It’s not a secret that many Instagram models aim to be successful on the social media platform through brand partnerships or event promotions. Shanghai-native Chicagoan Angelene Sun (@imangelenesun) agrees.

“There are many opportunities on Instagram and it is important to be strategic in taking advantage of them,” Sun said.

What does it take to make it big on Instagram? How can you measure success?

Some may think that the amount of money you make is the way to measure success. But Sun believes that the long-term success directly correlates to the strength of a personal brand.

“The initial reason I decided to pursue business opportunities was not specifically to make a lot of money, but rather to create a strong personal brand,” Sun said. “There are many brands that reach out to me but are not a great fit. My rule is: if the brand doesn’t fit with my persona and image, I will not represent it. I am pretty cautious with that.”

Sun has been approached by brands that do not align with her own brand, such as a popular car company. Sun commented, “I don’t even drive!
Companies find influencers like Sun through website services that act as agencies for partnering popular Instagram models and brands looking to promote through the social media platform. Sites such as Boost Insider, Scrubber, Social Native and Harper and Blake act as blogger reward programs and create partnerships between two users.

“These programs are great. They eliminate the search process for partnerships, but sometimes it is not the right fit,” Sun said. “If you are promoting something that is a mismatch with your own brand, you will not only confuse your followers but also present yourself in a disorganized way. It’s not a wise move for your personal brand.”

This is the secret to Sun’s success. First, she identified her own attributes and makes sure every post reflects that identity. Right now, she is in partnership with Rocksbox, a monthly jewelry subscription website.

The details of her partnership are simple: she gets a free box each month and she is assigned a personalized code that she can promote on her account. Her followers who use the code receive 20% off their subscription. There is also motivation for Sun: the more people who sign up using her discount code, the more rewards she can get. Rewards can include promotions like featuring Sun in the Rocksbox member-wide email and on its Instagram page.

In addition to brand representation, Sun is also offered many photo shoot opportunities through Instagram

“It’s a great way to get yourself out there,” Sun said. “I have been able to participate in photo shoots with great photographers because my account has gained some traction. I have met extremely talented people from this platform.”

Although there are millions of Instagram users, there is a tight-knit community of like-minded influencers.

“The community is a small circle of bloggers, models, influencers and content creators. It is a strong and efficient group of people,” Sun said. “There is a mutual interest: they build their portfolio and so do I.”

Sun is looking forward to continuing her Instagram business.

“It is a great gate into another world than I am physically and literally in. It connects me with organizations and people all over the world,” Sun said. “Without that, I will never know those people and have a chance to work with them. You never know what can come of it.”