Instagram launched in 2010 and was purchased by Facebook for $1 billion in 2012. Facebook doesn’t disclose how much money it’s pulling in from Instagram, but what is known is that Instagram has grown to have more users and a better engagement rate — as much as 50 times higher — than Twitter, according to Business Insider.
Many of Instagram’s users are there to like and be liked, but companies are also teaming up with some users to promote their brand. The platform is propelling many Instagrammers’ star status, and the payoff includes tons of freebies, all-expense paid trips and a lot of cash. Here are the nine highest-grossing and most successful Instagram accounts.
1. Jason Stein @jasonwstein
Jason Stein was an early user of Instagram and a visionary. He quickly realized Instagram would be a valuable advertising tool for companies. However, to capitalize on it, those companies would need content and way to get it to the right audience. That’s where he came in.
In 2011, Stein launched Laundry Service, a social media agency that matches brands with Instagram influencers. Stein said he generated the first $1 million by replying to Craigslist ads. Since then, the company has been upward bound.
By 2014, Stein was on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in media, a list of industry game-changers. Laundry Service had 30 employees in Los Angeles and New York, and a division called Cycle with an army of about 1,000 Instagrammers who worked with brands like Amazon, Beats and the Oprah Winfrey Network. The company’s revenue more than doubled, according to Ad Age, and was projected to grow an additional 95 percent in 2015. In April, the Wasserman Media Group, a sports talent agency, swooped in and acquired Laundry Service. Stein is still CEO.
2. Liz Eswein @newyorkcity
Liz Eswein is “quite possibly the most influential person on the entire platform,” according to digital media company DigiDay. She signed up for Instagram in 2011 and started off posting pictures of New York for fun. Then came the money, but not enough of it. She earned about $50 per promotional post in 2012, according to The New York Times. That year, she co-founded The Mobile Media Lab to help prevent the low-balling of Instagram influencers, such as herself.
Eswein can now brag about jet-setting around the world to places like Chile, Shanghai and Namibia for her clients. Last year, Eswein was commanding up to $15,000 per shot, and charging brands $1 per like for sponsored Instagrams. To put that into perspective, the Guardian reported some posts attracted more than 23,000 likes. Meanwhile, she also sits at the helm of Cycle, which she launched after she decided to join forces with Stein last year.
3. Brian DiFeo @bridif
Brian DiFeo joined Instagram in 2010 as a hobby. He credited the platform for nurturing his passion for photography, but it also has been a launchpad for an impressive career that’s still unfolding.
In 2011, DiFeo and friend Anthony Danielle offered to photograph and promote the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island on Instagram in exchange for media passes. That led to a gig with Puma in Abu Dhabi, and from there the work continued coming. DiFeo and Anthony were the co-founders who launched The Mobile Media Lab with Eswein.
DiFeo told the Guardian that for his first paying gig, he earned about $300 for eight photos. As it goes with Instagram stars, he progressed to much more lucrative jobs with the likes of champagne house Veuve Clicquot, which flew him to France for three days. He continues in a managerial role at The Mobile Media Lab.
4. Anthony Danielle @takinyerphoto
Anthony Danielle joined Instagram two weeks after it launched with no intention of becoming an Instagram influencer. He started out photographing random people with no regard for their clothing. Then, as his focus shifted to fashion, that’s when brands started reaching out, he told Fortune.
Danielle still runs The Mobile Media Lab with DiFeo. As of last year, he said the company was fielding five to 10 requests per month, and he gets two to three for his personal account — all of which they were vetting out to the agency’s Instagrammers.
5. Huda Kattan @hudabeauty
Born in the U.S. and based in Dubai, Huda Kattan is building a beauty empire. Her website, HudaBeauty, is one of the top 20 beauty blogs, according to Alexa website rankings. She also has a wildly popular Instagram account to accompany it. Recently, Kattan had more than 7.7 million followers and is gaining an average of 23,000 more per day, according to social media statistics tracker Social Blade.
Kattan feeds her audience highly rated beauty tutorials, tips and advice, and viewers like it — literally. On one occasion in October, Kattan reportedly posted a tutorial about creating cat eyes on her Instagram account, and it had 18,000 likes within half an hour. With this type of clout, she has a solid platform to promote and market her expertise and branded beauty products — including a line of eyelashes, which are available at Sephora.
6. Danielle Bernstein @weworewhat
Danielle Bernstein is the fashion blogger behind WeWoreWhat and reported earning a mid-six-figure salary sponsoring brands in casual photos. Companies send her free stuff, but she has reportedly turned down freebies that she know she won’t feature. However, a lot of her work is negotiated by an agent, and she’s worked with major names, including Lancôme and Virgin Hotels.
In May, she told Harper’s Bazaar she earned an average of $5,000 to $15,000 for sponsored Instagrams, and sometimes higher, depending on the terms of the deal. Once she reached 1 million followers, she expected to earn “a good amount more.” She currently has 1.3 million followers trailing her fashion moves, according to SocialBlade.
7. Jen Selter @jenselter
Jen Selter joined Instagram in 2012 while working at a gym and started out posting workout pictures. From there, her fame has grown. She’s widely known for her fit physique, particularly her posterior. Given that she can reportedly earn 80,000 likes for a picture of herself sitting on a fitness ball, she is now earning an attractive living on product endorsements from companies such as Nike, Lululemon and New Balance.
Furthermore, she signed a multiyear contract with FitMiss and reportedly rakes in money from paid appearances, including at last year’s Super Bowl. Instagram fame has not only lined Selter’s pockets, but according to the Daily Mail it has also stacked her professional pipeline with book, TV and fitness video projects.
8. Nash Grier @nashgrier
Nash Grier is a Vine superstar with 8.4 million Instagram followers. By age 16, he could fairly be described as famous, and his popularity apparently isn’t limited to online platforms. Grier also has celebrity-like status among his fans in real life, according to the Huffington Post, and the social media-driven fame is paying off handsomely.
He has worked with Virgin Mobile and other major brands, which are reportedly paying him $25,000 to $100,000. But Grier’s outlook for his film career isn’t limited to social media. He and fellow Vine star Cameron Dallas have also landed a movie deal with Awesomeness TV.
9. Cameron Dallas @camerondallas
Cameron Dallas is another young social media sensation with mega-influence, including an Instagram account with more than 8.4 million followers. His star appeal won him the Choice Viner award at the 2014 Teen Choice Awards and earned him a nomination for Best Choice Web Star: Male. Dallas sells branded merchandise on his website, and he and Grier also landed a clothing line deal with Aeropostale, United XXVI.