If you’re not on Instagram, get on it. And if you’re already there, but not currently using it to drive sales, start today.
The social media platform boasts over 400 million active monthly users. That’s more than Twitter (307 million), Google+ (300 million), Snapchat (200 million), Pinterest (100 million), and Tumblr (30-50 million). It’s a huge potential market.
And of those 400 million, 70% of account holders have already used the platform to look up a brand or company, 37% follow between one and five brand accounts, and 32% follow more than five of them (source: Iconosquare). They average about 3.5 billion likes per day. We’re talking big, big numbers.
Instagram remains one of the most popular and growing platforms. And as a busy business owner, it’s the ideal place to generate leads, increase sales, and connect with your customers.
Their Instagram for Business portal provides everything you need to get started...so get started. Links across the top offer tips for setting up your account, finding inspiration, brand resources, and their business blog. It’s your one-stop shop for all things Instagram.
And it’s not just for businesses working in a visual industry. Virtually any company can and should be on the platform. But how? What can you (yes, you!) do to drive sales with Instagram?
So glad you asked.
1. Selling Without Selling
People are constantly inundated with promotions and pushy sales tactics, and that’s especially true in the online realm. Banner ads, pop-up ads, emails, Facebook timelines, ads, ads, and more ads. It’s aggressive and relentless. Instagram, on the other hand, is relatively laid back and easygoing. It’s a picture, with a short caption.
Yes, you could get obnoxious and salesy on it, too, but the platform lends itself to simplicity and engagement. Not sales. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use it to funnel sales and create leads. It’s all about the engagement you cultivate with people. You should rarely - if ever - do any actual selling on Instagram itself. And people will love that.
2. The Perfect Bio
Step 1 is setting up your business account. Do not use a personal Instagram profile to promote your business...it deserves its own place. You need to select a username that applies to your business (ideally the name itself if that’s available). Your can optimize your profile bio with a few simple tips: include the name, what your business is or does, how it’s unique, and perhaps include something fun or a keyword or two (but don’t go overboard).
Most importantly: link back to your business website. The bio is the ONLY spot where you can include a clickable link, so make sure you’ve done that. It allows your Instagram followers to click-through to your website quickly and easily, whenever they want (and you can change that link - to a promotional landing page, or whatever - as often as you want). Making things as simple as possible is one of the best ways to drive sales.
3. Use Hashtags
Hashtags are not unique to Instagram. You’ll find them on many social media platforms. But that doesn’t make them any less useful. A few relevant hashtags can put your post in front of many, many more users. They can increase interactions, get your post included in popular trends and discussions, and make your account easier to find. The experts disagree on the ideal number, but the general consensus is somewhere between 2-5 hashtags per post. Buffer suggests listing them in the first comment below the caption to avoid crowding.
But which hashtags should you use? The key word here is relevant. It has to apply to the post and/or your business in some meaningful way. Brainstorm a few options, and then check out a search engine devoted to Instagram hashtags to see which ones are more popular and current. Both Findgram or Websta are good choices.
Use hashtags. Full stop.
4. Variety is the Spice of Life
Obviously, the images and videos themselves are the meat and potatoes in your Instagram menu. If you sell a product - be it clothing, smartphone accessories, shoes, bags, or whatever - you’ll post pictures of them. But that’s not all. You need some variety. And if you sell a service, you’re not out of luck, either.
The best and most popular Instagram accounts use a wide range of posts throughout the day. Products? Of course. But you can and should include behind-the-scenes (at your headquarters, the manufacturing plant, company events), how-tos, your product or service in use, entertaining or inspirational quotes (people love and frequently share them on social media), introductions to company staff, special events, and even sales and promotions. Don’t limit yourself.
5. Polish Your Images
As a visual medium, you’ll want to ensure your photos and videos look great. That starts with the original source, so always use the best available equipment. A grainy 2 megapixel photograph is going to look awful. Thankfully, most smartphones are more than up to the task these days. If your business sells a product, it’s probably worthwhile to have those pictures taken by a professional...at least sometimes.
Instagram has a lot of filters and editing capabilities built right in. You can instantly change the look by selecting a different filter. But don’t feel obligated. Unfiltered photos are still very popular (and #nofilterneeded is a great hashtag to highlight the quality and beautiful aesthetic of something). In terms of the other filter options, it’s really up to you. They all have their fans and opponents. A few years ago, the Mayfair filter was generating the most interaction (likes plus comments), but others are quite popular, too. Whichever you choose, don’t rely on it exclusively. Mix it up.
A fairly new feature in Instagram is geotagging. You can now indicate where the photo or video was taken, and it appears at the top of the post. While fewer than 5% of users use it, geotagged posts get up to 79% more engagement. That’s a lot. Consider adding a geotag for promotions, sales, and company events to take advantage of local followers and fans.
7. Give Them Something To Do
The caption that accompanies your post should be short, pithy, and ideally get people to engage (like, comment, share). Post a photo with two colours, options, or sizes, and ask people which they prefer. Or give a call to action - something for people to do (share to get a discount, like to receive a coupon, and so on).
8. Use Contests
Instagram is a fantastic way to engage your followers via contests and promotions. At its simplest, instruct people to share a particular photo (your product in use, their Monday morning face, photos of a recent blizzard, or whatever), include a particular hashtag (#brandname, or #MondayMornings, or #ChicagoBlizzard), and state a deadline. Everyone who does so is automatically entered into a contest to win a coupon, or free product, or whatever. 70% of Instagram users say they’ve already entered a contest on the platform. Instagram’s Promotion Guidelines are very straightforward.
9. Like Other Posts
You should aim to “like” and share posts that include your brand name or associated hashtags. 65% of users feel honoured when a brand likes their post, and that goodwill carries over to purchasing and positive word-of-mouth. It takes very little time from you, and the potential rewards make it an excellent investment.
10. Paid Advertising
Last but not least, Instagram (like all major social media platforms) now offers paid advertising options. Advertising on Instagram can be used to generate clicks to your website, video views, or mobile app installations. You create an ad, set a daily budget, and Instagram will get that ad in front of the right audience. No fuss, no muss.
Instagram can be used to promote a sale or discount, but it could be so much more. Finding potential and current customers, spreading brand awareness, and engaging with users should be your first goal. Create a connection, build that relationship, and only then should you gently...ever so gently...remind them that you sell something. If the relationship comes first, they’ll be more willing to buy.
Have you used Instagram for anything other than to show other people what you had for dinner last night? Share your experience in the comments below...