Instagram now has over 1 billion active users, 500 million of whom are daily active users. Social media is constantly shifting and evolving, and it can be challenging for retailers to stay on top of the trends. A recent report by Forrester states that Instagram users engage with brands 10 times more than they do on Facebook.
It’s clear that any B-to-C brand should have a well-considered strategy for Instagram, especially if online sales are a key revenue stream for the business. Here are a few key tips on how to make Instagram an effective channel for driving sales for your brand:
1. Look the part.
- Think of your overall brand identity. An unbranded page looks messy. You need to think about how your individual photos look, but also how they all tie into your brand’s overall aesthetic when someone looks at your page.
- Have high-quality photos. What works for print ads doesn't necessarily work on Instagram. For example, don’t use photos with lots of text on them. Many influencers are practically professional photographers who take their time and produce hundreds of outtakes before choosing the perfect shot. Follow suit and take stylized photos to suit your brand and what it represents.
- Don’t ghost your audience. The best traffic and engagement is seen with brands that post up to three times per day. That’s a lot of content, so it’s essential to have a strategy about what kind of posts you’ll want to share ahead of time. There are tools that allow you to visualize and schedule your feed in advance.
- Use your words wisely. Choose your hashtags carefully. Instagram has recently bolstered its focus and visibility of hashtags on user pages, therefore it’s important to choose words that align with what content your audience is already engaging with. Free tools such as RiteTag and Hashtagify.me help brands determine the best hashtags.
- Don’t oversell. Instagram is a very visual channel. Not every post should be about your products and selling. Include other themes that are relevant to your brand, from inspirational posts to motivational content to videos that keep viewers on your page for longer.
2. Use the platform to your advantage.
Instagram recently added the product Tagging feature, allowing you to tag photos and drive people to a product page. However, you must meet a range of requirements and be approved by Instagram to do so. However, tagging alone won’t convert 100 percent of sales. Not all your followers will see your post so make the most of Instagram’s broader features.
Instagram stories have 400 million daily active users, which is twice as many as Snapchat. Instagram Stories are also "shoppable." If you have 10,000 followers or more, you can add a "swipe up" external link. While Stories expire within 24 hours, highlights remain on the page. These can be shoppable, too.
You should also add a link in your bio to direct customers to your online store or website. It’s a good idea to set up a unique URL tracking code so you know which traffic is coming from the bio on your Instagram page.
3. Sell via influencers.
The influencer market has exploded as a means for brands and retailers to sell their products. It's growing exponentially, from $2 billion in 2017 to an estimated value of $10 billion by 2020. According to a recent study by Tapinfluence and Nieslen, influencer marketing generates 11 times the return on investment of traditional digital marketing. Choose your influencers carefully to ensure you’re not putting your money behind an account with fake followers.
Keep in mind, it’s not only influencers with millions of fans that are worth working with. Micro influencers (accounts with around 10,000-50,000 followers) charge a fraction of the price of major influencers and often have highly engaged audiences. Don’t forget to give them a link or promo code so you can track where your leads are coming from.
4. Test Instagram Ads.
Want to drive instant sales? Instagram Ads is a way to directly target your ads to the audience based on age, demographics and analytics.
You can do a single post advertisement, a carousel post (multiple photos) or a video. There’s also the option to feature ads in Stories, which enables you to connect with users as they swipe through the ad feed.
5. Test and track.
There's no one surefire method of Instagram marketing that works effectively for every brand. Different strategies work for different brands and retailers. Test different things and ensure you measure each activity’s effectiveness to gauge what is and isn’t working. If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to fail fast and invest in what actually does work.
Hugh Stephens is the CEO of Sked Social, a social media scheduling software used by over 10,000 companies. Stephens is also a general partner at Galileo Ventures and actively invests in and advises a number of startups in the ANZ region.
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