How to Get Sponsored on Instagram (Even if You Currently Have 0 Followers)

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It’s no surprise you want to become a paid Instagram influencer, but the idea of getting your posts sponsored might seem laughable if you’re just posting pictures of your brunch instead of skydiving pictures in Australia.

You’re probably more marketable than you think, as Instagram is a popular channel for influencers to partner with all kinds of businesses to post all kinds of content across topic areas for all types of influencers, from micro-influencers to viral celebrities.

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Here, we’re going to show you everything you need to do to get sponsored on Instagram. Keep reading to get started or click the links below to jump to a specific section of this article.

Table of Contents

1. Define your brand.

You’ll see the best engagement if you’re able to define your niche. Do you want to post food and health-related content or focus on fashion? Whatever the case, it’s important to establish your brand.

In addition to the type of content you post, branding has a lot to do with your overall aesthetic. How do you want to style your posts? What’s your messaging? To further solidify your brand, you might want to consider creating a cohesive feed theme (use these feeds for inspiration).

Consistency is key. A good influencer’s posts are distinguishable and unique— a user flipping through their feed should be able to recognize the content as belonging to one influencer. Trust builds as a user continues to see the same influencers’ content.

Additionally, you might want to connect your Instagram brand with any other online presence. Creating a website with similar aesthetic and messaging is a good way to do this — the more you unify your social media accounts, the easier it will be for brands to distinguish how you can help them.

2. Know your audience.

Knowing your audience is critical for convincing a brand to work with you. It’s mutually beneficial for you, as well — if you understand your audience, you’re can correctly identify which brands will see the most success from using you as their sponsor.

Start by gathering the basics — what is the gender, age, and geographical location of your core demographic? Which of your posts do they like the best? What times of day do they respond best to content, and what can you infer from this?

The demographic information you gather will help you pitch partnerships with brands. Brands want to know who they can reach if they work with you. Explaining, “You’ll be reaching thirty-something, working women, primarily from New York, who often use Instagram first thing in the morning and prefer fitness content” is certainly more powerful than saying, “You’ll be reaching women.”

3. Post consistently.

How frequently you post on social media will depend on several factors: how the platform works and the ecosystem on each platform you choose.

Posting frequently on Instagram is important to getting brand sponsorship because it shows you maintain a presence on the platform. Instagram is algorithm based, so a high frequency isn’t as defining a factor as sharing quality content, especially since the algorithm ensures that users don’t see too many posts from one single author at once.

Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, suggests sharing a couple of in-feed posts per week and a couple of stories per day.

According to our State of Social Media in 2022 report, the best time to post on Instagram are mid to late evening, specifically from 6 PM -9 PM, 12 PM – 3 PM, and 3 PM – 6 PM. The best day to post is Saturday, and the worst is Monday.

Besides this research, figuring out the best posting schedule on Instagram requires looking at your profile analytics and seeing when you get the most interaction and engagement with your content.

4. Use hashtags and geotags.

Instagram hashtags make your content discoverable, so they’re necessary for growing your following. You can use up to 30 hashtags per post, but Instagram recommends creators use no more than three to five hashtags per post.

You also want to use hashtags as relevant to your content as possible and ensure they aren’t broken or banned.

It’s critical you choose hashtags that aren’t too broad. #Healthyliving, for instance, has over 20,000,000 posts, while #healthylivingtips only has 13,000. The less competition, the easier it will be for your content to get discovered.

When you peruse a hashtag’s page, you can also get a deeper sense of what types of content your post will be up against. #Healthylivingtips might typically feature posts with food recipes, while your post is about cycling — this could defer you from using that hashtag.

Location tags are equally important, but for a different reason. Geotags can help people find you if they’re interested in a certain location. This helps you gain more followers, and it also helps you appeal to brands that are interested in reaching a certain demographic. For instance, maybe a boutique sees you often post fashion tips from the California area, and they’re looking to appeal to people in that region — it’s a win, win.

5. Tag brands in your posts.

Okay, now you’re officially ready to begin reaching out to brands. You’ve defined your brand and audience and have created quality, authentic posts. Now, you should have a pretty good idea of what types of businesses would benefit from a partnership with you.

It’s important to start small. If you’re interested in skincare, don’t go straight for Estee Lauder — instead, try tagging small skincare start-ups you’ve seen across Instagram already. Engage with your audience by responding to comments like “Where can I get one?” or “How much?” the brand will soon see you’ve proven yourself a suitable sales partner.

6. Include contact information in your bio.

Consider your bio a chance to signal your interest in becoming an influencer. Include an email or website so they can reach you, and include a press kit if possible.

For instance, @brittany_broski doesn’t waste her bio space and includes her email in her bio.

brittany

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Furthermore, you should use a website or blog as your chance to expand on your brand and demonstrate your versatility. Consider adding a Press Page to your website, so brands can take a look at your services. Once you begin sponsoring brands, you can add them to this page so brands can see you have influencer experience.

