14 Ways to Use Instagram to Drive eCommerce Sales
Instagram just hit 150 million users and is becoming a social platform that is becoming harder and harder to ignore. Instagram, the photo sharing social media website, isn’t just for sharing your pretty day to day photos with friends and family. In fact, for some clever businessmen it’s become a free marketing platform. The key, they say, is to build a following that wants to see you, whether you are selling something or not. If you want you and your products to get heard and seen in front of your desired target audience, Instagram is the thing for you as it is an excellent platform for engaging customers and retaining them. Competition in the market which is already an oversaturated one is hard and simply setting up a flashy e-commerce site is not good enough to draw the sales you want. Using strategies involving social media to promote your online store and turning your e-commerce site into something more than just a place to buy products actually helps boost sales. Instagram is a powerfull tool. It allows you to connect directly with current and future potential customers, developing a relationship that leads ultimately to sales, as consumers tend to shop with retailers they feel like they can relate to. Instagram allows you to build that kind of relationship with your customer.
Many large brands are using Instagram for brand reinforcement. Brands like Starbucks (561,293 followers) use it to tell a behind-the-scenes story of how the coffee is made. Redbull (245,019 followers) is also doing a great job by posting “gives you wings” photos. Other social brands like Puma (5,865 followers) and Playboy (96,195 followers) all have carved out their strategy in Instagram as well. But these are all mostly brand reinforcement. Who is actually turning photos into online sales?
With Instagram, marketers have access to a massive audience of 150 million active users uploading over 40 million photos per day and posting 1000 comments per second. Like I said before, Instagram is more than a place for day to day pictures. Consumers are photographing and discussing brands every day.
Instagram is the largest acquisition that Facebook has ever made and this fact makes this tool extremely important. Facebook has nearly a billion users, and it is the number one social networking website on the internet. More and more people are spending more time on Facebook than anywhere else. Another fact is that number one content that is shared on Facebook is photos. Most people now carry smartphones with cameras in their pocket everywhere they go, and that people are now spending more time accessing Facebook through their smartphones than through a desktop or laptop. The connection suddenly becomes crystal clear. Photo sharing is what Facebook users do more than anything. Now Facebook owns the fastest growing smartphone photo sharing app and its network of users. What does Facebook know about Instagram that business owners need to understand? People love to share photos, and not just photos of them and their friends, they like to share all kinds of photos. Why? Because photos create and build emotional connections, and that’s exactly what Instagram will help you do.
1. Actions speak louder than words
Pictures are the best way convey your actions. Before setting up your Instagram account, you should determine first, what kind of image and impression you want to build for your company and what kind of pictures you can use to convey your ideas. First go and check out the hashtags to determine which ones are the most popular. Keep in mind that hashtags make it easy for you to collect photos from your followers around a certain theme. To use hashtags simply add a hash (e.g. “#tshirt”) to your photo’s caption, and the photo will be tagged with “tshirt”.
2. Be original, be human
Just like on other websites, make your content interesting, original and worth sharing. Creating share worthy content will force people to promote you. Think about what your target customers will enjoy seeing. For instance, if you are posting pictures of your product or services be sure to post pictures of other things as well. Think about the people that are part of your company and showcase them, too. Are you having an office outing or a charity event? Be sure to have these human elements of your business represented. Pictures speak to us and tell stories, so try to capture the moments that make your company special and post those as well.
3. Link your social accounts
When your business is all set up on Instagram, go and shout out to your Twitter and Facebook followers that you’re on Instagram. Let your Twitter followers and Facebook friends find you easily when using Instagram’s Find Friends tool.
4. Instagram is the best
Instagram is an app that you should set as your default app for photo sharing if you want to maximize the benefits. You do not have to worry about your old Facebook or Twitter business accounts. It is very easy to share photos from Instagram to the social networking giants once posted.
5. Make your posting schedule
Make sure that each piece of content you upload is a part of a bigger picture and aligns with the overall image of your brand. Each of the pictures you upload should be significant and important. Remember that frequency of posting pictures is not as important as consistency. Make a posting schedule that you feel comfortable in and maintain it. Do not over commit thinking you must post daily if you know that you really cannot keep that commitment. If you can only post weekly, that is okay, just make sure you do it consistently. Your audience will get used to your frequency and they will be trained to know how often to expect your posts.
