How to use Instagram to drive sales

Instagram is one of the fastest-growing social media networks, and one that is becoming increasingly important to brands and businesses.

Generating sales on Instagram requires re-thinking traditional marketing tactics, and using a more indirect style to create the necessary trust and loyalty.

Grow your brand, build loyalty, and then generate sales

Young consumers are a savvy bunch: They’re comfy with brands but they hate traditional advertising. They skip TV commercials and use ad-blockers on the Internet. What they want from brands, more than anything, is authenticity

What does this mean for your Instagram presence? It means traditional sales tactics won’t work there – in fact, those tactics will probably alienate your newfound followers and turn them against you. So no hard sells, no constant “buy now” appeals – nothing at all that reeks of actual commerce.

Instead, create an aesthetic your target buyer will love and a community to which they want to belong. Create beautiful images that don’t just show off your product, but that directly relate to your customers’ lives and aspirations.

This is true across most social media. Nike’s Facebook feed, for instance, isn’t just nice pictures of shoes and jackets with links to their website. Instead, 60% of their feed is lifestyle content – images aimed directly at their core demographic of hardcore fitness enthusiasts.

Nike Instagram

Note: Nearly every post from Nike’s recent Instagram page has over 1 million likes. None of them expressly demands a sale or provides a call to action.

Ironically, focusing on lifestyle content increased the effectiveness of Nike’s more traditional call-to-action posts, which received an average of 993 shares. (By contrast, Adidas, which posted much less lifestyle content, received an average of only 122 shares on their call-to-action posts.)

By the way, Snappy’s adventure travels on the HostGator Instagram don’t exactly tell customers to “buy HostGator’s stuff!” It’s just another fun way of getting our brand out into the world, literally.

HostGator Instagram

Harness the mighty power of the hashtag

Like all social media platforms, Instagram posts have a limited shelf life. A few hours after they’re posted, they basically drop off the face of the earth.

Hashtags are a way to give them a longer life, and to put your brand’s content in front of users who don’t already follow you.

Hashtags on your posts should be relevant and specific: For instance, #cookies will probably cast a wider net, but #snickerdoodles or #hamantaschen will put you in front of people with a real interest in your product.

Don’t overdo hashtags, either – a few well-chosen ones will do nicely. Any more than that and you risk looking like you’re trying to sell something.

Reward your followers with special promotions and secret sales

In addition to posting content they consistently love, you should also give your followers a little something extra: early access to sales, special discount codes, and Instagram-only promotions.

It’s another way to make your customers (and potential customers) feel valued, to make your business appear generous, and to generate sales without seeming to actually “sell” anything. Instead of asking for business, you’re bestowing a gift.

Your followers are themselves a great asset: You can encourage them to post pictures of themselves using or wearing your product, along with a promotional hashtag that’ll help boost their pic beyond their own followers. That cements their attachment to your brand, and also puts your product in front of potential customers in a way that feels organic and, oh yes, authentic.

Be patient, and the sales will come

For those used to the old marketing models, generating sales on Instagram can feel counterintuitive. But by creating an engaging and active community, your Instagram feed will attract more fans and followers, and those loyal and engaged followers are more likely to become paying customers.

[bctt tweet=”3 #Instagram Tips for Biz: Use hashtags, share lifestyle content, reward fans with secret sales.” username=”hostgator”]

* * *

By Lauren Barret