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Building an Affiliate Marketing Strategy for Instagram

Last Modified: January 31, 2023


Among social media apps, Instagram has steadily become one of the most popular around the globe. In the U.S. alone, 120.7 million Americans were reported as using the app in December 2019. Incredibly enough, 89% of users are based outside of the U.S., meaning over a billion people have used the app.

Users claim to spend almost a half-hour on the app each day, with over 60% of users accessing the app daily, too. It’s become a phenomenon for many — a place where they can share their lives with others in a format easier to access than Facebook. People can curate their lives, following their friends, brands, and influencers while developing their own aesthetic with every photo they post.

While the place has become a haven for people to post images and videos from their lives, it’s proved incredibly useful to businesses, with the app generating over $20 billion in advertising revenue in 2019. The presence of influencers and brands makes advertising especially accessible, as it’s ripe ground for an affiliate marketing strategy to be developed from.

Why Instagram? And Why Influencers?

Instagram’s feed is designed for advertising. While scrolling down through their main feed, a user is able to immediately engage with the newest posts from the people they follow, along with relevant advertisements curated by the app’s algorithm. While your company could be creating traditional advertisements for the app, they won’t work as well as influencer promotion.

Nowadays, consumers look for authenticity; they seek out brands that reflect their interests, ethics, and more. Influencers have changed the marketing scheme because there now exist regular people who are brands themselves: They have a niche they exist in — one that has built a specific audience — and they speak directly to those people on a regular basis, whether through Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, etc.

An influencer’s direct connection to their audience exhibits authenticity, but, more importantly, it provides consumers with trust. Regular engagement with an influencer is built on trust: They’re not an enterprise company trying to sell them something; they’re a person engaging with them on their level — making them into someone who is trustworthy and believable.

And its success shows how marketers are spending their money. Influencer marketing — a subset of an affiliate marketing strategy — has grown into a near $10 billion dollar market, where more and more marketers are budgeting for the development of an influencer strategy.

The growth makes sense. Estimates state that an American can see 4,000 to 10,000 ads in a day. For many people, this has led to a reaction known as banner blindness, where an online user becomes blissfully unaware of the advertisements they see online and within social media apps.

But influencers have found a way to break that code. Their authenticity cuts through the traditional marketing BS that consumers ignore. Instead, consumers are willing to listen to what an influencer they trust has to say, especially if they’re recommending a product or service that they personally believe in.

This level of trust is paramount to the success of advertising on apps like Instagram. Rather than a brand promoting their own products, services, and messaging, they can utilize an influencer — an affiliate — to do the promotional work for them, connecting with consumers without getting lost in the banner blindness.

How Affiliates Can Fit into Your Marketing Strategy

As mentioned above, influencers work as exceptional brand affiliates because of the trust they’ve built with their audience. But before you can consider signing on Instagram affiliates, you need to take the time to understand the scope and goals of your company’s affiliate marketing strategy.

For instance, if you want to increase website traffic and engagement, you’ll want to employ an affiliate who has reached — someone able to connect with large audiences on a personal level. However, if you’re trying to develop interesting brand content, you’ll want to hire creative affiliates who can develop interest due to their artistic chops. This step is imperative, as it will help your company choose the affiliate that can help you reach campaign goals.

What to Look For in Potential Instagram Partners

When looking for potential Instagram partners, you need to find affiliates that utilize the potential provided by the trust their audience has in them. Characteristics to look for in influencers and fellow brands include:

Trusted by followers & niche.

As mentioned above, trust is one of the greatest characteristics an affiliate has to offer, especially among influencers. Rather than relying on someone with a massive audience, you’ll want to find affiliates who have a devoted fan base full of people who follow the various ventures that this creator embarks on.

Digital reputation.

While you can view an affiliate as a contractor for your business, they are intended to be a social reflection of your company. It might seem enticing to bring on a controversial influencer or brand — they’re getting engagement — but you need to consider the type of engagement they’re receiving. Past controversies and bad buzz are signs that they should be avoided. The same goes for people and brands that like to start trouble with other creators and influencers. Find people that fit your brand while developing positivity, as what they put out to the world will be just as much a reflection of your business.

Produces genuine engagement.

It might seem attractive to reach out to an influencer like Kylie Jenner or Ariana Grande, but it’s unlikely you’ll receive genuine engagement from either them or the content they post. People are more likely to buy a product when it is promoted by user-generated content. This holds true for accounts that create content and have genuine relationships with their audience.

While a celebrity influencer might receive engagement, there’s little interaction between them and their followers. If you’re looking to develop an emotional resonance with your affiliate marketing strategy, you should seek out smaller influencers — accounts with 1,000 to 50,000 followers (known as nano- and micro-influencers). This doesn’t have to be a rule of thumb for your business, but it’s a good metric to keep in mind, as it will allow you to target influencers who have a closer connection to their entire audience, where they can regularly engage with numerous followers — versus someone with millions of followers.

