Instagram has become one of the best platforms for marketing. As of December 2016, Instagram has grown to more than 600 million users.
This brings a very big opportunity for you to make money on Instagram.
But the biggest struggle people have is:
How to get more Instagram followers?
And even with good amount of followers, many people struggle with how to make money from Instagram.
There are many articles on the Internet that will teach you how to get more Instagram followers and how to make money on Instagram.
But nothing is better than getting advice from someone who actually implemented those strategies and made something out of it.
And today, I want to share a story of someone who turned Instagram into a revenue-generating machine in just one year!
Meet Alex Tooby.
She is the face of three biggest Instagram accounts. She owns the following accounts:
Wanna know the best part?
She made over $160k in one year with Instagram. Yes, you read it right. $160k!
Her Instagram accounts have also been featured in People’s Magazine, Cosmopolitan and many other big publications.
In this article, I am going to show you the entire process she followed to grow her Instagram accounts from 0 to 450k followers and how she made money from it.
Ready? Let’s begin.
Note: Alex recently did an AMA on Reddit where she shared her success. This article was inspired by the AMA and contains all the information in a detailed and organized manner.
Grow Your Instagram Account From 0 To 450K Followers In 1 Year
Alex owns @menandcoffee. The best place where you can see men and coffee together. This account is dedicated to pictures of men with coffee.
Today this account entirely runs on user-generated content. People can submit their content to get featured. She also owns a similar account @womenandcoffee which shares pictures of women with coffee.
In just one year, she grew the following of both accounts. So let’s first see how this all started.
How To Start Your Instagram Account When You Have No Content To Post
In the beginning, Alex started off by searching pictures on Google, Pinterest & Tumblr. Since she didn’t have any content of her own to post, this was the best way around.
So if you’re starting an Instagram account and don’t know where to find content, follow these steps:
- Find images on Pinterest, Tumblr, Google, Flickr, and Instagram.
Finding images from these platforms is the best way to start your account. So let’s say I want to start an account on Skateboards (I really like them!).
Let’s search for ‘Skateboards’ on Pinterest. Here’s what I found:
Now, these are some really cool skateboards. If you search for more terms related to skateboards, you will find some more awesome stuff.
This way you can find many more images for your Instagram by searching on different platforms.
But before just posting images you saved from other sources, try as hard as possible to find the owner of those images. Once you find the owners, ask for their permission.
If the owner is not responding to you, it simply means he/she doesn’t want you to post it. And if you get their permission, don’t forget to give credit to the owner.
Alex also made sure she gave proper credits to the images she was posting when she started her Instagram account.
The reason why this is important is that if the owner later reaches out to you and asks you to remove the image from your Instagram account, you’ll lose respect and credibility.
It can get worse because people can sue you for copying their images. So be careful! Always give proper credits to the image owner.
This is why I mentioned Flickr above. Most of the images found on Flickr are posted by the owners itself.
So you’ll not have to go through the trouble of finding the image owner. You just search for the image, ask them for their permission and give them proper credits in your image caption.
Let’s search for some Skateboards on Flickr.
Now all I need to do is to find the best images and ask their owners for permission to post them on Instagram.
This way you can start your account with no content of your own and still grow it to thousands of followers.
How To Get More Likes And Comments On Your Images
So you’ve started posting images with giving proper credits. Now what?
How do you get likes and comments? How to get quality engagement on your images?
Alex shares her best way to get more likes is by using hashtags the right way. Whether you have 10, 100 or 10,000 followers, hashtags will always help you get more likes and comments on your images.
If you’re already using Instagram, you already know hashtags are important. You might also be getting good amounts of likes by using hashtags.
But I guess you didn’t know about this:
Use hashtags that are not so popular.
Sounds weird? But you’ll agree with me when you read this:
Popular hashtags are used by many people. And when you use a hashtag that is popular, your post will stay in the ‘latest posts’ section for a short period of time.
Forget about reaching the ‘top posts’ section. Because accounts with a huge number of followers will use the top hashtags and get thousands of likes and minimize your post to be in the featured section of that hashtags.
Take a look at my Instagram account. I post motivational quotes on Instagram and use a ton of hashtags.
If I use the hashtag #hustle which has over 6 million posts, it’s nearly impossible for me to get on the top posts section.
But if I use the hashtag #hustled, I have higher chances of reaching on the top posts section. And since this hashtag has only 6 thousand posts, my post might stay at the top posts section for a long time. This will help me get more likes and comments on my image.
Here are some more suggestions by Alex on using hashtags:
- Use all 30 hashtags.
- Use hashtags with less than 500k posts. And if you’re new, aim for less than 100k.
