With over 1 billion users, Instagram is a powerhouse of a social media platform.
For retailers, it’s also a key platform on which to be active. Not only does Instagram marketing provide a visual-first platform, but it’s also a highly engaged platform for retailers. 80 percent of Instagram users follow at least one business, and 30 percent of users have purchased a product they saw on Instagram.
Here’s a quick overview of the basic steps:
How do you sell products on Instagram?
Create an Instagram business account
Add a link in your bio where customers can buy products
Share Instagram posts which feature your product
Get more sales with paid advertising using Facebook’s ad manager
In this article, we’ll break those steps into detail. We’ll cover the entire start-to-finish process for Instagram selling, including both organic (free) and paid advertising options:
Selling on Instagram should be viewed as a part of a holistic approach omnichannel marketing approach. Content shared on Instagram is meant to engage, entertain, and inspire. For retailers, especially those in B2C marketing, your goal is also to sell products.
To sell on Instagram, you need to create a business account. If you’ve already got that taken care of, feel free to jump ahead to the next section.
Create an Instagram business profile
Getting up and running on Instagram is, fortunately, easy and quick. You’ll have a new Instagram business profile in just a few short steps.
1. Download the app.
Instagram is primarily a mobile app, and while you will be able to use third party tools to manage it if you want, you do first need to download the app.
2. Create a login.
Once you’ve downloaded the app, it’s time to set a login. You can attach the account to a business email or phone number. Now’s also the time to create your handle. A handle is the account name other users will be able to see and tag. It’s a best practice to get your handle as close to your company name as possible.
3. Upload your profile picture.
Next up: upload your profile picture to your Instagram profile picture. Again, most brands use their logo for consistent branding, but you may have another photo that fits your brand better.
4. Write a short biography.
The Instagram biography is deceptively important. You are allowed only 150 characters, but it’s the only place, beside Instagram Stories, you can place a link unless you utilize third-party software.
The first part of your bio should be devoted to clearly stating who you are, preferably in a fun, relatable way. Then you should use a brief call-to-action (CTA) which gets people to click on the link in your Instagram bio.
Examples of links you could use include:
Link to your homepage with a shortened link.URL shorteners such as Bit.ly can shorten your link. The homepage is a good catch-all link, but it’s likely to not be the most effective link.
Link to a particular landing page for a current marketing campaign. Again, shorten the link. The landing page can be highly effective for whatever your current campaign is, though it may fail to help visitors looking for things not contained on that page.
Link directly to products and start selling. Perhaps the best option is to utilize a link that sends your customers to a page where your Instagram feed is shoppable. You will have to use a third party e-commerce software to do so, or the new Instagram Shoppable feature.
Some e-commerce platforms have an Instagram integration that makes your Instagram feed shoppable from within Instagram. You can see an example in the image below; take a look at the blue link that finishes with /INSTAshop.
5. Switch your Instagram profile to a business account.
Within your profile settings, you will find the options to “switch to business profile.” Hit this button. Doing so will give you analytics on how your Instagram posts are performing, run ads, and add contact buttons to your profile.
With the business profile created, you can move to the selling process.
How to sell organically on Instagram
Now that you’ve got your Instagram business profile set up, it’s time to start selling.
We’ll start with organic selling on Instagram. This is the unpaid way to sell: Once you’ve got your Instagram profile set up, simply post pictures and videos that feature your products using the following steps.
1. Set up the link in your Instagram bio
As discussed, the first step to making sales through Instagram is to link your bio back to your website, campaign, or ready-to-buy products.
2. Share photos and videos that include your products.
Now it’s time to post on Instagram. If you want to create posts that result in sales, stay away from bland, generic, or unprofessional product photos.
Rather, share photos that:
Show your products on display in your store.Pigment has discovered that their top-performing posts are products on store displays.
Show your products in use. (Bonus points if you share a customer’s photo of the item in use.) Displaying products in use is a phenomenal way to demonstrate the benefits of your items.
Glamour shots of the product. Instagrammers tend to be big fans of items laid out on beautiful backgrounds.
Share unboxing videos when your brand-new products are coming in. For example, dog owners love sharing videos of their dogs discovering what lies inside their monthly BarkBox.
Make sure that your pictures and videos are both well-lit and in focus.
Posting this type of content combined with a shoppable feed can result in excellent organic sales. Circulate Digital, a marketing agency in the United Kingdom, has seen this strategy deliver a 30x ROI for at least one of their clients.
Advertising and paid selling on Instagram
At an average cost of just over $2 per click, Instagram is not one of the cheapest platforms on which to advertise. It is, however, is one of the most effective, with an average conversion rate of 3.1 percent.
