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A lot of people ask me how to monetize their Instagram account when they’re starting out in business.

I talk a lot about the mindset behind creating content — things like caring about your audience, giving 51% of the value, staying patient, and playing the long game. I start with making sure people understand the “religion” because if they don’t, the tactics won’t work long term.

But in this article, I wanted to do something different.

I wanted to create a practical piece of content that talks about the details (i.e. the “dirt”)  behind monetizing your Instagram account by getting advertisers and sponsors to pay you in exchange for your audience’s attention.

One caveat: Most of you aren’t ready to monetize. Bombarding your audience with ads before you had a chance to really provide value just isn’t a good idea.

But assuming you’re at a place where you’re ready to think about taking sponsors and advertisers… you’ll find this article super valuable. I’m going to talk about everything from picking advertisers to reach out to, all the way to what to do if they say “no” or don’t buy.

Enjoy 😉  

(Let me know what you you thought of this on Twitter!)

Step 1: Get your Instagram account to a place where you can actually monetize  

Before you can advertisers, you need to have attention that you can “sell.” You need to grow your account.

The reason I feel comfortable showing people how to do this is that I’ve spent the last 10 years of my career trying to understand user psychology and reverse engineer attention into an engaged community online.

This is not theory, it’s practical advice that has worked for me and thousands of other individuals, companies, products, and brands.

Ultimately, what really matters when it comes to building and growing an audience is engaging. Meaning… you need to engage with people who have the same interests as you.

I call this the $1.80 Instagram Strategy — I talk about it more in this article. But here’s a high level overview.

Find the best hashtags to follow

This is the easiest part. Let’s say you’re creating content related to meditation. The first thing to do is to identify and follow the top hashtags related to meditation. For example:

  1. #meditation
  2. #selfdiscovery
  3. #freeyourmind
  4. #innerpeace
  5. #meditate
  6. #mindfulness
  7. #wellness
  8. #awareness
  9. #mindset
  10. #spirituality
  11. #zen
  12. #perspective
  13. #beherenow

Leave your $.02 on the top 9 posts from the top hashtags

If you see someone in the comments who has a question you know the answer to, answer! If you love the post and admire the aesthetic, say so! If you have thoughts about the quote or the copy in their post, reply!

Keep commenting, liking, and engaging

Simple as that. It’s $.02 on 9 posts for the top 10 hashtags in your space.

Do it everyday, and watch what happens 😉

Step 2: Map all the companies in your space

The first to actually monetizing is to map every company in your industry — from the #1 player in the space all the way down to the players at the bottom. When I met with Backpack Kid, the advice I gave to him was to hit up everyone from the biggest companies like Jansport to the smallest backpack brands.

You can find these companies by using hashtags on Instagram.

For example, if you’re trying to get advertising dollars from small companies, go to the search bar on Instagram and type in something like “plumber”, “local grocery store”, or “barbershop.” Navigate over to the tags section.

Then, spend 25 minutes hitting every picture that has those hashtags, and see if it’s the account of a small business you’d want to work with.

Step 3: Reach out to them

When you’re in the early days, you’re not at a point yet where you can wear a suit and tie and give a powerpoint presentation to a big company. The “big boys” are out of your league.  

That’s why the way you’re going to make money is by going out and “grabbing” it.

My advice on reaching out to companies is stunningly simple, yet so many of you still don’t get it:

Call them up.

You can find their phone number on their website or on their Instagram profile. Pick up the phone and dial it.

For example, here’s here’s how the conversation went down when I cold called to advertise on my (pretend) beer blog.

Dean (from Hello?

Gary: Hello, who would I speak to about you guys possible advertising on my beer blog?

Dean: That’s me, the owner, Dean.

Gary: Dean, this is Gary Vaynerchuk. I run a wine blog on the internet and I’m thinking about launching a beer blog … and I’m wondering if I were able to build up my audience to 2000-3000 people daily, would your site have interest in buying advertising or being a sponsor?

Dean: Possibly, what are your rates going to be?

Gary: I’m not sure, I’m just trying to gauge if this is a good way to get sponsorship. But I’ll build up some audience and then reach back out to you with real numbers so I’m not just “jerking your chain”, you know what I mean?

Dean: Okay, yeah. [Right now], Google is the premier way to advertise just because people are actively searching for something and then I can “hit them in the face” with my ad.

Gary: No question, I think you’re doing a great job.  I think that if I have 500 – 2000 people watching a 20 minute beer show every single day, that it’s obviously going to be very targeted advertising for you. With Google, who knows what their intent is when they search … but if I’ve got beer aficionados watching 20 minutes a day everyday, that’s a very targeted audience.

Dean: Yeah. When you get it up and running I’d be glad to talk to you about it a little more. I’d be interested in pushing the personalized wine glasses and bottles … where we etch “happy holidays”, “thank you”, or “happy birthday” on the full bottle of wine.

Gary: That’s awesome. So one of the things we can do advertising wise, since we’ll have a lot of people watching this show, we can do some sort of affiliate deal. As in, any lead that comes from me, you could pay me for that. I’ll get my stuff rolling and we’ll reach out.

Dean: Okay.

And there you have it.

The punchline here is, it’s on you to tell them what you can do for them. This guy was a little “set in his ways” — he talked about how Google was the “premier” source of revenue for him. But I didn’t just give up and put the phone down.

This approach applies to anything — doesn’t matter if you’re creating content about the smurfs or the Jets or beer. If you want to get advertisers when you’re “early”, this is the way to do it.

Step 4: Move on if they’re “unsellable”   

The number one waste of time is selling the unsellable.

A lot of people approach me with the question, “How do I turn a ‘maybe’ into a ‘yes’?” “What do I do when I’ve presented someone with all the data and they say no?”

For me, I have no interest in winning them over. I have no interest in convincing someone who can’t be convinced.

That’s the biggest mistake people make when trying to sell: They waste good time and energy trying to convert, when they should be taking that energy and allocating it to reaching more people.

If you want to win big, you have to take the hours you spend on TV, iPhone games, going to the bar and allocate them to learning… testing… doing… and spending hours hitting up advertisers. Too many people talk a big game, but don’t realize the insane amount of work it takes to actually “get there.”

The only reason these steps won’t work is if you’re lazy and don’t put in the 5-7 hours a day it takes to make it happen.

Do it, then hit me up on Twitter @GaryVee and let me know how it worked out for you!


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