Instagram Marketing Strategy: How to Make More Sales in 5 Steps?
Being an e-merchant, you have no other option than to take Instagram seriously and elaborate your Instagram marketing strategy as soon as possible if you don't yet have one. There is an immense potential lying within it for selling and for reaching out to your audience.
The days when Instagram was the home of selfies and food photos only, are long gone now.
You can’t imagine how you could be efficiently present on such an interface as an online store operator?
No problem, that’s exactly why we prepared this article.
Here you can learn everything about how you should start building your Instagram profile, how to make guides to the posts, how to organize your activities, even what at all (and when) you should post.
We’ll show you a set of valuable tools that will make you an expert at using Instagram, with analytics and with thinking ahead.
In the following we’ll talk about the below topics:
- How effective is Instagram in selling?
- 1) Build and optimize your profile
- Have a good profile photo
- Write a good introduction
- Link one of your relevant pages
- 2) Post pieces of content!
- First step: analyze your competitors
- Second step: choose the visuals
- Third step: post regularly
- Use the hashtags
- When to post?
- Combine your feed and email
- 3) Run advertisements
- 4) Find content ideas. A little help:
- Be creative
- User generated content
- Behind the scenes…
- Live streams
- Introduce influencers
- Organize prize competitions
- 5) Automate what you can, organize everything else
- Never use stock photos
- You can do this
How effective is Instagram in selling?
According to the data of L2, among all of the social media sites, the proportion of the browsing visitors converting into customers is the highest on Instagram.
In addition, the potential clients are also more willing to deal with the brands than on other platforms.
90% of the biggest brands of the world operate an Instagram profile. They don’t need to grab every tool they can, they use it simply because it’s really efficient.
According to Statista, as of September 2017, the number of monthly active Instagram users is 800 million globally. And it seems this number will grow further on at a rapid pace.
You can see now that you simply can’t leave Instagram out of your social media marketing strategy.
Or if you do so, your competitors will take advantage of all the opportunities you’ve left untouched.
1 ‒ Build and optimize your profile
The first step is that you make your potential customers follow you at all.
In order to direct them to your profile from other interfaces, you have to be a brand that’s most probably worth following on this interface in the first place.
However, most brands don’t put enough energy into the maintenance of their profiles.
This is what you should pay attention to:
Have a good profile photo
Your logo for example should work fine, most companies choose that.
Message match is excellent, it’s easily recognizable – if you don’t choose your logo, it still should be some kind of an image that can be easily linked to your brand.
You will also make your visitors become more committed like this – the average users come across a brand seven times before converting. And seeing the logo, the brand more frequently, will help them on that path.
Write a good introduction
Fill in the bio part as well: it should be clear from the text who you are exactly, what you’re dealing with, and the style should match the style of your brand’s overall communication.
You may as well include some major values in your introduction, moreover, you can even use emojis if you see fit. These are especially capable of capturing attention.
When choosing the name, you should make sure to select something that can be found easily: the user name should preferably match the brand’s name, or it should be similar to it as much as possible.
If it’s long or complicated, you can make it shorter, of course.
Link one of your relevant pages
You have the chance to redirect your followers to a given page from your profile.
In order to decide which one you should redirect them to, you have to ask yourself the following question: what would I like the visitors of my profile to do?
Obviously, it would be best if they purchased something from you right away, but that’s unlikely to happen.
On the other hand, if you have a blog posting interesting pieces of content, or a video channel for that matter, feel free to direct them to those.
For example, here you can see the links inserted in La Sportiva’s bio:
2 ‒ Post pieces of content!
You continuously have to pay attention to the content that you publish – they should preferably transmit the same visual elements, the same message.
But this is too important a question than to leave it just like that, so let’s see in detail what you have to do.
First step: Analyze your competitors
At first you should examine who, among your competitors, are active on Instagram, and what kind of content they post.
Analyze who the most successful are among them, and which of their pieces of content resonate most with the audience.
It’s also worth finding out how they direct the audience to their Instagram profile.
From a webpage, from Facebook, or from a newsletter for instance? Do they manage to recruit the appropriate audience with their technique?
In case you don’t have any competitors, monitor similar companies that operate on similar markets.
Follow them as well. They don’t necessarily have to be your direct competitors in order to learn a couple of useful practices from them.
By now, you may already have a set of ideas, however, your content has to be unique.
You want to stand out from the crowd.
