Use Instagram to Help Drive E-Commerce Sales

You probably already know that Instagram is one of the largest social media networks around – with 500 million monthly active users as of 2016, it represents one of the most powerful platforms for promotion on audience size alone.
There’s more to Instagram than pure audience numbers, though – especially if you run an e-commerce store.

The major benefit Instagram offers is that it humanizes brands: 68% of Instagram users engage regularly with brands on the platform – more than double the number who do so on Facebook.

If your e-commerce store sells items that cater to the visual format – fashion, home goods, or tech gadgets, for example – then Instagram marketing can be a highly lucrative activity for your brand.

How to Promote on Instagram

First off, you should know that promoting on Instagram is different than promoting on any other social networking platform. Since the platform is primarily visual, you’ll need to invest some time or money in getting quality images. Which means you’ll need to:

1. Make Your Own Images

Taking Food Photos

Taking Food Photos

Making your own images is not that hard. Use a tool like Canva to make or modify simple, attractive images that play into the culture and attitude of your target demographic. These images should illustrate some characteristic of your brand’s value statement. Original quotes and inspiring imagery represent a cheap, easy way to get the content mill running.

The main drawback here is that quotes and inspirational imagery are indirect. You can never really establish yourself as a serious brand using only generic imagery.

2. Hire Professionals

Although you can get your Instagram presence started using generic imagery that appeals to your target audience, the time will come when you have to invest. This could mean hiring a professional photographer to set up a photo shoot that advertises your products, or having a graphic designer create high quality, branded imagery that showcases your online store’s value.

Newcomers to the Instagram marketing machine may balk at the prices professional photographers charge, but it’s important to remember that although Instagram is free for users, investment pays off for brands.

Fortunately, you can get great deals by working with aspiring photographers at the beginning of their careers – look for local photography students willing to develop a professional portfolio. Many will work for between $5 and $10 per image. Lifestyle photography works particularly well on Instagram, where users typically look for imagery that reinforces their culture and attitude – they follow brands who “get” them.

Use a tool like GramFeed to determine what your closest and most successful competitors are doing. This will give you an idea of the type of lifestyle content that works best for your niche.

3. Use Hashtags

Instagram Hashtag

Instagram Hashtag

Using hashtags effectively maybe one of the largest gray areas for newcomers to Instagram – and a reason why some users get frustrated and leave the platform. These users never cracked the power of the hashtag. The most basic utilization of the hashtag is Instagram’s Search tab. Think of hashtags as search keywords in a normal search engine. This allows users to browse all the posts that have the same tag they searched for. The most basic hashtag that should be applied to your posts is your company’s name, without spaces.

Some brands we have worked with didn’t even know their hashtag was already being used on Instagram – they had a head start! Other useful tags are areas of interest that revolve around your business. Last, add tags that are specific to that particular post. These three levels of tag sourcing gives users the various avenues to discover your posts and thus profile when browsing tags.

Achieving Worthwhile Growth on Instagram

Instagram Icons

If you have any experience with Facebook ads, you know that you can also incorporate Instagram advertisements into your campaigns. Facebook makes this a one-click affair on the Ads Manager screen.

The question is – should you do it?

For most e-commerce stores, the answer is yes. But there’s a caveat – to advertise selectively to niches based on layers of interest data collected by the platform, you need to link your Facebook account and run a synchronized ad campaign.

Otherwise, you run the risk of running a campaign too broad and too general to be effective. Instagram is the most global of all social networks – the platform makes no meaningful differentiation between users who come from different countries or speak different languages. For this reason, incorporating Facebook’s gender, location, and interest data into your campaign is a must.

For the same reason, using carefully selected lifestyle photography lets you address a specific group of people – ideally, a group that other brands are not meaningfully addressing.

Another thing you may notice about Instagram’s sponsored posts is that they do not necessarily result in a bigger presence on the platform. This is because users can’t follow you directly from their newsfeed. They need to actually type in your username, visit your profile, and follow you – even when introduced to your brand through a sponsored post.

A Word on Influencers

Another important way to achieve quick growth on Instagram is by leveraging deals with Instagram celebrities. If a very popular influencer in your niche promotes your brand, you can expect to generate a great deal of interest out of the arrangement.

While you may find that big-name influencers charge for this, you can also develop relationships with influencers who are happy to promote your products for free, or in exchange for product discounts. Influencers live off of great content, and are always happy to collaborate with brands that can provide that content.

In both cases, you can get a better deal working with established digital marketers like our team at oBundle – we can help you craft useful strategies for your Instagram audience.