hot-pepperAs marketers, we always look for new ways to use old tricks. Social media has breathed new life into our work, especially in the ecommerce realm. With every hot new platform, we burn through the options and opportunities, use the tools until they lose their effectiveness, and then toss it aside on our way to something else. Facebook and Pinterest still generate huge numbers for ecommerce, but even the most tolerate consumer gets tired of constant marketing in their faces.

So where is a savvy ecommerce marketer to go next? Apparently, Instagram.

Why Instagram? 

The beauty of this photo-filtering app is that it’s not even set up to assist in ecommerce or mobile sales. For that reason, the big boys haven’t even begun to explore the possibilities. Smaller companies, especially fashion boutiques or craftsmen, pretty much have a monopoly on the space provided … for now. If you’re looking for a new outlet when marketing your products, this uncharted water may be the perfect spot to cast your line.

Getting Started 

If you don’t already have an Instagram account, your first step is to open one. Make sure all your followers on other networks are informed of your new account, because you can’t share your images with the world if no one’s paying attention. Link your account to any other social media that applies. When you post images, they can be shared to your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr accounts.

Before you begin marketing in earnest, send out some fun introductory images to gain attention from your audience, and this will boost your follow numbers, too. 

instagram example

Remember that Instagram, while viewable on the web, is a mobile app. You can only share photos from your mobile device. That doesn’t mean you can only use images taken with your mobile device, though. Photos from professional shoots, images from your website, and even memes gathered from around the web can all be shared through your Instagram account. You can create your own memes and ads in Photoshop or other editing programs before posting to Instagram. This will give you a wider variety of information you can share, since you can’t rely on users reading the comments posted under the images.

How to Share

When you want to spread the word about a particular product, you can do one of two things: Post to your general Instagram account for your entire audience to see or send direct messages to specific users. Images posted to the public account can also be shared with people who aren’t already followers and may help you gain wider exposure. Those sent to specific users can be seen only by those account holders, so employ this method sparingly and with specific intent.

When sharing with everyone, you can post information about new products, show items on sale on your website, or even offer style tips or how-to images and videos for all your followers to see. If you create these images in an editor, you can include text over the photos to include more information. Give prices, web addresses, or even mobile app information. Don’t be afraid to reiterate that information in the comments and add more for clarification.

If you choose to send direct messages to Instagram followers, you should have a much more specific goal in mind. These might be set aside for your most loyal followers and customers. In these, you can offer a first look at new products, give time-sensitive offers on sale items, or even give away rewards for loyalty. You want to closely monitor who receives these so the information isn’t shared for the general public to take advantage of.

instagram example

Avoiding Abuse

As previously mentioned, abusing the latest and greatest marketing tool isn’t in your best interest. Right now, Instagram has no intention of limiting ecommerce applications within the platform, but too much of a good thing always brings around rules and regulations. To make sure you can keep using this marketing tool for free, follow a few simple rules. 

  • No spamming
  • No offensive material
  • Keep it relevant
  • Conduct all transactions away from Instagram

The more personalized your attention through Instagram, the better you’ll be received. If complaints arise, deal with them swiftly and effectively. If you handle the hard stuff, Instagram won’t have to. In the end, we’ll all be happier.

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Originally published Mar 31, 2014 8:00:00 AM, updated October 02 2023


Social Media Ecommerce