Social Media Marketing
XX min read

Building a Brand: How Instagram Models Monetize Their Influence

Published on
December 8, 2023
Discover how Instagram models are transforming their online presence into lucrative careers and shaping the influencer landscape. Get details here.

Undoubtedly, social media platforms wield unparalleled influence over public perception and consumer behavior. Instagram, with its two billion active users, has become an avenue for brands and influencers to collaborate because of its high engagement rate. This metric has caused a tremendous shift in various sectors, including the modeling industry. 

The modeling industry has transformed as profoundly as the jump from black-and-white print to the glossy pages of Vogue. This evolution has created a new breed of icons, the Instagram models. They navigate the realms of high fashion and digital influence with equal finesse. 

Traditional models get to stardom through agency castings and grueling walk-ins. These social media savants, on the other hand, have turned the visual-centric platform of Instagram into a launchpad for their careers. They attract followers by posting curated images and videos that showcase their style, beauty, and lives in vibrant detail.

The allure of independence and the potential for direct monetization has driven the transition from conventional to digital. Leveraging Instagram's expansive user base, models can engage with a global audience, bypassing traditional gatekeepers of the industry. 

This shift has given them control over their brand and the narrative they wish to present. Monetization strategies are varied, from partnering with brands for sponsored content to launching personal product lines and venturing into other media forms.

Thousands have made their mark, with many more aspiring to do so. The key differentiator for these digital influencers is their ability to cultivate a following independently. They have mastered social media influencer platforms to launch their careers. They have mastered connecting with their audience on a personal level. Often, this is what sets them apart from agency-discovered fashion models of before. 

Key Takeaways

  • Instagram models find success by carving out a unique niche that sets them apart from others. 
  • Brands prefer working with Instagram models with high engagement rates rather than just a high follower count.
  • Followers and brands prefer influencers who stay true to themselves and their message, which builds trust and a more loyal following.
  • Successful Instagram models don't rely on a single income source. They diversify their revenue through brand collaborations, media appearances, and acting gigs.
  • The digital landscape constantly changes, and Instagram models must stay adaptable.

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The Appeal of Collaborating With Instagram Models for Brands

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Today, brands are keenly aware of the unique value Instagram models bring to marketing. These influencers come with a ready-made, engaged audience, often within a specific demographic that brands are eager to target. This presents a golden opportunity to advertise products in a personal, direct, and authentic way. It starkly contrasts traditional advertising's often broad and impersonal approach.

The content creation skills of IG models are a significant draw for brands. These models have an innate understanding of what resonates with their audience. Some even know how the IG algorithm works, which allows them to create genuine and appealing promotional content. Others even know the best time to post to generate more engagement. 

Instagram models offer higher visibility and interaction than celebrity endorsements or corporate accounts. Often, these advantages come at a fraction of the cost of conventional advertising routes.

Their influence as trendsetters is another powerful asset. When an Instagram model features a product, it doesn't just reach an audience—it resonates with them. Their posts entice people to have the item. Thus, the return on investment for brands partnering with Instagram influencers can be substantial in sales and brand recognition.

Establishing a Brand Identity on Instagram

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How can one build their brand online to become an Instagram model? Here are some of the things you should keep in mind:

Curate a signature Instagram account

The journey of an IG model is about transforming their account into a vibrant and cohesive representation of their brand. Their accounts should be more than a series of photos. It should be a thoughtfully curated portfolio where each image is a chapter in a larger story. 

Seeing a fashion model's Instagram have a meticulously crafted aesthetic is no longer surprising. Each photoshoot contributes to a narrative that extends beyond the fabric of the clothes they model. It doesn't matter if it's for high-fashion gowns or vibrant swimwear collections.

The chosen aesthetic and voice are the linchpins that differentiate a successful model from the swathes of talent online. These elements are crucial, especially when transitioning from showcasing daily routines to presenting at a prestigious fashion show. Models must seamlessly adapt their content, whether posting from the sunny beaches of Australia or the bustling streets of Los Angeles.

Define your influencer brand

An influencer's clout is multifaceted, extending far beyond physical attractiveness. It's rooted in authenticity and the ability to establish a genuine connection with the models' audience. Instagram models who transition into influential personal brands do so by sharing their journeys, challenges, and triumphs. They become relatable personas, not just faces on a screen.

This relatability is their currency in a marketplace that values trust above all. When an influencer recommends products, their followers view it through a lens of trust, like a recommendation from a friend. 

