Instagram is no longer just a social channel for personal use, it’s now a legitimate marketing and shopping tool that you need to have in your ecommerce strategy. Why?
- 1.1 billion people use Instagram every month
- 35% of online adults use Instagram
- 60% of users look for new products on Instagram
- 71% of US businesses use Instagram
- 80% of accounts follow at least one business
Staggering stats for a channel that many businesses use, but many don’t know how to optimize for or what tactics their strategy should include. Instagram is almost tailor-made for brands that want to showcase products for sale, with the channel’s emphasis on high-quality images clear for all to see.
Instagram is a global platform that presents a different set of challenges and exposes a new (and engaged) audience for businesses. This 17-step guide will take you on a journey from the basics of selling on Instagram through to more advanced tactics.
1. Know how the platform works
Instagram is a different type of social media beast than Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. If you’re new to advertising on Instagram, you should be aware that links don’t work on Instagram like they do on those other social networks.
If you post a link on a post on Instagram, it won’t translate into a clickable hyperlink. Instead it will just appear as a messy, static URL. Instagram will only give you one clickable link to use across the whole platform, the link in your profile bio. You will often see this link exploited in posts (“click the link in our bio”) and as a result, it is frequently updated as campaigns and goals change.
While this could make you think Instagram would be a difficult place to promote sales, recent studies in the space have shown engaged Instagram followers to be worth $10 more than Facebook followers. Many factors contribute to this stat, including Instagram users’ increased likelihood to engage with a brand and Instagram’s increased ability to reach all of a brand’s followers. There are ways to sell directly with links on Instagram too which we will get to later.
2. Define your goals
Before you start marketing on Instagram, define what success will mean for you on Instagram and understand that initially, building out your audience will be one of your main focuses. While audience size certainly isn’t everything, you will still need to build an initial base of followers who can interact with and can rely on for early engagement.
After your initial experiments and audience tests you can start to turn Instagram into a direct referral and shopping channel and start to assign metrics to each goal. Read on to discover more about how to turn Instagram into a direct shopping experience.
3. Define your audience before you start
It’s crucial that you know what audience you want to reach and use data gathered from other sales touch points before you start marketing on Instagram. Identifying the common characteristics of your customer base like age, interests, pain points, etc. can help you define your audience and understand what they are more likely to engage with, and on Instagram engagement is king.
As hashtags are used so frequently on Instagram, you can conduct searches for hashtags related to your business to get a feel for what kind of content performs well and what kind of users post with those hashtags. This can help you to further define who your audience is.
4. Create an editorial calendar and stick to it
Brands currently post around six images per week on average on Instagram. That’s quite a lot when mapped to a full year so it’s critical to create and maintain an editorial calendar so you can keep track of what’s been posted and to maintain brand consistency. An editorial calendar allows you to always have branded content being published while leaving room for real-time posts to take advantage of reactive or seasonal opportunities.
5. Sell directly with shoppable posts
As mentioned earlier, there are ways to sell products directly on Instagram through the shoppable posts feature. With shoppable posts, Instagram becomes a channel where users can complete the full buying process from discovery to purchase. You can identify shoppable posts on Instagram with the “Tap to View Products” text that pops up or the shopping bag icon.
To turn your Instagram account into a complete shopping experience you’ll first need to ensure you meet the following criteria:
- Own an Instagram business account. You can find more on how here, but the key action is to go into your Instagram’s account settings and go to Switch to Business Account.
- Your business must be located in one of these countries: United States, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, or Australia
- The business must be selling physical goods and you need to comply with Instagram’s merchant agreement and commerce policies.
- Connect your business profile to a Facebook catalog. You can create and manage this directly through Business Manager on Facebook. Read Facebook’s guide to how to do this for more detail.
Once all these criteria are met, you can start posting shoppable posts on Instagram and turn your social channel into a reflection of your online store.
6. Preview your new products
Instagram is a great place to build hype and increase early demand for a new product you have for sale. You’re already updating your NitroSell-integrated online store with product images on the backend, so why not take those images and repurpose them for Instagram to preview new products that will be available to purchase soon? Here’s a great example from Adidas:
Just a product image and the launch date are enough to attract interest and build hype for your new products.
7. Utilize user-generated content for organic sales
If customers are posting images with your products in them on Instagram then you should repost and share these images, as this type of customer content builds trust in your brand and drives motivation to purchase. This social proof puts the physicality of your product into the buyer’s mind and with 93% of consumers finding UGC (user-generated content) helpful when making a purchase, it’s essential to capitalize on the opportunity when it presents itself.
As long as you credit the person that took the picture and inform them of your intention to repost the image, then you have the right to share this image on your channels. This action may even result in a microinfluencer type of relationship which can be a very productive way to drive sales and consideration from Instagram.
8. Maintain brand consistency
Maintaining consistency throughout your Instagram account is key for first impressions. New visitors will likely look at your profile image, scan through the first group of posts, and click into any that catches their eye. Content that feels out of place can cause you to lose followers quickly.
