To many small business owners, social media is an attractive but baffling marketing tool. They know social media could drive interest and sales, but might not know how to expand their strategy beyond just posting on common networks. Retail companies, especially those in the luxury and niche markets, can profit greatly from the smart use of image-based platforms like Instagram. But many small business owners are using Instagram in all the wrong ways: posting blurry or irrelevant photos, ignoring fans, or being too fearful to openly encourage sales. So the question becomes, “How do I sell items on Instagram?”
If you want to build a profitable Instagram presence for your small business, here are 5 basics you have to keep in mind:
1. Be an expert
No posting pictures of what you ate for breakfast or the cool cloud formation outside. Stick to taking creative pictures of your product, behind-the-scenes shots of production, or unique ways people are using your items. Enthusiasts and potential customers follow experts with focused, quality content.
2. Post frequently
There is an inverse relationship between the amount of time that elapses between your posts and the strength of your relationship with fans. Post at least once a day to keep your audience engaged.
Effective marketing and making sales requires relationships! If someone comments, be sure to comment back. Friendliness and personal connection, more than anything, is what will turn your fans into customers.
Use relevant hash tags to find users who are interested in your niche (i.e. for a boutique fashion co., #fashion #dailylook #mensfashion #womensfashion are major – for cigars you’d look at #cigar #cigars #cigaraficionado, etc). Try to like at least 20-30 photos a day from a few of the relevant tags. Why? Each like drops a notification from your brand on a users’ phone. Try it and watch your follower count grow much faster.
5. Make the ask
Some social media managers would tell you to stick to the “soft sell.” This is bad advice. A hard ask can be effective and even flattering to a user, provided there is a pre-existing relationship. Once you have built a large, enaged audience and are getting between 50-200 likes per photo, start dropping selling language in every fourth or fifth photo. The key is to be creative! One highly successful strategy is to make product recommendations to your most engaged fans by using the @ mention function. Who wouldn’t like a personalized recommendation from an expert?
Now let’s make it concrete. Here are some examples of Instagram done right.
These guys do a fantastic job creating a solid Instagram community that has very high interaction rates and actively asks to buy:
Ash Fine Cigars
Ash Fine Cigars is a cigar shop in Hoboken I did some consulting work with last year. We had a lot of success a) posting every day, and b) making recommendations to our customers.
Rogue Ales is based in Oregon (my home state) and has something of a cult following. Their attention to their community has created a very engaged audience that loves to fawn over their products.
The 5 basics outlined above work with any company that is selling an attractive product and can be used in industries from cigars and spirits to fashion and even auto.
Do you have a winning method for making sales on platforms like Instagram? Tell us about it in the comments below! You can also check out a few my other guides to social media for small and mid-sized businesses:
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Have a question? Want to hire me to make social media work for you? Drop it in the comments or email me.