Most of you have heard of Instagram by now. Many of you are using it for fun or for business. How many of you are earning revenue from it? Learn how one association is boosting their non-dues revenue through Instagram.
A Short Revenue Review
At the most basic level, some people earn extra cash through Instagram by posting photos of items for sale (clothing, jewelry and crafts are popular items found through the #Instasale or #ShopMyCloset hashtags). Instagram doesn’t offer “native” payment capabilities, so to complete the transaction, sellers either direct interested buyers to their commercial websites or instruct them to leave their emails in a comment on photos of items they want. That way sellers can bill them through online payment systems, such as PayPal.
Some companies and individuals use LIKEtoKNOW.it, an Instagram account/app that helps sellers close the purchase loop on Instagram. When an interested buyer likes an Instagram photo uploaded through LiketoKNOW.it and tagged with #liketkit, the app sends that user an email with purchase details.
Others have made a career out of Instagramming by partnering with companies or tourism boards to post sponsored pictures related to the company’s offerings or event. These new-age ad photographers can command $1 per “Like” or more, on top of separate fees or having their trip expenses covered if the company sends them to a certain location to take the photos.
One photographer in New York City made $15,000 in one day when he decided, on a whim, to offer 4×6 prints of any of his Instagram photos for $150 each.
Finally, Netflix made Instagramming a full-time job for three amateur photographers. The subscription company sponsored a two-week jaunt across the United States for three “Grammasters” who photographed iconic film and television locations. Netflix paid each Grammaster $2,000 per week plus travel expenses in return for using their photos in its #FilmedHere ad campaign.
AWWA Promotes Annual Conference Through Instagram
The American Water Works Association (AWWA) wanted to use video and social media to promote attendance at, and increase revenue from, its 2015 Annual Conference & Expo (ACE15). According to AWWA Communications Specialist Amber Wilson, the ACE video team brainstormed and developed story lines for ACE15 pitch videos that would effectively communicate AWWA’s target messages for the event.
“The team met over several weeks and brainstormed a variety of video ideas—some outrageous and others achievable,” Wilson said. “The goal was to get our members to start thinking about our Annual Conference & Exposition held in California and gain approval to attend. For the ACE pitch videos, we solicited AWWA staff members to play the characters. The focus was giving our members an idea of what to say to their own bosses when pitching the idea of attending ACE.”
Because Instagram is a social platform that AWWA uses to focus on “behind the scenes” life at AWWA, and also because many AWWA members follow the association on Instagram, that platform was an obvious choice to post preview clips of the final videos. Because Instagram only allows for 15 second clips, the AWWA video team cut two versions of each video: a short teaser for Instagram accompanied by captions that asked followers to check out the full version on the AWWA YouTube channel.
Instagram served as a springboard for building interest in AWWA’s wider ACE campaign and for attending the event. As AWWA’s largest event of the year, increasing interest through Instagram meant potentially boosting the non-dues revenue the association relies on year-round.
Promoting Membership Through Instagram
Based on the success of the ACE video clips at engaging fee-paying attendees, AWWA began exploring the possibility of a St. Patrick’s Day-themed social media-only membership campaign. The planned posts would feature a dues discount and a giveaway.
“We snapped a handful of pictures of green beer and pushed the offer out on our major platforms throughout the week,” Wilson recounted. “The Instagram post on 3/17 fetched 31 likes and the campaign pulled in four new members from all social media platforms—great results for a weeklong social media-only offer.”
Why green beer? AWWA promotes the responsible management of water across the U.S., so no water equals no beer—a message the social media team knew would especially resonate among water management professionals.
Your Turn to Post and Earn
You don’t have to have a degree in photography or a big promotion budget to boost non-dues revenue through Instagram. Start by reviewing your inventory: What fee-based items could you promote? Some ideas:
- Promote events. Offer a discount on registrations that is only available through Instagram. Showcase event speakers. Show photos of the venue. These snippets of information might entice members (or non-members) to attend, or to register early, and give you a jump start on estimating attendance numbers.
- Promote sponsorships. Instagram’s visual platform can help you perfectly illustrate how visible sponsors could be at your next luncheon or conference, or in association materials.
- Sell materials. You can’t sell materials such as educational items, a picture of the latest class of certified professionals, or that shiny membership insignia solely through Insta, but you can post a photo of what’s up for sale and provide a link to PayPal, AffiniPay, your website or another preferred online transaction system where people can complete the transaction. Sometimes a picture sells better than words can.
- Post graphics/photos from your online publications. Direct more readers to those publications, which boosts ad impressions, which makes your online publication a more attractive option for advertisers.
There are many options for associations that want to earn non-dues revenue through Instagram. Start by taking an inventory of your assets. Experiment with an idea or two. Capitalize on what works well. You’ll be building on your revenue, not just your photo gallery, in no time.