How To Use Instagram For eCommerce

January 30, 2015 Alex McEachern

A picture says a thousand words, but does it for ecommerce? Instagram has quickly become one of the fastest growing social media networks, with a very engaged user base. But does it have a place in ecommerce? While it is not at Facebook level in terms of orders, it is providing ecommerce merchants with an effective marketing and sales channel.


Instagram by the Numbers

We can start the assessment of Instagram on a purely quantitative basis. Instagram currently has more than 300 million active users, and about half of them are using the network daily. That is a lot of potential shoppers you can reach. To put that in perspective, almost 13% of internet users are on Instagram.

But we all know better than to look at the absolute numbers. We need to see what the breakdown of users is for an ecommerce store’s target market. I won’t get into the nitty gritty specifics, but here are some basic demographic stats for Instagram.instagram for ecommerce average insta user

Instagram is predominantly female, women represent 68% of the social network. The majority of Instagram users are under the age of 35, with the majority of users in their teens and early 20’s. Of those teens 23% state that Instagram is their favorite social network.

The data shows that the average Instagram user is female, in their early 20’s and belongs to a family in the top income quartile. Does this sound like your target market? If so, you are in luck!


How to Use Instagram for eCommerce

One of the reasons Instagram has become so popular, is that it is free from “traditional advertising.” The only form of paid advertising available on Instagram is a promoted post. These promoted posts are shown only to users that Instagram deems are a good fit. These promoted posts as well as all instagram images cannot contain links to outside pages. Which means you have to get a little more creative.

No Outside Links on Posts

Instagram does not allow posts to have links that take you outside of Instagram. That means you can’t show a beautiful product image and direct traffic to your ecommerce store. The only place where a link can be used is in a profile.instagram for ecommerce instagram profile

This is the biggest challenge of using Instagram for ecommerce. The trick here is that you need to share images where the viewer wants to learn more. Show them something so interesting that they want to see who posted it. If you aren’t getting viewers to your profile page, you aren’t getting any new customers. You need to find another way to get interactions, like using hashtags.

Use Hashtags Instead

Without links in the content hashtags become even more important. A hashtag on instagram is both a way to get your posts noticed and organize them. If you are just starting out on Instagram you can use hashtags as a way to get your pictures noticed. Using popular tags like #throwbackthursday or #instagood is sure to get eyeballs on your content. Once you gain a following you can shift your strategy.instagram for ecommerce hashtage

See the most current list!

Once you have generated a following, Instagram for ecommerce has some powerful benefits. You can use hashtags to get all photos with that hashtag in the same place. The tag essentially becomes a link to your brand. All posts you have made with your brand’s tag will be displayed in aggregate in one place. This is a great way to showcase all of your amazing products and pictures in one place. It also becomes a great way to collect user submitted content.

Use Hashtags to Create Campaigns and Contests

Hashtags make it easy for you to create a campaign or contest, just get users to submit content with the hashtag of your choosing. The hashtag will aggregate all the submissions so you can see all of the entrants in one place.

Smaller companies should use a contest or a giveaway to encourage users to post to the hashtag. Without a good amount of traction in the community it will be difficult to just start a hashtag that people will use. Here is an example from bows-n-ties.instgram for ecommerce bowsnties contest

Example of ecommerce site using Instagram

In this example bows-n-ties started a contest where you just need to post a picture of yourself in a tie (does not need to be a tie from them) and use the hashtag #bowsnties.  They then select a user submitted photo to win a $50 giftcard for the site.

The Steps to Create a Contest on Instagram:

  1. Choose a hashtag
  • One that is not already in use
  • One that matches your brand
  • One that is not #superlongandconfusing
  1. Set the scope
  • What needs to be included in the picture?
  • What hashtags need to be included?
  • Does it have to be your brand?
  1. Set the reward
  • Will there be one or multiple winners?
  • How often will a winner be selected?
  • What will you reward?

In my experience contests work best when the hashtag matches your ecommerce store name, allows users to submit pictures that show what you sell (not necessarily only your brand), and offers a recurring reward. A recurring reward removes doubt that the contest is over and encourages people to continue posting.

Find an Influencer

Another way to increase your brand’s exposure on Instagram is to find an influencer. There are influencers in many of the most popular industries on Instagram. These industries include: fashion, cosmetics, personal care, food, and alcohol.instgram for ecommerce find an influencer

Once you find someone who has followers in your target market, give them a call. See if they are willing to snap a picture wearing or using your products. Some might want you to pay and others might be happy just getting some free stuff.

The person you target doesn’t have to be a celebrity. There are a bunch of people out there who have amassed a following you can target. For example Adam Gallagher or Iamgalla has 1.1 million followers. He posts photos of mens fashion and lifestyle. If you are looking for beauty/cosmetic influencers there are tons. One of the most famous is Nicole Guerriero who has 1.3 million followers.instgram for ecommerce iamgalla nicoleguerriero

Accounts with a million plus followers will likely want financial compensation for featuring your products. There are many accounts with a few thousand followers that would be more than happy to feature your product and hashtag for a free sample.

Tools to Help Make Instagram for eCommerce Easier

Iconosquare: This software makes it much easier for a small team to manage a company Instagram account. Iconosquare creates a platform on your desktop where you can easily see what your followers are posting, check Instagram statistics, and even has search functionality to quickly find what you are looking for.

Offerpop: They have software for multiple social applications, but their photo contest builder can help you set up an effective Instagram contest. The software allows users to vote on photos submitted from multiple social networks.

InstaOrders: Get browsers to make a purchase from your ecommerce store directly within Instagram. You can use the software to set up a store within Instagram, which allows shoppers to place an order. You will still need to ship and process the orders, but the software is free!

10sec: Turn your Instagram account into an ecommerce sales channel. Take a photo of your item, use the #10sec, and set the price in the caption area. 10sec provides you with a shipping label and processes the transaction for you. They then send you a transfer for the money shortly after.

This post is meant to give you the basics you need to start driving results on Instagram. The image based social network is an amazing way for many industries to generate awareness and even drive sales. There a a ton of great examples of ecommerce sites using Instagram effectively, the next great one could be you. If you enjoyed this post check out “Youtube for eCommerce” , and stay tuned for more social media advice for ecommerce.instgram for ecommerce youtube CTA

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