofinstagram – #instaquote – etc. No point with a small account because it just won’t make any worthwhile difference to your visibility.

On the other extreme, extremely low competition or even unique hashtags such as #loveissomethingisimplydontunderstand are basically pointless apart from possible comedy value – because nobody else will be typing them in. There’s nowhere for someone to click in order to find your post there:

You will get zero traffic from it!

The “sweet spot” for hashtag competition depends on the size of your account. For an account with say 500 fans, I would suggest only using hashtags with around 100 to 2000 posts:

The hashtag #blondecurlsblueeyes for example has a “competition” of 472 posts, which means that getting into the top 9 gallery for this tag is “do-able” for a small account, especially with a good quality image.

Once you get to 1000 fans, you may be able to compete for hashtags up to 5000 competition, depending on the strength of your images. And so on. Feel it out. Watch the hashtag galleries for your tags, soon after you made the posts, and note which galleries you made it into. You can observe your ranking power and gradually dial it up as your fanbase grows.

If a post you recently made is “popping” and suddenly getting way more likes than your other posts, click its hashtags. You will most likely find that you made it into the top 9 for one or more of the higher competition tags, and that is where the new fans are comping from. You will be amazed at how powerful this is and how using it well can cause your content and your audience size to explode in popularity.

Final note – posts have a “freshness” factor that the algorithm observes also. the top 9 registers what is trending right now and these posts will soon be replaced by newer images that are generating greater engagement. The stronger the competition, the less time you will be likely to be able to hold on to a top spot in the hashtag gallery.

4.3 – Hashtag Targeting:

Super important. Hashtags give you a prime opportunity to target YOUR people, so you should absolutely use hashtags that are targeted specifically towards people who will be fans of what you have to offer.

A further reason not to use hashtags such as #love is that they are generic af – the opposite of targeted – and will not attract people who are in ANY way relevant to your niche or service. Any traffic you derive from such a generic hashtag will be the Instagram equivalent of “run of network” traffic in internet advertising – generally considered to be the most irrelevant and worst converting traffic of all.

Here is a sweet example of a low-competition, targeted hashtag:

Can you see how if you are offering marketing tutorials it will draw the kind of person who is a seeker of what you have to offer? Anyone who clicked that hashtag is clearly looking for knowledge of the kind you have!

Be specific – so long as it is not too obscure. For example if you have a greyhound, #greyhoundsofinsta (23,758 posts) will be better than #dogsofinsta (111,413,759 posts) not only because it is lower competition but also because it is better targeted towards actual fans of greyhounds.

You can use singular and plural variations also, because every variant has its own gallery. So there is nothing to stop you using both #marketinginsight and #marketinginsights.

It’s important to think laterally to pull in people who are fans of all the “strong cards” that you hold. Consider hashtags that not only target your product but also target your business niche and your ideal customer. Use also a few that are “known” by followers of your niche. Have a look at the key characteristics of your photo. Do you have blonde curly hair? Try putting #blondehair into the search box and scroll down until you find tags that are both relevant and you can compete for. Do your eyelashes look on point in this pic? Try #eyelashgame. If you are wearing lingerie, you could try #lingerie but that’s a tough one to rank for. What color is it? Try #pinklingerie and “drill down” until you find relevant hashtags that you can rank for.

Here’s another example – with the tag #entrepreneur:

searching for hashtags

The tag #entrepreneur might be really tough for anyone except a top influencer to crack, but #entrepreneur101 is not only more do-able for an account with say 2000-10000 fans, but also has the kind of flavor that will attract seekers of entrepreneurial tutorials.

Can you see the gold here? It’s immense!!

4.4 – How Many Hashtags Per Post?

This is a hotly disputed topic and a little research will show you that everyone has a different opinion. The maximum number of hashtags permitted on any one post is 30 and some advise to max it out – but some claim that using this many dilutes the amount of “juice” that Instagram assigns to each one. There is also speculation that overusing hashtags, especially if you are using the same ones over and over, may lead to being shadow banned. I do think it is possible that going hashtag crazy may be counterproductive. 5 to 15 hashtags per post is a good target, with researchers finding that 9 to 11 is the optimum number. I would strongly suggest to use different tags on each post, so as to spread your “net” further and wider.

