How To Run Affiliate Marketing For Your Business On Instagram

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Almost everyone on Instagram makes a purchase decision based on what they see on the app. Seriously, it’s 72% — that’s well over half. Considering that Instagram is home to over a billion active users, that’s at least 720,000,000 people. And most of those 720M people spend almost a half-hour each day scrolling through IG. This gets even more surprising when you compare to other social media giants:
 
Social Media Platform Influence On Shopping Habits
Snapchat 1%
Twitter 3%
Pinterest 22%
Facebook 23%
Instagram 51%
 
The biggest takeaway is that Instagram is THE place to market your brand. There’s no doubt about it. And affiliate influencer marketing is the way to get a seat at the head of the table.
So let’s dive into affiliate influencer marketing and how it can help brands (just like yours) grow faster. Here’s what’s inside:
 
  1. What is affiliate marketing on Instagram?
  2. How brands benefit from affiliate marketing on Instagram
  3. Top tips for finding quality affiliates
  4. How to set up an affiliate program (step-by-step)
  5. Affiliate marketing examples to inspire your next campaign
  6. News update: Native affiliate tools on Instagram
     

What is affiliate marketing on Instagram?

Instagram affiliate marketing is a partnership between brands and  influencers. Influencers promote a brand’s products or services on Instagram to their followers. In exchange, brands pay influencers a commission based on sales or clicks generated. Brands and influencers may go through an affiliate network to facilitate these partnerships. Even if you aren’t familiar with the ins and outs of affiliate marketing, you may have noticed it already on IG:
 
Instagram affiliate influencer  
You’ll notice that brands usually use one of two ways to track sales generated by influencers.
 

Unique discount codes

  1. The brand generates one unique code per influencer
  2. For example, KARDASHIAN30
  3. Each influencer shares their code with their audience on social media
  4. Followers use the discount code at checkout when they make a purchase
  5. Brands can then see how many followers made a purchase using that discount code

Trackable links

  1. The brand generates one trackable link per influencer
  2. For example, https://website.com/kardashian30
  3. Each influencer shares their link with their audience on social media
  4. Followers click the link to make purchases online (they may or may not receive a discount)
  5. Brands can see how many followers made a purchase. And brands can track more customers throughout their purchase process
Both methods are valuable. But trackable links give brands more insight into how customers behave.
 
affiliate influencers 

How affiliate marketing works:

Brands can choose to execute affiliate marketing themselves, or through an affiliate network. An affiliate network is the “middleman” between brands and influencers. Influencers sign up with a network as an affiliate for a certain brand. They receive an affiliate link. Then the network tracks their sales (and earnings). In short, affiliate networks make it easier for brands to find and pay influencers. But, brands that run their own affiliate marketing programs have more control. There’s more freedom to manage the campaigns and programs. And brands that DIY get to save on registration costs and other affiliate network fees. No matter which method you choose, here’s how most affiliate marketing programs work:
  1. Each influencer gets their own trackable link
  2. An influencer adds that link to their sponsored content. IG Stories, IGTV descriptions, IG bios, and so on
  3. Those links track exactly how many clicks and sales an influencer generates
  4. An influencer earns a commission each time someone clicks that link and/or makes a purchase
     
The commission an influencer makes depends on what the brand wants to pay. But in general, it’s somewhere between 10% and 20% of each sale. For example, an IG follower clicks an influencer’s affiliate link and makes a $100 purchase. The influencer then earns a $10 – $20 commission. And there’s more than one way to structure your commission model:
 

Pay per click affiliate marketing

  • You pay an influencer each time someone clicks their affiliate link
  • $ for website traffic
  • Risky for new brands

Cost per acquisition affiliate marketing

  • You pay an influencer each time someone clicks their affiliate link and makes a purchase
  • $ for website sales
  • Safer for new brands
Influencers can use trackable links (and unique discount codes) anywhere online. This includes YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook. But it’s especially effective on Instagram because:
  • IG has static image and video content
  • IG is free and has over a billion active users
  • IG supports most major affiliate networks
Plus, Instagram is where most of the influencers are 😉   

How brands benefit from affiliate marketing on Instagram

Nearly 80% of brands have affiliate programs. And it’s estimated that affiliate marketing spend will grow by 10% or more in the next decade. It’s clear that brands love affiliate marketing. But what are they getting in return for each dollar they spend?
 

