No matter the size of your business or how long it’s been around, you can use Instagram to drive sales. Why? Instagram has a vast network of potential customers and a multitude of online selling tools to help brands build their audience and start making money online!
In fact, Instagram has 1 billion monthly active users worldwide—with 500 million using it daily—so there’s a massive opportunity for brands to gain international exposure.
If you want a slice of that pie, it’s time to start using your brand’s Instagram presence strategically. In this article, we’re diving deep into how to make money on Instagram with your business.
Let’s get into it.
There are tons of reasons why Instagram has the potential to be a great sales channel for your business.
Here are just a few:
- It’s pretty much free to use, so it’s a no-brainer
- The highest proportion of Instagram users come from the US (120 million)
- 71% of Instagram’s users are under the age of 25, so if you’re trying to attract a Millennial and/or Gen Z audience, Instagram’s your go-to place
- Instagram continues to add new brand-friendly features to its already impressive suite of tools. They’re famous for making it simple for Instagram brands to engage with and sell to their respective audiences
- There are plenty of success stories from brands that have driven online sales and even increased in-store purchases via Instagram
The Pros & Cons of Selling on Instagram
There are positives and negatives to using any online platform so here’s our take on Instagram’s most notable pros and cons:
- It’s free to set up an Instagram business account, so anyone can get started
- 71% of US businesses are already using Instagram in one form or another, so you’re in good company
- Instagram’s number of active users is impressive—there’s a vast audience out there just waiting to find your brand, especially if you’re targeting a younger demographic
- An Instagram business account provides tons of audience insights, so you’ll get a better idea of who your customers are, and what they respond to
- Creating Instagram ads is simple
- If you’re selling products that lend themselves well to beautiful imagery like fashion, beauty, and lifestyle products, Instagram is an ideal marketing space for you
- There’s lots of competition
- You can only access the “swipe up” links feature if you have 10,000 followers or more
- When you make a business account, your account will be labeled as a business which has the potential to repel some customers because it might feel sales-driven to them
- Also, with a business account, you won’t be as visible on users’ feeds because Instagram’s algorithm prioritizes posts from users’ friends over brands. As such, you don’t have as much post authority with a business account as you do with a personal one
- Some of Instagram’s shopping features aren’t appropriate for all businesses—such as brands selling services, digital products, or high-risk products
12 Different Ways to Sell on Instagram
Now that we’ve covered why you should be using Instagram for your brand, let’s jump into how you can make money on Instagram with your online business.
These are the 12 things pretty much all brands can do to encourage their audience to actually make a purchase from their Instagram profile. Some of them you might know exist, but some of them you might not! Instagram has some tricks up its sleeve—and as we said, they add new features often to help make it even easier for brands to engage with their audience.
If you want to put your brand’s Instagram to use and optimize it as much as possible to encourage conversions, then you’ll want to do these 12 things.
Create an Instagram Shop
In Instagram’s own words, your Instagram shop provides consumers with, “An immersive storefront for people to explore your best products.”
You can use your organic posts and Instagram stories to share your products, encouraging shoppers to find your products via the Search and Explore options. And then, when a customer taps a product tag on your post or a product sticker in your story, they’ll see a page with a:
- Product description
- Product image
- And a link to your website where they can buy the item
So, as you can see, your Instagram shop is basically a landing page where your audience can easily view products, explore your range, and, most importantly, find out where to buy your products. Since so many Instagram users use the social media app for product research, it’s well worth your time and effort to make it easy for them to find out more information about your products through your Instagram shop. Shoppers can also browse your shop via your Instagram profile, so make sure you use it to communicate your brand story as much as you can!
Add Shopping Tags to Your Grid Posts
Adding shopping tags to your Instagram posts enables users to shop your products whenever they stumble across your posts.
To get these set up, you have to create a Facebook Catalog and Facebook Shop first. This may seem like extra work, but if you’re serious about expanding your store’s reach, you may as well work these two platforms in tandem anyways, right? Plus, there’s no other option. Facebook owns Instagram so it is what it is!
So, why should you add shopping tags? Creating shoppable Instagram posts marks any image that you use a shopping tag on with a shopping bag icon in the top right-hand corner of your image. This indicates to users that the product is for sale and if they click on the tag, they can learn more about the product. Users use these tags to check out pricing, see additional product photos, review the product description, and click through to buy the product.
Once you add products to your Facebook Catalog and Shop, you can use your Instagram Business account to tag products in your photos using the “Tag Products” option. The images you upload to your feed will look just like regular posts, but there will be that little shopping bag icon users can click on.
Include Swipe-Up Links in Your Stories
This is a pretty straightforward process, but this feature is only available to Instagram accounts that have over 10,000 followers or are a verified user.
Including swipe-up links in your Instagram stories is a super important way to sell products through your Instagram profile. Since you can’t add links to Instagram grid posts, Instagram stories are the only way you can seamlessly direct traffic from your Instagram profile to your website.