4.5 – Hashtag Placement

Also disputed. It is often recommended to put them in the first comment rather than the caption box, as it is not as necessary for them to be visible (you want people to arrive via your hashtags, not leave via them!) If you do put them in the caption box, it’s no biggie but put them after any narrative so that the hashtags are the part that gets truncated in the feed, not your interesting caption text…

4.6 – The Hashtag Follow Feature

Instagram has added several major new hashtag features recently, one of which is the ability to follow individual hashtags:

This feature opens up an important strategy: Anyone who likes a topic enough to follow it, is a real fan. Identifying and using the hashtags that your target audience are already following now gives you an further opportunity to be discovered by them because posts with that hashtag will be dropped right into their feed.

4.7 – Things To Avoid

Things To Avoid: “gimmick” hashtags such as #likeforlike – that make you look cheap and a little desperate (in addition to being completely untargeted). Remember, you want to build an engaged following, not a large-but-disengaged following. Unengaged followers are counterproductive because Instagram, like Youtube and Facebook, quickly measures the “early” engagement rates of your new content in order to determine how many more people to serve your content to!

Also, don’t put the same hashtags on each post – otherwise you are narrowing your net and limiting your overall potential reach. You might also trigger a spam algorithm which will choke your visibility. Switch it up and keep your tags targeted around each individual image.

Also note that researchers have found that super long hashtags (25+ characters) see lower engagement in general (makes sense, takes too long for the brain to process).

4.7 – More Ideas To Discover Hashtags

More ideas: 1) Put a hashtag into the IG search box, then view some of the 9 Top Posts in the gallery and look at the other hashtags that influencers are using. 2) Pull out the thesaurus! 3) View the gallery for a hashtag you are considering and see the kind of images that appear. You can quickly get an idea whether your content will have the right flavor for other people who are going to be exploring this tag. You will also discover some “insider hashtags” this way. These are tags that have meaning and nuance for the “in group” and these can connect you to your people if you get it right.

4.8 – Trending Hashtags

Being aware of hashtag trends can be valuable because trending hashtags are seeing action “right now”. You can research these using, and Ritetag – which will give you many hashtag ideas and tricks you had not yet thought of.

4.9 – Branded Hashtags

“Branded hashtags” are special hashtags that are deliberately created by brands in order to form an easily-recognizable link to the company or its products /services. Their purpose is to increase brand awareness, engagement and loyalty – and a good branded hashtag will become part of the overall branding of the company. One of the first and most successful brand hashtags was #SXSW – for the South by Southwest event. It’s of course an abbreviated version of the brand name, unique, easy to use and memorize. It’s something of a challenge to get branded hashtags right and you have to ask yourself “will people bother using it”? Users should be provided with incentives to demonstrate their brand loyalty.

Remember the example of FashionNova above? FashionNova offers the possibility of massive visibility to people who use the genius tag #novababe on posts where they are modeling the clothing. If you have a big following, have people photograph themselves with your product in return for a shoutout. This is a great strategy – especially for lifestyle brands and things that look “cool” for people to be displaying. Lots more great examples of branded hashtags here.

4.10 – Campaign Hashtags

Similarly, campaign hashtags are unique hashtags developed by brands as part of a marketing campaign – however these are generally associated with a specific event or promotional campaign. Again, these work best when they engage users to start using them in a way that adds value for both the user and the brand. A whole page full of examples, including both winners and epic fails here.


PART 5 – The Caption Box

5.1 – Caption Basics

A caption is the text that accompanies an image or video. Captions provide a surprisingly important opportunity to increase engagement, create narrative, spark emotion, tag associates or contributors, and drive traffic.

Instagram sets a limit of 2,200 characters on your captions. Anything past the first 125 chars will get auto-hidden in the feed, with a “more” link to show the rest of it:


But the wording will appear in full when the post is clicked and viewed individually.

5.2 – The One-Liner

A sharp one-liner with a single emoji packs a punch and looks cool. Use when the picture does most of the talking. @TeslaMotors nailed it here. Two words:

Note also the beautiful word “Let’s”. This increases the sense of “us”, as opposed to “Them and you”. Tesla is welcoming you in here. Then their hashtag #teslaroadtrip is a superb example of a branded hashtag that is likely to be adopted by Tesla owners. This is lifestyle branding done right!

