How to drive eCommerce Sales Using Instagram

By August 21, 2017eCommerce, Social Media

Welcome to part 3 of our eCommerce Growth Series. If this is the first post you’re seeing you can check out part 1, How to Drive eCommerce Sales Using Pinterest, and part 2, How To Drive eCommerce Sales Using Facebook. In this post we’re going to talk about how we use Instagram to boost eCommerce sales.

Any solid digital marketing strategy for ecommerce sites is like a Swiss Army knife full of tools. The challenge becomes understanding which tools to use at different phases of the business. A lot of people will get heavy use out of one or two digital marketing tactics, kind of like the blade on your knife. However, when it comes to getting something that’s stuck between your teeth a toothpick will be much more useful than a blade.

Office worker missing tooth

Don’t learn the hard way like this guy.

Instagram is like the toothpick. There are people who will only find you through the social media platform and the Instagram format will be the most effective way of appealing to them. Here is how to utilize this tool for your ecommerce business.

Best Practices for Optimizing Your Instagram Account

There are a couple of changes to make to your profile setup that can help boost your eCommerce performance. First, change your profile to a business profile. This change adds contact options to your profile that visitors can select in order to call, email, or get directions to your business. You’ll also have access to Instagram Insights which will help you understand your account’s performance better.

Instagram switch to business profile

The only place you can insert a clickable link in Instagram is in the profile. While it’s usually a great idea to place a link to your homepage here, you should use this space to your advantage. Many brands change the link to point to the latest blog post, contest, or sale. Specialized landing page URLs are also a useful option for sending interested people through marketing funnels. There are also a number of services that create clickable, marketable versions of your Instagram feed for people to browse. They can also sign up for your email newsletter. Our favorite is Soldsie. Once you set up a Soldsie feed you need to place the link to it in your profile.

WMGoods Instagram shop

Here’s an Instagram account that uses Soldsie.

WMGoods Instagram feed

Clicking the link in the profile takes you to this page. Each image is linked back to pages on WM Goods’ website.

Best Practices for Posting on Instagram

Instagram is the perfect platform for showing off your products. The question is how often should you be posting on Instagram? This study by Union Metrics points out that the number of times a brand posts per day isn’t related to the number of engagements those posts receive. There are brands experiencing above-average engagement that post hourly. That’s a hard schedule to keep up with for most brands.

The two most important best practices for posting on Instagram are consistency and quality. Can you commit to a consistent posting schedule that does not sacrifice image quality for quantity? If your posts look sloppy or lazy because you’re burned out trying to post every hour between 9 and 5, then you need to scale it back to where your images and messages can be excellent. For example, RXBAR averages one post every three days but the quality of the posts is very high, contributing to a very large following.

RXbar instagram

RXBAR also uses Likeshop, a service similar to Soldsie.

You don’t need to be a design expert to create great Instagram content, but it helps to know the basics of how to put together a good image.

Hashtags are also extremely important to include with every post. It’s an easy way to push messages out to interested communities and users on Instagram. A Quick Sprout infographic shows that the number of engagements per post increases dramatically once 11 hashtags have been used. So the more, the merrier.

What we like to do is hashtag research. Instagram makes it very easy. Start typing keywords with the hashtag symbol before them into Instagram’s search bar. You’ll be shown related suggestions along with the relative number of posts that use each hashtag. Take all the relevant results you find and organize them by topic in a spreadsheet. From here it’s easy to copy and paste the hashtags you need into Hootsuite, HubSpot, or whatever your favorite scheduler is. If you’re posting from your phone then you should create pre-made hashtag lists in a note or memo app for easy copy/pasting.

Maple donuts hashtag

Hashtag spreadsheet

You may also want to consider using Instagram Stories. These posts don’t appear in the main feed and disappear after 24 hours. While this may seem counterintuitive for brands, there is the possibility of your Stories posts appearing at the top of your Instagram followers’ feeds.

