It’s crucial for businesses to have an active social media presence to survive.
No social media marketing strategy is complete without Instagram. It’s become a top platform for brands, advertisers, and consumers alike.
This platform has 800 million monthly active users. And 500 million Instagram profiles are active on a daily basis.
Here’s something else that may surprise you: 70% of Instagram hashtags are branded.
What does that tell you? If you’re not active on Instagram, your competitors definitely are.
Those of you who already have an account set up are on the right track. But just having an Instagram profile doesn’t necessarily translate to sales.
If you want to drive sales and make real money from Instagram, you need to come up with a viable strategy.
This post will steer you in the right direction with 18 tips and strategies that you can apply to your Instagram marketing strategy today.
1. Increase your following
One of the first steps to having a successful Instagram marketing strategy is growing your follower base.
Without lots of followers, you will struggle to get your posts seen. It’s not going to be easy for you to generate sales without followers.
For those of you who just created your Instagram page, it can be intimidating to start with the number zero. But unless you’re a brand new company, you already have customers.
That’s the best place to start looking for followers. Here are the top reasons why users follow brands on social media:
As you can see from these numbers, more than 73% of users say they follow brands on social media because they are interested in the product or service the brands are offering.
Your existing customers are interested in your brand. Tell them about your profile, and ask them to follow you.
Start by sending out messages to your email subscribers. Just make sure you give them an incentive to follow you.
For example, you may send out emails only a few times per month. Tell your subscribers that if they want to see more frequent discounts and promotions, they will find them on Instagram.
If you use this strategy, be sure to follow through with that promise.
In addition to reaching out to your email subscribers, you can have an Instagram badge on your website. Use your other social media channels to promote your Instagram profile as well.
After you take these steps, another great way to get more followers is by following other people. That said, don’t follow random users.
Find followers that fit within your target audience. That’ll be your best bet when it comes to generating new leads and driving sales.
How do you find people that fit within your target market? It’s a bit tricky, and you’ll need to put in some effort. First, you need to find accounts similar to yours.
I’m not saying you need to steal followers from your competitors, although that can work too.
Instead, you can search for Instagram profiles that post content related to your industry. For example, let’s say your company sells hiking and camping equipment.
Check out this profile. The name of the account is Adventure Enthusiasts:
They have more than 132,000 followers. All of their content is related to outdoor locations across the world.
You could assume that people who follow this account would be interested in camping and hiking.
It’s time-consuming, but this will work. Once you find an account like this, go through its followers, and start following people.
The users will get a notification and check out your page. If they like what they see on your profile, which we’ll discuss shortly, they’ll be likely to follow you back.
Once you add tons of new followers, it’s going to be much easier for you to drive sales with your Instagram strategy.
2. Focus on the first impression of your page
First impressions matter. This statement holds true in the real world as well as the virtual world.
As a marketer, you need to recognize that. It’s the same reason why writing an irresistible blog post introduction is vital to your content strategy.
When an Instagram user clicks on your profile, what’s the first thing they see?
They see your profile picture, biography, and your most recent posts. Going back to our last point about following users to grow your own follower base, when a user clicks your profile, they shouldn’t have any questions.
What I mean by that is this. Your profile should say who you are and what you do.
Having your logo as your profile picture makes the most sense. It’s much more recognizable than a random picture of a person or one of your products.
Here’s an example from the Dollar Shave Club Instagram page:
What is your first impression of this profile?
To me, it’s clear from the beginning who they are. The profile picture is their logo, and their bio explains what they do in greater detail.
They even include a link to a landing page on their website to encourage users to sign up for the service.
Basically, if your brand’s Instagram page doesn’t grab the attention of users, you won’t have much luck getting followers.
For the most part, it’s best to keep everything short, to the point, and professional. Now, you’ll have a greater opportunity to promote your products and ultimately increase your sales.
3. Post content on a regular basis
If you’re adding a picture or video to your profile only once a month, it’s not an effective strategy. I wouldn’t even call that an active profile.
You want your brand to always be fresh in the minds of your followers.
At the same time, you don’t want to flood user timelines and be perceived as annoying. You need to find a middle ground here.
I wouldn’t recommend posting much more than once per day. If you have lots of content you want to share each day, it’s better to add it to your Instagram story.
If you don’t know how it works, check out my ultimate guide to using Instagram story to promote your business.
How often should you post on Instagram? Research shows that the top brands on Instagram post 1.5 times each day on average. That comes out to about 10 or 11 posts per week.