Also very effective is a short, direct question. This one below generated TONS of engagement in the comments. It’s perfect. In the picture is a rare supercar and one thing supercar fans particularly pride themselves on is recognizing marques. @Onlyforluxury is giving us a masterclass in knowing your audience and very subtly indicating that they too are in the elite club. They offered their fans an opportunity to show off their knowledge. Bait taken:

5.3 – The Story Caption

Long, interesting captions can also stand out in a big way. Most Instagram users do not capitalize on the potential of the caption space to create narrative and emotion. Most overlook this opportunity to convey “story” and get personal. Here’s an example of it done brilliantly by NatGeo photographer @pedromcbride:

Note how without this narrative, it would be “just a cool but random pic of the mountains”. The narrative is what makes this one into a winner, so it’s pretty valuable. If your pic has a cool story, tell it.

5.4 – How To Use The Caption To Drive Traffic

This is a hugely important traffic tactic! Link directly from your posts to your homepage/bio, using the @ symbol – together with an offer they can’t refuse and a call to action. You just expanded your funnel massively, because this clickable link will now funnel the viewers from their main feed right to your homepage, where they will hopefully like more pics and maybe visit your website. If you don’t do this, they will quite likely just like your pic and then keep on scrolling – a lost opportunity!! Do it like this perfect example from @Wolf_Millionaire:

5.5 – Use A Call To Action To Increase Engagement

A call to action is a quintessential marketing technique whereby you essentially tell the person what you want them to do (in a way that makes them want to do it).

For example – on a “dream location” type post – “Tag the person who you would love to visit this place with”, on an inspirational quote “tag a friend who needs to see this today”, on a statement that everyone would agree with “Type yes if you agree”, etc. The more people engage with a post, the more people Instagram will show it to, which in turn drives even greater visibility and virality. Look how the call to action helped this post to snowball:


PART 6 – How To Build A Following Using Shared Content

6.1 – You Do Not Even Need Your Own Content, At All, To Crush It On Instagram

It’s entirely possible to leverage a following from other people’s content. This proves once again, contrary to common belief, that you don’t need to be rich, good looking or have cult status of your own to crush it on IG! You don’t in fact need ANY of your own pictures!

This is a huge tactic and has become a business model for fast growth. Essentially, it involves hacking the algorithm by aggregating the most engaging content and posting it all in one place, leading to an account that goes viral and gains massive traction.

By data mining the best performing posts of your niche, you have a fairly predictable model for for fast growth because you are sure that the content works, whereas when you are posting just your own content, success is less predictable, especially at first.

Important note – do NOT steal images. The “House Rule” of instagram is that you can post the content of others but you ABSOLUTELY MUST credit the owner of the pic with an “@TheirUserName” tag in the caption box – ideally with a nice compliment and an encouragement for the visitor to check out their other work. Show respect to get respect.

Note also that technically you are almost certainly flaunting copyright laws by reposting another person’s image without their express permission – but people on Instagram generally are most receptive to the sharing of their images so long as you tag them because this obviously will help their following, it is free publicity.

Note also that if you got the image from an aggregator account (i.e. a themed image collection), you still need to locate the actual image source and not just credit the aggregator. Accounts featuring for example “pictures of Italy” almost certainly do not take their own photos. So every image needs to be “traced to its source” and this should be considered an essential step in the system.

If you can’t locate the actual creator of the image, don’t use it. If it came from google images, or pinterest, or anywhere except Instagram, get written permission or obtain the correct license.

Also – not only is it bad form not to tag the content creator, it’s also a missed opportunity: When you tag them, they will get a notification and maybe they will come and check out your other work. You want that, don’t you? πŸ˜‰

Here’s an example of this strategy done flawlessly. @Onlyforluxury has built up an impressive 2.5M followers by aggregating top quality exotic location shots, viral posts and luxury lifestyle content created by others; and sharing this in fine style with their eager fan base:

“Well… here’s to us.”