Becoming an effective IG model means having well-defined influencer branding that remains authentic and consistent.  

The goal is to present something that followers, even non-followers, can identify and associate with your brand. 

Leverage followers into a personal brand

Engagement is the heartbeat of a personal brand on Instagram. An Instagram model's follower count is only a vanity metric, impressive at first glance but not necessarily indicative of influence. 

The quality of interactions—comments, shares, saves—speaks volumes about the influencer's true reach.

Brands often prioritize influencers with a high engagement rate because it signifies a loyal and active audience. The real magic happens when followers are passive spectators and active participants in the influencer's narrative. For this reason, as much as 39 percent of brands have a strong preference for working with nano-influencers.

These smaller creators garner a 1.70 to 4.84 percent engagement rate compared to celebrities or mega-influencers.

Image taken from Influencer Marketing Hub 

Building a brand, therefore, involves nurturing these relationships through regular interaction, acknowledging comments, and creating community-driven content.

Do strategic content creation

A harmonious blend of aspirational and relatable content is the hallmark of a well-strategized Instagram presence. Polished photoshoots displaying the model's professional work are balanced with snapshots of everyday life, allowing followers a peek behind the curtain. This mix helps humanize the model and establish them as more than a mannequin for brands—but as a nuanced individual.

Diversity in content is vital. Videos play a crucial role here, offering dynamic content that can often capture attention in ways static images cannot. Quick reels can significantly enhance engagement rates, especially when they tap into global trends that transcend cultural boundaries.

Videos are highly engaging and can bring about 18 percent more comments and over a thousand likes per post on average. 

For models and brands alike, it's about telling a captivating story that provides value to the viewer. Whether through fashion tips, lifestyle hacks, or simply entertainment, each post should add a piece to the puzzle about the influencer. 

Strategic content creation is also about getting your posts out there. Adding 5.44 hashtags can contribute to this discoverability. It pays to research the trending hashtags related to one's post to get the most engagement possible. This will allow you to make targeted content more effectively to deliver results. 

The Business of Influence: Monetization Strategies for IG Models

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Instagram models have mastered the art of turning followers into fortunes. The platform, which started as a simple photo-sharing app, has become a bustling marketplace. Here's how IG models make money from their influence:

Partnering with fashion brands

As mentioned, IG models curate their posts to generate likes and comments. Through higher engagement, they can monetize their presence through partnerships with brands.

Sponsored content forms the backbone of these partnerships, with models showcasing brands' products or services in their posts or stories. Payments for such sponsored content are variable, hinging on factors like the model's follower count and engagement rates.

Beyond one-off posts, models often engage in affiliate marketing. They can share products with their followers using specialized links and earn a commission on sales made through those links. These relationships can evolve into brand ambassadorships, where models are contracted for long-term collaborations. 

Exploring the path to brand ambassadorship

Instagram models with significant following and who have established a distinct personal brand often have varied opportunities. They can collaborate with brands on a more exclusive level, for example. These collaborations are more involved than just posting a sponsored post. They're partnerships where the model and the brand work closely together to create something unique.

These models are also valuable at brand events. Their attendance at a store opening, product launch, or promotional event as a brand ambassador can attract people and generate buzz. Their presence can also add a sense of prestige or desirability to the brand or product promoted. They might document their experience at the event on their Instagram, sharing it with their followers, which amplifies the event's reach even further.

This approach to partnerships allows models to leverage their personal brand not just to earn money but also to potentially build their own brand and business ventures in collaboration with established brands. It's a chance for the brands to tap into the model's audience. Effective marketing makes it easy to generate sales through a figure that the audience admires and trusts.

Developing merchandise

Instagram models that have gained a considerable following also explore their merch line to sell to their audience. They use their platform to launch personal product lines. 

From skincare regimes to lingerie collections, these ventures allow models to move beyond brand partnerships to owning and selling their products.

Instagram models like Huda Kattan have expanded as a blogger and subsequently launched beauty lines. Another example is Kayla Itsines, an Australian fitness model. She turned her Instagram fame into a business empire with her fitness app, "Sweat with Kayla." The fitness guru even graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. 

Exploring collaborations

Cross-promotion among influencers is a savvy business strategy within the Instagram ecosystem. Through collaborations, IG models tap into each other's audiences, effectively gaining exposure to potential followers with an interest in similar content. This type of partnership is mutually beneficial as it leads to increased engagement, shared audiences, and, often, a more diverse demographic.