In order to achieve this, you should follow a different path that also fits in the communication of your company.
Second step: choose the visuals
It’s aesthetics that’s most important on Instagram.
If people get to your profile and see that you upload confusing and chaotic images that don’t have much in common, they differ in style, in message, in meaning, there’s a great chance that they won’t follow you.
You have to maintain a stable standard, and you need to find your own style to be able to do that.
Choose the colours (color theory can help you with that, which we have already written about in detail earlier), the filters, decide what kind of photos you’ll upload, what kind of content you’ll share.
Whoever opens your profile, should experience this style in the very first moment.
If your brand has an already established image, you shouldn’t have major difficulties creating this.
You should elaborate a branding guide that will help you in your work (or the work of the social media manager responsible for Instagram for that matter) in the future.
This should include the following:
- What type of photos should you post? What should figure on them and what shouldn’t?
- What kind of visual appearance do you want, what kind of filters do you use?
- What colours do you work with?
- Images of what sizes do you upload? (1080 x 1080 pixels is the recommended size.)
- What kind of fonts do you use in the images?
Third step: post regularly
In your Instagram marketing, just like in case of all of your communication channels, you’ll have to find the frequency that’s not yet annoying but which ensures continuous presence for you.
The biggest brands post on average 1 or 2 times a day.
It’s also important that you don’t forget the analytics. Iconosquare is a great tool for the analysis of Instagram. With the use of this, you’ll get a better insight of whether you’re going in the right direction.
You’ll have to monitor the following aspects in the first place:
- Which are the most successful posts
- Which trigger the most interactions
- How many followers do you gain or lose within a given time period
You should get the useful data in an easily understandable way on the interface, then you can fine-tune posting based on those.
You can prepare monthly reports and you can analyze the individual posts.
You’ll receive data on how you can optimize (for example what kind of filters are worthwhile for you to use), and you can gain quite useful data on your followers as well.
After a couple of months of posting, when your follower basis is big enough, these data will be very useful.
You can automate your posting with the help of different tools, see section 5 to see them.
The best way to increase your visibility on Instagram is with the use of hashtags (besides entangling users with larger follower basis, but we’ll discuss that later).
No matter how good content you publish, your audience will not find those by themselves, unless you use the appropriate tags, because the users search for preferred pieces of content and profiles based on those.
Don’t use only the popular hashtags. Use the names of your brands as well, and create new hashtags that your audience will be able to use later.
When you organize some kind of a game or an event, in other words, if there are some topicalities that can be tied to you, try to spread these and that will also increase your visibility and the commitment of your audience.
Iconosquare is a great tool for that, especially that it can be used with free registration as well.
When to post?
Iconosquare’s data will precisely show that to you, still, we can present you some findings based on the general statistics that you can start working with.
The most active period is the weekend, from Friday until Sunday. And the most active period within the day is at around 5 p.m. This shows that Instagram is most busy after working hours.
Combine your feed and email
If you combine email marketing with your live Instagram feed, you can boost your overall conversion.
There are a couple of ways to do that.
Feature the latest content of your followers in your newsletter or email offer.
Hyatt did this in one of its email campaigns with the line “See how others make the most @Hyatt”.
At the bottom part of the email message you could see the latest images uploaded by the guests of Hyatt.
This is a perfect example for social proof where user generated content helps drive engagement and conversions.
Build your email list via Instagram
Start sending out email newsletters. Don’t let your potential customers, i.e. your followers, pass by your offers. Reach out to them via email as well.
If you already have a follower base, it’s worth building your email list by setting up an email sign up page. Insert the sign up link into your Instagram bio so that your form is easily accessible for users.
Now you can send out your newsletters and special offers. Don’t underestimate the power of email marketing. It’s still the best converting online marketing tool out there.
3 ‒ Instagram Advertising
Fortunately, owners of the platform realized early on how great a tool they had created for online merchants.
For this very reason, they introduced Instagram advertisements, which have ever since been quite efficient in increasing visibility, generating traffic and collecting leads.
It’s also an important fact that while the users of Facebook and of other social networking sites become immune to advertisements with time (which is why native pieces of content are increasingly popular on Facebook currently), no major signs of this are seen on Instagram.
The reason for this is that the emphasis here is still on creativity, on aesthetics, yet on interfaces where photos are posted, those who post (and advertise) relevant and good pieces of content can be identified at the very first moment.
In order to achieve success, your Instagram advertising and Instagram promotion goals have to be clearly defined.