Note the outstanding use of the “Tag someone” call to action in combination with the ever-awesome “heart eyes” emoji. “Tag someone you would do this with” inspires people to tag their bestie, partner, or even someone they would like to date. Combined with the awesome pic, it’s just a total winner. This post is FIRE! It’s like something out of a James Bond film.

Note also the location tag under the account name that corresponds to the location in the pic; the overall sense of excitement, style and larger-than-life adventure; and the tag of the original content creator, who is going to gain some new fans off of this share: it’s a win-win.

6.2 – Monetizing Shared Content

Monetizing this kind of themed aggregated content account would typically come in the form of shoutouts: With this kind of audience size and reach, people will pay for a slice of it – and there is unlimited opportunity to generate this revenue because you can post as much as you like, and everyone needs visibility! The one thing that this kind of model needs is consistent quality control – but that is not difficult because the numbers are all visible. The content needs to be top notch – however with the exception of sponsored posts, it has all been pre-evaluated: They are only sharing posts with a track record of success. See our full section on shoutouts at section 7.1 below.

When you get a really big following, big opportunities can happen: Take a look at this. @MenWithClass has 4.3 million followers and landed a shoutout from @BentleyMotors:

How baller is this?!

I’m not even going to speculate on the paycheck from that but you can bet it was real money.

6.3 – How To Find The Best Content To Share

You should now be able to see why you will be wanting to data-mine and create a database of these top influencers / posts – especially the ones themed around your own chosen topic. You might also be thinking of some new themed account ideas… like ice cream flavors there are no limits! When researching influencers, look not just for audience size but for content that gets the highest engagement ratio. 28,446 likes from an audience size of 2,500,000 is an “like ratio” of 1.14% – not bad at all from a big audience like this. Anything over 2% is really slamming; with world class influencers such as Mariano Di Vaio for example consistently clocking up 2% to 5% (but only posting 1 post per day).

There are various ways to research and track down these kinds of accounts – and you can also assign this kind of data mining task to a virtual assistant. Create a shared Google sheet to collaborate and work with your Instagram data research effectively. There are also tools that can help: If you use Hootsuite, investigate their TrendSpottr app to locate top influencers and content. Also worth investigating is Repost – which allows you to explore and share popular posts from influencer accounts.

There are also numerous online databases and “top lists” of influencer accounts; however you will note that top “celebrity accounts” and mega corps are the ones you will see on mainstream media lists; these are a different beast to topic-themed accounts such as our example onlyforluxury.

Vital Tool: Instagram doesn’t provide away for you to download images at full resolution – which you will need to be able to do if you are going to re-post. There is an easy way round this: Downloadgram – just put the image URL into their box and away you go.

Post Scheduling And Timing: You can use apps such as Grum or Hootsuite to schedule and automate your posting schedule.


PART 7 – 11 Ways To Engage Your Fans

Engagement is critical in social media, and nowhere more than on Instagram. It cannot just be a one-way flow of posting content and ignoring people. The best brands interact and develop a relationship with their audience and business partners.

There are numerous engagement strategies that can boost your following. Here is a list of important ones:

7.1 – Shoutouts

Probably the most important engagement tactic and recognized as the best way to build a following fast. Buying shoutouts enables you to leverage the following of others; essentially, to reach out and offer to pay them to appear on their page. Shoutout posts are an art form in their own right and can be used either to develop your own following rapidly (a tried and tested strategy) or to promote products directly.

When you are buying a shoutout, you want to be able to use your own image and wording. The price is of course negotiable and highly variable, but a rule of thumb others have used is to not pay more than $50 for a shoutout from an account with 200k subs and decent engagement i.e. not fake likes etc. They should be clocking up a minimum of 1% likes on their posts i.e. if they have 100k fans they should getting around 1k likes on posts. Use Social Blade to check the engagement of a page you are considering.

For a shoutout, you need to test your image beforehand – in other words run it on your own page and note the engagement. It should be something that you already know is very strong; why pay for that leverage if you are not going to make the absolute most of it?

Here are a few Shoutout services to explore:

Top 50 Instagram Shoutout Pages – Grin
Fiverr Shoutout Services – tons of options to grow your following and drive traffic! Nice!

