The unprecedented effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic can’t be understated. In the United States alone, the economy shrank by about 32% between the months of April and June as governments imposed lockdowns and multiple business sectors (including healthcare) cut back on spending to attempt to weather any challenges.
Unfortunately, many establishments have had to cut a significant amount of costs to cope – and labor is definitely among them. To push through the uncertainty and continue to make a living in a time where social distancing becomes the new norm and physical meetings are discouraged for health and safety reasons, knowing your way around the internet has become a necessity.
eCommerce sales in particular have seen sharp increases during the peak lockdown months. eCommerce sales rose by 49% in April, with online groceries, electronics, and book sales leading the way. It isn’t just necessities people are buying – it seems like leisure items to cope are in high demand as well.
Identify the key opportunities
This is where opportunity knocks. Everyone is online, limiting their movements, and looking for ways to make their time both more productive (remote work is quickly becoming part of the “new normal,” whether companies are ready or not) and more fun (Nintendo reported a whopping 400% increase in earnings for the first quarter because of the pandemic).
So regardless of if you’re running your own business or just looking to earn some extra income to help pass the time, the market is there: now it’s just a matter of finding a way to tap into it.
That’s where Instagram comes in. Social media usage has increased overall due to the pandemic, but it’s Instagram that has scored the greatest growth in that area: total time spent on the platform is expected to grow by 14% this year, or more than 3 minutes of additional time per user per day. If you want to be seen, Instagram is the place to go – and to earn.
Here are the various ways to monetize your time spent on social media and link up with others on Instagram who might just need exactly what you can offer.
1. Bring the spirit of entrepreneurship online
Instagram has been a great boon for entrepreneurs, online sellers, and businesses pivoting to digital channels to improve sustainability during the pandemic. Instagram itself has acknowledged this, and laid out a brief primer on how to get started:
- On the most basic level, communicate all details about your brand with the posts you make on your Feed. The former will be the backbone of your Instagram content, so share important announcements, product details, and address frequently asked questions for prospective customers.
- Utilize Instagram’s built-in eCommerce tools to support your business. By connecting your Instagram account to your business’ official Facebook catalog, you can apply for Instagram Shopping features. Once approved, this will allow you to tag products in feed posts (up to five per image) and Stories (one sticker per Story), which immediately allows customers to see the name of each item, its corresponding price, and a direct link to purchase via your catalog.
Our tip? If you’re one person or a small business, eschew the formalities and be your authentic self. Don’t be afraid to share more personal details with your audience. They understand more than ever the importance of sales for small businesses and individual entrepreneurs, and being a bit more open with your story online can translate into loyal customers who believe in you not just because of your products, but because of the care behind them.
2. Share your creative resources
For those whose skill sets lie in creative fields, then you may have already been on Instagram or any similarly visual-heavy social media platform. You can leverage your digital know-how and create services that will allow you to partner with others trying to build their own presence online, too.
This can include:
- Selling photo editing and graphic design to individuals and brands for use on their social networks and websites. This is prevalent in the realm of influencer marketing communities on Instagram, wherein influencers and photographers create and share their signature photo editing presets for apps to assist others in emulating their desired aesthetics.
- Providing detailed tutorials and sharing snippets of them online. With the pandemic bringing everyone into their homes and urging them to try new hobbies or hone their skills, any knowledge you have in this department has the potential to greatly benefit others around you. Share some useful tips and tricks for your chosen hobby on your Instagram feed, and once you build enough interest, start adding links to a full package (or even a mentoring session) available for purchase. If the quality of your content is good enough, people will be buying – so present them in an easy-to-understand and appealing way.
3. Try out affiliate marketing
The sharp increase in eCommerce use amidst the coronavirus pandemic means affiliate marketing had the chance to take off in a big way—and it did. For the unfamiliar, affiliate marketing is when organizations or individuals partner with a specific eCommerce brand to receive a commission if they refer their own audience to purchase the brand’s items. Think of the codes you see some Instagram users provide when posting photos of sporting goods from their favored brands.
You can distinguish affiliate marketing from the more common sponsored posts you see on Instagram by the inclusion of certain discount codes or links in a post or bio. While sponsored posts may see brands provide products for an influencer to use or post about, affiliate marketing is more performance-based: affiliates get a commission based on the number of clicks or sales they get from referring users to the partner website.
Just be sure to find programs related to industries experiencing unexpected booms during the pandemic, to be on the safe side. These industries include gifts and occasions, home and garden, health and fitness, food and drink, and beauty brands. Note the seasons, too – surprisingly, despite overall cost-cutting measures to save money at home, consumers aren’t expecting to spend any less this year during special holiday events like Christmas and Black Friday, so timing your affiliate marketing promotions right becomes a factor as well.
4. Find freelance clients
The pandemic has accelerated the need for businesses to take measures and undergo digital transformation, lest they get left behind and stagnate from the lack of revenue brought by decreased foot traffic and tighter regulations. If you’re a digital marketer in need of extra support, this could be the perfect time to seek out freelance clients to support any other income you might be earning.
You can easily use Instagram to build your online portfolio (or direct traffic to an existing one, if you already have a website or blog). This means putting the services you want to sell to others into practice and optimizing your Instagram profile to support it.
Here are some tips for solidifying your Instagram marketing:
- Use relevant keywords in your Instagram bio to assist search engines. Add a touch of whimsy and customization as well by using different fonts, adding special characters, or even inserting some emojis to direct the eye to key information.
- Write engaging Instagram captions aimed directly at reeling in your target demographic – appeal to emotion, use call-to-action phrases in each post, format them well (and keep them on the lengthy side), and remember to include hashtags for 12.6% more engagement than posts without them.
- Share social proof with user-generated content, especially positive client testimonials. Do you have any happy customers willing to share their feedback? Make special feature posts detailing the specific services they availed, how you’ve helped them, and how they’ve been able to support you in return with the work they offered.
Instagram has the potential to be an effective source of income for anyone seeking new opportunities this year. The catch? Now that everyone else is online – buying online, communicating online, and working online – so are your competitors, equally vying for customers’ attention and finding their own stride with monetizing their Instagram presence.
That’s why brand-building should be a core aspect to consider, regardless of whichever path you choose to make money on Instagram. Take the time to brainstorm and plan out even the most basic foundations of your online brand – the visuals – since that’s precisely what Instagram excels at showcasing. Photo editing and graphic design tools like Canva, Instasize, and more are free to download and user-friendly, created by experts who know what works visually and what doesn’t.
Ultimately, keeping your health and safety a priority by limiting movement as the world slowly transitions into a post-pandemic state doesn’t need to come at the expense of losing all the ways you can make a living. Keep your eyes out, get creative with all the tools available to you, and come out even stronger for it.