Think Instagram is just a social media platform for selfie obsessed teens? Think again.
As much as I like selfies (not always teens though) I’m an advocate for using Instagram for a much, much, greater purpose: generating product sales. Hard core cash, that is.
The fastest growing social media platform has made its debut in 2010, although at first it did not receive much love from serious business professionals – everyone seemed to only use it to post pictures of food and pets (guilty and guilty). It wasn’t until 2012 when Instagram was purchased by Facebook that it started seeing a sky rocketing growth, now with a total of 1B active users.
So what makes Instagram so special? At a glance, it seems like a platform for sharing and liking pretty photos. Except that it’s not. When used strategically, Instagram can be one of the greatest social assets a business can build and here are a few reasons why you, as a business, need to start loving it:
- Instagram has by far the best engagement rate in the social platform world. Facebook has been abruptly declining in the organic reach department (the free posts designed for page followers) with an average of 4% engagement rate, while Instagram is going strong at 40-50%
- 80% of users follow a business on Instagram and 60% of them say they have heard about a product or a service from Instagram. Let that sink in for a moment and think of what happens if you’re not active on Instagram as a business
- Instagram users have pretty deep pockets. In a 2016 survey conducted by Pew Research Centre, research showed that 31% of users make over $75k/year
- 75% of users take action after visiting a post – such as clicking on a website, emailing or checking out a user’s other social media accounts
So, how do you make Instagram work for you? Most businesses’ frustrations stem from the same root: “I don’t get it, it’s not useful for me and it doesn’t generate any results”. That’s simply because it’s easy to fall into the trap of spending too much time on Instagram figuring out what to post, how to post, when to post, who to follow and other menial tasks.
But fear no more, rocking Instagram is easier than believed and even easier than that with the following high-level guide designed to make Instagram work for you:
Fist things first.
Due to its nature as a photo and picture sharing platform, Instagram does not give you a lot of room for writing. It is then crucial to take advantage of every corner of space you can get your hands on. Have a clear and concise description, complete with your phone number and email address. The description section is the absolutely only spot where you can include a link on your Instagram profile. Your website is the most logical choice but you may want to change it according to promotions, special events or any other web destination you want your followers to go on.
The image below represents a few great examples of Instagram account setup
You will want to choose a profile photo that represents your business. Using your logo is a great way to reinforce branding but if you do that, make sure to use the same logo on all web presence. If your logo is not recognized by your followers you can use a picture that represents your business (ie. if you are a bikini store you may want to use a photo of a model wearing one of your feature pieces).
Feel, theme and branding
When you set up your account make sure it is crystal clear what a visitor should expect to see. Every Instagram account you own needs to have the same feel and branding. Use the same color palettes, same fonts and the same voice. This will reinforce your branding and familiarity.
#insight: 60% of top brands use the same filter on all photos. Once you upload photos you will have the option to choose filters. From bright Juno to dreamy Valencia, make sure whatever you choose represents the feel and the voice of your brand
Make sure your profile is public!
The great thing about Instagram is that other users can follow you without you having to give them permission. Select your profile as “open” when you set it up.
#tip: To increase traffic to your account, link your Instagram account to your Facebook Page (you will have this option on your Facebook Fan page) and install a “follow us” button on your website as well.
What, when, how often?
If I can give you a single piece of advice regarding posting it would have to be: make sure you have a strategy in place. Scrambling every day to find something to post will not work out for you and it will only result in low engagement, unaesthetic and eclectic pages – very far from what Instagram is supposed to be.
Take some time to carve out content at the beginning of each month. Align posts with specials, promotions and upcoming holidays. While Instagram doesn’t allow foreign platforms to post pictures and videos, you can use tools like Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule posts in advance.
What should you post?
Whatever is relevant to your business! Retail and eCommerce businesses have it the easiest as the content cup usually runneth over. Pictures and videos of your products, posters of specials, screenshots of customer reviews and customer generated content are just a few ideas of great content. Ask your customers to send you photos of the products they buy in your store and tag them in the post. That way, their followers will be able to see it. Even better, ask them to post photos of your products and tag you on their feed (contests are a great way to prompt this behaviour)!
#tip: posts with locations attached get 79% more engagement
How often you should post?
The key to Instagram is consistency. What the platform doesn’t want to see is an account that posts once a week, follows a bunch of people then goes AWOL until the next promo post. On the contrary, the algorithm rewards consistency. Having that said, posting 1-2 x day and adding 1-5 Insta-stories will generate enough engagement and interest without making you look spammy. Use tools like Canva or Snappa to create Instagram approved graphics for free.
The Importance of hashtags
Think of hashtags as filing folders. When you attach a hashtag to a post, users who follow that hashtag will see your post, even if they don’t follow your page. Like posting, strategy is key here. Don’t just use hashtags according to your moods. Make sure your hashtags are relevant, have a following and get people to your page. Take the time to research relevant and popular hashtags in your niche (see photo below for two great examples of hashtag usage in Loreal’s posts)
#tip: Instagram allows 30 hashtags per post; however, research shows that the optimal number is 11
#onemoretip #addingvalue: after posting, click on a few hashtags you have included and like a few posts in that hashtag’s feed; this will show activity and will boost your post tot the top
The Insta Story – an enigma to most.
Instagram took a personal vendetta against Snapchat when the latter refused to sell itself to the former (this is only my interpretation of the social platforms drama, of course). Formerly as the only platform with disappearing posts and face filters, Snapchat’s death came along when Instagram decided to do the same thing, but better. Now, every Instagram account can post a story that will disappear within 24 hours. Use this space to post more relaxed, casual posts: a day at the store if you are a brick and mortar store, a close-up of a customer review, perhaps a quick video of the general manager saying “hi”. Instagram allows one hashtag per story so make sure you make that count. Add your location and the most relevant hashtag.
Use them to increase branding and sales!
Paying celebrities to feature products is not just for Fortune 500 companies anymore. Social Influencers are the new celebrities and you can leverage them to increase your revenue and branding. Find Influencers in your niche who are willing to either tag, shout-out or post on your behalf in exchange for free products or money. They are trusted personas and will direct many sales and interested users your way.
I have personally witnessed brands generating the bulk of their 6 and 7-figure revenue solely from Instagram. When done right, the “picture perfect” platform becomes a sales combat weapon for the eCommerce and retail world. Try it and crush it!
Have any questions about the article, Instagram or Social Media in general? I’m a message away so feel free to connect anytime!
About the author…
Sandra co-owns a marketing agency helping businesses sell more, better and faster by leveraging social media marketing and social media advertising. She develops strategic social media plans designed to generate engagement, followers and revenue by diving into market data, behaviour and emotions.