7.2 – Funnel In Traffic From Other Social Media Sites

You should develop your reach on as many different social media platforms as make sense – both to build your overall fan base and to give you some diversification. Time is a factor so work the platforms that are most suited to what you do. Then, link in to your Insta from all your other social media accounts. Funnel the traffic where you want it to go. This is an important strategy. Every platform increases the size of your overall net. And the more places you have visibility, the more reach potential you have. Make the most of this! Some people are even linking in from their dating profiles (girls on Tinder doing this all the time, clearly just to build up their IG!) Every public platform where you can post a profile touches a fresh audience and you want that overall reach to be as high as possible, so spread that net as far and wide as you can. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr all have methods to link directly to IG for cross-promoting content – but be sure to engage your fans directly on other platforms and drive them to your Instagram. And don’t forget to read our other tutorials so that you can max out your presence on all platforms and conquer the universe.. πŸ˜‰

7.3 – Follow Some People Daily And Like Some Posts

You should especially follow and interact with people related to your niche. A few will follow back. Target the fans of your competition / people in your space / people you relate to / people who will like what you have to offer. Max 30 follows per hour apparently (Neil Patel) – but research this for yourself as these kinds of figures are often subject to change. You will note from the “random” likes you get that many people are using bots to do this following, knowing that a certain percentage of people they like will like back. These bot likes will typically unlike the account a few days later.

7.4 Comment On Other People’s Stuff – But Do It The Right Way

This needs to be approached respectfully. Be complimentary, interesting and witty, but most of all, be real. Engage! If you have a cool username or say something on point, you will get a few “curiosity clicks” from this. Just be sure to add value with the comments and DO NOT SPAM. Someone else’s comment section is NOT the place for you to cold sell. Don’t be cheap and don’t just indiscriminately ask them to check out your bio. Be genuine and interesting. Remember the motto, offer value or don’t bother.

The thing to remember is that your intentions are more obvious than you remember. If you are just there to say “Hey look at me, who cares about you” then people will feel that.. and guess what? They will say “next”. You will fade into the background noise.

Even worse is when people are heavy handed, unpleasant or just straight up oblivious to reality. Example of how NOT to do it: I just saw this retaliatory comment on some spammer’s profile. Or should I say, one of their profiles – because they are hitting people with bot spam from multiple accounts, not caring if their indiscriminate bot commenting gets them banned; and just firing up more new accounts and carrying on. If you spam people with a bot that comments on a (for example) funeral post indiscriminately, there will be major backlash; and this is the kind of thing you will get back:

#dontbethatguy #youredoingitwrong #notagoodlookbro

Note also that overuse of comments and direct messages can result in an account ban.

7.5 – Outreach And Network With Direct Messages (DM)

There is also the potential for direct outreach to account owners. Similarly, never spam and only use when you can offer actual value to someone. Don’t pitch them in a way that feels like you are seeking to take value. Offer value. Offer something free. Be genuine about it. A good way to do this is to connect with people who have already commented on your posts. Another way is to make your inquiry in the caption box and reach out directly to people who respond in the comments.

You can also use Kik app to connect with other IG users, if they list their Kik account ID.

7.6 – Interact With Commenters

At the least, give them a like and a thank you note for their nice comment. At best, chat with them and form connections with people you resonate with.

7.7 – Instagram Stories

Over 300 million people view Instagram Stories every day. It’s an entire “ecosystem” within Instagram with numerous options including polls and questionnaires to boost engagement and brand awareness. Stories are hot right now. Their engagement is super high and there are various ways to leverage this.

Polls can be used beautifully to generate leads. Example:

Poll: Would you be interested in learning how to _____ (your topic).
For the people that tap “yes” – the next screen says “swipe up to learn how for free”
The next layer collects the email and sends a free tutorial.

This strategy leverages “layers of micro-commitment” and is a classic sales technique. If you are pitched right away with “give me your email and I will give you this book” it is a harder sell. Instead, the bar is set really low to start with, and then gradually raised at each step.

This tutorial is getting crazy long so here are some full Stories tutorials here, here and here.

7.8 – Shoutout For Shoutout – S4S

A simple and well known joint venture strategy – identify and reach out to others in your niche and offer a share for a share. The bigger and better your following, the more options you will have.

