Are you using Instagram to market your business? Instagram has become the top social media tool for millennials, with 800 million monthly users and a total of 4.2 billion likes every day – a potential goldmine for both brick-and-mortar and online retailers. The Insider rounded up experts already slaying the Insta game to provide tactics designed to increase retail sales and broaden your exposure (read: foot traffic).
Is your shop on Instagram yet? If you’re not, you might be missing out on a huge business opportunity. And if you are, it’s a great time to think outside the box (or shall we say, grid) and ensure you’re using Instagram to its highest potential. After all, Instagram — along with Pinterest — is a highly visual channel offering retailers opportunities to discover products and supercharge their businesses.
We spoke with two social media experts to share their insights on using Instagram for marketing your business:
- Jasmine Star: Social media, branding, and business strategist who specializes in helping business owners attract their dream customers with her company and branding masterclass, The Path To Profitability.
- Larissa May: Social Media Strategist and Founder of @HalfTheStory, a social media awareness campaign that reveals the truth behind social media.
Instagram: The Highlight Reel
But first, let’s highlight the importance of Instagram as a social media platform:
- Total Number of Monthly Active Instagram Users: 700 million
- Total Number of Daily Active Instagram Users: 400 million
- Number of Instagram Likes per day: 4.2 billion
- Number of Photos uploaded per day: 95 million, up from 70 million last year
Who Is Using Instagram?
According to SproutSocial, the demographics look like this:
- 38% women, 26% men
- The biggest age group is 18 at 29, at 59%, followed by 30 to 49 at 33% (so this means that Instagram has overtaken Snapchat in attracting millennial eyeballs, especially since the release of Instagram Stories in August 2016).
6 Instagram Marketing Tips for Retailers
Photographer-turned-brand-strategist Jasmine Star’s gave us some easy ways for retailers can use Instagram to drive traffic to your retail location(s) or online shop.
1 – Show up consistently. This might seem basic and obvious, but it’s often overlooked: show up. According to Star, you need to “Post something at least once a day. Regularity helps educate your followers about what to expect from your account.”
Insider Tip: Do keep in mind that it’s quality over quantity. If you have nothing to post one day, don’t post something for the sake of posting. People will sooner unfollow you for posting something that doesn’t resonate with them, then if you are radio silent for a few days.
2 – Reiterate what makes your brand unique. Star continues: “Let’s face it, there are too many businesses that sell the same things you do (clothing, decorative pillows, notebooks… you get the point!). So how can you stand out from the crowd? Showcase what makes your business different or special. Highlight your unique approach, techniques, messaging, employees, or social causes that will invite followers to invest in your business because it closely aligns with their values.”
3 – Pay attention to the photos you post & choose wisely. Star is a photographer by trade, so she understands and appreciates the importance of killer visuals — especially on a platform like Instagram.
4 – Care about what your followers want. “We know selling on Instagram works,” Star says, “but you shouldn’t think that simply posting a photo of an item will make it sell. You need to understand how your audience wants to be sold to. Speak to them in a way they understand and cater to their needs in a way they want.”
5 – Engage, engage, engage. The most successful retail accounts on Instagram are those that communicate with their followers. Star explains: “Answer questions, start conversations, engage in chatter — these are all ways to build trust. And when a follower trusts your account, they’re more likely to buy.”
Even a simple “emoji” response to a follower’s comment is a great way to engage. And will make them more likely to convert into a shopper and loyal fan. The last thing you want to do is ignore your followers who took the time to comment!
Insider Tip: On the topic of engagement, this is an important metric to take note of and strive for. (In a sense, even more than your number of followers.) When Facebook behemoth acquired Instagram in 2012, it was inevitable that eventually, the social media giants would swap the chronological feed for a different algorithm. This means that now, engagement on your posts in the form of likes and comments is as important as ever, as this determines whether or not your posts show up in your followers’ feeds.
Want to know about Pinterest, too? Read: The ASD Insider’s Pinterest Tactics for Retailers
6 – Don’t sell, educate.
Star continues: “It’s too easy to cultivate an Instagram account that simply sell, sell, sells. Anyone can create a series of marketing photos within the app, but in order to curate a solid feed, gain more followers, and boost engagement, it’s best to be social. Mix posts to reflect current cultural trends, share memes related to your industry, share helpful or educational content. These are much harder to create, but it’s the best way to increase sales!”
“People want to see your store and your product – so they like pictures that are taken in-store. Know what’s better than models? Your employees. It really allows your store’s personality to come out,” says retail guru Georganne Bender. Read our Q&A with Georganne, Visual Merchandising Trends, for even more tactics you can use right now.
The Story with “Instagram Stories”
This feature boasts the same formula as Snapchat: Instagram Story posts disappear after 24 hours, making it the perfect place to post more real-time and raw content. So if there are images that don’t necessarily fit your more curated Instagram “grid,” simply post them as a Story. Have fun with the different stickers, fonts, and tools. Instagram recently rolled out a “voting” sticker, so you can show two different products and get your followers to vote for their favorite!
One of our writers attended Create & Cultivate in NYC this summer, where members of the Instagram team shared the best tips and tricks to creating content on the platform. This blew our minds: Right now, it’s more about your Instagram Stories.
