Luisa Brenton
May 5, 2016

6 Tips How to Use Instagram for eCommerce

Okay, so there are bigger networks out there than Instagram. The network has 400 million users while Facebook has four times that amount. Still, as Business Insider reports, that number hides some important realities. Instagram users are far younger on average than Facebook users and they view the network as far more important (32% say that Instagram is their most important social network while only 14% say the same for Facebook). What’s more, while Facebook active user-ship has been shrinking according to some reports, Instagram has experienced phenomenal growth.

All that means that for businesses that are visual in nature, want to have a youthful hip brand and that are targeted at millennials, Instagram is simply the way to go. That said, if you want to use it, you do have to make some changes. It isn’t Facebook, after all (and that’s kind of the point). So let’s look at some strategies you can use to push your eCommerce here.

Have a Clear eCommerce Strategy

Having a well-considered strategy is vital for all content marketing – much more so than for other forms of marketing. The reason for this is that most other forms of marketing (SEO for example) depend on algorithms, which to an extent can be gamed. That isn’t true with people (Well, mostly it isn’t true). With them, you need to create constantly high-quality material, as otherwise your campaign will not work. This means that you can’t think of this type of marketing as an ‘also ran’. Content marketing takes both time and commitment before it works. Are you willing to do that? If not, consider more traditional marketing approaches.

How to Use Instagram as a Sales Channel

The problem with Instagram is that it’s hard to turn it into a sales channel, as it doesn’t make it easy to link to other websites. Nonetheless, some services, such as Instaorder, Inselly, Soldsie and 10sec, have managed to modify Instagram and thereby create this possibility, so consider looking at them.

Alternatively, consider simply adding links in your descriptions. Instagram might not recognize these but as long as you make certain that they’re sufficiently short for people to easily transport them over to new windows that will only be a slight inconvenience.

Let Users Create Your Content

This new generation expects a far more social interaction with their chosen brands. For that reason consider creating the possibility for them to include their pictures on your page. This way if people like your brand they can post pictures of themselves wearing it. That will both serve to please them and also create free advertising. There are numerous third party tools that will help you do exactly this. Just type “embed an instagram feed” into google and Bob’s your uncle (or should that read ‘nephew’?).

Product Placement

A great way to get attention for your product is to use them in real-life settings and then post those pictures onto Instagram, thereby giving users an idea of how your product should be used and how it would look on them. Yes, these can be completely staged, but by giving the illusion of authenticity users will often feel that a product has been social proofed far more than in a traditional advertisement campaign.

At its most basic you can use people from your company to pose in this way and this is certainly a good initial strategy (Especially if they have an Instagram account and don’t mind posting the picture on there). Alternatively, you can take it a step further and find influencers, or those people who have a following, and ask them to post pictures with your products. Now this can be tricky, but it can be well worth it as it will both help you brand your product as well as get serious exposure.

Run a Contest

People love contests, especially if they themselves can participate and vote. All you need to do is generate a large enough following that people will find out about your contest and then have a prize large enough to spark people’s imagination. Now it’s important that you don’t skimp on this. A voucher just won’t cut it.

To make it hurt less consider how much exposure you can potentially get and how much you would pay with a traditional campaign to get the same amount, and then use that as a benchmark to decide how much the prize should be worth. Also, several rounds will draw out the exposure over a longer period. Consider having three trenches, for example, with the five best of each round going through to the final round.

Don’t Push Too Hard

Posting pictures on Instagram is free, so there is no need to only have sales pictures on there. Instead, also aim to have mood shots that emphasize how cool your brand is. Perhaps consider hiring a photographer, giving them a brand brief and getting them to shoot a whole slew of pictures for you. Then you can release those slowly over time, along with your actual products. Especially if these pictures are good quality this will serve to both draw in new customers as well as make your current customer base appreciate you as being more than just a product pushing site.

The Thread Between Customers And Your Brand

There is a clear thread here and that is that you need to focus on the social aspect of your brand. You need to make certain that your customer base is engaged, interested and active. If you’re the type of company who can do that, then they will act as brand ambassadors and draw more people to your website and your product. If on the other hand, this is out of reach for your company, then you’ll just look like another out-of-touch business trying to appear hip and take advantage of a new medium they don’t really understand. Now, which kind of company would you rather be?

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Luisa Brenton

Luisa Brenton is a freelance blogger. She was born in Italy, graduated from The St. Louis School of Milan and went to Chicago to pursue higher education at the Chicago's Public Research University. Luisa is interested in modern literature and cinematography. She is interested in journalism as well. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.