7.9 – Instagram Giveaways

Effective when done right. Great tutorials here and here.

7.10 – Follow And Like Bots (Use With Caution)

Follow / Like Bots such as Followliker allow you to put your following of other accounts and your liking of their posts on autopilot. These tools can build your visibility but I would strongly recommend to avoid using them to comment, as this is just too spammy and will make you VERY unpopular. A good rule of thumb is “never use bots to do a thing that a real person could not or would not do”.

Review of best Instagram Bots here.

7.11 – Engagement Pods (I would say don’t bother)

Engagement pods are groups that “help” each other by liking and commenting on each other’s posts, boosting engagement and (hopefully) leading to “real” likes and follows as the account gains greater visibility. These groups are typically run on the Telegram platform.

There are numerous Instagram engagement pods / groups out there and a Google search will reveal tons.

The problem with this kind of engagement is that it is essentially fake – as opposed to Shoutout interactions, which lead to genuine reactions to the content. Engagement pods – make you “look popular” as opposed to “being popular” – and that is arguably a questionable long term policy.

When people are using these, it makes their comment section look like garbage. Heres one I found, and you can see that it is totally obvious that all these comments are fake. They are not connecting with the actual content in any way and it looks ridiculous. This is NOT how you run a business:

(username withheld)

You may also generate a “footprint” which could lead to future problems – because you can be sure that Instagram will want to stamp this sort of thing out and sooner or later, they will catch up with the fakers and then it’s byebye. In general, anything that crosses the line too far into “gaming the system” is going to meet opposition. It is meritocracy that makes a social media platform attractive at the outset and engagement pods in my view are not part of that.


PART 8 – How To Turn All Of This Into Cold Hard Cash

8.1 – Sell Sponsored Posts / Shoutouts

If you have a big following, people will pay you for access to it. According to Brian DiFeo, founder of The Mobile Media Lab, with 100k followers you can potentially be making from 5k to 10k per month with shoutouts. Shoutouts are now a serious micro-economy, with services springing up to connect buyers and sellers.

Use the various platforms that connect buyers and sellers (already mentioned in section 7.1), or network directly via Instagram and Kik.

You could also use shoutouts got get free stuff from businesses who will gift you in return for a shoutout… πŸ˜‰

8.2 – Buy Shoutouts To Drive Traffic / Sell Your Own Products Or Dropshipping Store Items.

If your sales funnel is on point you can make money without a following. Some marketers are reporting spending $300 on shoutouts and generating $1000+ in sales. This will be a challenge to start with however and there are many skills to learn along the way.

If you are buying traffic of any kind, your goal is of course to spend less than you make back in return. This is called a positive ROI and once you crack the positive ROI, the entire system then becomes scalable – because you are essentially “feeding in a dollar bill to generate two”. A very good internet marketing campaign of this kind can scale your income very fast… once you get it into the black, which is the hard part.

8.3 – Use Your IG To Promote Your Products Directly

Example: @mvmt

MVMT post cool pics of their stylish watches and drive traffic to their Shopify-powered store.

8.4 – Drive Targeted Traffic To Ad-Enabled Blogs Or Affiliate Product Landing Pages

Affiliate marketing is an entire system in itself! It has great appeal because you have no customers, no inventory, no returns. You merely send traffic and collect commissions. If you are going to promote affiliate products, I would suggest not direct linking from social media sites (most major platforms frown heavily on affiliate links and you might get an account ban) – but linking from Instagram to landing pages on your own website. If your landing pages contain HTML redirect links to another page on your site, which then flips the traffic to the affiliate link, you should be ok. The scraper will not reveal the presence of affiliate links directly on your page, so you have an added layer of protection.

If you have an awesome Youtube video that is blowing up, you can post the first minute on Insta and then link to your YT for people to get the full version.

8.5 – Drive Targeted Traffic To An Email List Optin

Typically this is done with a High Value Freebie offer. Emails to the list then contain a mix of high value content and related promotions: Email marketing is of course an entire technique outside the scope of this tutorial; we have given you the tools to drive the traffic to a website. See also section 7.7 – Stories.