Instagram stories

Best Practices for Sponsored Posts On Instagram

Overall, the best way to get your brand in front of a lot of eyes is to pay for the exposure. Setting up ads on Instagram is a pretty simple process using Facebook’s Ads Manager. When creating an ad you first need to consider who you want to show the ad to and where you want them to see it. Narrowing your audience to just the right people can be challenging, but with a little practice it actually becomes fun. You can be very specific about the people you target, or as broad as you want to be using the multitude of targeting options. Our recommendation is to build an audience that would likely be interested in your brand but don’t worry about creating an exact definition of who they are. Once you have set the targeting to point in the general direction of interested people, Facebook’s algorithm will do the hard work for you and find the people on Instagram that will deliver results. You can look at the analytics after the ad has run and get a better idea of who is responding to you.

In the example in the image we’ve built an audience for women’s running shoes. We’ve already indicated that we want to show the ad to women in the U.S., ages 18 – 45. Our three criteria after that are that they be online shoppers, their purchase behavior indicates that they buy products related to running, and then (as pictured in the red box) that they have listed at least one thing related to running as an interest. We know that there are more ways we can zero in on the right people but with our potential reach at 1.9 million we’re going to leave it up to Facebook to find the people within that group who are likely to interact with our ad. We can learn more about them after we get the analytics back from the campaign.

Instagram targeting

The next step in setting up an Instagram ad is selecting the ad’s placement. Be sure to deselect the Facebook, Audience Network, and Messenger options if you plan on advertising solely on Instagram. You can choose between showing the sponsored content in the Feed or as a Stories post. In most cases we recommend sticking with the Feed option because of the ability to write text to go along with the ad.

Bonafide Traveler instagram

Instagram Ad as it appears in the Feed (left) and in Stories (right).

After selecting the ad placement you need to set a budget for your ad. The general rule is more money = more results, but starting with a small budget is a great way to figure out what works and who’s interested. Work your way up to bigger campaigns.

With Feed placement you have more format options for your Instagram ad. The options include Single Image, Single Video, Carousel, Slideshow, and the new (at the time of this writing) Collection. If you’re inexperienced with social advertising then the Single Image format is the easiest way to learn the ropes. The Collection option is an immersive brand experience for mobile devices, and it’s likely the direction Instagram will want to head as the advertising platform evolves. With Stories placement only Single Image or Single Video formats are available but they are full screen ads so that factor does enhance their aesthetic appeal.

Facebook ad formats

Facebook will report the performance of all ads that you run but if you want to know what’s REALLY happening on your site you need to modify the URL you include in Instagram ads for tracking. This is very important, otherwise you won’t be able to distinguish between normal Instagram traffic and the traffic that comes from your ads. There’s no sense in doing everything we’ve recommended up to this point only to be unaware of the effect it’s having.

Use Google’s Campaign URL Builder to add the parameters for tracking. Include a descriptive name that will help you identify your ads from other campaigns. Using the tool here’s an example of a URL modified for tracking in Google Analytics.

Ad Campaign

Example URL: example.com?utm_source=instagram&utm_campaign=running_shoes_ad

This information is pushed to Google Analytics (GA). Log into GA and navigate to ‘Campaigns’ in the ‘Acquisition’ sub-menu to find the data generated by the ads. From here you can gain a better understanding of the actions taken by the visitors coming to your site. It could be that Instagram is telling one story and Google another. If you see that people aren’t quite ready to make a purchase once they’re on your site it’s a good idea to brush up on how to turn browsers into loyal customers.

Ad Analytics

Instagram is a unique opportunity to get people excited about your brand. Show them, literally, what is great about what you do. Then, make it easy for them to get to your site and to the products they’re looking for.

About TJ Welsh

TJ has worked in the digital marketing space since 2006. He has worked at a number of agencies and and helped hundreds of clients grow their business through SEO, PPC, Social Media and Content Marketing. He currently lives in Lehi , UT and enjoys spending time with his family.

2 Comments

  • Hi TJ,

    Thank you for mentioning our research in your piece! We appreciate it.

    – Sarah A. Parker
    Social Media Manager | Union Metrics
    Fine Makers of the Union Metrics Social Suite & more

  • TJ Welsh says:

    Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for the note and thanks for taking the time to do the research and publish your findings.

    – TJ

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