The complete Instagram guide to buying Shout Outs

Thomas Strosse
15 min readApr 6, 2018

From campaign strategy, to profile selection and Shout Out evaluation


Hello! And first of all, thanks for click on this article! It really means the world to me! This Guide is a part of my developing content series around Instagram. Originally I wanted to create an e-book out of this, but down the line I decided to just offer it all for free. If this article prevents anyone from dealing with below-average Shout Out suppliers and wasting money in the process, I will have reached my goal!

In this guide you will find a complete overview of the strategy and components I create and look for when utilizing Shout Outs as a tool to promote my profiles or products.

I really hope you will find this guide useful. Should you have any questions, remarks or want to talk it over, drop me a comment and I’ll gladly respond.

Shout Outs?

As a user of Instagram you will have, undoubtedly, seen or heard about Shout Outs. Although I assume (since you are reading this post) you will have an understanding of what Shout Outs are. But just to be complete: Shout Outs are an action where somebody mentions you (Shouts you Out) on his or her profile. On Instagram, this can be done in a picture, in the caption, through stories,…

On Instagram, and many other social networks as well, Shout Outs are often used to complete 2 (primary) goals:

  • Get your profile promoted in order to realize growth
  • Get your products or service promoted to get leads or sales

Both of these goals are an excellent match for Shout Outs and require similar approaches. Throughout the rest of this document I will take you through my process by which I determine our content strategy, find the right (qualitative) influencers and compare them to each other. And at the end of this guide I will trigger you to evaluate the Shout Out (campaign).

One small word of warning though, in order to get the most of out this guide, you will have to put in some work. But, the good news is that all of this work is preparing you for a successful and efficient campaign. Oh, and it might save you a lot of money too.

Shout Outs will cost, or earn, you money!

Shout Outs are an important part of the Instagram Ecosystem, as it is one of the ‘easiest’ way for influencers to earn money with their Instagram profile. And by the looks of Google searches (the keyphrase: “how to earn money with Instagram” returns over 28 million hits on Google), people are always looking for ways to earn money with Instagram.

However, as a person looking to promote his or her profile, or a business promoting a product or service, it is very hard to sift through the noise and find the right match for your goal. Especially since sometimes people will come and offer the Shout Outs to you (without you asking for it), and on other times you might want to try and find people to do Shout Outs for you.
For example when you are launching a new product, offering a coupon or hosting an event or competition. Oftentimes Shout Outs are also an important part of just growing your account, without having to offer specific products or advantages to the users.

Being such an accessible way to earn money for most profiles, a lot of people will be open to sell you Shout Outs. And prices can vary from $5 to $5000. That brings to mind a very important question: how do you pick the right offer?

Here’s a small list of aspects that influence the price of a Shout Out. We will talk about most of these further down this guide.

  • Do you want them to post a link in their bio
  • Are they able to earn something of your promotion themselves (for instance: an affiliate commission)
  • How long do they have to keep the post up (more on that in the next parts)
  • Are you providing the content?
  • How big is the profile of the influencer
  • How high is their engagement rate

Determine your Strategy

by on Unsplash

In the next 5 steps we will take a look at your requirements and define a clear definition of your campaign. Be sure to write this down before you start with the rest of the process. Having a readymade list next to you of what you want to achieve will help when talking to a potential partner.

After that, we are evaluating the accounts with whom we partner with to do the Shout Outs, because let’s face it: everybody wants the best value for money.

Define your goals

First on our agenda is to have a clear definition of our goals. Why are we doing the Shout Out? Is it to increase our followers? Or do we want more engagement (which, to me personally, is more important than followers).

Or are we promoting something and want to drive visitors (and sales) to our website? Or is it to promote a local event or charity?

All these are excellent goals, but dig into the reason why you want to do a promotion. Having your goal clearly defined right from the start will save you a lot of headache down the line. Aside from that, you’ll also have something to come back to and see if you are still in line with your goal.