Curates a feed in-line with your brand.

Most of all, you want to take on an affiliate that completes your brand. Again, while you may be tempted by follower counts, authenticity is what matters most. Look for affiliates that align with your brand, such as their aesthetic, voice, image, and more. Their audience should align with yours, too, existing within the same niche. This is a simple way to guarantee that you’re regularly promoted to people who are most likely to become interested in your brand, products, and services.

Implementing Your Instagram Affiliate Marketing Strategy

Once you’ve identified the general profile of your ideal Instagram affiliate, you’ll have to go about covering the basics beyond your goals. Here are some things to consider when crafting your affiliate marketing strategy to get affiliates and promoting across Instagram:

Choose your network.

Some companies like to do everything internally, creating their own networks from which they can securely work. While this approach makes sense, it is also extremely time-consuming, and it can lead to multiple problems due to a lack of staff and/or expertise. You should consider joining an affiliate network if you’re looking to get started right out of the gate. Affiliate marketing software is developed solely for the practice of affiliate marketing, providing businesses with a hub to manage and analyze their tactics once put into action.

Refersion’s platform is specifically designed to make the affiliate marketing process as streamlined as possible, providing you with essential tools to create a home base for affiliates, to track the progress of affiliate campaigns, and to pay and communicate with affiliates on time. Rather than going through the trouble of trying to develop your own software, Refersion takes out the guesswork and lets your business begin marketing on Instagram right away.

Choose your commission rates.

Affiliates tend to be paid in three different ways when promoting on Instagram: pay-per-click, pay-per-action, and cost-per-conversion.

Pay-per-click models work such that an affiliate is paid an even amount every time one of their followers clicks on an affiliate link, so they are sent to your website.

Pay-per-action will often go a step further than just clicking on an affiliate link. Once being directed to your website, a consumer will have to complete an action — say, signing up for an email newsletter, filling out a contact form, or entering a contest — for the affiliate to be paid.

Cost-per-conversion requires a transaction to be completed by the consumer. Once they reach your website, thanks to that affiliate link, they will have to complete a purchase, so the affiliate will be paid a percentage commission that is agreed on when being contractually hired by your company.

The approach your business chooses is specific solely to what you can afford and what you think is the most viable approach. Some companies will only take one of the three approaches, while others will implement a combination. For instance, one company might offer affiliates a 15% commission for every cost-per-conversion sale; on the other hand, another business might pay a flat-rate for each pay-per-click while also paying a 10% commission for every cost-per-conversion sale. The choice depends on the company, particularly what will provide them with a worthwhile return on investment (ROI) while also providing potential affiliates with an enticing offer.

Entice affiliates.

Once you have your program up and running, perhaps with a few affiliates under your belt, you’ll have to begin developing ways to keep them around — all while finding ways to bring in new affiliates. Refersion’s affiliate portal makes it easy for businesses to create tailor made hubs where affiliates can congregate to communicate and share tips with one another. Moreover, businesses can share content here that makes promotional efforts easier, removing the heavy lifting from affiliates whenever possible.

But affiliates can be enticed further by the work they put in on Instagram. A tiered program can be drafted that rewards affiliates based on the number of engagements and conversions they have per month, along with a tiered pricing model related to the number of followers they have. Businesses can also offer bonuses throughout the year during specific holidays, motivating them to put in extra work for potential bonuses and higher commission rates.

Implement, analyze, adjust.

Your work isn’t done once your program is up and running. Now will come the time to begin using affiliate marketing software like Refersion to its maximum potential. Built-in analytic tools make it easy to track the success of your strategies, campaigns, and affiliate efforts.

Adjustments can be made once you’ve analyzed the current methods used. And, from here on out, you can continue making adjustments to your Instagram approach to ensure that affiliates are meeting the demands of their audience, all while staying on top of trends taking hold of the app, such as the recently introduced Instagram Reels feature — a noticeably direct competitor to the ever-popular TikTok.

What’s Next

Developing a successful campaign takes time, but it’s attainable with patience and consideration. Your business should take its time when developing its Instagram affiliate marketing strategy. Rather than rushing to sign on affiliates — brands and influencers — with little consideration, you should do your research to find people who will complete and push your business toward its goals.

With the help of Refersion’s affiliate marketing software, your business will be able to effectively track the progress of your affiliate marketing campaign, as well as the success of each of your affiliate’s approaches.

If you’re ever in need of assistance while creating your business’s affiliate marketing strategy, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our professional associates. And check out our guide on recruiting affiliates using Facebook if you’re looking to develop a strategy outside of Instagram.

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Written by

Ruthie Carey
Ruthie Carey