Furthermore, Instagram models can broaden their appeal by aligning with influencers in different but related niches. They can showcase versatility to brands looking for a wider range of promotional opportunities. 

This collaborative effort is not just about expanding visibility. It adds a layer of social proof to their personal brand. People view endorsements from fellow influencers as powerful testimonials to their influence and reach.

Securing special features and guest appearances

Some Instagram models have reached a level of popularity to capture the attention of big brands. Their popularity allows them to secure magazine covers and guest appearances in red carpet events.

Such achievements validate an influencer's impact within the industry. It also solidifies their brand in the more traditional aspects of the fashion and entertainment world. These offline accolades reinforce the model's marketability and credibility. They often open doors to high-end fashion collaborations and partnerships with luxury brands. 

For followers, seeing Instagram personalities gain validation bridges the gap between the online community and the broader world of celebrity culture. Moreover, these opportunities often come with extensive media coverage, further amplifying the model's presence and influence across multiple platforms.

Expanding beyond Instagram

The social media industry is highly dynamic. Couple it with changing consumer preferences; IG models understand they should look at avenues other than Instagram. This is why it's common to see some Instagram celebrities launch their own YouTube channels or explore TikTok marketing. 

Some also attend high-profile events such as the Fashion Week to have a more balanced career trajectory. Eagerness to diversify presence across various forms of media boosts their brand's resilience.

Facing the Challenges: Controversies and Brand Consistency

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Instagram has transformed the modeling landscape, catapulting faces to fame with a scroll, double-tap, and follow. Models on this visual platform enjoy the limelight, gaining public attention that can transition into high-profile careers and collaborations. However, this spotlight places them under public scrutiny, where every post can be a pivot point for controversy.

Being in the public eye means that Instagram models constantly navigate the choppy waters of public opinion. A study exploring social media's influence on personal identity and society suggests that the digital space is a double-edged sword. It can be a platform for self-expression and a potential avenue for critique. 

A single misstep can immediately escalate into a controversy, pulling their personal lives into the conversation and challenging their brand consistency.

Controversies, ranging from issues of body positivity to personal choices, often court polarized responses. For Instagram models, controversies are not just personal battles but are public trials by fire that test brand resilience.

Measuring Success and Scaling Up

Success is about amassing a following, scaling up, and broadening one's horizon. The next steps for models who have carved out a niche on this platform involve strategic growth and diversification. Here's how they can do it with success:

Track growth

For Instagram models, the essence of growth can be quantified by tracking growth in followers and engagement rates. An uptick in Instagram followers is the most visible metric of popularity and reach. However, the engagement rates unravel the story behind the numbers. 

Are followers interacting, commenting, and sharing content? High engagement rates indicate a model's efficacy in resonating with and captivating the audience. This data can guide content strategies and refine brand positioning, ensuring that every post contributes to a trajectory of upward growth.

Reinvest success into new ventures

In the fashion industry, being a successful swimsuit or fashion model on Instagram is just one facet of a multi-dimensional career. The smartest move for models is to channel their success back into the ecosystem that propelled them to fame. 

This might mean launching a swimsuit line or collaborating with fashion houses, effectively diversifying their income streams. By reinvesting success into new ventures, models can cement their influence in the industry. They also have the opportunity to create a legacy beyond their online persona.

Maintain a continuous loop of influence

Climbing the ladder from social media influencer to supermodel is a dream for many Instagram models. Achieving icon status is the ultimate nod to a model's strategic branding efforts, business savvy, and influence. 

This transition is not serendipitous. It requires work by developing a continuous loop of influence where each success paves the way for the next, and brand evolution is constant. Models who understand this paradigm can leverage their online presence to build enduring careers. If the stars align, they may one day redefine what it means to be a supermodel in the digital age.

Hottest Instagram Models To Follow

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Let's take a closer look at some of the top Instagram models. They are not just faces of campaigns or magazine covers but are carving out impressive careers in various domains.

Kendall Jenner

Kendall Jenner epitomizes the fusion of high fashion and popular culture. As part of the Kardashian-Jenner dynasty, her Instagram presence highlights one can leverage familial fame and create a personal brand powerhouse. Her feed is a canvas displaying a rich tableau—from luxe fashion shoots to candid snapshots with her famous family. She provides a lens through her life in Los Angeles and beyond.

Her strategic partnerships with luxury brands, coupled with candid posts, resonate with a broad audience spanning millions. It's no wonder she's one of the most influential figures on the platform. She has modeled for Calvin Klein and graced the cover of Elle magazine. 