Keep in mind, however, that the proportion of your followers who actually watch your stories is typically a lot lower than your actual follower account. So don’t be disheartened! You won’t have your entire following watching your Instagram stories, but the ones who are will be your most engaged audience, so they’re worth their weight in gold.
If you haven’t already tried it, adding swipe-up links is simple:
- Take a photo or upload one to your Instagram Story page
- Open your Instagram Story tool and find the link icon (it looks like a chain) and click it
- Click “URL” to add the link to a web page
- Copy or type in the link you want to include
- Enter or copy-paste that link in the spot available in your Instagram Story
- Click “Done”
- Publish your Instagram Story
- Take a quick look at it to verify the link works!
Again, the link icon will only be available to your Instagram profile if you have over 10,000 followers.
Use the Giftcards Sticker
Instagram has now made it possible for businesses to sell gift cards through their Instagram stories. This is a pretty new feature—in fact, it only launched in April 2020. At that time, the platform announced that businesses could share gift cards, food orders, and fundraiser stickers to make life easier during COVID-19 lockdown.
You can add a gift card sticker to your Instagram story using the “stickers” option in the Instagram app stories creator. When users see a story with a gift card, they can tap on it to purchase. It’s important to know that you can only add one gift card sticker per story, so if you offer multiple gift card denominations, you’ll have to create separate story slides for each of them. Your followers can also reshare gift card stickers to their own stories, but you won’t get notifications when/if they do.
Adding a gift card sticker is pretty simple:
- Go to your Instagram profile and tap “Edit Profile”
- Where it says “Public Business Information” tap “Action Buttons”
- Where you see “Select a Button,” choose “Gift Cards”
- Add a gift card partner to sell your gift cards
- Instagram can point you in the direction of their gift card partners in North America, Europe, South Africa, Mexico, and Asia-Pacific
- Add the link to the website from where you’re selling your gift cards
- Click “Done”
- Move the gift card sticker to where you want it to appear in your story. If you’re going to change its color, you can do that by simply tapping the sticker
- Share your story
Once you’ve done that, you’re now ready to start selling gift cards on Instagram!
If you sell services instead of products, you may want to use the “Reserve,” “Get Tickets,” or “Book” buttons instead of the “Gift Card” button. Please note that if you add “Gift Cards,” these other stickers will be removed.
Add a Link Tree to Your Instagram Bio
What’s a link tree? A link tree is a way of optimizing your Instagram traffic by working around Instagram’s rule that only permits one link in your Instagram bio. With a link tree app, you can insert and share multiple links via your singularly alloted Instagram bio.
A link tree app allows you to transform the link in your bio into a menu. From the said menu, you can then link out to more than one product or page. This makes it so much easier for your audience to access your products!
There are multiple link tree apps out there but one that we recommend is Shorby. The benefits of Shorby are that you can:
- Turn your Instagram bio link into a menu of links
- Promote products on other platforms by linking to your other social media profiles
- Add stickers to links
- Increase your click-through rate by making your links more easily accessible
- Boost affiliate sales because as well as adding your own links, you can also use it to add affiliate links
- Run Instagram marketing campaigns that convert better by targeting different audience segments with links that are relevant to their needs
So, especially if you’re one of the numerous Instagram businesses that don’t have 10,000 followers yet and you can’t include swipe-up links in your stories, then your Instagram bio is super important. Make good use of it with a link tree app and link out to your products, affiliates, and services so you can make money through your Instagram!
Get on the Instagram Shop Explore Page
Getting onto Instgram’s Shop Explore page is kind of like the holy grail of Instagram store promotions. It consists of stories, products, photos, and videos and each Shop Explore page is tailored to individual Instagram users based on the posts they like and who they follow.
Put simply, Shop Explore is basically a personalized feed of shoppable posts that the Instagram algorithm curates for each user. There’s also a wishlist tab that looks like a ribbon icon so users can save items they’re interested in as they browse. Users also see a list of brand accounts they’re currently following, alongside suggestions for other brands they might want to follow. So basically, it’s a major shopping destination within the social media app and a great way to expand your brand’s reach and discoverability.
According to the latest statistics from Instagram, more than half of its users look at the Explore page each month. That’s around 500 million people! If you land your products here, there’s potential for you to do very well. Not just that, but because the page is such a success, Instagram’s working to add new features to better improve it.
Getting onto Shop Explore is harder than it seems because it’s created by the algorithm, but you can do a few things to help yourself:
- Look at the Shop Explore page and see what kind of brands are there. If they’re on Explore they must be doing something right, so see if you can figure out what they’re doing that got them onto that page
- Check your analytics to see what your followers like and engage with most. Use that to fuel the kind of content you upload more of on Instagram. If your audience is engaging with your posts, that signals to Instagram that others might like your content too, which can influence the algorithm to put your posts in discoverable places like the Shop Explore page
- Create attractive shoppable posts that stand out. Post photos with shopping tags often, write excellent Instagram captions that encourage your audience to engage and post shoppable Instagram stories with swipe-up links (if you can)
Also, since June 2019, Instagram has allowed brands to buy ads on Explore. So, if you have the budget, you could go down this route. Although ads don’t show in the Explore feed, they might be seen by users when they click on a photo or video. Instagram doesn’t want their ads to be intrusive.