Determine your brand values and tone of voice for using Instagram before posting content. Think about how your typical customer would use Instagram or conduct some research to understand what type of content they engage with. Like all social channels, each one is used in a specific way and people can behave very differently from one channel to the next. And example of great brand consistency on Instagram is Red Bull. From a quick visit to the page, we immediately understand what type of content we’ll be seeing:
9. Add a CTA in your bio linking to a landing page
A simple Call To Action in your Instagram bio helps to describe the landing page or store you are linking to. “Click here to shop our range” or “Shop our latest products here” are two examples of effective CTAs. Just placing the link with no indication of where it will lead will confuse users and can lead to less traffic and sales from Instagram.
Make sure to track this link also so it is tagged as Instagram. Then you can track how valuable your Instagram account is to your business.
10. How to Get More Followers
Don’t take the easy way out and buy followers. It’s expensive and won’t lead to increased engagement. There are many simple optimizations you can make to your account to ensure followers can find you easily. Firstly, make sure your username is searchable and your bio is completed.
When starting out, ensure you have a feed with at least 12 to 15 posts on your profile so users know you’re committed to using Instagram. Then you can start following accounts that are related to your business and interact with them, this way you will pick up new followers and Instagram will suggest similar accounts to follow that match your circle of followers.
Lastly, announce on your other channels that you are on Instagram and include a link to your profile encouraging users to follow your account.
11. How to convert followers into customers
Converting your followers into customers will be a key measurement of success for your Instagram channel. Offering channel-specific promotions and deals to your Instagram audience to increase first-time sales can be a very effective way to launch your channel. It serves as an introduction to your new followers and establishes early brand loyalty.
Running contests and giveaways asking users to post using a specific hashtag to enter is another proven tactic for building brand awareness and loyalty. Make the hashtag specific (but not too long) so a search for it will only show posts relating to your competition which makes selecting the winner much easier.
12. Where Are Instagram Ads?
Instagram is owned by Facebook, Inc. so advertising for Instagram is done through Facebook Ads Manager. Linking your Facebook page to your Instagram account is useful to do when you start to advertise on Instagram as you will see your account automatically show up when going to create campaigns and place ads. If you don’t have a Facebook Ads Manager account you should set one up before you need to start advertising on Instagram.
13. Should my business use influencers?
There are currently over 500,000 active influencers operating only on Instagram. According to a study by InfluencerDB, 39% of all Instagram accounts with more than 15,000 followers are influencers. You should only really invest in influencer marketing if there is a natural fit for your business where the personality of the influencer aligns completely with your business. When considering this rationale, it starts to narrow any list of prospects you draw up.
While the influencer market on Instagram is large and expanding, according to an Influencer Intelligence and Econsultancy study, just 12% of US marketers strongly agree that influencers have increased revenues.
14. How to Find the Right Influencer
Finding the right influencer for your business can be difficult as matching your brand promises to one specific person can be a laborious task. However, an in-depth evaluation process for every influencer is absolutely essential to ensure that your business will not be brought into disrepute. You may eventually conclude that there isn’t any influencer that your business aligns with, and this is preferable to forcing a marriage between your business and someone with a decent following. Rigorous research and background checks should be conducted before you finish your search.
When finalizing on which influencer to employ the services of, it’s important to draw up a contract which strictly states how many posts per week/month/year are required and that a failure to do so indicates a breach of contract. Writing down everything you expect from your influencer and defining exactly what constitutes fulfilling the contract (Posts or Stories) is essential.
15. Does audience size matter?
As Gary Vaynerchuk said: “Followers can be absolutely everything or absolutely nothing.” What crucially matters is the value of your content and not how many saw it. While it’s nice to have a large audience, engagement is the key. Instagram is the best social channel there is at the moment for engagement so for retailers looking to increase brand awareness and purchase consideration, this is the place to be. In short, quality over quantity.
16. Strive for authenticity
As we mentioned previously, every social channel is used differently so what works on your other platforms may not work on Instagram. One strategy that is proven to work on Instagram is authenticity, so this should form your content backbone. Whether it’s using Instagram Stories to show users behind-the-scenes of your business or posting content that celebrates your employees, creating authentic and personable content is key to success on Instagram. Instagram, more than any other social channel, is where you turn your business into a real person.
17. Measure your success with analytics
As with any marketing activity, measuring is the key to defining success. However, Instagram doesn’t yet have a built-in analytics platform so this makes it a little tricky. When you do switch to a Business account, you will get access to some limited analytics around followers, impressions, and engagement.
You can also track campaign performance through Facebook’s Ads Manager, but only per campaign. Tagging each Instagram campaign with the name ‘Instagram’ or similar and then filtering by the word is a common practice so as not to have your Facebook and Instagram campaigns appearing together. Third party apps like Iconosquare are also available which allow you to measure your account over time and compare your business with competitors.
So, what’s next for Instagram?
Recently, Facebook, Inc. announced the testing of a new shopping feature called Checkout which aims to further turn Instagram into a fully integrated shopping experience. The mission statement for Checkout is to remove the need for the shopper to checkout on the retailer’s site, allowing them to fully complete the transaction without leaving Instagram.
NitroSell & Instagram
NitroSell is currently developing an integration to allow our retailers to sell their products on Instagram. This feature will enable retailers to automatically upload their product catalog from their ecommerce site to Facebook, and automatically update it every hour, to open up Instagram shopping for NitroSell retailers. Stay tuned for more updates.
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