The timing of these posts is crucial as well. Top brands typically post content during office hours of a standard workweek.
Well, roughly 90% of employees admit to using social media as a distraction while they’re at work.
You need to recognize this and plan the timing of your posts accordingly. Posting on a regular basis increases your exposure and the likelihood that as many people as possible will see your content.
4. Don’t be too “salsey”
So, we’ve just established you need to post daily. But we haven’t talked about the content of those posts.
Obviously, you want to drive sales. However, that doesn’t mean that everything you post should be a product promotion.
That’ll annoy your followers and end up having the opposite effect of what you’re looking for. Mix up your content.
Be funny. Post pictures of your employees. Just don’t stray too far from your brand image.
While it’s okay to post content that’s not promoting a product, you want to stay away from controversial topics. I’m referring to subjects such as religion, politics, and race. Offending your followers is not going to help you drive sales.
Again, just avoid too many promotional posts. Posting too many promotions is the number one annoying action businesses take on social media, according to users:
Furthermore, 46% of users say they’ll unfollow a brand on social media if it posts promotions too frequently.
Whenever you do post a promotion, do it casually. You don’t need to put words in all capitalized letters and include tons of stars and quotation marks around everything.
That’s annoying. Keep it short and to the point.
5. Go live
Instagram has a live broadcast feature. If you read my top marketing trends of 2018, you’d know I put live video streaming first on this list.
Users love it, and brands are using this information to their advantage.
Live video gives you the opportunity to connect with your audience in real time. While you broadcast, they can comment.
Make sure you respond to these comments, and try your best to acknowledge those users. This will help you increase engagement metrics.
There are endless possibilities with your live streams.
You could demonstrate new products, give a tour of your facility, or even introduce some of your employees. I like the idea of hosting a Q&A segment to give you a more authentic connection with your audience.
Another way to utilize Instagram live story is by working with other brands. Instagram is the top social platform in terms of brand collaborations across the globe:
You could try to get featured on the live broadcast of another profile in an effort to promote your brand.
As a result, this type of strategy can help you expose your brand to a new audience, increase your followers, and ultimately drive more sales.
6. Add pictures and videos to your story
As I briefly mentioned earlier, your story is a great place to add daily content.
You can post content to your story multiple times per day because it won’t flood the timelines of users who follow you.
But that doesn’t mean you should go overboard and post 20 different pictures and videos to your story every day.
People won’t look at each one, so it’s a waste of your time and resources. The engagement and views will drop with each additional post to your story.
You also need to make sure the timing of the post on your story is relevant because it will disappear 24 hours after it gets uploaded.
I’d recommend using your story to offer discounts, run contests, or tell people what you’re up to that day in the office.
The whole idea here is having your brand on their minds. If they’re thinking about your brand, they are more likely to make a purchase.
Similarly to your live video strategy, you can even use your Instagram story to partner with another brand for a takeover. You can take over their account, and they can post content to yours as well.
Again, this will make it easier for you to expose your brand to a wider audience.
7. Partner with social influencers
Using social influencers to promote your brand, products, and services is an extremely efficient tactic.
In fact, 94% of marketers say their social influencer strategy was effective for their companies.
That’s because social influencer followers trust them.
We know that 82% of people are likely to follow recommendations made by micro influencers. And 94% of consumers believe these influencers are highly knowledgeable.
Basically, if you can get an influencer to promote your brand, you will get sales.
Instagram is the primary social platform for influencers across the globe.
This is a cost-effective marketing strategy.
Most influencers will charge only a few hundred dollars or so for a post. However, if you’d rather work with celebrity influencers, be prepared to spend significantly more.
But for the most part, that’s not necessary.
I recommend looking for influencers who have between 10k and 50k followers. These people have more authentic interactions with their followers and higher engagement rates.
Plus, the cost per post will be less.
If you’re struggling to find the right influencer to promote your brand, review the top 10 platforms for effectively managing social influencers.
8. Add hashtags to your captions
Captions are just as important, if not more important, than the images and videos you post.
You’ve got to learn how to write Instagram captions that drive engagement.
Hashtags are definitely necessary. There are lots of different approaches to this.
For starters, you can use one that already exists so that other people can see it. For example, you could pick a hashtag that’s promoting a national event.
Another idea is to create your own hashtag. This would be much more brand-specific.
You could use a hashtag with just your brand name as well as the name of your campaign.
If you’re like to run contests on Instagram, you can have a unique hashtag for each one.
9. Encourage UGC
UGC is short for user-generated content. This piggybacks on my last point about using hashtags to promote contests.
