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Written by Lisa Kalner Williams

Last modified August 4, 2020 at 4:13 pm

How to Sell on Instagram: 10 Rules to Do It Right


Yes, even with that pesky algorithm, Instagram is the reigning “King of Engagement” these days.

But don’t let that keep you from figuring out how to sell on Instagram. Here are some tips to get you started.

Five Things to Do When Selling on Instagram

1. Feel empowered to sell on Instagram

We’re always told to “show our human side” on social media channels. But you know what a recent Instagram study revealed? That users follow brands to look at products, whether they be tractors, cameras, or computers. (Which is why Instagram boasts 2 million advertisers as of 2020.)

So add product shots to your Instagram content calendar to give users what they want and to kindly remind them that you are a business who has stuff for sale.

2. Make a sale overt in your photo

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. (These Instagram marketing tips can help social media agencies stop the scroll and thereby learn how to sell on Instagram.)

Little Free Library overlayed the details of its 50% off sale on its coffee table book.

Flash sale! Get the #LittleFreeLibrary Book for half off at

A photo posted by Little Free Library ® (@littlefreelibrary) on

The company also made the sale easy for Instagram users by using its homepage as the destination URL.

As we’ll discuss in detail soon, there are no tappable URLs in an Instagram news feed. A memorable one works best to prompt people to check out your sale on an external site.

(Note: This sale doesn’t require an irritating discount code, so that increases the ease of making a purchase.)

3. Install an Instagram sales app

Some smart apps have synced with Instagram to make selling easier for brands of all sizes.

Wardrobe stylist Ashley Hargrove uses to sell the items she features on her Instagram feed.

When her followers who sign up for double-tap one of her photos with a LIKEtoKNOW link in the caption, they receive an email with associated product links so that they can shop the look of their favorite @dtkaustin posts.

Like2Buy and Soldsie are two similar platforms that allow businesses on Instagram to sell their wares through their bios and posts.

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’s an image of a Pantone card that Pantone thought was pretty crafty.

#pantone #pantone142 #yellow #matching #pantonecards #color #project #designer

A photo posted by Suzanne Marije (@suzannemarije) on

Pantone politely asked and received permission to use the image.

And a few weeks later reposted its customer’s love of Pantone 142.

You nailed it @suzannemarije ?

A photo posted by PANTONE (@pantone) on

5. Advertise

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.

instagram ad example

Which ones get a decent amount of likes and positive comments? What common traits do you see among those posts?

Grab a free social media calendar packed with content ideas and examples.

5 Things to Avoid When Selling on Instagram

1. Think selling on Instagram is like selling on other social channels

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. That means selecting a photo that is square in shape, easy to identify, and void of distracting lighting issues. (After all, how to sell on Instagram is different than how to sell on more text-focused social media channels.)

2. Forget Instagram’s hyperlink “problem” 

Instagram wants you on its platform to look at images, and not tap away to another site. That’s why they don’t allow any tappable links in photo captions.

Don’t be under the false assumption that people will somehow highlight a URL in your caption and paste it in a mobile Internet browser. If you really want folks to go to your e-commerce page (and you don’t use something like, please refer them to the ONLY place that Instagram lets you insert a tappable, external link—the URL slot in your Instagram bio.

See how country artist Tegan Marie uses her bio to get folks to download her latest single?

selling on instagram

3. Diss the details of any limited-time sale

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 ’em know that no code is needed.

4. Keep Instagram on an island

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!

5. Neglect the rest of your sales funnel

While these ideas may have whetted your appetite for selling your product on Instagram, don’t let it detract from Instagram’s strengths—spreading brand awareness, building relationships, gathering user-generated content, and conducting market research.

And don’t forget—Agorapulse can help you manage all your day-to-day interactions with followers on Instagram.

Our 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.

content report instagram

In Conclusion

Want more helpful, actionable content like this? Subscribe to the Agorapulse newsletter, and get the most recent blog posts and news about the social media channels you use most.


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How to sell on Instagram: 10 rules for doing it right.
Lisa Kalner Williams

Lisa Kalner Williams is the Lead Social Media Strategist for Sierra Tierra Marketing and the Content Marketing Director for Agorapulse. You might see her speaking across the country on how to better market using Instagram.

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