8.6 – Instagram Paid Ads

Media buying is another entire “universe” of potential. Looking at the ads that appear in your own Instagram feed can give you an idea of what is working. I’m currently seeing a lot of Shopify stores promoting consumer products, no doubt sourced from China and most likely drop shipped. Full IG ads tutorial here.

8.7 – Sell Services Such As Coaching, Social Media Management Or Ad Campaign Management

This does not necessarily need a big following but you need to be able to convey value and offer services that are going to help others. Instagram allows you to network with people who are interested in what you have to offer and put your expertise to work. Tried and tested models include subscription based coaching programs and online Skype training sessions.

Personal coaching is a huge business model these days and millions of people would love to find their “dream mentor” who can help them get closer to their life goals.

8.8 – Sell Your Photos

Seeing as you are putting all this effort into creating amazing photography for Instagram and building a following, you might as well leverage another income stream from it! One option would be to sell prints, another is to license images via the various stock photo platforms – such as

Some services to explore include Shutterstock, Bigstock Fotolia, Foap 500px, Twenty20, Snapwire

8.9 – Rent Out Your Bio Link

If you have a strong following but no product, you can rent out the link in your bio for cash! Note also, this strategy can work both ways; you can rent the bio links of others who are not using them, in order to drive traffic to your own offers. There’s gold in this strategy. πŸ˜‰

8.10 – Rent Out The Caption Space Under Your Posts

It’s possible to tag people in this space together with a call to action – and as this will drive some traffic, this space can be used for paid placement.

8.11 – It’s Against TOS to Sell Your Instagram Profile

Instagram states the following in their TOS: You can’t attempt to buy, sell, or transfer any aspect of your account (including your username) or solicit, collect, or use login credentials or badges of other users.


PART 9 – Data Mining And Analytics

A good internet business analyses data to improve performance. It’s quintessential.

Instagram business accounts give you some on-board analytics features to help you learn what is working and what isn’t. Instagram Analytics gives data in three categories: Your followers, posts and stories. You can see some demographic information as well as growth metrics.

Here are a few more tips and tools:

Social Blade enables you to check at-a-glance the engagement of a page you are considering working with (nice!) and helps you investigate your own metrics.

INK361 provides actionable insights for marketers, analysts and brand leaders to grow and engage with their audience on Instagram. You can examine your own engagement strategies and monitor what your competition is up to.

Union Metrics is a tool that offers some interesting features including revealing your “biggest fan”.

Social Bakers is a well-established company delivering social media statistics and research.

Crowdfire is an app that helps you discover new followers by locating users who have commonalities with your current followers, content and hashtags. You can also identify (and remove) inactive users and unfollowers.


PART 10 – WRAP UP: The Meta-Picture aka The “Helicopter View”

All things considered, this final section is probably the most important part of this tutorial.

For a highly coherent overall business strategy, you need to consider how your Instagram campaign is going to fit into your larger goals. Some things are worth your time, some are not, some will soon become worth your time and some will never be worth your time again. Facts of life! Understanding macro trends in business helps you to position yourself for the greatest success. In order to integrate your social media strategy into an overall “bigger picture” plan for where you are headed in life, you need to know the real rules of the game.

10.1 – The Trajectory Of Instagram

First let’s look at the trajectory of the Instagram platform itself – because on the Internet, everything has a rise and a fall – and like a surfer riding a wave, there is a time to jump on and a time to jump off. Remember Myspace? Wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t, because it’s toast. And now Facebook, while still massive and potentially very lucrative, is in many ways past its heyday as an early-adopter “gold rush” – and is now a mature platform.