7. Pitch paid sponsorships.

There’s nothing wrong with reaching out to brands and offering your services. With the right pitch, you might be able to land some gigs without waiting for brands to find you.

Look for brands that clearly invest time and money into their Instagram presence. You might start by researching what similar influencers in your industry already sponsor. Remember, it’s okay to start small. Working with smaller brands will allow you to build a portfolio.

Once you’ve curated a list of brands that might want to partner with you, send them an email. In your pitch, clearly and briefly outline who you are, what you do, and any achievements you have in the field that make you an expert. Then, explain why you’re a good fit for the brand, and include data such as follower count and average engagement rate.

Alternatively, you might consider sending a brand a DM straight from Instagram. It’s certainly more relevant to the job you’re vying for, but it might get lost if a brand get hundreds of DMs a day.

8. Join Instagram’s creator marketplace.

The creator marketplace helps brands find influencers to partner with on Instagram. As an influencer or creator, you can join the creator marketplace to get your content and profile seen by brands looking for people like you.

You can indicate which brands and interests are relevant to you so you are contacted by people relevant to you, and you can easily message brands in the Partnership Messaging inbox.

9. Know your worth.

Make sure you know how much you’re going to charge when brands reach out to you. HubSpot Blog Research found that marketers typically pay between $501 and $10K for nano, micro-influencer, and macro-influencers, with $10K+ budgets reserved for mostly mega influencers.

While you’ll want to have a minimum set, you can negotiate to encourage brands to pay more. Perhaps for $300, you’ll throw in five Instagram Story posts, and a link in your bio to their website for 24 hours. You can use other Instagram features to sweeten the deal. As you grow, you’ll be able to charge more.

What’s a Sponsored Instagram Post?

There are two main types of sponsored Instagram posts: A brand creates a post and pays Instagram for access to a custom audience, and a brand that pays an influencer or creator to share content that features the brand/business in some way.

Here’s more detail on each type of sponsored post:

Promoted Posts & Ads

Just like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, Instagram comes with a native ad management platform. Advertisers can use this tool to customize a target audience — using attributes like age, sex, location, and interests — and invest a specific amount of money to getting their post in front of Instagrammers who identify with this audience.

The thing to remember here is that the advertiser is making and publishing the post. They’re paying Instagram for the audience they want access to, but the post is theirs to create.

Paid Sponsorships

Paid sponsorships happen between a brand and an influencer or realtor on Instagram. The creator will have a brand and an audience that is relevant to the business.

Think of it like social media product placement; just like a business might pay a TV show to have their brand of soda on the countertop in the series finale, they can also pay a person on Instagram to hold that same soda in a picture on their Instagram feed.

There are numerous influencers for each industry. Here’s a big list of today’s known influencers and the types of audiences they attract.

Using #ad and #spon Hashtags

Brands have come under fire in the past for working with influencers but not making it clear that the influencers were paid to share content.

Department store Lord & Taylor, for instance, settled charges with the FTC in 2016 after paying 50 influencers to wear a dress in their posts without hashtagging #sponsorship or #ad.

Instagram prefers that influencers mark paid sponsorships as paid partnerships so their audiences know the intention behind the post. It’s critical your followers know if you’re getting paid to promote a product. Ethics aside, it could destroy your account’s credibility if you’re caught, and lose everything you’ve worked hard to build — namely, an authentic, trusting community.

In 2017, Instagram released a paid partnership feature to combat this issue — if you tag a brand in a post and the brand confirms the relationship, the ad will be marked at the top with a “paid partnership” label. This also helps the brand gather data regarding how well the campaign is performing.

If you truly don’t want to post #ad or #spon, there are some ways around it — for instance, Airbnb created the hashtag #Airbnb_partner, to signal a paid partnership without using the word “ad”.

When in doubt, adhere to Instagram’s policies. You can read Instagram’s branded content policies in full here.

How to Disclose Paid Partnerships on Instagram

It’s a best practice to disclose paid partnerships to followers so they know that you and your partner will profit from the engagement you bring them. You can easily disclose partnerships with brands for Feed, Stories, Live, Reels, and videos.

Note: This feature is only available for business and creator accounts, and the steps are the same for desktop and mobile devices.