Gigi Hadid

Gigi Hadid's Instagram is an honest scrapbook of her life as a model, mother, and cultural icon. It provides an intimate look at her evolution within the industry. She mastered the careful balance of sharing professional shoots with personal anecdotes and maternal moments that endear her to her followers. 

She showcases a transparent look at her work juxtaposed with the realities of her personal life. Such posts create a relatable and endearing persona transcending her professional accomplishments. She has walked for Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana. 

Emily Ratajkowski 

Emily Ratajkowski, or Emrata, has evolved from a model to a multifaceted entrepreneur. Her Instagram serves as her portfolio, featuring her prowess as a designer with a particular flair for swimwear. 

Based on her posts, her Instagram account serves as a digital space where she conveys her brand's ethos. Followers can see her journey within the competitive entrepreneurial landscape. They can see her entrepreneurial spirit and keen fashion sense.

Sommer Ray

Sommer Ray's Instagram acts as a digital gym where she shares her workout routines and motivational insights. 

Sommer Ray stands out as a beacon of inspiration in the realm of fitness and body positivity. Her Instagram is an energetic journal of her fitness routines. It's easy to see why she resonates with millions. She presents a genuine reflection of a lifestyle dedicated to well-being and positivity.

Bella Hadid

With Bella Hadid's Instagram, we are transported into a world of high-fashion editorial shoots and personal escapades. You will see her visits to cities renowned for fashion, such as Paris and New York. Her social media feed embodies the essence of a top-tier fashion model's life in motion.

She effectively toggles between high-fashion glamor and personal content, which keeps her followers intrigued and invested in her narrative.

Cara Delevingne

Cara Delevingne's Instagram showcases her versatility, from her quirky personal style to serious engagements in fashion. The British model offers a glimpse into the life of a model punctuated by her humor and candidness. Her feed breaks the mold of a traditional fashion influencer. 

Cara's bold and unapologetic personality shines through. She engages her audience with a mix of professional projects and personal endeavors, from activism to acting.

Hailey Bieber (née Baldwin)

Hailey Bieber's Instagram is a modern blend of high fashion and celebrity culture. She showcases her partnerships and personal style with a grace that is uniquely hers. Her curated content captures her work with world-renowned brands and her personal evolution as a model and individual. 

Her marriage to Justin Bieber adds a layer of celebrity allure. However, her professional work and chic aesthetic maintain her status as an Instagram fashion icon.

Karlie Kloss

Karlie Kloss uses her Instagram to highlight her dual career paths, melding fashion with her passion for technology and education. Her posts feature high-end fashion campaigns as they are to spotlight her initiatives to empower young women in tech. She offers an inspiring look at how she uses her platform for a positive impact. 

Karlie's feed reflects a multifaceted modern woman who values her career and commitment to social causes.

Candice Swanepoel

Candice Swanepoel's Instagram feed is a blend of ethereal beauty and entrepreneurial spirit, chronicling her journey from model to business owner. Her South African heritage and work with Victoria's Secret lend her a global appeal. With her posts, one can see how she skillfully translates this into her own swimwear brand. 

Her posts often showcase the behind-the-scenes of her business ventures. In a way, it provides a blueprint of a model turning her industry experience into a standalone brand.

Irina Shayk 

Irina Shayk's Instagram is an elegant showcase of her Russian roots and international acclaim. She is a popular face on the catwalks of Milan and the billboards of New York. Her sophisticated aesthetic is interspersed with moments of personal triumphs and professional milestones, reflecting her status as a global fashion ambassador. 

Irina's feed is a polished visual narrative of her life as a top model, marked by her collaborations with the most prestigious fashion houses in the world.

Natasha Oakley

Natasha Oakley's Instagram exudes the warmth of Australian shores and the chicness of global fashion trends. Her feed is a vibrant mix of professional shoots and snapshots of coastal living. That's how she effectively markets her swimwear line while promoting a lifestyle of health, happiness, and sun-soaked adventure. 

Natasha's content highlights her entrepreneurial spirit and embodies the aspirational qualities of her brand and personal ethos.

Liu Wen

As one of the most recognized faces in the fashion industry, Liu Wen's Instagram is a harmonious blend of East meets West. Her posts reflect her international career and Chinese heritage. Her participation in global fashion weeks and campaigns for luxury brands is chronicled alongside cultural insights. Her posts offer a perspective that bridges diverse fashion worlds. 

But what makes Liu's presence on the platform notable is how she extends the narrative of Asian models in mainstream fashion.