Define your budget

I want you to be realistic about Shout Outs: most of them will cost you money! This makes me ask one very important question: What kind of budget do you have available to promote your account or business on Instagram?

Are you talking about $5 a day? Or maybe $50? Or, are your looking more to do a single campaign with a total budget? If you have a good idea of where your monetary limits are, you will have a stronger set of ‘rules’ when negotiating.

Further down this guide we will talk about ways to evaluate providers and calculate ROI but all of this is useless if you don’t have a total budget in mind in which our efforts need to fit.

What are you promoting

So we have a goal and budget in mind, now it’s time to think about what you are going to promote exactly. You need to think about:

  • What type of content are you going to promote?

Depending on the account you are working with, they will allow you to have them post different types of content. Most commonly, when it comes to Shout Outs, you have the option to do image, video or story Shout Outs (or a combination of the above). Defining which type of content you want to have promoted up front will set you up for a more efficient talk with the influencer.

  • Are you providing the content?

Oftentimes, the person who buys the Shout Out will deliver the content to the influencer, combined with a caption. But you should also check whether or not the influencer is open to creating the content himself (when possible of course). This might seem like just another (extra) cost, but the profile owner should have a good understanding of what his followers like and what they don’t like. In order to get the best possible conversion rate it might therefor be better to have the influencer create the piece of content.

  • Is there a specific theme within the content you want to promote?

Is there a specific style or theme within the content you want to promote? Will this get you the ‘right’ followers?

If you are in doubt, see which of your own posts get the most engagement (likes, comments & shares). This is content that ‘works’ with your followers and, assuming you want the same type of followers, this will also most likely convert better with people on other, similar profiles.

  • Are you promoting your website or a specific URL?

Oftentimes when you are promoting a sale or new product, you will want the influencer to also display this URL in his bio link. Most of them will charge extra to do so, so beware of that.

For profiles who have more than 10 000 followers, you can also ask them if it’s possible to add your URL to their story. Then people watching the story will have the option to visit the URL by swiping up.

Tip: If you are promoting an offer, sale or product launch, be sure to use a direct URL to that offer. You don’t want to direct people to your home page, this will decrease conversion and ends up costing you more money.

Tip 2: be sure to check your website and make sure it is speedy, mobile ready (responsive) and converts well. When in doubt, check with a web developer or conversion specialist.

Think about the duration

When I mean duration, I am in fact talking about 2 different types.

Firstly, you should clearly think about the duration of your promotion. How long (how many days) do you want to promote your accounts, products, offers,… Are you going to promote daily for infinite time? Or do you plan on doing a quick campaign (for example 7 days).

Secondly, most influencers (accounts doing the Shout Outs) will present you with prices for different post durations. Meaning they will offer you a price to keep your post (Shout Out) up for 2–48 hours and anything in between. After that time, they will most likely remove your post from their feed.

Know that the duration in which the influencer will keep your post on his/her profile will affect the price!

Write it all down

So we covered the most basic things you will need to think about before even contacting people to promote your content. Now it is time to write everything down!

Create a document which lists your main requirements and demands. Keep it by your side when you are talking with potential profiles that do Shout Outs. This will increase your efficiency tremendously! Time is money people!

Finding the right influencer

Instagram is all about niching and categorizing content (and accounts). That’s why you always need to look for accounts within your niche. After all, we only want to attract people that are really interested in our profile or content.

Even if people come to you, make sure to check that they are in fact posting content that is aligned with your Instagram page. You don’t want to pay $100 for a post on a cars page, when you are running a page focused on travel or fitness. Sure, some of the followers might carry over and interact with your page, but they followed the cars page for content about cars.
So even if your post is very High Quality, it might not appeal to the followers of the Shout Out Provider.

If you are looking for accounts to advertise with, here are a few options:

Use the Explore page

Visiting the explore page and scrolling through it will show you profiles that perform well in terms of content creation and engagement. Click on an image to see who posted it and then visit their profile.

