How to Make Money With Instagram – Case Study: Uncommon James

how to make money with instagram-case study-

Instagram is so much more than a place to shout at people and post ads like you may on the sidebar of a website or print in a magazine.

Marketing and social media are changing, and it’s not by accident.

If you don’t already know, Instagram is owned by Facebook.

A couple of years ago (and noticeably since the beginning of 2017), Facebook made it a point to start to bring back the social aspect of their platforms.

By that, I mean they would give priority to the photo and conversation about your grandmother’s 85th birthday party over the link to your website telling us about your new blog post or sale.

When Instagram introduced algorithms into their feed (so your posts were no longer chronological, but determined by the algorithm) everything changed.

Engagement and reach dropped, and everything everyone had been doing was no longer working. People wanted to connect with people or brands that felt like a BFF, traditional graphics and methods no longer worked like they had.

The brands that have spent time using their Instagram and other social media channels to create a reality TV-like feed for their audience are the ones that are killing it on social media.

The ones that have learned how to use their Instagram stories, highlighted stories, hashtags, and curate their feed so that everything is in one place and interactive are rising above and standing out.

This sounds like a ton of work, but let me use one of my favorite brands (just because I love looking at their stuff and the founder actually DOES have a reality TV show) to show you how it works:

Uncommon James was founded by Kristin Cavallari (and I am totally obsessed with their jewelry and home collection) who also is the star of the reality show Very Cavallari. 

She spoke openly on the show about the importance of Instagram to her business and how the majority of her sales come directly from it. 

If you look at their Instagram there are a few things they have done to make us feel like we’re part of the tribe and makes it fun to keep checking back.

Instagram Stories Vs. Instagram Feed

This is the part that has confused so many since the introduction of stories, “what the ef’ do I post and where?!”.

The best way I can describe the difference between what to post in your feed and what to post in your stories is this: Think of your Instagram stories as what Instagram originally was, a place to share your day and adventures in a snapshot or fun video.

Your feed should be the curated version of that and may look more like the magazine feature of the adventures, tips, products, and things you are sharing in your stories!

So think about each Instagram post as a mini magazine article about the exciting things and adventures happening all day in your stories.

The images posted on your feed should be pretty and curated. Your feed should be your brand’s magazine, the highlight reel of your products, tribe, and your own personal life.

The stories are quick snapshots, short silly videos, filters, and a place to just be silly with your growing number of BFFs.

If you watch Very Cavallari you know Kristin is always wearing Uncommon James pieces so there is always content to post to their Story Highlight when she is ready to work.

As the team goes through their day they also take a lot of photos that they can share when they have time to post. It makes it less of a chore and just part of your daily routine.

Adding Products to Your Feed

If you are a product based business and you are not tagging products you are missing out. To do this you have to have them set up on Facebook but if you are using a platform like Shopify for your website it may be even easier. 

Uncommon James drives so much of their sales from Instagram because they are able to link directly to the products featured in their envy-worthy images.

You can direct traffic directly to existing listings on your page or to listings you’ve created on Facebook. Because Uncommon James is doing so much engaging in their stories and is featuring different influencers and customers in their feed (like a featured story on someone special in their community) people have begun looking to their feed for style inspiration and expect a link to shop.

Highlighted Stories

Now that you have a good idea of what to do with your stories, how do you use highlighted stories?

First, think about what it is called, a “story”. We want to use this space to create a “magazine feature” from things that regularly show up in your stories.

This acts as a quick way to let people learn about who you are, what you offer, anything new or special happening, and whatever other creative (and valuable!) content you can offer them.

You can make videos of your screen while you scroll through your website’s services page, share videos from past stories that you’ve shared about specific topics or anything you can imagine.

This tool makes it easy for people to skip your website altogether and just get easy-to-digest content from you and shop all at once. Welcome to the future friends.

Uncommon James does a great job of showcasing their products, their tribe of customers, and offering styling tips and other valuable content.

It’s not all done in a professional studio, it’s shot with an iPhone (most likely!) and is working better than most marketing. You no longer have an excuse not to make videos and share stories!


A lot of larger brands don’t use hashtags as much as the rest of us, but while we grow and establish our brands these are super important tools to getting noticed.

If you don’t know, you can add up to 30 hashtags per post. These should be well researched and I recommend having a few lists of hashtags (in this case a couple of lists for style/beauty, lifestyle and home, and baby) to rotate through.

You can find related hashtags to ones you are using at the top of any hashtag feed if you are looking for new ones to try.

Mix them up and see which hashtag lists perform best. Don’t forget you can add a hashtag to your stories as well. You will be surprised how many more views your stories will get when you include a hashtag.


The introduction of IGTV on June 20, 2018, had a lot of my clients feeling even more overwhelmed. This feature is incredibly new but is catered toward vertically shot videos and allows you to share videos on IG up to 10 minutes long.

If you have less than 10K followers and don’t have access to the “Swipe Up” feature you are able to use swipe up to link to your own IGTV videos.

The introduction of this just speaks to what I said earlier about using your account as your own personal reality TV show.

Use this as a place to share tutorials, create episodes of your own shows, and a whole lot of other things I am sure we will see in the coming months.

Uncommon James doesn’t have much here yet and I think they are missing out because they have a lot of great content they can create here. I look forward to seeing this evolve!

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