Josephine Skriver

Josephine Skriver's Instagram captures the essence of a Victoria's Secret Angel, portraying an alluring mix of glamour and authenticity. Her feed is a behind-the-scenes pass to the life of a high-fashion model, featuring runway shows, exotic locations, and life events.

Josephine's ability to convey a down-to-earth personality. She does so amidst the glitz of the modeling world. It's how she engenders a loyal following that looks to her for both fashion inspiration and personal connection.

Ashley Graham

Ashley Graham's Instagram is a testament to inclusivity, challenging conventional beauty standards, and advocating for diversity in the fashion industry. Her posts are a mix of bold fashion statements, empowering messages, and milestones showcasing her as a trailblazer for body positivity. 

Ashley's engaging content celebrates her achievements and serves as a platform for social change, inspiring her followers to embrace their individuality.

Cindy Kimberly

Cindy Kimberly's Instagram is a visual diary that charts her meteoric rise from a social media sensation to a professional model. Her European flair is evident in her posts, which blend high-fashion editorial content with personal snapshots of her travels and experiences. Her ability to connect with her audience through a shared love of aesthetics and storytelling has made her an Instagram favorite.

Portraits of Kimberly often feature dramatic makeup looks and a variety of fashion styles, ranging from casual chic to avant-garde elegance. This suggests a versatility and a willingness to experiment with her appearance, which resonates with her followers. 

Her aesthetic is polished and refined, often punctuated with a moody or evocative undertone. For those with an eye for fashion and personality, these capture certain vulnerability or introspection amidst the glitz and glamor.

Miranda Kerr

Miranda Kerr's Instagram is a dynamic mix of professionalism and personal branding. Her posts provide insight into how a model can expand her repertoire beyond the runway. Her entrepreneurial spirit is evident in how she markets her skincare line. 

The Australian model often intertwines it with her modeling work to create a comprehensive personal brand. Her engagement with her followers is purposeful and personal, resulting in a visually appealing and inspiring feed.

Did you know?
Emily Ratajkowski is among those who parlayed her fame as an Instagram model into a career in acting and entrepreneurship. What began as posting images on social media led to her appearance in the MV for Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines." She has since appeared in major films and launched her swimwear line, Inamorata.

Leverage Instagram for Your Modeling Career

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Successful Instagram models don't rely on a single income source. They diversify their revenue through brand collaborations, sponsored content, affiliate marketing, product lines, and sometimes even media appearances and acting gigs.

They know they have to be adaptable to maintain their success. They must update their strategies with changing algorithms, trends, and platform features to continue growing their brand and income.

It's clear that Instagram models are much more than mere purveyors of trends. These savvy entrepreneurs have successfully harnessed the power of social media. They have the power to dictate fashion trends and reshape marketing strategies across the industry. Their influence extends beyond the confines of their Instagram accounts, spilling into the broader realms of fashion and business. 

Instagram models will continue to redefine what it means to be a model in the digital age. Their impact is a testament to the evolving intersection of technology, personal branding, and the ever-changing fashion landscape. 

Keep an eye on these innovators. They are the forerunners in a movement continually setting new benchmarks for success and creativity in the modern world.

Is your brand ready to tap into the Instagram modeling phenomenon? Find out how Archive can help you harness the power of digital influence for your marketing needs.

FAQs on Instagram Models

Do Instagram models have agents?

Instagram models often work with agents or agencies to maximize their opportunities in the world of social media marketing and modeling. These agents liaise between the models and brands seeking to promote their products or services. A prominent example is the burgeoning sector of influencer marketing agencies, which specialize in connecting social media personalities with commercial partners.

Many Instagram models start independently but may eventually sign with agencies as their popularity grows. This supports them in negotiating contracts, managing schedules, and securing partnerships.

How much do Instagram models earn per post?

The earnings of Instagram models per post can vary widely. They depend on their following, engagement rate, niche, and the types of partnerships they secure. Instagram models can earn a few hundred to several thousand dollars per post. 

What do brands look for in Instagram models?

Brands typically look for certain attributes when partnering with Instagram models. These attributes include a sizable and engaged following, high-quality, consistent content, or a unique style or niche. They also consider the model's ability to connect and resonate with their audience.

Furthermore, brands are keen on metrics like engagement rates, likes, comments, and shares. These indicate how actively the audience is involved with the content. The authenticity of the model's following—meaning real users as opposed to bots or inactive accounts—is also critical for brands.

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