Over 600 million people share or view photos and videos on Instagram each month, with 400 million people visiting the site daily. And 60 percent of Instagram users said they discovered new products on the platform, while 75 percent said they had taken action after being inspired by a post. For business owners, that translates into millions of potential customers for their products or services.
But just posting a photo or video on Instagram won’t send viewers to the business’s website or landing page – or that it will even be viewed by the right people (or anyone).
So how can business owners use the popular mobile photo- and video-sharing platform to showcase and sell their products and services? Here are 11 suggestions from Instagram pros, business owners and social media marketers.
1. Open an Instagram Business account
“You can now create your own Instagram Business account,” says Shaun McGuire, senior product analyst for social media, Netsertive. “Having a business account lets people find you in searches on the platform,” and 70 percent of Instagrammers follow at least one business, according to the site. Moreover, Instagram Business is “packed with tools [that give you] insight into your social following and [provide] analytics on your posts. [So] if you've been using a personal account on behalf of your business, convert it to a business account.”
2. Maximize your Instagram bio
“Create a catchy bio, have a good profile picture and [include] a link [to your website or a landing page] where [Instagrammers] can easily buy [your products],” says Huseyin Aksu, CEO & webmaster, Fantasy Couch.
3. Post great photographs (and videos) – preferably ones that tell a story or show people using your product
“Instagram is an almost entirely visual medium,” says Jennie Pastor, founder & CEO, Kavador, an online jeweler. So to catch someone’s eye, “images must be crisp [not blurry or hard to see] and interesting.” Moreover, “images [should] tell a story to help potential buyers imagine themselves using or wearing the product, to compel a purchase.”
4. Focus on lifestyle
“Instagram's success is rooted in the ability of its users to offer glimpses into their lives through compelling imagery,” explains Nate Stewart, group product manager, BigCommerce. “Brands should take that same approach, and aim to convey the lifestyle their product enables rather than overtly selling the product itself.”
Furthermore, “build up a ‘lifestyle’ theme” on your Instagram page, says Pastor. And make sure your photographs and videos are “cohesive and consistent,” so customers immediately get the feel for your brand.
5. Use hashtags (wisely)
Research hashtags to find the ones best suited to your product and/or business. “I personally use http://hashtagify.me/,” says Jeff Moriarty, head of marketing, Tanzanite Jewelry Designs. “It's free and allows me to easily find the hashtags related to the product I am trying to sell. I then make sure to include all those hashtags in my post. This makes it much easier for users of Instagram to find my items.”
Also consider creating a unique hashtag for your brand. And use a minimum of five hashtags per post. (Research indicates that no or a few hashtags will make your posts practically invisible, whereas 10-12 relevant hashtags seems to be the sweet spot for attracting the most Instagram followers.)
6. Interact with followers
Just like on other social platforms, “it is important for brands to engage with their [Instagram] followers by following them back, reposting relevant content and maintaining a two-way conversation,” says Moses Velasco, chief product evangelist, Socialbakers.
“Engage with comments and questions on your own posts and use hashtags, location tags and content your business is tagged in to discover and join the conversation on other community members’ posts,” says Jim Squires, director of market operations, Instagram. “A lot of great small business accounts feature content posted by followers, which helps strengthen the relationship between a business and its most enthusiastic customers.”
7. Court influencers
“Building a strong influencer relations program is essential to your company’s Instagram strategy, especially if you are a small business and this is your first Instagram account,” says McGuire. “To start your influencer relations program, identify non-competitive Instagram accounts in your customer vertical with a strong following. Begin engaging with those accounts by liking and commenting on their posts, possibly even ‘regramming’ their posts on your own account.”
Once you’ve established a relationship, “send a direct message to the account about ways to cross- promote each other’s content,” he suggests. “Developing a relationship with a [popular] Instagram [user] in the same industry is a great way to get in front of new leads and expand your company’s social visibility.”
8. Make your photos shoppable
“In November, Instagram began testing shoppable photos, giving a small group of brands the ability to share product details, pricing and a ‘Shop Now’ button directly within the app,” says Stewart. And “empowering consumers to make a purchase whenever the inspiration strikes [has] become increasingly valuable as buying behavior continues to evolve.”
Therefore brands would be wise to take advantage of this feature as soon as they are able – “or go a step further by migrating to an ecommerce platform that can sync these social stores to your branded store, [to] create a more seamless shopping experience for your customers,” he suggests.
Brands can also use a third-party service, such as Soldsie, to sell products on Instagram now.
9. Conduct flash sales
“We run bi-weekly flash sales at a specific day and time via posts on Instagram,” says Felipe Vasconcelos, owner, Elastic Band Co. “These sales train users to keep coming back to engage and shop multiple times a month.”
10. Offer Instagram only promotions
“Every shopper loves a percent off their product,” says Emma Vince, digital PR lead, TinderPoint. And “Instagram is the perfect place to put such promotions. [Just] create an image [or post] based around the promo code to entice people to stop scrolling [and go to your website].”
You can either put the promo code in the caption, letting people know when and where they can use it, or embed it in the photo. Just be sure to delete the photo/post when the promo code is no longer valid.
11. Use Instagram ads
“To find new customers, consider experimenting with advertising on the platform,” says Squires. “Instagram offers all of the same targeting capabilities as Facebook while utilizing the same simple ad buying interfaces. We also offer many ad formats – landscape, up to sixty-second video and multi-image, for example. You’re also able to promote a post directly from the Instagram app.”
Once you’ve set up a Business profile on Instagram, which is free (you just need to have a Facebook page), you can then determine how much you want to spend, where you want your Instagram ad (target audience) and how long you want it to run for.