How to Use Instagram to Increase Sales

Instagram was initially launched in October 2010 as a free app that allows user to share pictures and videos. This can be done publicly or privately, through the Instagram app or a number of other social networking sites, including Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and Flickr. Instagram was distinctive in that photos were confined to a square shape, similar to old school Polaroids, unlike the 4:3 aspect ratio of most mobile devices. An update in 2015 allows users to share photos of any aspect ratio. Users can also enhance photos with a number of filters to create a unique appearance.

Instagram skyrocketed in popularity, gaining 100 million users by 2012, and over 200 million users by 2015. Over 30 billion images have been shared on Instagram to date, with over 70 million shared per day.

Instagram Ads
Instagram has proven to be a lucrative engine through which ad revenue can be generated. In 2015, ad revenues exceeded $595 million, and they are expected to top $2.81 billion by 2017. 85% of all top brands currently use Instagram, and those brands are seeing a per-follower engagement rate of 4.21%, 58 times higher than Facebook, and 120 times higher than Twitter.

So what can businesses do to increase sale through Instagram? Let’s look at some of successful Instagram strategies that are driving sales, gaining customers and helping to develop brands.

Pay for Attention
Some highly successful “outside the box” Instagram marketing efforts include a hair salon paying models to post pictures wearing colorful hair extensions applied by the salon, and a blogger reposting photos for a manufacturer of a colorful lunchbox with portioned sections to teach kids about healthy eating. The salon generated $10,000 in sales for their effort, and the lunchbox company doubled its number of Instagram followers.

Many social media platforms, including Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, allow businesses to pay for promoted posts. However, Instagram has not yet adopted this model. Instagram is working on offering promoted posts and it may be available soon, but until then, you may have to get creative with spending a little money in other ways that will help increase interest in Instagram posts. This might include reaching out to users with high numbers of followers who fit your brand’s target demographic and getting their buy-in in promoting your products or services.

Consumer Outreach
For a company offering a product, it may be beneficial to scour Instagram for anyone posting photos of your product or those related to your product, and then reposting those images. A quick way to search for such images is by searching a hashtag of your brand or product name. Reposting has the effect of encouraging even more Instagrammers to share photos, increasing even further the number of people who will see your product/brand.

One fashion company broadcasts user-posted Instagram photos on their website when a specific hashtag is used. Another company asks its employees to take at least one smartphone photo per shift and then the company uploads the best photos to the company’s Instagram account.

Using the right hashtag can draw customers from across the country, or the world. Ideally, stick to three to five hashtags on any one post, as overdoing it gives an appearance of desperation and disorganization. Posting multiple images a day with hashtags takes minimal time, is free and can net solid returns.

Build Your Brand
Ideally, there’s something unique or special about every brand. Let’s say, for example, all of your products are American made. This can be reinforced when posting photos of the clothing, and further stressed by utilizing photos of Americana, such as American flags, classic cars, West Coast highways or famous American landmarks. It helps to promote specific products, but what it really does is drive home the brand messaging.

A company can also show what’s going on outside the business, including trips to vendors and suppliers, or scenes from beautiful vacation spots where a brand or product, while included, becomes of secondary interest. Photos can become a form of storytelling that creates interest in the brand and inspires people to care.

A Call to Action
As with any marketing plan, you need to at least occasionally ask the viewer of your images to take an action. This might include stopping in today to receive a special discount, going to a website to make a purchase or reserve something, downloading an app, or calling or emailing to learn more.

Be Creative with Images
Given that Instagram is primarily a visual medium, it is important to put in the effort to get your photos exactly right. Determine if you want to show the entire product, how you want to frame the shot, and if you want to include other elements in the photo. There are hundreds of ways to photograph anything, so sometimes it can be trial and error to see what works best.

Look for successful companies who offer something similar to what you offer and see what has worked best for them on Instagram. Good angles and lighting are critical. You can do a lot of tweaking and fine-tuning with a photo, but you can rarely compensate for poor angles and lighting. Remember that Instagram offers many different filters that can help create interest, and black and white is a popular style on the site.

Success marketing on Instagram comes from having a defined content strategy that allows you to continuously attract new followers and generate sales. Determine how many photos to post daily or weekly, and outline your goals and key performance indicators. Pay attention to which images perform best to help create effective content.


About the Author:

Richard Sutherland writes about digital marketing, social media and business. You can read his other articles here at the blog. 


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