According to the Instagram team, in the last year since Instagram launched “Stories”, it has added 100 million global users to the platform. It’s a vital part of how they do social — and it’s where you should be focusing your efforts as well. Claudine Cazian, Head of Entertainment Partnerships at Instagram, says “5 to 8 great stories per day is a solid number and will help grow your following.” The amazing thing about the Stories feature is that they are the first piece of content that shows up in your followers’ feeds (even above actual posts). This placement ensures that you stay visible to your followers!
Here’s another expert tip: Change it up within your Stories. So post a mix of static photos, videos, and Boomerangs in your Instagram Stories.
Easy Instagram Tactics to Implement, ASAP
Update your Instagram bio: Make sure your bio clearly states your brand’s mission and purpose. As obvious as this sounds, this is a missed opportunity that many companies don’t leverage. Use this “real estate” to tell people (and potential followers) exactly what you’re selling when they land on your account.
Have fun with Boomerang: This app is native to Instagram and allows you to create a GIF-like image, which adds a dynamic and attention-grabbing touch to your posts.
Get inspired by other brands: Scroll through Instagram often and take note of what other brands, bloggers, and publications are doing. (Make sure you follow them on your personal account!)
Stay up to date on tech news: Subscribe to all the online tech publications like Mashable, Gizmodo, and Wired so you’re in the know on everything social media/tech related. Other great industry ones are Later Blog (to stay on top of the latest Instagram trends) and the site Digital Trends. And make sure to stay up to date with the Instagram Business Blog (where you’ll find frequent tool updates and online workshops) and follow @Instagram on Instagram (natch.)
Starting today, you can play with face filters while sharing live video. Whether you’re channeling a kitten or want to add some stars or rainbow light to your face, you can easily try on face filters while connecting with friends and followers in the moment. To use face filters in live video, tap the face icon in the bottom right corner before or during your broadcast. Tap any filter to check out a new look, and play around with as many as you’d like. You can also try on the new sunglasses face filter — available exclusively in live video for the next week — and tap to change the scenery reflected in your lenses. When your broadcast has ended you can share a replay to stories, or choose “Discard” and your live video will disappear from the app as usual. Face filters in live video will be rolling out globally over the next several weeks. To learn more about this update, check out help.instagram.com.
Leverage trending days: Create an editorial calendar to guide your daily posts and create content for trending days like #NationalDonutDay and #NationalCatDay. This ensures your brand will be part of these conversations.
Regram others’ photos: If you don’t have a photo to post for a specific trending day or topic, regram a photo or quote from other on-brand accounts “in your lane,” such as magazines or bloggers. Just make sure to tag them in the photo and credit them in your caption.
Leverage Instagram Videos, if you can: If you have the budget or a resource on your team, post some Insta video (they can’t be longer than 60 seconds).
Add some hashtags: Instagram hashtags are one of the best ways to grow your Instagram account. Using the right hashtags (without overdoing it; 30 is actually the maximum amount of hashtags you can use) can help you expose your brand to large and targeted audiences. Keep in mind that it’s more important to use the hashtags that are relevant to your audience, your niche, and the actual post than random popular hashtags. For inspiration, check out what brand leaders and bloggers in your industry use as hashtags.
Use a scheduling tool like Planoly, and Hootsuite, which has free offerings for Instagram. This allows you to schedule your posts in advance, a more efficient way to plan all your content rather than doing it daily, in an “ad hoc” way. Note that both of these platforms offer more premium solutions if you want to take advantage of their more robust scheduling and reporting tools.
Measure your performance: There aren’t many free reporting tools available today (most of the free ones transitioned to “pay to play” versions), but if you’re looking for an easy way to help track your Instagram stats, try the free versions of try the free versions of Socialbakers and Squarelovin.
Instagram Sponsored Posts: How to Boost Sales
At the end of the day though, killer Instagram content can only get you so far: you do eventually need to “pay to play” and sponsor some Instagram posts.
In the fall of 2015, Instagram launched a “self-serve” ad platform, so that businesses of all sizes could benefit from using its business tools. And since it’s owned by Facebook, you can also deliver Instagram ads directly from Facebook’s ad manager.
As a smaller retailer, it can be intimidating to try Sponsored Posts on Instagram, but the “self-serve” platform really helps tailor your campaign to your needs.
“Instagram calls for Call-to-Action Copy. Businesses that are verified for Instagram are able to increase sales by adopting Instagram’s BigCommerce or Shopify integration, which tags products in posts through the new Shoppable feature. However, for the majority of non-verified brands, call-to-action copy is key. Consider ending each caption that asks your followers to your bio (‘Link in bio’ or ‘Shop now in bio’).”
Insider Tip: Convert your profile to a free business profile – if you haven’t already. Once you do, access Insights by clicking the icon resembling a bar graph at the top right – between your handle name (in the middle) and the cogwheel to access “Options.”
“Social media marketing is most effective when used where customers hang out. For instance, clothing retailers for females between the ages of 18-34 should — without a doubt — use Instagram. Why? That’s where their customers are..” – Jasmine Star
As a retail business owner, you need to decide whether managing your Instagram account is something you have time to manage on your own or outsource once you scale your business. The most important thing is to try different things and make sure you watch your account closely to measure KPIs such as new followers, likes and comments (and of course customers coming into your shop saying, “I saw this on Instagram and had to stop by!).
You never know what will resonate with your audience until you try! So try these tactics and if you’re doubling down on Instagram, then post the kind of content that will get people double-tapping, foot-tapping — and your sales numbers increasing.