How to Run an Affiliate Program on Instagram

Thinking about starting an affiliate marketing program for your business on Instagram?It’s a smart move! With over 1 billion active users on Instagram, running an affiliate program and partnering with influencers could help you reach a huge and highly profitable audience.In this blog post, we’re explaining what affiliate marketing is, how to get started as…

Thinking about starting an affiliate marketing program for your business on Instagram?

It’s a smart move! With over 1 billion active users on Instagram, running an affiliate program and partnering with influencers could help you reach a huge and highly profitable audience.

In this blog post, we’re explaining what affiliate marketing is, how to get started as brand or business, and how you can use an affiliate program to fast-track your growth and success!

Table of Contents:

  1. What is Affiliate Marketing?
  2. What Are the Benefits of Affiliate Marketing?
  3. How to Set Up an Affiliate Marketing Program on Instagram
  4. 4 Brands with Next-level Instagram Affiliate Programs

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a system that allows influencers to promote a brand’s products or services and earn a commission from the clicks or sales they generate.

It typically involves four main players: the brand, the affiliate network, influencers (also known as the affiliate marketer), and the customer.

You may have seen affiliate marketing appear in the form of unique discount codes, where an influencer shares a code, specific to them, that their followers can use to get discounts from brands.

However, influencers typically use unique, trackable links that are provided by an affiliate network. Thanks to these links, it is possible to track exactly how many clicks and sales are made as a result.

Affiliate links can be added anywhere on Instagram that allows links. Instagram Stories, IGTV descriptions, and Instagram’s link in bio are all affiliate link hotspots for influencers.

Affiliate link stories

Affiliate link stories


When a sale is made from an affiliate link, the influencer typically earns a set rate commission amount of the total sale value. This rate can vary depending on the individual brand, but typically ranges between 10%-20%.

Affiliate links can be shared on Facebook, YouTube video descriptions, TikTok, Twitter, and even on influencers’ websites — essentially anywhere on the web where a link can live.

But today we are honing in on Instagram affiliate marketing. Here’s why:

  1. All of the major affiliate networks or programs you would use to monetize social media are supported on Instagram (such as ShareASale, CJ Affiliate, Pepperjam, Rakuten, and AWIN).
  2. Instagram has both image and video features to showcase and sell products.
  3. Instagram is a free and effective platform for driving traffic and converting followers into customers.

What Are the Benefits of Affiliate Marketing?

There are tons of benefits that brands and businesses can gain from affiliate marketing on Instagram!

To start, affiliate marketing is a fast-track way to reach more potential customers. There are thousands, if not millions, of influencers you can partner with — each with their own niches, curated communities, and platforms!

In a nutshell, partnering with them through affiliate marketing will help you reach more people at a faster rate.

affiliate program example

affiliate program example

Think about it this way: if you ran a campaign only on your own social media, you would likely reach only your own followers. But by working with influencers to run your campaign on their social media, you benefit from all of their audiences combined.

Another major benefit of affiliate marketing is that it’s more organic.

When an Instagram user sees a product or service posted by a brand, it’s understood the brand is trying to sell something. When they see an influencer (or any content creator) vouch for a product, the recommendation is perceived as much more genuine and authentic.

In fact, 90% of shoppers are influenced to make a purchase by user-generated content. 

So, the brand being promoted sees increases in customer interest and brand loyalty, and the influencer earns a percentage of any sales they drive by sharing their honest recommendations. It’s a win win!

Looking for more inspiration to successfully monetize your Instagram account? Check out our recent blog post: How to Make Money on Instagram!

How to Set Up an Affiliate Marketing Program on Instagram 

If you’re new to the world of affiliate marketing, the good news is that it’s really easy to get started.

Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to help you get started: 

Step #1: Pick an Affiliate Network 

If you’re actively looking for affiliate marketers (i.e. influencers) to partner with for the first time, the easiest route to follow is to use an affiliate network!

Affiliate networks will give you services and benefits like tracking technology, reporting tools, payment processing, along with exposure to a base of influencers who already use affiliate links on their platforms.

Here are a few of the main affiliate networks to choose from:

  • ShareASale
  • CJ Affiliate
  • Pepperjam
  • Rakuten
  • AWIN 

The tracking technology bit is especially important, as affiliate networks provide trackable links that influencers can use to track clicks and sales.

View this post on Instagram

Ensure tracking for your affiliate Adwords campaign and strategy with our Parallel Tracking solution. Read more about how you can futureproof your affiliate promotional strategy with our 2-step instructional guide:

A post shared by ShareASale (@shareasale) on Sep 12, 2019 at 12:15pm PDT

Speaking of sales, affiliate networks can also help you figure out the amount of commission an influencer is due, and what type of commission structure works best.

There are two main types of commission models: pay per click and cost per acquisition.

A pay per click model means that you’ll earn a small amount for every click that you drive to a website, while cost per acquisition only pays when an actual sale is made.

If you’re just starting out, a cost per click model may not be the safest route for your business. A cost per acquisition model is much lower risk as it’s based on actual sales performance, and can motivate influencers to focus on sales rather than traffic.

