Instagram can be one of the most powerful tools for selling products and services—if you know how to stand out from the crowd. These tips will show you how to sell on Instagram successfully.
Did you know that as this writing, Instagram has over one billion active monthly users? Yes, billion. Instagram now is a global marketplace, and in the U.S. alone, 37% of adults use Instagram.
Because Instagram is a visual platform, it is a perfect place for companies who sell products to show off what they have to offer.
Yes, using Instagram to help your customers remember who you are as a social media agency and why they love you (and your clients) is a critical part of your Instagram marketing. But if you stop there, you are missing a big opportunity to up your sales!
But if you can’t make a clickable link in your post, how can you direct people to buy from you? Yes, you can put a link to your store in your bio, but most people will see a specific product on Instagram and not want to browse your entire catalog to find it.
Good news: You have multiple ways to set up shop and start selling on Instagram.
Set Up Instagram Shopping Natively
The best place to start is Instagram Shopping if you qualify.
To be able to use this feature, you need to:
- Be in a supported location (not only your office hub but your physical location as a social media manager).
- Sell physical goods. (Sorry, services are not supported at this time.)
- Have an Instagram business account (rather than a personal account).
- Link your Instagram account with your Facebook page.
If you meet those requirements, you are able to set up an Instagram shop.
You will now need to connect your Instagram account to an existing catalog, or create a new one.
The first possible way to do this is with Facebook Catalog Manager.
If you have never used the Catalog Manager, this is a feature within Business Manager that allows you to have a shop on your Facebook page as well.
Though the feature is pretty straightforward, there are a lot of options included.
To get started adding products click “Manage” which will open up a new window.
Now, you can add products.
You will be given the option to manually add each one, bulk upload, or use a pixel that updates automatically.
If you add images, they need to be 500×500 pixels.
You will also need to add:
- A description of your product
- SKU number if you are using them internally
- The link to the direct page on your website where people can purchase
- Product price
Set Up Instagram Shopping with Shopify or Big Commerce
Do you already use Shopify or Big Commerce for your online sales experience on your website? Then this whole process will be much easier for you, as you can connect your sales platform directly.
Whichever method you use (Facebook Commerce Manager, Shopify, or Big Commerce), after you get everything connected you will be able to start making shoppable posts.
Use an Alternative Sales Platform
You may have other reasons for wanting to use something other than shoppable Instagram posts.
- Are you selling outside an area supported by Instagram?
- Your main product is selling services?
- Do you want to try something different?
- Is your client just getting started and doesn’t want the time and effort of setting up a catalog?
Another alternative is to use a paid service like Soldsie or CommentSold. Both of these services work by letting people buy directly from comments on Instagram (as well as Facebook.) Plans range from $49/month on up, and you will also need to pay up to a 5.9% transaction fee.
If you can’t use Instagram’s native options, this option may work for you.
What to Do When Selling on Instagram
1. Stay on brand
Because Instagram is a real-time, visual network, it sets it apart from its social media brothers and sisters. And it also means that you need to lead your sale with an eye-catching image.
Take the time you need to get the photo right. Select a photo that is square in shape (unless you are creating stories), easy to identify, and void of distracting lighting issues.
But if you want to go from good to great, make sure that your Instagram is aligned with your branding.
- Your branding guidelines should include:
- Fonts and their usage
- What specific color numbers you use for your brand
- Guidelines about how to use images
- When you use photos and when you use illustrations
- Where you can get your images from if you don’t take them yourself
When you have a strong brand presence, it shows.
For example, take Ben and Jerry’s. They have a clear set of guidelines about what their brand is and who they are creating content for. It shows in each post.
Remember: Create content with a purpose and a goal in mind.
2. Put Instagram Stories to work for you
Scheduling posts for your feed is important, but don’t forget about the power of stories!
There are so many options now for stories.
- Live video
- Add music and filters
While most stories will disappear after 24-hours, you can add more views to them over time by including them in your story highlights.
For example, ZEGO Foods uses its story highlights to feature all the main aspects of their brand.
The custom clothing brand eShakti uses its story highlights to directly sell by creating categories of the different types of products they sell.
When you click on any category, you will find shoppable posts that sell its products. The company also uses some of the additional stickers and features to boost engagement, such as this fall colors post
3. Make a sale overt in your photo
If you are running a sale, make it obvious! People are on Instagram to look at photos. If you wait until the caption to let your followers know about your promotion, you run the risk that they’ll scroll right by it.
And yes, this post is shoppable! The white dots are clickable links that can take you to the next step of your purchase.
4. Use social proof whenever possible
Instagram is an amazing source of (often unprompted) user-generated content. You most likely know the value of the social proof that UGC provides.
So if your Instagram monitoring has unearthed a fabulous photo of your product in the wild, why not ask permission of the Instagram user who posted it to use it in your upcoming promotion?
Here is another example from eShakti showing off the power of user-generated content. They regularly ask customers to tag them in photos and then share many of them. This post along got over 1,000 likes in just a couple of days! Like any of your other posts, you can also make this type of content shoppable by simply adding the tag to your product.
Now that Instagram ads are available for all users, why not make a quick study of the sponsored posts that currently appear in your newsfeed? After all, scoping out the competition is one way to learn how to sell on Instagram.
Which ones get a decent amount of likes and positive comments? What common traits do you see among those posts?
When you are selling products, using the right hashtags become even more important if you want to convert your posts into sales.
Make a list of:
- Hashtags related directly to your brand
- Product-specific hashtags
- Shopping related hashtags (#shoppable is a great one!)
Using these hashtags will boost your Instagram SEO and help the people searching for your products find them! They can also help surface a post from a while back to exactly the right audience, even when they wouldn’t see it in your feed.
This one from six months ago came up in a search for dresses!
Not sure which hashtags are getting the best engagement? Agorapulse reports are discovering what hashtags work best for your social content!
7. Keep track of the details
I know I’ve said that people don’t read on Instagram. When they’re “window shopping,” it’s certainly true. But once you’ve caught their attention with a sale, nip potential customer service questions in the bud by providing details.
Give start and end dates.
Explain if the sale is online, in stores, or in both locations. If it is online, tell them what promotion code to use or let followers know that no code is needed.
One good thing to know is that you can even include multiple products in one shoppable post. You just need to tag each one with the catalog tag for that item. For example, this hat sale has several different color options, and you can click on the one you like the best!
8. Keep your Instagram sales in context of your larger sales funnel
You don’t want your Instagram sale to be a secret, do you? Not at all! Cross-promote your Instagram sale whenever possible. If you’re on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr, let your followers know.
Give a heads up to your email list, especially a segment most apt to use Instagram. Not only will you increase your chances of getting people to participate in your promotion, but you might also get more Instagram followers as a result!
And don’t forget—Agorapulse can help you manage all your day-to-day interactions with followers on Instagram.
Its Instagram direct publishing tool allows you to schedule, queue, and keep the flow of sales-y and nonsales-y posts going to your business profiles.
You can also monitor comments on your sales posts—including your Instagram ads—with the Agorapulse dashboard.
And our reports tell you which of your organic posts bring you the best engagement.
Also, think about how your shoppable posts are connected to your other marketing efforts. For example, on this shoppable post, when I clicked all the way through to the website to purchase, a pop-up appeared to collect my email address and offer me a discount coupon.
Connecting the dots like this can help you not only make one-time sales but to build long term relationships with new customers.
Related post: How to Schedule Instagram Posts
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