Start Date Of Various Social Media / Communication Platforms:

Email: Invented in 1972 but not mass adopted til mid-1990s.
AOL Email: 1993
Yahoo: March 1995 (Email service Launched: Oct 1997)
Hotmail: 1996
Skype: Aug 2003
Myspace: August 2003 (largest social media platform in the world 2005-2009)
Facebook: Feb 2004 (overtook Myspace Jun 2009 and still growing in 2018)
Gmail: Apr 2004
Youtube: Feb 2005
Twitter: March 2006
Whatsapp: Feb 2009 (bought by Facebook Feb 2014)
Pinterest: March 2010
Instagram: Oct 2010
Kik: Oct 2010
Snapchat: Sept 2011
Telegram: Aug 2013

You can see from the above that Instagram is still relatively “young”. Importantly, its adoption rate is still climbing and major growth is anticipated to continue for perhaps another 5 years (2023):

Statistic: Number of monthly active Instagram users from January 2013 to June 2018 (in millions) | Statista

10.2 – Organic Reach

Organic reach is a super important concept to understand in social media. Instagram is, at present, noted for giving higher organic reach than some other social media platforms. Up to 30% post visibility and 1% to 3% likes-per-post makes Instagram one of the “best games in town” right now. The unparalleled potential for rapid fanbase growth this gives is a big part of the reason for its meteoric adoption rate.

But note well that this is almost certainly a “bait and switch”, just as we have already seen with Facebook. A few years ago, Facebook’s organic reach was huge – which allowed users to build massive fan pages fast, and make such unprecedented money from them, that Facebook then became the entire hub of these users’ business ecosystem.

This level of dependency on outside forces should raise a red flag for any business… you are only as strong as your weakest link!

Between 2014 and 2018 Facebook has systematically choked organic reach, boiling frog style. Post reach is now down to between 0.1% and 1% – with link posts perhaps getting a number of likes of 0.001% of the fan base, which is pathetic! A post to a page with 2 million fans might well only be seen by 5,000 people – with link posts being hit especially hard, maybe getting as little as 20 likes. I can tell you from experience of managing big fan pages that traffic from Facebook is one tenth of what it was 4 years ago.

Well, how convenient! FB can sell your crippled reach back to you in the form of boosted posts and other ways to reach the fans you already paid for!! In this situation, you have no option but to comply or wither – because you are playing on their turf and if you are heavily invested (aka. having a large overhead and no other way to pay it), they’ve got you right where they want you! And make no mistake, they do not give a **** about you or your little empire.

Some businesses suckers evidently thought the Facebook gravy train would last forever, moved into big offices, hired big teams and then overnight, an algorithm change decimated their traffic, meaning they couldn’t pay their bills and down they went… bankrupt in less than five years.

Another aspect of this is that “young” Facebook pages have a stronger reach because new fans are shown many more of the page’s posts by the algorithm; with this “freshness factor” fading out after a number of months. In other words your early fans are probably fairly unengaged, with the majority of your engagement coming from people who liked the page more recently.

You can still do really well on Facebook, but with organic reach significantly lower was in the good old days (2013), it is more difficult without spending money on advertising – which, after all, is and always was…

10.3 – Their Special Plan For You

Knowing how the game is played you should consider it quite likely that they will run the exact same game on you all over again. As Instagram mass adoption starts to plateau, I predict that organic reach will be gradually choked, forcing influencers (who will then be reliant on Instagram for their revenue) to resort to paid advertising in order to stay afloat. In other words the time to get it is right now, while it is hot.

It is to be expected that during the early adoption phase, “free traffic” business models based on organic reach will explode, but as organic reach is dialed down, paid traffic models will come to the fore and free traffic strategies will become increasingly harder to exploit.

Aside note – it seems that when these companies mature / go public, their strategy shifts from one of providing opportunity to users (which results in massive growth) to exploiting their users in order to meet revenue targets (which slows the entire platform down). I often wonder what would happen if Facebook turned organic reach up again… would a growth cycle kick in again?

10.4 – Deep Roots Are Not Reached By The Frost

So in consideration of all of the above, you should endeavor to build your business on firm foundations – and not put your financial future entirely at the mercy of one greedy corporation. Make every effort to build a customer retention strategy – in other words, email list, phone numbers, text messenger contacts. Email is still going strong in terms of reach, and it is not atypical for email broadcasts to be opened by 10-15% of the subscriber base. Email provides a continued way to reach your fans and customers and will probably continue to do so for many years. Email still works, has outlasted several other platforms and will probably outlast several more. And once you have those email addresses in your sticky paw, they are yours until the person unsubscribes.

You should also be scanning the horizon for the next wave and thinking ahead, because no matter how good it is now, there will come a time when it’s time to jump…


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