Once you’re set up on an affiliate network, you can further boost your exposure by joining monetization platforms like rewardStyle or ShopStyle. But just note, you must first one of the above affiliate networks first!

View this post on Instagram

In 2010, @ambervenzbox hand-painted the rewardStyle logo on a canvas for the first #rSHQ office. This weekend, we watched this sign get installed letter by letter on our HQ in Dallas. Very proud moment for the rewardStyle team and the influencers and brands who are teaming up to transform retail!

A post shared by rewardStyle (@rewardstylehq) on Feb 26, 2020 at 11:10am PST

Step #2: Set Your Commission Rates 

Now it’s time to map out your commission rates, which basically means how much you’ll pay an influencer for each sale they drive.

There are a lot of different ways you can do this. Here are a few ideas: 

  • Analyze Your Profit Margins: Commission payments ultimately come out of your profit margin, so understanding how much profit you are willing to trade for a higher volume of sales is essential.
  • Conduct Competitor Analysis: How much commission do your competitors pay out? What is the industry standard?
  • Ask Your Affiliate Network: Affiliate networks have tons of experience and are likely to provide you with a wealth of information!

Once you’ve decided your commission rate, you’ll also need to set your payment terms. This is usually 60-90 days to allow for returns or exchanges, but will depend on your individual sales cycle.

Step #3: Create a Compelling Affiliate Program 

When building out your affiliate program, make sure it’s one that influencers actually want to participate in.

One way to incentivize influencers is to build a tiered program, with the option to unlock extra rewards. This can really motivate influencers to promote your brands and services, and fairly rewards them for the effort they put in.

ShareASale and Mejuri’s Affiliate Program

This could be as simple as a higher commission rate for a higher volume of sales, or a one-off bonus payment!

Step #4: Find Influencers to Partner with on Instagram 

There are so many ways you can go about finding influencer affiliates to partner with on Instagram!

Depending on your Instagram marketing goals, you may want to strategically hand-pick influencers to get the most from your affiliate campaigns. We recommend downloading our free Instagram Influencer Marketing Strategy Guide for tips on:

  • How Instagram influencer marketing works
  • Tips on finding the right influencers for your business or campaign
  • Why micro-influencer marketing is a growing trend
  • What the FTC’s rules are for disclosing sponsored Instagram posts
  • Strategies for driving sales with influencer marketing

Remember that the quality of influencer affiliates far outweighs the quantity. Don’t stress about having a ton of influencer affiliates posting about your brand — just make sure the ones you do pick are serving as strong voices for your product and are effectively driving sales.

TIP: When setting up your influencer affiliates with your program, be sure to send over some sort of brand guidelines and resources to help with their affiliate content creation!

Step #4: Analyze and Adjust

Once your affiliate program is up and running, it’s important to keep track of what’s working for your brand.

If you’re using an affiliate network, they should have detailed reporting available that will show you how many affiliate links have been generated for your brand, how many clicks they’ve driven, and also the total sales value.

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Siloed affiliate data prevents you from making smart, informed spend moves. Check out Pepperjam’s game-changing analytics integrations with #Measured @glewanalytics @domo and #Funnel. It delivers data control where it belongs: with marketers. Click the link in our bio to read more!

A post shared by Pepperjam (@pepperjam) on Jan 8, 2020 at 8:58am PST

It’s also important to track how many of your affiliate marketing sales make it through to closure. If you’re noticing an unusually high return rate, this could be a sign that your influencer affiliates are misrepresenting your products.

This could be harming your brand reputation and causing unnecessary admin costs, so it’s definitely worth keeping a close eye on.

4 Brands with Next-level Instagram Affiliate Programs 

If you’re looking for inspiration on how to develop your affiliate marketing program on Instagram, check out these 4 brands who are getting creative and leading the way:

Instagram Affiliate Program #1: Mejuri

Jewelry line Mejuri has built up a huge network of influencer affiliates who regularly share beautiful and aspirational Instagram content.

View this post on Instagram

Dainty tings @mejuri

A post shared by charis (@charis.himebaugh) on Feb 18, 2020 at 5:44pm PST

Their affiliate partners range from micro-influencers with just a few thousand followers, to macro-influencers with huge audiences, but they all share a similar “golden hour” aesthetic.

View this post on Instagram

@mayastepper can’t hear you over the sound of diamonds lining her ears.

A post shared by Mejuri (@mejuri) on Mar 14, 2020 at 2:04pm PDT

Not only does this strategy allow Mejuri to reach a widespread potential customer base, but it also means they have a huge volume of user-generated content that’s perfectly on brand for their Instagram feed and stories.

Instagram Affiliate Program #2: Rent the Runway 

Similar to Mejuri, Rent the Runway (@renttherunway) also does well with gathering user-generated content for their feed, and posting it frequently!

View this post on Instagram

Making a strong case for cute *and* comfy @honeyidressedthepug wearing the tie-dye @torysport set of the moment

A post shared by Rent the Runway (@renttherunway) on Apr 1, 2020 at 4:00pm PDT

Just like their wide variety of rentable outfits and styles, RTR’s affiliate partners are diverse — they work with well-known influencers, micro-influencers, and even have college ambassadors for their @rtroncampus page.

