“Social Media for Cigar Companies” Part IV: How To Make Sales on Instagram

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In our last post, we looked at how to use Facebook to increase brand awareness and communicate with your fans and customers. In this post, we’ll take an in-depth look at how to use Instagram to connect with current and potential customers and drive sales.

First, a few basics on Instagram that should shape your strategy. Instagram is unique in that it is entirely image based. This makes it extremely valuable for enticing other Instagram users to purchase your product. This also means that Instagram is not the platform you want to use to make basic announcements about your business, unless you have marketing images appropriate to Instagram.

So now let’s talk about how to get your Instagram account set up!

We’ll start our how-to with the most important tips you need to know to set up and, just as important, launch your Instagram presence. From there we’ll look at a few tips for quickly building a large following of relevant users (i.e. potential customers). Then we’ll look at the part you’re excited about: how to make money on Instagram. Just remember: each step below is important.


It goes without saying that your username should ideally be the name of your company. This will help your customers and fans find you easily. Aside from that, follow these basic guidelines:

  • Important: skip the “find friends” screens that will pop up immediately after creating your account. This comes later.
  • Your “bio” section should include a brief description of your company, and if possible either your marketing slogan or the handles for your Twitter and other social accounts.
  • Be sure to add your website to the “website” field.
  • In your account settings, connect your Instagram account to your Twitter feed unless you plan on posting images separately on Twitter (better, but takes a lot more time).
  • Upload at least eight or nine photos creative captions to your account. Please: make your photos good. Bad photos count against your brand, not for it.


Now that your profile is set up, it is time to launch. Go into your options menu and tap “find friends.” From there, hit “Facebook friends.” You’ll be prompted to connect your Facebook account to you Instagram profile. Do it.

Now you’ll see a screen with a list of all of your Facebook friends on Instagram. Hit the “Follow All” button. This will act as a notification for all of your friends on Instagram to check out your account, and since you’ve already posted content, they will likely hit the “Follow” button back!

But we can boost your initial following even more. Here are some ideas:

  1. Go back to the “find friends” screen, and add friends from your phone contact list. Hit the “follow all” button again.
  2. Announce on your other social networks that you have launched your Instagram presence. Be sure to include your best photo in the post so people have an immediate understanding of the value of your content.
  3. Use any company email lists to send an email blast to your current customers and contacts. If you go this route, be sure that your email is polished and professional. After all, if your email isn’t visually appealing, why would anyone want to follow you on Instagram?


Immediately following your launch, you will notice a big bump in your follower count as your friends and fans connect with your account. This is good, but it is only the beginning!

Here are a few best practices to remember that will help you build your Instagram audience:

  1. Post at least once a day. Two or even three times if possible, while maintaining relevant content.
  2. Use hash tags. Hash tags group photos from different users under similar interests, and will help other users find you. A few common cigar related hashtags are: #cigar, #cigars, #cigaraficionado, #cigarsociety, #cigarian. There are many, many more.
  3. Like photos under hash tags like #cigars. Every time you like someone’s photo, they get a notification. Many times, getting a like will pique a person’s interest, and they will often follow you after visiting your profile. This is one of the fastest ways to grow a profile.
  4. Link your Instagram account to your Facebook and Twitter profiles. This will cross polinate your social media followings.
  5. If someone comments on one of your photos, RESPOND! The users who comment on your photos are the most likely to become your next loyal customers. Don’t shut them out or they’ll lose interest and go somewhere else.

If you’ve done this well, you should end up with something like this (another account I built):

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Ok, so you’ve followed the steps above and you have yourself a solid Instagram account running. Now you might be wondering, “How do I sell my product on Instagram?” It’s pretty easy and just takes a bit more work.

  1. Take badass pictures. Nothing is more attractive to a customer than a picture of your product on an exotic beach, on top of a skyscraper, with a famous celebrity, or in any other unique situation. If your pictures are blurry or just plain unenticing, don’t expect anyone to want to purchase your product.
  2. Reach out to your commentors. After a week or two, you’ll notice that other Instagram users are commenting on your photos. If users are interested enough to interact with you – they’re probably interested enough or almost interested enough to buy your product. Start keeping a list of the individuals who comment on your photos. When you have a solid list of 10-15 names, start tagging them in your photos or mentioning them in the comments below your next shot. Here’s a good example of how this works (see below).
  3. Recommend cigars to your Instagram followers. Imagine you have a personalized retail experience online, where a professional is reaching out to you and recommending a product. How likely are you to take the recommendation? Statistically, the answer is “very likely.” Try posting a picture of a cigar, and recommending the cigar to a few of your followers using the @ mention.
  4. Post your crazy awesome deals. You must run sales at some point or another, right? Well, it’s likely that one or all of your sales is worth a mention on social media. Next time you run a cigar sale, take a picture of the cigars that are on sale and drop a caption using non-salesy language. Avoid “x cigar is on sale today. hooray.” and go with something like “Do you love the Fuente Opus X?! Well get your ass down to the shop because they’re half off!” (admittedly, this would be a truly sick deal, but it’s just an example).

Here’s an example from a client I was managing on recommendations/tagging:

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Keep in mind, these are only ways to get direct sales on Instagram (where someone says, “yes, I will buy that). Social is powerful, however, in that it leads to many indirect sales by heightening the exposure of your brand in general (more visibility, trust, yada yada).

So there you have it. An awesome guide on how to use Instagram to look badass, be badass, and sell lots of cigars (or anything else, honestly). Pretty simple right? The key here is to be creative and actually interact with your audience. After all, it’s called social media for a reason!

In our next post, we’ll look at strategies for using Google+ effectively and giving your company an exposure boost.

In case you missed them, our last three posts:


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