Using the explore to find influencers

Use hashtags

A second option is to use hashtags to find people within your niche. Use a few relevant hashtags and check who scored in the top 9 under those hashtags. Keep in mind though that since the “follow a hashtag” feature, the top 9 has become very personalized and will be curated towards your profile.

The top posts for hashtags

Now perform the same actions a second time, but this time do it from an incognito browser window and visit this URL: (replace that last word ‘hashtag’ by your hashtag of choice). This will show you the top 9 without any personalization in it (or at least minimized personalization).

If you run out of inspiration for hashtags, Instagram will also show you a list of “related” tags. These are hashtags that are often combined into posts with the one you searched.

Use the Suggested Profiles option

Checking the suggested profiles

When you visits someone’s profile on Instagram, you (almost) always have the option to click on the down arrow. Instagram will then show you suggested profiles. Check those out and see if they’re a match for your content or lean in closely.

Create a selection of accounts with different sizes

When you are looking for accounts, try to select a handful of accounts in all sizes. This will not only make a difference in the price they will ask, but most of the times, the accounts with a smaller following have a much more dedicated group of followers.

I like to look for accounts in the following brackets:

  • Bracket 1: 2 000–5 000
  • Bracket 2: 5 000–10 000
  • Bracket 3: 10 000–25 000
  • Bracket 4: 25 000–50 000
  • Bracket 5: 50 000–100 000
  • Bracket 6: 100 000 and upwards

In all honestly, most of the promotions I run stay below bracket 4. Just because I find that the ROI is better in this range of accounts. But this varies from offer to offer.

What is also an important factor is that for the same money you will pay a 100K account, you can probably run the same content on 10 smaller accounts and get a higher conversion rate! Bigger is not always better in the Instagram space.

Evaluating the influencer’s profile

Now that we’ve found a collection of influencer’s, it’s time to thoroughly evaluate each and every one of them. In the next sections, you’ll find what you should look for!


The next step is to evaluate the quality of the followers of the accounts you selected in the previous steps. We all know that Instagram is plagued by fake followers and likes, even though Instagram has taken tremendous leaps forward in banning fake profiles, it remains an issue to date.

In doing this quality control, you will have to take a look at the followers from the account. Check how big they are and how their follower/following ratio is. Are they posting content frequently? Do they have a profile picture and bio? These are all indications of fake or low quality profiles.

If the followers of our target profile consists mainly out of these types of profile, I would stay away from them and not spend my money there.

Growth and posting frequency

Another quality marker is to evaluate the profile’s growth. Daily growth and growth charts are a good indication of how the influencer’s profile is doing. Ideally we want to see a constant, daily growth and regular posting.

A good site to evaluate this with is . Socialblade makes it easy to evaluate the performance of a profile, especially with the followers growth chart.

Alas with the recent API fallout from Instagram, Socialblade’s data won’t be updated anymore (at least not untill they find a way around) after the 2nd of April 2018. So you’ll have to monitor the account with another tool, or manually. If you’re one for DIY approaches, check out my other Medium blog post to create a tracking dashboard in Google Sheets which will allow you to do this.

We are looking for charts that go up in a constant trend. If there are big jumps in amount of followers with a drop-off the following days, this is a clear indication of fake / bought followers! Do NOT make deals with these types of profiles! Profiles that have previously bought followers (even if it was months ago) will be on Instagram’s watch list and might even get (small) exposure limits.

This is a good chart: consistent and stable growth
Profiles that show this type of followers progression are definitely buying followers!

Socialblade also allows us to check the posting frequency of the profile. Personally we only work with profiles who post on a daily basis. This keeps their account active, and that’s what we need!

Engagement rate

So we covered the posting and followers quality, now let’s have a look at the engagement rate (ER). The higher the engagement rate, the better! But, that will most likely also cost us a bit more money.

As a good rule of thumb, here are the average engagement rates (as researched by influencermarketinghub by comparing 1 000 000 profiles) :

Ideally we are looking for profiles on or above these levels of engagement rate.

