Last updated on February 16, 2021
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Instagram (IG) is many things. It has over a billion users, and Instagrammers have deep pockets. For example, among adult users, 31 percent make over $75,000 annually. IG users “like” over 4.2 billion and share 95 million posts daily. Facebook got the IG acquisition correct along with WhatsApp (the jury is still out on Oculus VR). IG is moving in the right direction and stomping on its competitors like Snap and TikTok. Storylines like these make affiliate marketers drool except for one problem, IG is link-unfriendly.
To succeed in affiliate marketing, a publisher needs to deploy thousands of links in multiple places to increase the number of clicks and conversions. On IG, the only place to put a hyperlink is in one’s bio. Links anywhere else are not clickable, for example, links in posts. Many affiliates include links in the hopes that people will copy and paste them into their browsers, but that’s a terrible strategy. So, what is an affiliate marketer to do?
First, you must recognize that there are much better social media networks than Instagram for affiliate marketing, for example, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Therefore, you might abandon IG altogether. Secondly, if you want to play on IG, you must accept its limitations and focus on what is available (the bio section). Four strategies accompany the all-important bio link.
Instagram Affiliate Marketing
1. Link to an Affiliate Product or Service
I promote many products and services, so I wouldn’t want to use my link to market only one. On the other hand, you might be focused and very passionate about promoting one item. You could add your affiliate link—shortened, cloaked, or branded—to your profile or create an account specifically for that item. For instance, you’re passionate about writing and want to promote Grammarly, a free grammar checker. You create an account called @awesomewriter and post writing tips and motivational quotes. Your bio reads, “Improve your writing with this free software app. Click below to learn more. #Ad.”
2. Link to a Website or Blog
A practical way to generate affiliate commissions on Instagram is to add a link to your website or blog. Many affiliate marketers use IG as a traffic source. As traffic flows to your site, visitors will discover your content and stumble upon affiliate links. You might even create a unique URL and welcome page for your IG traffic. For example, digitalfodder.com/instagram. Your welcome page could acknowledge your presence on IG and provide a brief intro about you and your offerings. For example,
Thanks for visiting my IG profile. I’m an online marketer, author, and advisor. Check out my content for marketing, self-publishing, money, WordPress, and working online tips.
Chad, Instagram Fanatic
3. Link to a Landing Page
Many affiliate marketers direct traffic to a landing page, i.e., a one-page website for e-commerce, event/webinar registration, and list building. I use a landing page to grow my email list. I offer a list of top and profitable WordPress affiliate programs. When someone subscribes, he or she enters my marketing funnel. A marketing funnel is a process of turning leads into buyers, customers, and clients as illustrated below. Search for “marketing funnel” to explore variations.
Many marketers use automated email and drip sequences to introduce affiliate products and services to their subscribers. I use an auto-response sequence through MailerLite, a top-rated email marketing service, and a fantastic alternative to MailChimp. You could send new subscribers three to five automated emails over a period of weeks/months and include affiliate links where applicable. Additionally, many marketers using landing page builders like Leadpages to get subscribers and sales.
4. Link to a Page Containing Multiple Links
A landing page is often used to collect email addresses and sell products, but you could create a landing page containing numerous links to direct your IG traffic. Alternatively, you can use IG-centric services that provide templates to feature multiple links, for example, LinkTree, Lnk.Bio, and SHORBY. Their goals are to solve the one-link IG dilemma. LinkTree states, “You only get one chance to link on Instagram. Make it do more.” Lnk.Bio reads, “Multiple links for your Instagram bio, the new way to improve your Instagram experience.” Those tools are easy to set up. You connect your IG account, pick a template, add links, and you’re ready.
Analytics & Reporting
Earnings are what matter to most affiliates. Our commissions indicate how we are performing, which is why affiliate marketing is also called performance and commissioned-based marketing. To learn more about your audience, measure reach, and track engagement, review Google Analytics, Instagram Insights (for business profiles), Hootsuite Analytics, and Iconosquare.
Followers, Views, & Clicks
Like other social media platforms, increasing followers, views, engagement, and CTRs are a function of user activity. Posting at least once daily should be your goal. Using hashtags makes your content more discoverable. You should add five to ten hashtags to every post without appearing spammy. I have my hashtags ready to copy and paste in a memo on my phone.
Check out your competition to understand what hashtags they use and discover the most popular hashtags with a tool like RiteTag. You might also read Hootsuite’s The Dos and Don’ts of How to Use Hashtags and The Complete Instagram Hashtag Guide. Lastly, you might want to buy followers or use marketing automation and bots to attract people to your profile. For differing opinions on those topics, search for “buying IG followers, “IG bots,” and “IG automation.”
The link that you add to your bio should convey trust and safety. If it doesn’t, you’ll decrease your click-through rate (CTR). For example, chadtennant.com conveys trust because it’s ordinary and matches my Insta profile address. Alternatively, using bit.ly/sf3h2 could look suspicious.
Many Instagrammers use shortened link services such as Hootsuite (Ow.ly) and Bitly (Bit.ly). While shortened links are practical to use in posts and on other networks, I don’t recommend using one in your bio unless it’s consistent with everything else. Also, it helps if the link is customized or branded. For instance, an account for women’s shoes uses bit.ly/sixinchheels, which would be acceptable.