Promotions of this nature encourage users to post photos and videos related to your brand to their personal profiles.
As a result, your brand gets exposed to all of the followers who are friends with that particular user. This type of content acts as a recommendation, which we just discussed as an effective promotional method.
Besides running contests, the best way to encourage user-generated content is to feature user photos on your profile.
Check out this post from the Thule Instagram page:
As you can see, this post came from one of their followers.
When other people see this, they’ll be encouraged to share it as well as submit their own photos for the chance to be featured on the page.
10. Run targeted ads
How can you reach people on Instagram who don’t follow your account?
Some of the strategies, such as location tagging, running contests, and working with social influencers can accomplish this.
However, those strategies don’t always expose your brand to people within your target market. Running targeted advertisements will do this.
Instagram has been acquired by Facebook. You can set up your ads the same way on both networks.
You can use parameters such as age, gender, and location to select your ad audience. You can even take that one step further and target users based on their interests.
Here’s an example of a targeted Instagram ad from Tentree:
As you can see, this post looks like any other post on Instagram. The only difference is that it says “sponsored” where the location tag would normally be, and there is a CTA button at the bottom.
But when a user is scrolling through their feed, this post blends in with the rest of the content they’re consuming. It’s not invasive or annoying.
Yes, you’ll have to pay if you want to run Instagram ads. Those of you who don’t have the funds in your marketing budget for this right now would want to stick with the free strategies on this list.
However, if you can afford it, I recommend at least trying it out to see how it works for you. This can be a great way to drive sales by reaching a new audience.
11. Run contests and giveaways
Promotional contests and giveaways are two of my favorite strategies for brands to engage with their audiences on social media.
If you can learn how to run a profitable giveaway, your efforts will result in more sales.
I know what some of you are thinking. How can you make money by just giving away your products?
Let’s review an example to show you what I mean. Here’s a look at how Lander used this strategy on a recent Instagram post:
The company is giving away a smart lantern, power bank, phone case, and lightning cable.
Doing this increases the exposure of its page. It gives people a reason to follow its profile and engage with the brand.
As you can see, this giveaway is a bit different from the ones you may have seen in the past. Lander partnered with other brands to sponsor this giveaway.
Again, this strategy will drive more users to its page. These other accounts will post information about the giveaway and direct users to follow Lander’s profile to win.
Here’s a look at the caption from one of the other accounts it partnered with:
There are plenty of other ways to get creative with this marketing tactic.
Instead of giving away items at random to your followers simply for liking a post and following your account, you could run a more structured contest that requires skill.
Contests that encourage user-generated content are the most effective.
To enter, ask your followers to upload a picture and tag your brand. This strategy will expose your company to anyone who follows the users who enter.
If someone sees that their friend is promoting a brand, they’ll be more inclined to follow your profile and potentially enter the contest as well.
Now that you’ve got these users interested in your products, you can use other strategies to get them to buy. Even if they didn’t win the contest, the product you were giving away is still on their minds.
12. Take advantage of the “swipe up” feature
The swipe up feature is a game-changer for businesses.
For years, you probably had some trouble getting users on Instagram to navigate to your website from a specific link. You would post content and then direct people to click a link in your bio.
But that strategy has lots of faults.
First, it’s an extra step for the user. They have to navigate to your profile page and then make another click.
People don’t want to go through that hassle.
Plus, what if you want to promote two different landing pages? Or maybe three? or four?
You will not have multiple links in your bio. That’s too confusing.
The swipe up feature eliminates this problem. Now you can use your Instagram story to drive traffic directly to specific landing pages.
Here are a couple of examples:
Once your business profile reaches 10k followers, you’ll have access to this feature.
Just promote a product or service on your story, and add the swipe up function with a link to a landing page about your promotion.
If you’re advertising a specific product, a logical landing page would be to the product description on your site. There, the user can look at additional photos and add the product to their shopping cart.
These lead magnets are a great way for you to drive more traffic to your website and ultimately increase conversions.
13. Use shoppable posts
If you have an ecommerce brand, you need to take advantage of shoppable posts.
This strategy allows you to sell products directly through the Instagram platform.
The reason why I love this feature so much is because it increases the chances of getting your current and prospective customers to buy something. Here’s why.
Right now, you’re relying on consumers navigating to your website to buy your products.
This can be from organic traffic, paid ads, or direct navigation.
The problem is that people probably won’t do this every day. But they’re active on Instagram daily.