To calculate the engagement rate I use the following formula:

So for instance:

  • (9 000 likes + 200 comments) divided by 12 = 766.66667
  • 766.6667 divided by the amount of followers (10 000) = 7.6%

In this example, the above profile with 10 000 followers and an engagement rate of 7.6% would be a prime candidate to do our Shout Outs. Since 7.6% is well above the average 4% of an account that size!

There are other or additional ways to calculate engagement rates, just make sure you use the same calculation every time you calculate it!

Quality of the engagement

Another important thing to consider aside from the engagement rate itself, is the quality of the engagement.

I suggest you take in mind the following:

  • How is the likes to comment ratio?

If the profile is getting thousands of likes, and only 4–5 comments he or she might be buying fake likes or take part in artificial boosting (like comment pods or engagement groups).

  • If they are receiving comments, how qualitative are they?

At some point in time, all of us have seen profiles that only receive comments like “Nice!” or “Love this!”. Comments like these are likely to come from people who are spam-commenting or using any form of automation to do the commenting for them.

While it can be organic and real comments, if they are receiving the same comment (“Nice!”) from the same person(s) on each and every post, chances are it’s faked.

Compare Cost Per Engagement

Okay, so with all the work you have done up to this point you will most likely have collected a fair amount of accounts which you can content in order to buy some Shout Outs.

Now the next questions comes to mind: how do I pick one? Or, how do I compare them to each other?

What I like to do in this case, is calculate the Cost Per Engagement. Essentially this is the price per engagement your post will (likely) receive. Of course, this isn’t a guarantee.

I calculate the Cost Per Engagement based on the (average) current engagement and followers the influencer’s profile has. However, it is a good indication to compare multiple profiles to one another.

I calculate the Cost Per Engagement (CPE) as follows:

Cost per Engagement

So what we need for this formula is:

  • The amount spent: so for instance, say you will spend $50 with each Shout Out
  • The total measured engagement (average likes and comments of the last 12 posts)

A practical example would be:

$50 / 790 = $0.063

$0.063 in turn would then be the Cost Per Engagement (like or comment). If desired you can also calculate the values separately, but for the ease of doing I generally combine them.

Negotiate towards a better offer and have a tryout

If you have followed the previous 11 steps (thanks for reading this long) you will now have a prime understanding of how to evaluate Shout Outs and you will have selected a few influencers you will contact.

Now comes the ‘hard’ part, negotiating the rate. What I like to do is ask for a 6 hour Shout Out first (remember, they will most likely delete the post afterwards). The reason why I do that, is because this gives us an indication whether or not our estimate CPE (which we previously calculated) is drastically wrong or not.

If you notice that the 6 hour Shout Out is under-performing your estimates, you can try and negotiate a better rate for the Shout Out. Of course, doing a 6 hour test is just a snapshot, but it gives you some leverage to negotiate.

Tip: be sure to decide on a specific time where the user will take your post down (if they do). This will enable you to write down the engagement so you can do the math. Don’t let them give you the numbers. It’s too easy to add a few hundred likes to the stats.

Evaluation: was it worth it?

Okay, so we completed the promotion. Our partner did his Shout Out. Now it’s time to evaluate how successful it was.

This step is the last one of our plan. It’s time for your to evaluate if the Shout Out (or campaign) was worth it for you. Think back to the goals you initially set:

  • How much followers did you gain during this period (deduct the amount you would get on average for yourself)?
  • Did the engagement on my profile increase?
  • Did the visits to my website increase?
  • Did I get any sales through Instagram visits?

In doing so, you can evaluate whether or not Shout Outs work for you and if you will want to repeat them in the future.

That’s it folks!

Thanks again for reading this post, and sorry for making it this extensive! I sincerely hope you gained some insight from it and it will help you in the future.

If you have any questions, suggestions, remarks… please let me know in the comments!