How To Get Traction To Your New Account
Alex grew @menandcoffee from 0 to 9000 followers in just 3 months.
Here is what Alex recommends to get initial traction to their accounts:
- Post 1-3 times every day about 8 hours apart.
- Use hashtags that describe your content. Always use all 30 hashtags.
- Make sure your bio is filled.
- Have at least 9 images on your Instagram account so that visitors can scroll through.
Follow And Unfollow Strategy: How To Do It Right
Today if you ask anyone how to get more followers on Instagram, you’ll get this answer:
“Follow the followers of your competition and unfollow them once they follow you.”
This strategy works like charm but it’s a little shady. Unless you do it right.
This is why instead of following your competitor’s followers, Alex recommends doing this:
Only follow people in your target market. This way you will only follow people who will get some value from you.
When you focus on doing this and not just following every follower of your competition, you can actually get AMAZING results. Additionally, the person you followed doesn’t see you as a spammer who’s just following you to get a follow back, but rather they say “Wow! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for” and often times can become a long-term supporter.
How Did Alex Make Money From Instagram
Remember that shocking $160k?
It’s time to show you how she made this much money with Instagram.
Alex shares that her revenue was mainly from three sources:
- Sponsored Posts
- Instagram Courses
Out of the three, Alex’s Instagram courses contribute 73% of her revenue while sponsored posts contribute 20% of her revenue. She also made some good money by Fiverr gigs and affiliate marketing.
If you take a look at @menandcoffee’s advertising page, you’ll find that she charges a reasonable amount for sponsored posts.
From this pricing, it is clear that she is able to make around $30000 from her sponsored posts.
Now you can also update your bio and add “DM for business inquiries”. But first, you’ll have to grow your Instagram followers.
Alex also makes good money from merchandise. She uses The Printful to design mugs, t-shirts, and other stuff. This also brings her good revenue.
You can sign up for The Printful and sell your merchandise on Instagram. This is a great way to start generating some revenue.
The rest of Alex’s revenue comes from her Instagram courses.
Tools Alex Uses For Managing Her Instagram
Alex suggests publishing around 1-3 posts every day. Doing this manually can sometimes be a painful task.
She uses the following to manage all her Instagram activities:
With these apps, you can schedule posts on your Instagram account. But still, you will have to publish them manually as Instagram’s TOS is against complete automation.
All you need to do is to schedule your posts using any of these tools. Then, you’ll receive a notification on your phone when it’s time to post and you’ll have to post the image.
I have recently started using Planoly and I’m loving it. It provides many different features. Here is how my posting schedule looks like for one of my Instagram accounts:
The app is free and allows you to schedule 30 photos every month. For scheduling more images, you’ll have to upgrade to higher plans.
Setting Standards For Your Instagram Account
If you look at accounts with a huge number of followers, you’ll notice that their account looks just perfect.
All photos have a huge number of likes, all of them post quality content and all their posts drive engagement.
It’s because they maintain their accounts by following some standards. Here are some standards Alex follows to make her account look perfect for visitors.
1. Delete images that don’t meet the minimum likes standard.
Alex deletes images from @menandcoffee that get less than 6k likes. She follows similar minimum likes standard for her other accounts.
She believes that Instagram takes a snapshot of your entire profile and images that receive less number of likes affect overall engagement rate.
I find likes keep slowly rolling in and can bring your average up significantly. However, after that time if you find the image no longer fits your aesthetic or has a much lower engagement rate than your other images, I would delete it. Try not to become too emotionally attached to your images and this will become much easier
Moreover, Alex also manages the comment activity on her account to keep it clean.
Since there are many people using bots for automated comments and likes, she reports and blocks all users who leave comments using bots.
She says that distinguishing between a genuine comment and a comment left by a bot is easy. This helps her to wipe out comments left by bots.
This may not sound like a big deal to you. But if you want to grow your Instagram account and keep your genuine followers stick with you, these steps are important.
Here’s How You Can Replicate Alex’s Success
Alex’s success story is really inspiring and it shows that you can also replicate her success. This was all Alex shared on how she grew her Instagram accounts and made money from it.
But there’s a lot more to learn before you start executing. If you are committed to starting an Instagram account and making money from it, you must sign up for her course ‘Infamous to Influential’.
In this course, Alex shares more details on how she gained over 400k followers. This step-by-step video course is all you need to replicate Alex’s results.
You can also sign up for her 7-day ecourse on how to gain more Instagram followers.
I have started my own Instagram experiment and will update you on its progress after three months.
I am following EXACTLY what Alex shares in her course. And I am pretty sure my Instagram experiment will bring me great results.
So you also go ahead and start using Instagram to make money.