Yes, you can make money on Instagram. No, it’s not just a platform for pretty pictures.

My 17-year-old daughter Emma is my in-house Instagram expert.   She uses the site as the primary platform to promote her business, Em John Jewelry, which sells bracelets, pouches and adorable totes.

I’m sharing very specific examples of what she’s doing on Instagram, so you can do the same, too.


Emma posted a beautiful photo of her new LOVE TOTE.

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An hour later, a store owner asked if she could order the new bag.

The next day it was on display for sale in her window.



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GapKids, which we can all agree is a global brand—a big deal!, included Em John bracelets in a post.

The result?

New followers, two wholesale orders, and almost three-dozen sales within 24 hours, along with bragging rights for the recognition from a giant.

How’d it happen?

Months ago, Emma emailed Carly, the popular blogger who runs the College Prepster, to introduce Em John.  Carly loved Emma’s story and shared it beautifully.

This was the first major profile of Em John – on a blog that you’ve probably never heard of, even though it has more than 100,000 followers.  Emma knows her demographic, which is essential for anyone who wants results on social platforms.

EmJohn Photo Strip

Emma pays attention to the people Carly follows—and the posts that Carly likes on Instagram.  That offers ideas and inspiration of accounts that Emma should follow.

One of those belonged to the woman who handles social for GapKids, so Emma introduced herself.  The woman replied instantly and said she knew of Em John from The College Prepster.  Three weeks later, that photo appeared on the GapKids account.

That’s not all from Carly.

Dozens of students who got into Boston University early decision like Emma did have told her that they know all about Em John from reading her story on The College Prepster.    Ditto for other bloggers who’ve promoted Emma after they saw Carly’s stamp of approval.


With 1.1 million Instagram followers, Betches isn’t messing around.  The brand has an online shop that specializes in bold message tees.  The owner loved several Em John pouches and agreed to sell them on her site for a week.  During that time, a few Instagram posts like this one promoted the pouches.

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The result?

More than 100 sales, dozens of new followers, a wholesale order that has since generated considerable business, and several brands and bloggers asking to do similar collaborations.

Now It’s YOUR Turn

Success on Instagram isn’t limited to posting beautiful photos, although that’s a piece of it.  Use the platform to find and follow like-minded people and brands with sizable followings that would likely be interested in you too.

Follow them.
Introduce yourself.
Share your story.
Offer specific ideas.

Emma never asks to meet for coffee or to “brainstorm” ideas.  She emails specific ideas to specific people, which elicits specific feedback—usually positive because she’s convincing and she’s done her homework.    Know what you want—and explain what’s in it for all parties: you, them and their audience.   That’s what can turns ideas into reality.

One final note: A Los Angeles-based PR firm has asked Emma to teach several of its product clients—mainly accessories brands—how to use Instagram for promotion and profit, just as she’s done for herself.    Perhaps a(nother) side business for this high school senior who’s already doing customer service under her desk during calculus class.

While you’re at it, connect with me on Instagram here.