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

Posted on March 3, 2015 by

[[updated October 6, 2016]]

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.


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. 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’re running the risk that they’ll scroll right by it.

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 which further 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’ll 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?

instagram ad example

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

Instagram management tool Agorapulse


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.

2. Forget Instagram’s hyperlink “problem.” Instagram wants you on their 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 ecommerce 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? Crosspromote 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 scheduling tool helps you keep the flow of sales-y and nonsales-y posts going.

scheduling posts to instagram

You can monitor comments on your sales posts — including your Instagram ads — with the Agorapulse dashboard.

Instagram ad comment filter

And our reports tell you which of your organic posts bring you the best engagement.

instagram analytics

(Want to try Agorapulse? Start your free trial today!)

How have you used Instagram to sell products and services from your business? Let us know in the comments!