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3 Popular Influencers Reveal Their Secrets to Making Money on Instagram

Ever wondered how your favorite blogger or Instagrammer got so popular and how exactly they're paying their bills by living their dreams? Here's how!

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Popular-Influencers-Reveal-Their-Secrets-to-Making-Money-on-InstagramCourtesy Chase Reign

Always use hashtags

Marie Denee, the six-figure earning creator of and an acclaimed plus-size fashion expert on social media, says using hashtags takes only a minute, but it’s key to growing your follower base. More followers mean more demand from advertisers to sponsor your content. “We have a hashtag, #tcfstyle, and repost pictures from our readers and supporters,” she says. “Sometimes we post funny fashion memes, and most recently, we mix in images from our blog posts.” A signature hashtag makes it easy for core followers to track your content, and mainstream hashtags like #plussizefashion open up the playing field for new followers to find you.

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Popular-Influencers-Reveal-Their-Secrets-to-Making-Money-on-InstagramCourtesy Chase Reign

Reply to comments and stay real

“You definitely need to reply and like comments to help connect with your audience,” explains Denee, “especially as Instagram wants this, too.” Interaction is what keeps people coming back and what influencers are referring to as “customer service.” If a follower wants to know where Denee got her dress, she’ll happily respond knowing an engaged audience is a growing one, and that’s what sponsoring brands really want to see. And whether you’re replying or posting new material, says Denee, “be authentic. Be relatable. Be you. You do not need to be perfect and staged all the time.” Often times, the most popular Instagram accounts are the ones who offer the real depth of their lives, showing their cellulite, zits, and bad hair days when the rest of the Internet is spending hours staging one single, immaculate photo that doesn’t really exist. Here are more ways your social media reveals who you really are.

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Popular-Influencers-Reveal-Their-Secrets-to-Making-Money-on-Instagramcourtesy Amy Oztan

Make a plan

Don’t post haphazardly, says blogger Amy Oztan, founder of and a technology influencer. “I started posting pictures in a certain order so that each column would have a theme, which takes planning but looks interesting.”

“I started using hashtags for the four or five types of pictures that I post, like #AmyOztanSelfies or #AmyOztanFood,” shares Oztan of her hashtag tendencies. “Now that we can follow hashtags on Instagram instead of just people, that’s a great way to get someone interested in your feed. Maybe someone doesn’t care about travel pictures, but they love food pictures, so they follow my food pictures. I can pitch that to a company!” Pitching larger groups of themed, cohesive content is one way influencers cash in on their influence. You can also try these Instagram caption tips to get more likes.

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Popular-Influencers-Reveal-Their-Secrets-to-Making-Money-on-Instagramcourtesy Amy Oztan

Price your content fairly

“Since my Instagram account is small, I don’t ask for large sponsorships. I think $20 per 1,000 followers is fair, or more if the advertiser wants me to include a link in my profile,” says Oztan of her pricing methods. Until recently, rates for sponsored Instagram posts were all over the place, but they have been shaking out to roughly $500-1,000 per 50,000 followers.

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Popular-Influencers-Reveal-Their-Secrets-to-Making-Money-on-Instagramcourtesy James Hills

Monitor your uploads and analytics

Posting a ton of back-to-back image uploads at once can overwhelm the feeds of your followers, warns Oztan. Instead, she recommends finding a planning software to space your images out at more reasonable intervals (and you might also want to try this color scheme for your future uploads). “My best tip is to use a scheduler like Plann or Tailwind and really give some thought to what pictures you’re going to post next,” she says. “Don’t think of Instagram as a place to post ‘Hey, here’s what I’m doing right this minute!’ Curate your images and spread them out.”

Like everything else in life, Instagram may boil down to a game of numbers, and that’s great news for the deep thinking analytical types out there. “I monitor analytics regularly and measure the reach to see how far my posts get,” shares James Hills, founder of a men’s travel and lifestyle site, “I also look at the engagement rate to see if maybe something was received well or if I just posted at the wrong time of day.” Make sure you avoid posting these photos that you should never put on social media.

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Popular-Influencers-Reveal-Their-Secrets-to-Making-Money-on-Instagramcourtesy James Hills

Before you post, ask yourself who will care for that photo

One of Hills’ biggest tips is to create content that fascinates, moves, or excites people. Will an upload of your morning coffee change someone’s day? Maybe not. But if it’s a video of how you hacked your coffee maker so that it adds hazelnut syrup and warms your toast, you may find your upload becoming a viral sensation because people will care. “You’ve got to have an understanding why someone would care about you,” he says. “There’s someone doing everything, so why are you unique and why should I care about it? Answer that and you’ll have your gold.”

You can also take advantage of Instagram Stories, a relatively new function within Instagram that both Oztan and Hills use. The stories only stay live for 24 hours, but they provide a glimpse into who is viewing your Instagram profile and can help influencers generate smaller, quicker amounts of money in a more casual setting. You can upload dozens of stories each day, and they won’t overwhelm your audience because they have to opt-in to view them.

Finally, don’t worry if people repost your content if it’s properly credited and tagged, says Hills. “I seek out large ‘regrammer’ accounts to hopefully get regrammed by them to generate more exposure and followers. This has worked well for friends who tag me in their posts.” It could be a great way to pick up new followers, boost your audience, and get noticed by new advertisers. Don’t miss these genius tricks to take professional-quality photos on your smartphone.

Bryce Gruber
As Home Editor, Bryce Gruber is an expert in gift ideas, shopping, and e-commerce at Reader's Digest. You've likely seen her work across a variety of women's lifestyle and parenting outlets and on TV shows. She lives and works in New York's Hudson Valley with her five small children.