More reach

Instagram influencers have earned the trust of hundreds to thousands of followers. And when brands partner with IG influencers, there’s an opportunity to:
  • Reach relevant audiences
  • Earn their trust
  • Convert followers into customers
When you invest in IG influencer affiliate marketing, you increase your reach. This is because you use other people’s social media accounts to run your campaign. And this in turn exposes new people to your message.
 

More engagement

You earn Instagram engagement when followers interact with your content. This can be likes, shares, comments, and so on. And engagement is what builds brand awareness, and makes sales, like no other. Here’s the thing, though. Organic engagement is the best kind of engagement, and it’s hard to get. Here’s why:
  1. When brands promote themselves, it doesn’t feel authentic
  2. When influencers promote brands, it feels like a genuine recommendation
One is like a fitness instructor knocking on your door in the middle of the night and shouting their own name. The other is like your best friend telling you about the exciting gym membership they bought. Can you feel the difference? Because Instagram users sure can 🤭 Plus, affiliate influencer marketing helps create user-generated content (UGC) for your brand. And trust us, UGC is like a gold mine. It builds trust, it feels more organic, and it skyrockets brand awareness.
 

More quality partnerships

Affiliate partnerships are long-term by design. They’re meant to last longer than one-off influencer marketing campaigns because they:
  • Build more trust with followers
  • Save time and money for the brand
  • Benefit Instagram influencers
In short, everyone wins. Followers get to connect with new brands. Influencers get to earn a commission. And brands get to make more sales.   

Top tips for finding quality affiliates

Even if you use an affiliate network, it’s still on you to find high-quality affiliate influencers. This means rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands just a little dirty. To get started, here are some tips for finding affiliates who kick you-know-what:
 

#1: Choose a niche

Research your target audience. Figure out how old they are, what their interests are, and where they’re located. Don’t forget to find out what motivates them and what gets them to convert. Use your audience research to reverse engineer finding influencers. You want to find an influencer that has the same audience as you. Streamline this process with tools like Humanz AI (and get access to real, accurate data). Humanz lets you search affiliate influencers by interest, niche, and more. Plus, you can use filters to find influencers by location, engagement rate, and more.
 

#2: Pay attention to engagement rate

When it comes to finding affiliate influencers, engagement rate is everything. Remember, the higher the engagement rate, the better your campaign performance. Always double-check influencer engagement rates. They’re surprisingly easy to fake. Not to mention, influencer fraud will waste your time and affiliate marketing budget. Compare influencer engagement rates against benchmarks. For example, a good engagement rate for a micro influencer isn’t the same for a macro influencer. Check it out:
 
Type of IG Influencer Average Engagement Rate*
Nano Influencer 1.7% – 5%
Micro Influencer 1.4% – 1.7%
Macro Influencer 1.3% – 1.6%
Psssstttt! Did you notice that nano influencers and micro influencers have higher engagement rates compared to macro influencers? *Based on data between 2018 and 2020 

#3: Check for websites and blogs

Not every Instagram influencer is in the affiliate game full-time. Some influencers use affiliate marketing as passive income. Or as a way to support other earnings. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this — and it works for lots of brands and influencers. But part-time affiliates may not be as motivated as someone who does it full time. Look for IG influencers who also run affiliate websites or blogs. This is hands down the easiest way to suss out the full-timers from the part-timers. Chances are, influencers with affiliate websites solely rely on commissions.  

How to set up an affiliate program (step-by-step)

The truth is you’ll need some elbow grease to get an Instagram affiliate program started. But with the right tips, you can get it done in five easy steps — here’s how:
 

#1: Choose an affiliate network

Affiliate networks are the easiest place to connect with influencers. Some of the most popular networks that Integrate with Instagram include:
  • AWIN
  • Clickbank
  • CJ Affiliate
  • MaxBounty
  • Pepperjam
  • Rakuten
  • ShareASale
  • ShopStyle Collective
  • Skimlinks
  • And more
These networks connect brands and influencers and facilitate partnerships. Such platforms let you:
  • Generate unique, trackable links
  • Track clicks and sales
  • Structure commissions (pay per click or cost per acquisition)
  • Process commissions
  • Search affiliate influencers
You can also use influencer platforms like Humanz AI to manage affiliate campaigns. Humanz uses its own algorithms and APIs to find influencers — without Facebook. This means you have access to real data. You can weed out influencers with suspicious account activity or fraudulent engagement rates. And you can access breakdowns by influencer and create custom reports that show you:
  • Top posts
  • Impressions
  • Engagements
  • Link clicks
  • Audience demographics
  • And more
  NEWS UPDATE: Instagram announced its own native affiliate program — jump to read more.

