How Instagram’s Affiliate Marketing Beta Test Works For Influencers

  • Instagram has announced that it will start testing an affiliate marketing tool this summer.
  • The test now has around 100 registered designers and 30 brands.
  • Insider spoke to four creators about how the feature works and how much they earn.
  • See more stories on the Insider business page.

For influencers like Bethany Everett-Ratcliffe – a New England-based fashion influencer with 16,000 Instagram followers – affiliate marketing is what helps keep the lights on when the brand’s offerings aren’t flowing.

She uses affiliate marketing platforms like ShopStyle Collective or LTK to generate affiliate links and share them in her Instagram stories, bio or blog posts.

But over the past three months, she’s found a lucrative new affiliate marketing platform: Instagram itself.

Everett-Ratcliffe is part of Instagram’s recent beta test for the native affiliate program that the platform unveiled in early summer. The feature allows creators to earn a commission on the products they associate using Instagram’s shopping features and is one of the many lucrative new tools that Instagram has unveiled.

While Everett-Ratcliffe earns around $ 100 per month from affiliates using ShopStyle, she earns more directly through Instagram since joining the test, she said.

The test, which began in June, started small with a group of around 10 to 12 influencers, according to two creators of the test (including Everett-Ratcliffe) and five beauty brands: Benefit Cosmetics, Kopari Beauty, MAC Cosmetics, Pat McGrath. , and Zipporah.

Over the summer, more influencers were added to the program and started sharing posts and stories in the feed with a “Commission Eligible” banner at the top.

Instagram is testing an affiliate marketing tool for creators.

Instagram unveiled its native affiliate tools at its very first “Creator Week” event in June.


Today, Instagram has about 30 brands and at least 100 influencers in the beta test, according to industry insiders Insider spoke to. Brands and retailers range from fashion giant Revolve to beauty brand founded by influencer Elaluz; while influencers range from micro-influencers like Everett-Ratcliffe to macro-influencers like Quigley Goode (335,000 subscribers).

Instagram also plans to expand its test to around 1,000 creators by the end of 2021, according to Becca Bahrke, CEO of talent management firm Illuminate Social.

“It’s a small test that we’re actively scaling up,” said an Instagram spokesperson. “Our long-term goal is to make this tool available to creators around the world.”

An overview of the beginnings of Instagram’s affiliate program

How does an influencer enter the Instagram beta test?

Well, it depends on Instagram, but it helps if you have a talent management business – or if you know someone on Instagram.

For example, management companies like Illuminate Social and Estate Five have helped some of their clients integrate the Instagram test. And Everett-Ratcliffe said she was selected as the first contestant after one of her ShopStyle Collective connections took to Instagram.

But Tanya Zielke, an influencer with 80,000 followers (and over 685,000 on TikTok), said she had no connection to Instagram or management when she joined the test in June.

The platform is also focusing on micro-creators and emerging creators like Zielke and Everett-Ratcliffe for this test, multiple sources said.

Here’s a breakdown of how current affiliate tools work:

  • Instagram Stories: Influencers can add product tags to a Story by clicking on the “shopping” sticker. A brands feed will appear, listing the brand’s account ID, the number of products available to tag, and its commission rate. Then an influencer can search and choose products from a brand’s Instagram catalog.
  • Posts in the thread: These work the same as Story items, but creators can tag multiple products at a time from different brands.

These tools are similar to Instagram’s shopping and branded content tools that allow creators to label branded products (but without earning a commission).

Influencer Quigley Goode takes a selfie for her Instagram and tags the products.

Quigley Goode explained to his followers how affiliates work on Instagram in his first eligible post.

Screenshot / Instagram / @ officiallyquigley

Influencers can see how many “sticker hits” they receive on a Story post. But posts in the feed have more solid analytics, such as the number of clicks on a product sticker, items purchased, and how much the influencer is expected to earn from that post.

How much money do creators make?

Like most other affiliate marketing networks, brands set their own commission rates “based on their own marketing strategies,” Instagram said. Typical industry rates are between 1% and 20%.

How much an influencer can earn largely depends on the commission that brand is willing to give.

Influencers can see a brand’s commission rate when they scroll through brands available to tag on Instagram. When they search each brand’s catalog, they can also see the estimated revenue per sale for individual items.

Here are some brands influencers can tag on Instagram and what percentage they’ve paid recently, according to documentation seen by Insider:

  • Abercrombie & Fitch: 15% commission
  • Athlete: 12%
  • Elaluz: 20%
  • Former Navy: 10%
  • Outdoor voice: 15%
  • Zipporah: 15%
  • Yes: 17%

How often an influencer uses the affiliate feature and how relevant the products are to their audience also determines how much money creators can make.

And the gains have varied.

For example, Everett-Ratcliffe has been actively using Instagram Affiliates on her Stories and posts since June, and so far she has earned over $ 500 through Instagram’s Affiliate Program.

Influencers using Instagram's affiliate tools in Stories.

Influencers can tag products in Stories using stickers. From left to right: Lindsay Silberman, Tanya Zielke and Melissa Frusco.

Screenshots / Instagram

Zielke earned around $ 58 from a post in the wire scoring a pair of Abercrombie & Fitch jeans, according to his Instagram information.

But Quigley Goode only made $ 16 with a post-branded beauty product in the stream (after four weeks), she told Insider.

“There’s still a long way to go,” said Goode.

Melissa Frusco, an influencer with 38,000 Instagram followers (and over 250,000 on TikTok), told Insider that she only made a few dollars with her first post to the feed.

Outside of Stories, influencers cannot use the affiliate feature on Instagram’s video features. In the meantime, creators like Frusco and lifestyle blogger Lindsay Silberman (182,000 subscribers) are waiting for the day when Instagram will extend its tools to Reels and IGTV. (Instagram said it plans to do so.)

“Video is what sells things,” Silberman said.

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