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing

While their affiliates may vary, they all share the common ground of having audiences who are interested in sustainability shopping and unlocking “unlimited” closets for less.

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Monday priorities: tackling our inbox, prepping for meetings, documenting our outfits, scrolling RTR – not necessarily in that order @jasminegarnsworthy wearing @ullajohnson and adorned in @lele_sadoughi

A post shared by Rent the Runway (@renttherunway) on Nov 25, 2019 at 10:00am PST

By diversifying their affiliate community, and RTR succeeds in boosting its reach by getting in front of more types of customers across more demographics.

Instagram Affiliate Program #3: Ritual 

Vitamin brand Ritual (@ritual) is another example with a strong affiliate program!

Affiliate marketing example

Affiliate marketing example

They have a great mix of affiliates that often call out enticing product details in their captions. And a common trend amongst brands who run affiliate programs, Ritual offers many of their affiliates personalized promo codes that their social audiences can use to get discounts or deals they wouldn’t get otherwise.

By shopping with a promo code, through an affiliate they trust, the shopper is more likely to buy, and then repeat the purchase once they’ve used the product.

Since Ritual is positioning itself as a vitamin for all, they also partner with a diverse group of affiliates (like doctors!) who fit their brand and allow them to reach different pockets of shoppers.

View this post on Instagram

Do you take a multivitamin? ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ @ritual is all about a food-first approach, as the bulk of our nutrients should come from our diets.
In this day and age however, the average woman is busy and it can be almost impossible to get all of our nutrients from diet alone.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ With social distancing in place, there may also be less opportunity to plan for a well balanced diet. Trust me when I say that it is so important we are filling in any nutrient gaps in our diet.
⁣⁣ Yours truly, happens to not be the best at compliance with taking vitamins. But I also noticed I became stuck and confused in the vitamin aisle at my local pharmacy. I honestly was tired of seeing all the additives and colorants in traditional over-the-counter vitamins.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I tried Ritual because the vitamins are vegan, non-GMO, gluten & allergen-free PLUS have no fillers or shady additives. I love that they have a delayed-release and no-nausea capsule design so you can take them morning or night with or without food. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Try Ritual for yourself and take 10% off your first 3 months with CASSIE
You don’t even have to compromise that social distancing, because they’ll show up right at your doorstep! #RitualPartner

A post shared by Cassie Majestic, MD (@dr.majestic_md) on Apr 5, 2020 at 12:06pm PDT

Instagram Affiliate Program #4: Weezie

Cloth connoisseur Weezie (@weezie) brings their shoppers and affiliates together with a concept anyone can get behind — really comfortable robes and towels. Since their launch, they’ve run a successful affiliate program by casting influencers on a consistent basis.

They do well in having affiliates call out specific, gifted products, and specific details about why they love the products.

View this post on Instagram

Slowly but surely all our pre-baby to-do’s are getting crossed off my list—felt so good to finish the nursery over the weekend!!—and I’m looking ahead to those initial weeks of postpartum. We’re planning to stay at home for the first 40 days after birth and are putting our support network in place accordingly. I know it will be a massive change, but I’m excited for those early days of getting to know our daughter. // The team at @weezietowels sent over this plush robe (it’s monogrammed with the word “mama”!!) and I can say with 100% certainty that it will be my postpartum go-to. Not only is it incredibly fluffy with great details like piping and a button cuff, but it’s made by a woman-owned company which I absolutely LOVE. In times of transition it’s so important to find those little moments of comfort and security, and this robe is a perfect example of that. Definitely check out @weezietowels, I’m totally smitten with their brand ethos and can’t say enough good things about them! . . . . #kitchenremodel #kitchenrenovation #schoolhouseelectric #fireclaytile #mydomaine #whitekitchen #subwaytile #studiomcgee #modernkitchen #farmhousemodern #shelfie #openshelving #openshelves #kitchenstyling #kitchenstyle #showemyourstyled #smallspacesquad #semihandmade #currenthomeview #mydomaine #enjoythestay

A post shared by Anne Sage (@citysage) on Feb 17, 2020 at 12:08pm PST

Other than the “comfort” and “loungewear” retail categories, they also partner with popular decor influencers to dip into the “home” category of shopping, thus appealing to a wider consumer group:

View this post on Instagram

Starting the Week In PINK ! Just in Time for Valentine’s @weezietowels #clarybosbyshelldesign #tweenbathroom #weezietowels #prettyinpink

A post shared by Clary Bosbyshell Welsh (@clarybosbyshell) on Feb 11, 2019 at 3:09am PST

By partnering with a mix of micro and mid-sized affiliates, Weezie is able to keep up a constant flow of affiliate content.

Whatever your product or service, affiliate marketing can help boost your brand awareness and drive sales — and it can also be a great way to incentivize influencers to start talking about your brand more online!

Don’t forget that you can quickly scale up your Instagram strategy with Later! Plan, schedule and automatically publish to Instagram for FREE with Later. 


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