Social media is growing as the go-to source for shopping referrals. Shoppers are paying close attention to what friends and stores are sharing across social channels. Among the most powerful social platforms is Instagram, beating out Twitter with more than 400 million users. If your online store doesn’t have an active presence on Instagram, you may want to consider amping up your Instagram strategy. The visually-based social platform has a higher engagement rate than most social channels and continues to evolve ad features and business tools.
Whether you’re just getting started on Instagram or looking for tips to increase engagement and boost sales, we’ve compiled tips plus expert advice from a small business owner. Kendrick Slaughter of clothing boutique KK Bloom has harnessed the power of Instagram to transform a local brick and mortar store into an ecommerce success story.
“Instagram is one of the best marketing tools. We put up products everyday and they pretty much sell out within a couple days of a post. It's a great way to style outfits and be creative.” -Kendrick Slaughter, Owner, KK Bloom
If you don’t yet have an Instagram account for your business, click here for a step-by-step guide on getting started. Next, you’ll want to optimize your business profile. Create an interesting and creative description of your company, not too formal and stuffy. Make sure the bio includes keywords to make your account easier to find and don’t forget to include a link to your online store. Your interactions on Instagram are accompanied by the thumbnail of your profile picture so make sure it’s simple and recognizable, like your company logo.
Instagram is the definition of the popular saying “A picture is worth a thousands words.” Visual content is the cornerstone of Instagram and can be a powerful motivator behind sharing and buying.
Posts with images produce 650% higher engagement than text posts Adobe
Whether your subject is a person or object, capture the image in a context that gives a sense of your brand’s identity or point of view. Strike a balance between images from your online store with creative posts or lifestyle content that may not feature your products. This humorous post from KK Bloom relates to followers while staying relevant to their brand.
Instagram offers in-app filters to enhance the colors and moods of your photos. There are also free online tools you can use to quickly and easily create images for instagram. Canva has templates and design options that match the requirements of each social media channel, including Instagram. PicMonkey is another free website that functions as a photo editor and includes a square template. You can add texts, effects, or overlays to images. InstaQuote is an app that allows users to add text captions to photos and images for Instagram.
The beauty of Instagram ads is they are designed to look just like any other shared image, with the exception of the word “sponsored” in the top right. This Instagram post includes resources to help you get started advertising on Instagram. Because of its integration with Facebook (Facebook is the parent company of Instagram), you can use the same interface as if you were advertising on Facebook.
Consider the mobile nature of Instagram and timing before you post. “Time of day is key,” Slaughter says. “Most people are on their phones in the morning before work and when they get home and are done with dinner. We try to post our favorite pictures during the high traffic times like that.” Research by SumAll shows Instagram engagement highest between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. during the week and 8 p.m. on Mondays.
With so much focus on Instagram photos, it’s easy to neglect the caption area of your posts. Give your image some context by telling a story behind the photo or taking followers behind the scenes of your company. In this Bonobos post, followers get a backstage view of preparation for the brand’s Fall Collection debut at a fashion show.
You can also increase engagement by asking a question in your caption. A study by Facebook revealed captions that request help or ask for recommendations have higher rates of likes and comments. Add hashtags to help users discover your content and connect with other users based on a common theme or interest. You can follow the top Instagram hashtags here, but don’t focus solely on what is most popular. Slaughter recommends following your feelings, “We try not to overthink the hashtags. I like to look at a product and just hashtag how it makes me feel.”
Turn followers into buyers with contests or special offers. A simple and effective contest idea is asking your users to like or comment on a photo to be entered to win one of your products or services. Another popular contest on Instagram is a photo challenge. Ask users to post a photo related to your brand on their personal account with a specific hashtag for a chance to win a prize. Make one-time special offers to boost engagement and increase your customer base. The photo printing company Artifact Uprising used an Instagram post to offer 25 free prints to followers who downloaded the company’s iPhone app.
Engage users with comments and questions on your own posts. By using hashtags and location tags you’ll be able to discover and join the conversation on other members’ posts about your brand. Use the “Add People” feature to tag accounts in your image to help you reach a larger audience. You’ll also want to enable notifications in order to promptly respond to comments made by users on your posts.
Finally… If you’re looking for inspiration from brands that are thriving on Instagram now, check out this Hubspot post on 16 of the Best Brands on Instagram. You can also stay in-the-know about Instagram’s newest filters, business tools and ad features by subscribing to the Instagram for Business blog.
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