Seventy million images are posted on Instagram each day, but only a few are in the top tier attracting brands. Harpers Bazaar notes that product placement in blogger photos on Instagram is becoming much more prevalent, with Instagrammers now earning tens of thousands of dollars and making a living from the visual social network.
Danielle Bernstein, the 22-year-old fashionista behind We Wore What blog, earns between $5,000 and $15,000 per Instagram photo featuring the product—and that was before she had one million followers. Having passed that milestone last week, she can charge much more to brands such as Lancome, a recent sponsor that she disclosed with the hashtag #ad.
“There’s a rapidly developing economy on Instagram,” as Thomas Rankin, co-founder and CEO of Dash Hudson—a program that lets you make your Instagram posts shoppable—to Harper’s Bazaar.
Of course, it’s a small group of social media influencers who are making any money, let alone big money, from their creative output. And most Instagram users wouldn’t want to take money for their shots. That said, Bernstein says Instagram bloggers with six million or more followers can charge up to $100,000 for a single shot. At that rate, no wonder brands are spending more than $1 billion annually for sponsored Instagram posts in a new media spin on an old practice: affiliate marketing.
Take Kat Tanita, whose photos now “generate almost half her annual income,” according to the Wall Street Journal. As she states on her website, With Love From Kat, she is “part of several affiliate advertising programs. This means that if you click and/or make a purchase through certain links on this site or any related social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram), I may make a commission from that click and/or purchase.”
“Certain links” refers to the dozen or so links she places at the bottom of each post that whisk readers to retail sites selling the products she is wearing, as well as similar-looking items often at lower prices.
As WSJ notes, “Commission-generating links are the nuts and bolts of affiliate marketing, a mechanism that is one of the most common, least visible ways the Internet funnels blog readers onto retail sites. A $40 trench coat Ms. Tanita linked to last fall sold out, she says, and hundreds of people bought a romper she posted.”
Unlike Bernstein, she declined to disclose how much money she earns from her sponsored posts but says it is enough to support herself. “I couldn’t imagine four years ago that I could be making a living off of outfits that I’m wearing,” she told WSJ. “It’s kind of crazy.”
Crazy is a term that some Instagram bloggers are using after finding their photos appropriated (i.e. ripped off) by American artist Richard Prince. Long working on the edges of copyright law by using others’ images such as the Marlboro Man and other advertising images under what he calls “mediating” or fair use, he features Instagram photos in his “New Portraits” exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery, which opened last fall but resurfaced at the recent Frieze art fair in New York.
Prince adds his comment to the images, takes a screenshot and then sells the print for as much as $100,000. The Instagrammers who work he’s appropriating fare none too pleased. According to Business Insider, one of them, named DoeDeere, posted on Instagram about her image in his show, above:
“Yes, my portrait is currently displayed at the Frieze Gallery in NYC. Yes, it’s just a screenshot (not a painting) of my original post. No, I did not give my permission and yes, the controversial artist Richard Prince put it up anyway. It’s already sold ($90K I’ve been told) during the VIP preview. No, I’m not gonna go after him. And nope, I have no idea who ended up with it!”
A comment posted on Danielle Bernstein’s Instagram account after hitting one million followers on Thursday is telling. After she posted inflatable balloons spelling out “YAY” and thanking her followers, a small comment indicated the risk she runs be taking more sponsors’ money—and that her followers want authentic, not paid, creative. As Stephy Hun responded, “I like that not all your outfits are necessarily $$$$$ and big-time brands.”