6. Branding is the key!
The way to use Instagram effectively, efficiently and for maximum impact is by focusing on branding. The best way to do this is by using your brand’s name within a hashtag or to create unique hashtags associated with your brand or products. Puma uses their brand name in unique hashtags like #pumastyle, #pumalife and even #pumapigeon. The clever thing about this strategy is that over time your fans will start to use these tags and this will achieve two important goals, differentiating your brand from the thousands of others in your space and help spread brand awareness on the back of the social network.
7. Be real
Instagram is all about life and events. Everyday 40 million photos are uploaded to this social network. In order to have an impact and gain a following on Instagram you need to be as authentic as possible. This means focusing on creating an Instagram profile which taps emotions in people who view your photos. Look at Instagram as a blank page where you can show your favorite emotions, products, occasions and events. Instagram should not be looked at as a marketing platform but a happening and fun place. Marketing is more of a byproduct on Instagram.
8. Run competitions or campaigns
The fact that Instagram is an open social network with so many pictures being uploaded everyday makes it an ideal platform to encourage the creation of user generated content by your fan following which is a great thing. Add the user generated photos to your product pages. Present “social proof” to your prospective customers that your products are popular and purchased regularly. Run photo competitions and encourage your fans, customers and others to share photos of them engaging with your product. Try and be as unique as you can and tie together all your marketing activities around these competitions.
9. Make your followers feel special
Instagram is an extremely open social network which means that you have the opportunity to be very direct when engaging your followers. One of the cool ways you can do this is by picking one follower a day or a week and making them your star follower. You can repost their image on your profile or tag them in the picture. This will be a huge surprise to the follower and result in a lot of excitement. The fact that a huge brand can reach out to one individual and say thank you is what makes social networks so amazing and every company should be utilising this power to give back to their fans.
10. Engage with customers
Many of your customers are posting photos of the items they bought from your online store. Pay attention to what they are saying. Positive and happy reviews are great for your e-commerce site and boost sales. Negative comments are an opportunity for you to reach out immediately and turn the bad experience into a good one. Reaching out to your customers to address the situation reveals that there is a genuine and invested human voice behind your business. Developing that rapport is key to gaining consumer trust, which, in turn, can lead to customer loyalty and increased sales.
11. Repost shares to improve content sustainability
As with other social networks, the posts shared on Instagram have a short shelf life. They show up on people’s feeds but are quickly pushed back by new ones. To maximize the benefits of using Instagram, you have to make sure the content remains visible for a prolonged time period. Convert Instagram posts from customers into content. Launch a page on your e-commerce site dedicated to Instagram photos showing your product. You can also create a blog post using the favorite Instagram posts of the day, week or month. Repost Instagram photos featuring your product on Facebook or Twitter or other social media websites. Not only using these images in other social media will make your loyal customers and followers happy, but also encourage the visibility of these customer-generated posts. Yet another benefit from reposting customer Instagram photos is that now you can link the image to the corresponding product page on your e-commerce site.
12. Participate in relevant posts
You have always let your customers lead the conversations. Enter the conversations yourself and make your voice reach with content that your followers will enjoy and will want to share. Give your customers a glimpse at behind-the-scenes culture to create the sense of transparency. Moreover, customers find this interesting and would want to share it. Post photos of new products in motion and add links in the comments but at the same time, remember, you don’t have to bombard your followers with heavy promotional materials. You want to establish rapport, so post and share like a real person, rather than a company looking for a sale when you use Instagram for e-commerce. With Instagram, you can target your desired audience and engage them in a conversation, developing a relationship that can lead to excellent word-of-mouth and loyalty. In this saturated e-commerce world, consumers tend to buy from retailers they trust and know. Instagram can act as a shortcut to build that feeling.
13. Follow trends or make new ones
Encourage your customers to share their unboxing experiences when you send them products. To effectively do so, create a specific hashtag about your brand, something like #KartRocketDelivery, for instance. Then promote it on your various networks. Your customers are likely to take photos of your products as they unpack them. Add a card on your packages mentioning your hashtag and a call to action for your customers to share their photos on Instagram.
14. Make sure your store is hot and happening
Instagram has the ability to make almost anything look enviable. Many-a-time you may have scrolled through your feeds and wished you were at that glam dinner party or lavish vacation, so why not give your store that same “I want to go there” feel? Brands that manage pop-up shops are already quite adept at promoting in-store events on Instagram. Few retailers for instance, are constantly posting pictures of the yummy treats and well-styled mingling that define their parties.