By now, most people have at least one social media account they frequently use (read: are borderline obsessed with). But are you aware of social media’s income earning potential? According to a recent marketing survey, consumers trust popular social media users more than celebrities or traditional advertisements. Apparently large corporations are taking notice: Instagram alone projected a colossal 1.48 million dollars spent on ‘user generated advertising’ for 2016. Many business savvy entrepreneurs have already discovered how to monetize social media, transforming the apps that most people use to kill time into moneymaking machines.

Are you interested in turning your Instagram account into a career? Unsure where to start? Here are some success secrets from social media entrepreneurs.

Narrow in on a niche

If your social media account hones in on a particular niche (i.e. cooking), you’re already off to a good start. If, for example, your account is focused on food and cooking, the people following you are most likely also foodies. These are often the types of account companies seek out when they’re looking for “user generated content.” Why? It’s the easiest way for a health food company, or kitchen décor brand, to connect with a specific demographic of customers.

If you have a passion for something, it might be a good idea to narrow in on that niche. In some cases, it might actually be a good idea to start a fresh account that focuses solely on that particular idea. This will showcase your knowledge on a subject, and help you connect with like-minded individuals, both of which increase your potential to work with brands in that niche area.

Build a following

Although it is possible to earn income from social media with a small following, it may prove difficult. Brands and companies that want to collaborate with social media users are looking to widen the scope of their reach or be associated with a user’s image or content style. Obviously, the more followers you have, the more attractive you’ll be to brands.

There is, unfortunately, no magic bullet to gaining more followers. You just have to put the time in. Start by increasing your social media engagement: leave comments, tweet, retweet, like, and subscribe to other users in your niche. The idea here is twofold: you want to be noticed, but you also want to build a connection. Be positive and encouraging, and you’ll likely get the same kind of treatment.

Be consistent

If content is king, consistency is queen. Once you have started to build a following, you have to be consistent to maintain it. Set standards for yourself in terms of quality, and then make sure to uphold a regular posting schedule. Whether it’s reliably posting a daily update or launching a new video every week, stick to it and your audience will respond.

Canadian fashion blogger and social media star Ania Boniecka has been able to build up an impressive following across her blog and social media platforms, in part because she maintains a consistent schedule of high-quality posts. “In the end,” she says, “it’s whoever is willing to put in the work that is going to succeed.”

Seek out sponsored post opportunities

Once you’ve managed to build up a following, you can start thinking about sponsored post opportunities. What are sponsored posts? This can be in the form of a subtle brand tag or hashtag, or a much more obvious product placement. Instagram, Snapchat, and Youtube. If that doesn’t sound lucrative to you, consider that Boniecka can bill up to $500 for a single Instagram photo featuring a clothing brand.

If you build your following well enough, you might find that companies will approach you with ideas and opportunities. If you’re not lucky enough for this, look out for brands that have sponsored posts on other social media accounts. Do they have marketing departments? It’s time to pitch yourself. Reach out to the relevant people and inquire about sponsoring opportunities, highlighting the total reach of your audience (across all platforms), your best performing posts, and your average engagement. Remember that brands are looking for two things: to expand their reach into specific demographics, and to align themselves with someone that either matches their image or enhances it. Do your research!

Affiliate sales

Earning an affiliate’s sales commission is another way that social media entrepreneurs are earning serious cash. By teaming up with a brand, the user can offer a special discount code to fans or viewers within their social media post, along with a link leading back to the company’s product. Commission can be earned from either a set amount per click or per sale. Though it might not sound like much, individuals with large online followings can actually earn a decent chunk of change through affiliate commission sales, particularly if it’s done across multiple social media platforms. Keep in mind, though, that overdoing it on the affiliate marketing side can turn off a lot of people.

Adverts and positioning

Youtube can be a goldmine for social media users with a gift of the gab and an eye for video production. Aside from earning a basic “per-view” salary through video adverts on each video, the platform is the perfect vehicle to showcase your talents for other possible projects and crossover careers. Just consider the success of Youtube entrepreneur Sara-Lynn Cauchon of ‘the Domestic Geek.’ Cauchon has been able to turn her channel into a veritable launching pad for crossover projects, including books and new websites.

Key takeaway

Social media has provided a medium for business savvy entrepreneurs to earn income from their favourite apps through sponsored posts, endorsements, affiliate sales, and adverts. The real key takeaway is that even though it may seem like these successful social media stars have come out of nowhere, almost all have built their reputations and personas slowly over time, through consistent posting and sharing. If you’re passionate about something and dedicated, it’s not too late to get started. As The Domestic Geek herself has said, “There’s no time like the present.”