5 Ways To Use Instagram To Promote eCommerce

Facebook’s declining reach has set off a mad scramble of brands seeking the next social goldmine. Many brands are rushing into Instagram, staking their claim to a corner of the richly visual social site that Forrester Research recently pegged as one of the most effective social marketing tools. Instagram has such huge commercial potential, that Forbes contributor Lydia Dishman, among others, called it “The World’s Most Powerful Selling Tool.”

However, the ground rules of selling on Instagram are different. It is not a place to publish links to your eCommerce site, pump products through advertorial copy, or push sales. It is a place to harness the pure power of the photo. Here are five ways to wring the most value out of Instagram for your business:

1.  “Raw” Photos Rule

Instagram’s enormous upside is it is a purely visual platform. At the same time, Instagram’s challenge is it is a purely visual platform. As Jim Squires, Instagram’s director of market operations, recently told Business Insider, this forces brands to ask themselves, “For your next campaign, if you could use no copy at all, how would you do it?”

Squires is talking about Instagram advertising, but the same applies to brand’s Instagram efforts in general. Each photo must be worth 1,000 words.

Instagram followers reward the art of photos. And brands that respond with beautiful, emotion-filled photos of their products and their customers truly unlock the visual and emotional power of Instagram, and in turn drive the desire to purchase.

Case in point: Two of the most successful Instagram feeds, Starbucks and Nike. They connect with followers through backlit skateboarders boosting off of ramps, sprinters poised in the starting blocks, or two Frappaccinos being clinked together in a toast, their neon green straws crossing like glowing Light sabers.

instgram starbucks

Their content is relatable, captivating and inspiring.

2. Unlock the Full Potential of Hashtags

Instagram’s marketing challenge is its lack of links. Unlike Facebook and Twitter TWTR +2.19%, which reward links, Instagram cuts out the clutter by refusing to hyperlink URLs in descriptions and comments (links do work in profile bios). Instagram, however, encourages hashtags. This puts even more weight on hashtags to connect Instagram followers to the brand’s larger marketing strategy.

First, gain new followers and larger reach by tapping into popular hashtags like #instagood, #latergram or #throwbackthursdays. Then, use hashtags as a crucial connection between consumer and brand. Hashtags have the power to aggregate photos submitted as part of a marketing campaign, generate more photo submissions, and get an Instagram user to go from submitting a photo to buying a product.

Aggregate photo submissions on a microsite or embed them to your website to create a visually stunning gallery of filtered and themed photos from your fans. Find and re-post hashtagged content using a free Instagram search tool like WEBSTA. There are many paid options available as well.

3. Give Participants Purchasing Power

Of course it’s not enough to simply post or gather Instagram content. Respond to users who submit a photo using your branded hashtag or by tagging your brand to keep the relationships between consumer and brand authentic, but also to plant the shopping seed.

Brands can do this by setting up a triggered response that shows up as a comment on the photo. Brands like L’Oreal monitor Instagram for user content and send a triggered response to the content that leads to a purchase point or participation opportunity.

Or you can can monitor profile tags and hashtags using a real-time platform likeKeyhole and manually respond.

Make sure the response is not spammy or generic; reward participation with a deal, discount, or something of value. Use the response opportunity to give them a reason to follow-through with a purchase. 

4. Ditch Models for Real People

Post Instagram content tying to someone or something that your audience loves as an online sales tool. Instead of a professional model or popular celebrity, consider crowdsourcing content from your Instagram followers and portraying a relatable brand image filled with real consumers. This authentic approach to Instagram lets your followers see that achieving that fashion look is within their reach.

Here, American Eagle has enlisted two fashion bloggers’ photos in the brand’s outfits, and directed their audience to a site to view and purchase. Instead of stock photos, they used real people, included a hashtag and directed their followers to a purchase point. The bloggers can influence purchase decisions because of their online notoriety, but most anyone following the account will be able to look at this photo and relate to it or be able to copy the look.


5. Connect Instagram Galleries to eCommerce

Extend the impact of consumer Instagram content by connecting consumers to relevant product purchase suggestions in the display gallery or microsite.

For instance, a female participant that posted about her new dress using a campaign hashtag or submission site may love to see the spring or summer collection. Brands can build product suggestions right into UGC galleries and make purchasing a breeze for anyone.

Source: Forbes


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Charles Yang

Charles Yang helps entrepreneurs get high paying clients and customers through automated digital marketing systems, and has generated more than $1 million in sales through digital marketing. More than 700 people has benefitted from his training on digital marketing.