These may typically be the following:
- Directing traffic to the webpage
- Having mobile applications downloaded and installed
- Having videos viewed
- Increase of a post’s reach
- Conversion on the webpage (in case of product advertisement)
- Increasing visibility
You can see that Instagram, and advertising on it, is suitable not only for simple brand building but for direct selling as well.
By the way, there are three types of these advertisements:
The last is less recommended, because the message intended to reach the user when using a carousel is typically not focused enough, however, it’s still more efficient on Instagram than if you placed one on your webpage.
(We’ve already written a thorough analysis of that, we strongly recommend reading it.)
The first step of optimization in ecommerce is always to get rid of the annoying factors that may discourage customers from converting.
If you advertise several products at the same time, or if the CTA is either too general or not clear enough, any of those can quite significantly reduce the conversion rate, especially on an interface as simple as Instagram by default.
Speaking of simplicity: make purchasing from you as easy as possible.
If the purpose of a given piece of content is in fact to make people get to your product page and buy the product, you should make sure to eliminate all unnecessary steps.
In case you have a specific offer, the link (simple, preferably shortened and customized) mentioned in the bio (introduction) should lead to a very simple landing page with a specific message, where the users will find the same message as they did in the advertisement, and of course the same visual elements as well. (In this case, message match is of vital importance in terms of visual elements as well.)
4 ‒ Find content ideas. Here’s a little help.
Place it in some kind of a real-life situation, present how it makes the life of the customers easier, how it’s made, how it’s used, what problems can be solved by using it, and so on. Selling can come after that.
Introduce an evangelist, a loyal customer who succeeded in solving one of his problems with your help. Or introduce someone who works for you.
Present the important (and interesting) milestones of the company’s history.
It’s the story that’s important: storytelling is one of the most powerful weapons in your hand.
Let the users feel that they have something to do with the story, that they could even be its star, because that’s what you can create subconscious connection, sympathy with.
You can also mention and tag influencers and celebrities in your stories.
You can also use Instagram Stories. They’re a great way to draw your followers’ attention to some of your actions, as they are always at the top of the news feeds.
Instagram Stories let you post creatively, using text and drawing tools. But beware that they will disappear after 24 hours and won’t show in your feed.
Set free your creativity
Think about how creative solutions can be realized with the help of your products.
How can they be used “unintended”, how can that be made interesting?
If you can’t invent something like that yourself, ask your audience. Or you can organize a game for that purpose (more about that later).
Ask them to send in creative photos and display those on your interface together with their stories.
And that brings us to another type…
User generated content
Social media content, created by your users, for free.
It plays a major role, as the audience loves when you provide them the opportunity to play, to appear, to show off.
And it brings you free content and very high reach, since everyone is happy to share such posts.
Of course, the posts have to have something to do with you.
The brand, your products should be included in them somehow, so that those who come across them know that they are related to you, as this is how you’ll benefit from it even more (in addition to it facilitating the commitment of your already existing audience).
Behind the scenes…
How is the daily work going on at your company?
Yes, you’ll have to tell a story about that as well, but you may as well do something interesting in addition: you can provide insight into workflow processes and events, which your audience could not see otherwise.
You allow exclusive experience like that, and make your brand closer and more informal to them, as you reveal your “secrets”.
That’s a great tool for trust building.
You organized an event? Or you’re simply participating in one?
Introducing your brand new product?
That’s a perfect opportunity to turn your audience on.
The reason why live streams are so popular is that because a lot of people who don’t go in person to such an event, would like to be present in mind and spirit, or at least learn about the most interesting happenings.
Use Instagram Live and share your live video content with your followers.
Obviously, you should make sure it’s a relevant event, which has the most chance of capturing their attention. It’s also recommended spreading the word of your live event way before it takes place.
Influencers can help you immensely to boost your brand awareness, sales, website traffic, or promotional campaigns.
Since they already have a huge audience, partnering with them can be extremely profitable, especially if they truly like what you’re doing.
It’s not by chance that influencer marketing is so efficient on Instagram: followers of the various celebrities can get incredibly enthusiastic when they see their heroes somewhere.
Here are some ways to work with influencers including some inspiring examples.
This is practically the same category as interviews on blogs.
Take an influencer with a lot of followers, who is also interesting for you, and present him/her in your feed in a way that the piece of content is connected to you as well.