While you can advertise from the Instagram app itself, given Instagram is owned by Facebook, it’s highly recommended to advertise on Instagram through Facebook’s ad manager. The ad manager is one of the best advertising dashboards available.
Instagram ads have a number of forms and placements, all of which require you to link to a page of your choosing.
Types of Instagram ads to increase sales
Single photos ads are exactly what they sound like: a single photo that appears in the feed, along with a caption that appears beneath the image.
Carousel ads are the same as single photo ads except that you can include up to 10 photos.
Video ads appear in the feed as well. You can use up to 60 seconds of video and a caption beneath the video.
Story ads are the newest placement. They appear as a sponsored story in between organic stories as the user watches through their stories. This particular ad placement disappears after 24 hours, just like a non-sponsored story. In the case of story ads, your caption and CTA will appear on top of the image, instead of beneath it.
Best practices to sell on Instagram with advertising
When it comes to Instagram advertising, there are three best practices to keep in mind:
1. Target with precision.
What makes the Facebook ad engine so good is the amount of granular information they have on their users. You should absolutely use this data to your advantage; use your buyer personas to guide your audience creation.
It’s important to narrow down your target audience as finely as you can.
In terms of audience creation, this means you need to utilize the “and” logic in the ad creator.For example, if you’re advertising $30 necklaces with dog pendants to American millennial women your potential audience would look like:
That audience is as generic as you want to ever be. Ideally, you’d also be able to target by people who shop with your competitors, household income, job demographics, life events, etc. The more you can whittle down an audience for an ad, the more you can ensure that the ad is relevant to them. And, a relevant ad = better conversion rates.
2. Simplify your goal.
It’s important to have a single, clear goal for your ad. This enables you to create an ad that truly conveys the action you want taken to your audience. Creating a clear ad with a specific CTA results in a higher conversion rate -- people know exactly what action to take.
3. Test constantly.
Testing regularly is the true key to Instagram advertising success. Test every part of your ads: audience, creative, copy, placement, colors, products. Literally, every part. Your ads probably won’t be a hit on your first, second, or even third try. Becoming a great advertiser takes practice.
A word of caution before we begin: New retailers sometimes think of influencers as a “get rich quick” scheme. Utilizing influencers well takes just as much effort and diligence as any other method.
When it comes to influencer marketing, you will once again want to define a clear and measurable objective for your campaign. This objective will help the influencers you’re working with create posts that reach your goals.
To pick influencers, keep in mind the following:
The influencer’s reach combined with their engagement. Some influencers have massive followings and little engagement. Others have the opposite. In fact, some influencers even have fake followings; they are followed by bots, not people.
The influencer’s brand. It’s important to work with an influencer who’s personal brand aligns with yours, so that you’re reaching your preferred audience.
The influencer’s rate. Sponsorship prices vary wildly by influencer and can be extremely pricey. Don’t settle on an influencer before you know their price.
There are a number of methods to work on with influencers. Some may work better than others; it comes down to what suits your target audience. Consider the following options some of which may work better for your brand than others:
Sponsored posts are posts which the influencer creates about one of your products to run in either their feed or story.
Co-branded products are where you and an influencer collaborate on a product. Generally, your brand does the large haul of the work here while the influencer will have input on the finer details like packaging or color scheme.
The rates for co-branded products are different than a sponsored post; most influencers will take a flat fee for this service as well as a percentage of sales. Co-branded products require upfront investment. So, while they’re not for a brand with a small budget, they can perform extremely well.
Take this example in the beauty industry:
Affiliate codes are a less structured method of influencer advertising. In this case, you give influencers unique links or coupon codes. These enable you to trace sales back to the influencer. For every sale made through this code, they get a commission. Influencers can choose to use the links at will, so affiliate marketing codes don’t necessarily make a smart part of a short term campaign. However, long-term, they can be very effective.
Send out free products. This is common practice for beauty products. When you send free products to influencers (especially smaller ones) they may “organically” include your products in their photos. This can be a good method for brand awareness, but it won’t necessarily drive sales given that the influencer may choose not to link to your site or product.
When you’re ready to start working with influencers, you need to negotiate a few things before getting started:
What content types will be created and the rate(s)
The content usage rights
Much as it would be nice to dictate all of those things, influencers will have plenty of feedback on each point above.
Time to start selling on Instagram
With these four steps, you’ll be selling on Instagram in no time. Once you’ve mastered that platform, continue growing your retail sales with more social media platforms:
Cara Wood is the digital marketing manager at ShopPad, a company on a mission to help Shopify stores become successful. They create apps for SMB stores and offer complete custom design for larger ones. When Cara is not hard at work, she can be found trying to keep her beagle out of the trash.