THE BLOG

How to Utilise Instagram for Sales

09/12/2013 15:55 GMT | Updated 07/02/2014 10:59 GMT

There are a lot of misconceptions about Instagram out there. Often, it's just dismissed as a platform for teenagers who want to post arty photos of themselves or pictures of their cats, but the reality of the situation couldn't be more different. Instagram has 100 million active users who take roughly 40 million photos every single day and post around 1,000 comments per second - there is a huge audience out there just waiting to be tapped into and for brands, especially those with an e-commerce proposition, who are willing to put in the time and effort, there are plenty of rewards to be reaped.

So, what's the best way for your brand to turn these millions of Instagram users into potential customers? As with every single social media platform, the key to winning the hearts, minds and cold hard cash of social media users is engagement. And with that in mind, here are my top tips for engaging with Instagram users to boost your sales.

1. Fan participation is key - embrace it!

Instagram is a great place for users to interact with their favourite brands in a different way to more conventional social media platforms and brands should embrace this. Start campaigns or photo contests to get people engaging with, and talking about, your brand or products. If you're a clothing company, you could ask users to send in photos of their favourite outfits produced by your company, add an appropriate hash tag and you'll quickly amass a wide variety of brand-appropriate user-generated content. Once you've got this, you can create a gallery of user photos - you could create a specific microsite for this, or use Facebook's Instagram tab. All of this gets people excited, it gets people talking about your brand - it gets people engaging. And this is key to driving sales.

2. Make it easy for the customer to get what they want

Whether it's the user-generated galleries that you've created, or pictures you've posted of your latest product, you have to make it as easy as possible for the customer to make the purchase. It's no use if the customer spots some shoes they just must buy, if they have to spend half an hour scouring the web to find the supplier! The great thing about Instagram is that you can link specific photos in your gallery to direct pages on your e-commerce site. So, a user sends in a photo of themselves using one of your products? Or you add a picture of that new item you've just made available on your website? Add a link that takes the customer directly there - the easier it is for them to find the product, the more chance there is of them buying it.

3. Turn your fans into ambassadors for your products

As I mentioned earlier, user-generated content is a great way to engage with customers - it makes them feel part of your brand. Why not go to the next step and start using this user-generated content on your site? What better way to sell your products than by showing your target market using or wearing them? Many clothing websites, for example, only have pictures of their clothes on chiselled men or stick-thin women who look nothing like the customer who is looking for the perfect outfit. The benefits of using your fans' Instagram photos to promote your products are twofold: it's another great way of connecting and engaging with your fans and building brand loyalty, as well as demonstrating real people - the very people you're targeting - using and enjoying your products.

Conclusion

The commercial importance of Instagram continues to grow every single day and brands are waking up to the true potential of this fabulous platform as a social-sales tool. The suggestions I've made in this article are just a few of the ways you can leverage the power of Instagram to improve your relationship with your customers and increase sales. There's an audience of millions out there just waiting for you - go and introduce yourself.