#2: Decide your commission rate

As you already know, there are two ways to structure your affiliate marketing program. You can pay influencers a commission based on how much traffic they drive to your website (pay per click). Or you can pay them a commission that’s based on how many sales they make (cost per acquisition). Most brands choose to pay based on sales generated, and most brands pay between 10% and 20% per sale. But your commissions are completely up to you. Your profit margins may only allow you to pay 7%. Or maybe you have to match competitors that pay 25%.  Affiliate Marketing Pro Tip: How you pay influencers may reflect on your brand. For example, high commissions may attract higher quality influencers (and vice versa) 🏆🏆🏆 

#3: Create an affiliate program (and make it attractive)

If your Instagram affiliate program isn’t a compelling one, influencers won’t join. And you’ve got to come up with ways to keep the partnership growing over time. Here are some ideas:
 

Tiered rewards

As an influencer sells more, they unlock higher commissions.
 

Recurring percentages

Influencers keep making a percentage off subscription-based sales.
 

No commission caps

Influencers can earn up to some percentage of a sale, with no maximum.
 
The better your program is, the higher your chances of building strong relationships. But remember, the partnership has to work for you, too. Pay attention to profit margins and how commissions can affect your bottom line.
 

#4: Find influencers that make sense

The influencers you partner with will impact your brand, so it’s important you choose wisely. Start by screening influencers against the criteria:
  • Niche
  • Target audience
  • Engagement rate
  • Experience with affiliate marketing
It’s almost impossible to do this kind of research by hand. Instead, use tools available in your affiliate network platform. Or use Humanz AI to filter and sort through influencers.
 
Affiliate Marketing Pro Tip: More than half of all influencers commit influencer fraud. Be sure to vet each influencer’s stats to make sure you don’t put your eggs in the wrong basket.
 
Once you’ve found the perfect affiliates, it’s time to launch your campaign on Instagram. And no matter how you manage the campaign, make sure you can track each affiliate accurately.
 

#5: Analyze and adjust as you go

After your campaign launches, check on the analytics from time to time. Read through your affiliate network reports to make sure everything’s looking right. And don’t be afraid to make adjustments based on what the data says. For example, if you notice one of your affiliate influencers isn’t performing as well as the others, talk to them. See if you can work together to find content that resonates with your target audience better. Or consider finding another affiliate to take their place. It’s all about making strategic decisions based on real data. The more information you have, the better off you (and your customers) will be.  

Affiliate marketing examples to inspire your next campaign

About four in five brands invest in affiliate marketing. So it’s no surprise that retail giants like Shein are taking it to a whole new level. Check out their affiliate programs and content on Instagram:
 

Shein

Pretty Little Thing

Urban Outfitters (UO)

News Update: Instagram announced the native affiliate program tool launch

Instagram rolled out its own native affiliate tool for creators. This means IG creators can earn commissions for each in-app sale they generate 🥳 But since the IG tool is so new, there are some limitations:
  • IG’s program is only available to eligible creators and select brands right now
  • Creators can only earn commissions on products available through Instagram Checkout
  • Instagram charges transaction/shipping fees for each sale
  • Brands can’t access customer data (like email addresses) for sales made through IG
Despite this, many brands will find IG’s affiliate tool beneficial once it expands. This is because the program has the potential to:
  • Drive more in-app sales
  • Convert followers to customers faster
  • Close the gap between brands and customers
While you wait for the program expansion, you can take advantage of other tools like:
  • Link trees (“link in bio”)
  • Instagram’s other e-commerce tools (Instagram Business, Instagram Shopping)
  • Shoppable links in posts and content descriptions
     

Final thoughts: Affiliate marketing on Instagram

Affiliate marketing is here and it’s only getting bigger and better by the minute. As influencers make their way into the affiliate marketing space, it’s time for brands to catch on. So here’s a recap about affiliate influencer marketing on Instagram:
  • Nearly 80% of brands already leverage affiliate marketing
  • Partner with an affiliate influencer for more reach, engagement, and brand awareness
  • You can set up an attractive affiliate program in five easy steps
  • Make sure you can track affiliate marketing campaigns with real data
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