What does it take to make a business out of an Instagram account? The entrepreneurs behind three successful accounts dished to CNBC about their top tips for becoming an Insta-boss.
For Ali Maffucci, it all started when her mom "spiralized" zucchini into spaghetti using a machine that turns vegetables into noodles. Two months later, she quit her job and started Inspiralized, an online and social media blog.
"One hundred percent, Instagram has been my biggest platform of all social media accounts," Maffucci said. She sees the most follower engagement and opportunity for sponsorship on the platform.
Sponsors pay the self-taught cook, author and product developer $1,000 to $40,000 per campaign, which can vary in number of posts on Instagram and her blog. Restaurant chain Houlihan's also recently featured Maffucci's recipes under a licensing agreement and collaboration.
When Maffucci didn't see people talking about spiralizing, she tapped into a community of healthy bloggers on Instagram to make it a topic of conversation. Success doesn't exist in a vacuum. Start following and commenting on people who blog about similar things, Maffucci recommended.
Today, Inspiralized has more than 130,000 followers on Instagram and 2 million blog subscribers.
"If you're interested in fashion, for example, find style-related hashtags and be genuine in your comments on them. Say 'Cute shoes' or ask, 'Where did you get that?'" Maffucci said.
Start your own hashtag, the blogger suggested. And if you have a product you're marketing, create an account exclusively for it since links in Instagram posts and comments don't hyperlink.
"People can click on the account name and see it instantly. They know exactly what it is. It really helps you grow that presence tremendously," she said.
This may seem obvious, but social media stars can't stress it enough — only post high-quality photos.
"Great photography — it's really powerful," said blogger Erica Domesek.
Domesek started a crafts business seven years ago making custom necklaces for her friends. Fast forward to today, and her crafting site and Instagram account "P.S.–I made this..." has become her full-time job.
So what's behind a good photo? If you're using a smartphone, start by using the grid setting on your phone's camera, turn on the "auto HDR" feature and use natural, outdoor lighting when possible.
If you have a post or image you think a specific brand name or big social media influencer will like or share, tag it with the user name. To avoid annoying anyone, do this sparingly.
"You can tag brands, magazines or other influencers who have a lot of followers. It can be like a knock-knock on their door," Domesek said.
Across the pond, blogger Julie Falconer stressed the importance of honing in on a niche. She worked in banking and finance for several years before she quit her job in 2007 and moved to the U.K. She started blogging about her travel adventures in London. Now, it supports her life living there.
More than 93,000 people follow her Instagram account, "A Lady in London." Falconer runs a related travel planning business, has an e-book on social media strategies, teaches branding and social media monetization courses. Here are her tips:
"I think it's really important to know what your niche or unique selling point is on Instagram and really go with that, whether you're going to choose a geo location or theme to specialize in," Falconer said.
Then once you have your niche area of focus, communicate that in every photo you post to Instagram.
"It gives people a way to remember your account," she said.
Just because something looks pretty, doesn't mean you should post it. It's important to stay on brand, or only produce content that's related to what your style and blogging subject.
"You have to be careful no matter what it is to stay on brand," Falconer said. "I only work with partners that are on brand."
Close out of Instagram, put down the phone and go outside to meet people. Those are great opportunities to network, get feedback on your account and even just have fun.
"Get involved in the offline community by going to meet ups and events organized around Instagram," she said.
Correction: The story corrected the number of Inspiralized's Instagram followers.