Add Paid Partnership Label to Instagram Feed Posts

  1. Upload your content and add your preferred caption and any filters or effects, then tap Next.
  2. Tap Advanced settings.
  3. Toggle Add paid partnership label underneath Branded content.
  4. Tap Add brand partners to search for the brand and add them to your post. You can add up to two brands.
  5. Optional: If your agreement with the brand allows them to use your content to run ads, toggle Allow brand partner to promote into the on position.
  6. Tap Done to post your content.

add paid partnership label to instagram post

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Add Paid Partnership Label to Instagram Stories

  1. Once you’ve uploaded the story and added elements like text or a filter, tap the tag icon at the top of the screen.
  2. Tap Add paid partnership label.
  3. Tap Add brand partners and search for the brand you’re working with. You can add up to two brands.
  4. Optional: If your agreement with the brand allows them to use your content to run ads, toggle Allow brand partners to promote into the on position.
  5. Tap Done to post your Story.

Add Paid Partnership Label to Instagram Reels

  1. After you’ve uploaded your Reel and edited it to your choosing, tap Next.
  2. Tap Advanced Settings.
  3. Toggle Add paid partnership label into the on position.
  4. Tap Add brand partners and search for the brand you’re working with. You can up to two brands.
  5. Tap Done to post your Reel

The video below shows the Paid Partnership label in a sponsored Reel from Yes Williamsburg.

Add Paid Partnership Label to Instagram Live

Note: When you’re Live, you can only tag brands you have approval from

  1. When you go live, tap Details

2. Tap Add brand partners and search for the brand you’re working with to add a tag to your Live.

Things to Consider Before Accepting an Instagram Sponsorship

1. The brand’s audience.

Before accepting an Instagram sponsorship, the most important thing to do is make sure your connection to the brand is there, which is why it’s important to work with brands in your niche. For example, if you’re a fitness influencer, it would make sense to partner with athletic wear companies or local fitness studios, but not relevant to partner with a travel agency.

Research the brand and look at its Instagram presence, the type of content shared, and the audience that engages with the content to see if it aligns with your brand and interests.

2. A brand’s partnership eligibility requirements.

Brands have their eligibility requirements when they partner with influencers, so you should always review their criteria to ensure you meet their qualifications and that their capabilities don’t have unrealistic expectations for you and your processes.

3. The fine print of your contracts.

Protecting your content and ensuring the brand won’t misuse it is essential. You can read the fine print of your contract and partnership to see exactly how your content can be used, and you can register for a DCMA account to make sure it’s protected by copyright law and can’t be misused.

4. Instagram’s partner monetization policies and guidelines.

To use Instagram’s Monetization and Promotional tools on Instagram, you have to meet a few specific requirements.

  • Reside in a country where monetization and promotional tools are available.
  • Adhere to and comply with all community guidelines.
  • Comply with content monetization policies.
  • Refrain from sharing misinformation.
  • Only monetize authentic engagement (you can’t monetize artificial views or engagement)
  • Comply with payment terms
  • Must have an authentic presence

You should also be familiar with rules and laws created by the Federal Trade Commission (or the equivalent in your country). Not complying with requirements and being transparent can cause significant legal issues and may make it harder for you to engage in partnerships in the future.

5. The type of content you can monetize.

All content that helps creators and publishers earn must follow specific rules:

  • You can’t monetize static videos, static image polls, slideshows of images, looping videos, text montages, or embedded ads.
  • You can’t monetize engagement bait, where you incentivize people to click a link or respond to a post through likes or comments, soliciting engagement,
  • You can’t monetize content that is misinformation, misleading medical information, unoriginal content, or drugs.

6. Payment amount and payment terms.

It’s always important to evaluate the offers to make sure you’re compensated fairly and in alignment with your rate, partnership requirements (like how much content you share), and the effort you put in to create the content.

If payment doesn’t align with your level of work, you have the right to negotiate a rate that matches what you’ll have to do, or you can step away if they don’t compensate you against your rate.

Pros and Cons of Instagram Sponsorships

Pros

  • Building trust – Working with reputable brands can build your credibility with your viewers and audience because you work with a source they know, and the trust builds even higher if you recommend a product or service they purchase that positively impacts their life.
  • Expanding your reach – Partnering with a brand expands your reach to your partners’ audience, helping you grow your awareness and draw in new followers eager to hear from you.
  • Monetization – Partnering with brands can help you monetize your platform and get paid for the posts or campaigns you run and are already an expert at creating.

Cons

  • Loss of authenticity – Sponsored content can feel inauthentic to viewers, especially if the content seems too sales-y. Since consumers prefer authentic content over all else, they may be skeptical of your ads.
  • Legal issues – If you don’t comply with legal requirements and Instagram’s content monetization and sponsorship requirements, you risk non-compliance and losing the ability to use the Instagram feature or even the platform.
  • Time-consuming – Sponsored partnerships can require a lot of time and effort to coordinate and create content, which can detract from your other content creation efforts.

Over to You

Getting sponsored on Instagram can be challenging — it takes time, effort, and perseverance. But if you work hard to differentiate yourself in the industry, and connect on a personal level with your followers, it can be extraordinarily rewarding.

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