They will also be happy to share these, and your audience will be enthusiastic about them.
Involving a popular photographer
Quality content is guarenteed when you ask a professional photographer to help you. And if he/she is popular as well, you can extend your audience remarkably.
Bonobos, a fashion brand, asked Foster Huntington to promote their summer collection. One of the platforms they used was Instagram, of course.
Foster was already very popular posting his own photos and videos. He took lifestyle shots for Bobobos and posted these in his feed, achieving a ton of views, shares, and likes.
The whole social media campaign proved to be big success increasing Bonobos’ average engagement rate by 300%.
Instagram is an excellent platform for organizing different prize competitions.
There are multiple reasons for that:
- You can perfectly promote it with influencer marketing.
- Reach of user generated content is huge.
- You can present the prizes straight away.
Of course, before starting organizing, you should set your specific goals, and formulate your call accordingly, in a very precise way.
What would you like to achieve?
- To direct users to your product page or landing page?
- To have more followers?
- To reach more people?
- To make one of your hashtags spread all over?
It’s also important what you offer in return.
The present should be valuable enough to make the users start posting or sending in pieces of content that can be associated with your brand, you’ll have to reward their efforts.
Don’t forget to reward the participants either: at least you should republish the best posts, introduce and celebrate the winner, ask questions from him, post as he receives the prize – use the power of storytelling.
A great tool, Wishpond can make organizing the competition for you a lot easier.
By using hashtags, you can follow the potential winners, the winner among the posted images may be the one that receives the most likes on your Facebook page or even your webpage. (Like this, you can easily promote the game for higher reach on other interfaces as well.)
5 ‒ Automate what you can, organize everything else
Since you have to continuously provide high quality content, posting daily can become quite exhausting.
Sometimes you forget it, sometimes you don’t have anything to publish, or you run out of ideas…
So it’s a good thing to always make enough pieces of content in order to set up a reserve for such cases.
Take the photos made by a professional photographer or those among the product photos and other snapshots that are good enough to use them on Instagram, then change them to match the profile’s spirit.
You can even preschedule your posts you prepared in advance, and thus you can automate your posting activity.
As we have already mentioned, regularity is quite important. For this reason, a content calendar is never a bad idea.
Adjust posting frequency to your capacity. E.g. if you can create only 8 posts a month, spread them out evenly, like two posts a week.
It’s worth varying the content types described above: ten product photos should not come one after the other, the different categories should vary at an enjoyable pace, so that you serve the needs of every member of your audience.
Interactions are also important: Instagram is a social networking platform after all.
You’ll have to answer the messages and comments here, too, just like you have to do so on Facebook.
Of course, not 24 hours a day – you should rather organize this activity, choose 30 minutes within the day when you deal only with responding to the reactions and answers that came in.
Thus you’ll “move” your brand closer to the audience, you’ll show your human face and will make them more committed.
The Letsell.It application represents a sort of bypass.
Even though Instagram API doesn’t support automated posting, you can still advertise your products through this application.
In exchange for a small fee, you can reach an audience through them, who you were unable to get to earlier.
It’s also a useful function for chatting with your customers, which will lead to higher conversion as it improves user experience.
Never use stock photos
If you want to be successful with your Instagram marketing strategy, you should forget about using photos from stock image sites.
It’s the unique and relevant pieces of content that are successful on Instagram.
It will be more expensive, but the results will justify that the unique and high quality images perform better and make more profit for you.
(By the way, hiring a professional photographer is not at all as expensive as you would think so. By calculating with 1 or 2 posts a day, you can have content of even several months created relatively cheaply, provided you prepare everything right for the shooting in advance.
Stock photos represent one thing to your audience: that you weren’t willing to invest any energy into showing the best visual content you can on an interface where that’s all that matters in the first place. Why would they follow you then?
If you use all these tips, you won’t have difficulties in creating a great Instagram profile, and building not only your brand but increasing your income as well.
The key, like many times, is simplicity:
Once you’ve laid down some ground rules, the rest will almost take care of itself.
Follow our pieces of advice and tips, use the tools mentioned here, exploit the various content types, and I guarantee you’ll become a more successful e-merchant.
Digital Marketing Manager
Gábor started working for AionHill as a Magento eCommerce project manager. After 6 years, he joined the restructured Marketing Team. His main responsibilities are content strategy and communications partnership management. Gábor has two kids, likes cooking traditional Hungarian meals and playing strategy and online role playing games.