Putting it simply, Instagram and ecommerce are like bread and butter in today’s digital world. By leveraging the best elements of the platform for your business, you will not only give your sales a boost through extending your market reach, but also develop more cohesive branding which is crucial in creating a great customer experience. Here are some things to keep in when building an Instagram feed for your business.

Why it matters:

The difficulty of beating the ‘big-name’ brands in google search. No matter how much you try to game the search engine with your SEO strategy, is you will find it almost impossible to beat the giants of the ecommerce world. They are simply too big and will take up all the search results on page one (which is obviously where you want to be!). Also, the last thing you want is to come across as a faceless entity that just sells ‘stuff’; you want to be in a place where you can show off your brand, your values and what makes you unique.

Instagram is unique when compared with other social networking platforms because the audience is not only ‘social’ in the sense of connecting with friends, but also in connecting with brands. Where Facebook users resent pop-up ads appearing left, right and center, Instagrammers are much more open to carefully curated visual content which is tagged according to their interests. It doesn’t matter whether it’s from a brand or someone they know. It’s also a much less competitive space; while 93% of marketers are using Facebook to push their brand, only 36% are using Instagram, which has seen a 115% increase in organic marketing reach since 2012 (Facebook, by comparison, has decreased by 63% in the same timeframe). In sum: to reach your audience, Instagram is now THE place to be.

Quick tips:

Consistency is key – let’s face it: people are only going to trust a brand if they feel like they know who they are and what they represent. Speaking of the big-name brands, a great example of a well-balanced feed is Nike: if you scroll through their feed, their branding always places celebrity athletes and ordinary people on par with each other with their logo scattered throughout. By keeping their branding consistent, everyone knows that Nike is not just a sports brand but that it celebrates mental focus and human ability in all walks of life.

For this to work for your business (no matter the size!) try settling on a style for your posts early and stick to it. Familiarity with your content will breed brand trust and engagement, and for your followers they’ll come to expect a certain quality from you with your schedule. Instagram is visual first and foremost, which means that the color scheme, font and photography style of your posts all can be set to a specific style. If you aren’t sure where to start, scope out your competition; what is working for them, and what is missing from their set-up? You can leverage this to help you build your brand.

The power of the # - On Instagram, hashtags are what makes the world go around; as both a social media platform and a search engine, hashtags are the keywords that organize content on the platform and what its users see. However, clogging every post with a million hashtags is not the way to make yourself more visible! While this works for some people, overusing hashtags can alienate your core followers.

You want to make yourself known to the people most likely to buy your product or service, and this means being selective. The sweet spot is around 3 to 8 hashtags per post; try using a mixture niche keywords (such as those for your business or product) with highly popular hashtags (used millions of times) and more specific medium-sized ones (200-500k usage). These are likely to land you in the ‘most recent’ section and increase your reach. Posting them in the comments section of a post rather than the description also looks cleaner, and less like aggressive promotion.

Encourage user engagement – One of the best things about Instagram is being able to leverage good-quality user-generated content for your brand by reposting it onto your own feed. The reason this is so valuable is because people are much more likely to trust others’ opinions of your business or product rather than what you have to say about yourself!

Campaigns that encourage followers to post with a certain hashtag in exchange for prizes/features can create cost-friendly and effective marketing campaigns if done well. For example, an online clothing store encouraging followers to post photos of themselves wearing their clothing and spreading it to their followers can exponentially extend a brand’s reach at little extra cost.

Things to be aware of:

The difficulty of linking. One of the downsides of organic posting on Instagram (as opposed to paid ads) is that it will not allow you to place a direct link in the description to a specific product. The only space that you have for linking is in your bio at the top of your feed. Since you typically want this for your main site (provided you have oneou will have to continuously update it if you are wanting to direct people to new season products as opposed to just the main site.

Avoiding being too promotional. The idea of Instagram is to build your band and diversify your content, so while posting product images is fine and will help with your sales and reach, it won’t make for a very engaging feed in the long run. Given that most sales on Instagram are organic and not part of any organized advertising process, pushing too hard runs the risk of turning off your audience. People aren’t on the platform to buy ‘stuff’ but to get immersed in lifestyles, ideas or communities that align with their values.Trying to turn your feed into a checkout is likely going to irritate the very people that you want to share your brand! Keep content fresh and interesting by mixing it up with ideas such as seasonal-related content or ‘behind the scenes’ content of your business.

Using Instagram is a great way for both emerging and existing brands to solidify their messaging and improve interactions with their base. In ecommerce so much of your communication and branding is online. Instagram is a fantastic way to connect your physical product to your online store and following. When used correctly, the results can be phenomenal!