Many people are probably quicker to associate Instagram with the word “selfies” than “shopping,” but that’s about to change.
The volume and amount of time people spend on Instagram — not only looking at content but interacting with it through likes and comments — means it has quickly evolved into a place where almost any business’ customers are likely gathering.
According to data from Instagram itself, more than one billion people use the social media service every day. Don’t assume the bulk of all this activity is happening in the United States, either.
This past July, data from eMarketer showed that Instagram is the fastest-growing social media platform in Canada, with more than 20 percent additional users joining in 2018 and a forecast of seven percent additional users this year. That would mean a total of more than 12 million users in Canada.
This doesn’t mean people are intentionally going to Instagram to look for products and services to buy, but they can be open to it if they see the right kind of content and have a journey to purchasing that’s fast and easy.
A good example of content that leads to commerce on Instagram might be a travel company that shows off a fantastic hotel property, or an attraction in a locale that appeals to their target audience. If the photos, videos and text are compelling enough, those who see it on Instagram might be inspired to go beyond a “heart” or double tap and actually open their digital wallets.
Some companies don’t simply offer this kind of content themselves on their own account, but by working with third-party content creators (sometimes called influencers) who partner with a brand to weave in products and services into the things they post on Instagram. Either way, you’ve got a golden opportunity to sell through this channel.
If you’ve never sold on Instagram before, you should be aware of both the tools offered via the platform itself and those from third parties. There are basically three areas on Instagram to think about from a sales perspective:
Much like Facebook or LinkedIn, Instagram’s main interface consists of a series of posts that people tend to look at by scrolling downwards from one account that they follow to another. They might also browse through the “Explore” tab to discover posts from accounts they hadn’t heard about before, but the main format is the same.
A post can be a still image or a short video, and the emphasis is on using that content to entertain, educate or inspire. Depending on what’s in the frame, though, you can also give people the opportunity to click directly to buy clothes, jewelry, or other items.
Instagram makes this simple with Shoppable Posts, which are open to any company that has an Instagram business profile that is connected to a Facebook catalog. For customers, the best part is not even having to leave Instagram to shop — they can simply click on tags on the post.
There are also third-party services like InstaOrders, which is designed to turn your Instagram feed into a shoppable store, and Postcart, which facilitates e-commerce through the content of individual Instagram posts.
Above the feed of posts, you’ll see circles showing all the people you follow on Instagram that have created Instagram Stories — short, multimedia combinations of photos, videos and text that have been uploaded within the last 24 hours.
Instagram Stories are prominent in the app for a reason: 500 million people watch them every single day, according to the company, representing astronomical growth since the feature was first launched approximately three years ago.
If you have an Instagram business account with more than 10,000 followers, you have the ability to link directly from your Story — whether the content is a photo or video — and letting your followers “swipe up” to click through. They’ll still be in the app but will be able to see a page on your site where they can make purchases. Even if someone isn’t following you, such Stories can be served up as promotions on the platform.
Since 2018, Instagram has also offered shoppable stickers, which are similar to tags in posts but work within Instagram Stories. You might see a shopping basket icon on a product featured in a Story, for example, that lets the viewer buy it immediately.
It may have started as a way to share pictures, but Instagram lets you do a lot with text as well.
With hashtags, for example, it’s easy to get your post discovered by people who want to follow certain topics or even kinds of products on Instagram. You can also use the caption area to feature your best copywriting, providing incentives for your audience to look up more information about your company and its products online after they’ve left Instagram.
While you can’t link live URLs directly within an Instagram caption, you can include at least one specific link in your Instagram bio. Third party services like Curalate’s Like2Buy allow companies to take this approach a bit further by generating a bio link that will take an account’s Instagram followers to an entire marketplace of products and services.
Next steps: Making the most of the Instagram sales opportunity
With applications like Marketing Cloud, companies can use social studio tools to plan and manage campaigns across platforms like Instagram.
This is important because you not only want to generate lots of engagement, but to analyze your progress and determine whether using Instagram as a sales channel actually leads to bottom line-driven metrics like revenue.
Also remember that people may shop via e-commerce on Instagram for some products, but might want to work more directly with a sales rep for bigger-ticket items. That means any relevant data should also be fed into your CRM, like Sales Cloud, to ensure you’re not treating Instagram like an isolated touchpoint.
Instead, Instagram can become a key element in a more thoughtful — and successful — customer experience.