In fact, 500 million people use Instagram on a daily basis. So there’s a great chance your target market falls into this category.
Here’s an example of a shoppable post from Patara Shoes:
It’s simple. This post is just a regular image that includes one of the brand’s products.
You also see a tag of the product by name, the price, and a link to purchase it. All someone has to do is click on the tag, and they’ll be directed to the website.
This is much easier than having to manually search for the product by opening a web browser. Shoppable posts increase conversions.
Check out the caption. It’s creating FOMO—the fear of missing out. I’ve discussed this strategy in the past.
Telling users they have only a few pairs of these shoes left nudges them to buy right now.
If you’ve never sold products on Instagram before and don’t know where to start, check out my complete guide on how to increase your ecommerce product sales with shoppable posts on Instagram.
14. Post the same product more than once
If you post a product once and then never promote it again, people may forget about it.
Think about the way users behave on Instagram. They quickly scroll through their feeds.
The first time they see your product, they may not have a reason to buy it. But if they see it more than once, it may start to pique their interest.
According to a study from Sprout Social, more than 60% of people need to see something on social media between two and four times before they buy it:
I’m not saying you should post the exact same image four different times on your Instagram page. That’s boring and might even cause people to unfollow you.
Start with a post of just the product. A few days later, you can share another image of the product on your Instagram story.
The following week, run a contest to promote the same product. Weeks later, you can share a video of the same item being used in a demonstration.
Posting the same product multiple times increases the chances of people buying it.
15. Respond to comments and messages
I know it may seem like a time-consuming and tedious task, but you need to respond to your followers on Instagram.
By responding directly to comments on your post, you will add a human element and personal feel to your brand, which people really appreciate.
This strategy is especially important if people are asking questions or voicing complaints about your business. Respond to these comments as fast as possible to come up with a resolution.
It shows other users who see your responses on social media that your brand values customer service.
Consumers are willing to pay more for good service. You can expect to see an increase in sales by communicating with your customers effectively on social media.
16. Use your story to showcase products
Earlier I mentioned examples of posting content to your Instagram story.
But now you can use your Instagram story to sell your products the same way you did with shoppable posts.
As of June 12, 2018, Instagram brought the shopping feature to stories.
Here’s a look at an example from Madewell:
As you can see, the post is promoting a silk button-down cami.
Since the shopping feature on stories is new, the post features additional text as a way to tell the users the post is clickable.
If you tap on the button as instructed, you’ll be redirected to the brand’s website. From here, you’ll have an option to buy the product displayed in the story:
Use this strategy if you’re running an ecommerce shop.
As I said before, people need to see a product multiple times on social media before they decide to buy it. Add shoppable stories to the list of ways to showcase your products.
17. Connect your followers to your Facebook page
If your company has an Instagram profile, it probably also has a Facebook page.
Since Instagram was acquired by Facebook, these two platforms have lots of features that work together. I mentioned this earlier when I talked about running targeted ads.
Now you can sync your Instagram followers with your Facebook business page.
Once this process is complete, you can use messenger bots to nurture those users.
There are more than 300,000 active monthly bots on Facebook messenger. Clearly, other businesses are taking advantage of this strategy already.
Jump on board now before your competitors’ bots steal your customers.
18. Offer discounts to your followers
Everyone loves a good deal.
Share discounts with your followers on Instagram to encourage them to buy.
Instagram is a great platform for running flash sales. Since your story disappears after 24 hours, you can use that type of post to share a promo code.
This will make your followers feel as if they’re getting an offer other people don’t know about. That feeling of exclusivity will also encourage them to buy.
Look at how J. Crew offered a discount in this post:
Notice anything different about this post?
The reason why I used this as an example is because it also uses another strategy I discussed on this list. This is a targeted advertisement.
Don’t think your promo codes should be limited to just your profile posts and stories.
Combining that deal with a targeted ad can be extremely effective. That’s because your ads will have CTA buttons bringing users directly to your website.
If someone clicks on the “shop now” button in the J. Crew ad, they’ll be able to use the promo code right away. This is much easier than having to navigate to a new window.
You can’t rely on website traffic alone to sell products. Take advantage of other distribution channels as well.
Social media influences consumers’ purchasing decisions.
Since Instagram is growing at such a rapid rate, it makes sense to use this platform as a primary method of driving sales.
Plus, as you’ve seen from this list, Instagram has features that allow businesses to sell items directly through its platform.
If your Instagram marketing strategy needs improvement, refer to this guide.
All of these strategies will help you elevate your Instagram presence and increase sales as a result.