Use Product Launch Countdown Stickers in Your Stories
Countdown stickers enable businesses to literally launch or announce new products right from their Instagram stories. This is a great thing to do if you want followers to preview your product before it goes live and be ready to purchase right when it launches. This is especially true for products where you know demand is high and there’s a chance you’ll sell out fast because users get a notification when the product launch countdown timer hits 00:00 so they have the best chance to snag the new launch.
Tip: Using Instagram’s product launch feature is a must if you’re not selling on other online sales channels. It’s a super simple way of creating an “exclusive” feel to your Instagram store.
However, this feature is only available for businesses using Checkout on Instagram. At the time of writing, Checkout is only accessible to brands operating from the US.
If this option is available to you, use Instagram’s Commerce Manager to set up a product launch. From here, enter details like when you want to launch and which products you want to feature. It’s at this point you can arrange for your merchandise to be sold on Instagram exclusively. When you’re ready to launch your product, head to the Instagram app, and hit “Publish.” Just double-check that your products are either tagged or added to your Instagram store—otherwise, no one will be able to see them!
Use the “Support Small Businesses” Sticker
This is a new feature Instagram recently rolled out in May 2020 to help small businesses. Initially, it started as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we think it’s as relevant now as it will be in the future.
The idea is that a small business can use Instagram’s “Support Small Businesses” sticker to show buyers that they’re a small enterprise. This makes it easier for Instagram shoppers to be aware of smaller organizations, so they can support them over international conglomerates if they choose to. After all, consumers, now more than ever, prefer shopping with smaller companies than chain corporations.
Here’s how Instagram describes its small business sticker:
“People can easily show their love for businesses in stories. They can mention businesses directly in the sticker to give their followers a preview of the account. When people use the sticker, their story will be added to a shared Instagram story, so their followers can see it along with other businesses that people they follow are supporting.”
It’s important to note that you can’t actually sell through the Small Businesses sticker, it’s just a way for your audience to spread awareness to their own followers that you’re a small business.
So, encourage your audience to share your small-business sticker on their Instagram stories! The sticker will create a preview of your profile so users can have a look at what you do and what you sell, which can bring new people to your page who want to support an independently-owned brand like yours.
Start Your Own Affiliate Program
If you don’t have your own affiliate program, you should consider getting one up and running. After all, influencer and micro-influencer marketing is a growing industry with a predicted growth of $112.5 million by 2020.
By creating affiliate links, you give Instagram influencers and micro-influencers an incentive to share your products with their followers. Needless to say, this is an effective way of expanding your reach to a broader audience.
Why does this work?
Customers are more likely to act on recommendations from people they trust—which is where influencers come into play. Consumers follow the influencers they follow because they like what they have to say and want to hear more from them!
So although you’re not actually the one in charge of selling your products when it comes to creating an affiliate program, you put influencers in the driver’s seat so they can sell your products to their audiences. It’s a more passive way of selling on Instagram, but it can be highly effective so keep it in mind if you’re wanting to expand your reach to other audiences and getting your product in front of more consumers.
Starting an affiliate program can be tricky, so we recommend checking out this guide to learn more.
Upload IGTV Product Videos
IGTV is Instagram’s standalone video app for iOS and Android users. It can host much longer videos (up to one hour), in contrast to Instagram’s in-feed videos, which only last 60 seconds. For example, you can create product tutorials, longer reviews, behind-the-scenes content, unboxings, and much more. IGTV gives you the ability to provide your audience with fuller, more meaningful content that can help sell your products.
Here are a few pointers on using IGTV:
- If you’re uploading from a smartphone or tablet, your video can only be up to 15 minutes long. If you’re uploading from the web, your video can be up to 1 hour long
- The file format has to be MP4
- Vertical videos must boast an aspect ratio of 9:16
- Horizontal videos must have an aspect ratio of 16:9
- Ensure that the first three seconds of the video grabs the viewer’s attention so they’ll be more likely to stick around
- Don’t forget a call-to-action at the end of your videos, and always insert a clickable link in the description box that takes the viewer directly to your products
- All videos must follow Instagram’s Community Guidelines, or they could be removed
IGTV is certainly worth incorporating it into your overall marketing strategy if you plan to sell on Instagram a lot. Try uploading one or two videos to test engagement/reaction before going all-in. Then, you can take a look at the analytics to refine your content as you go.
Launch Instagram Shopping Ads
Instagram’s Ad Manager allows you to reach a wider audience by boosting your existing shopping posts.
As we’ve already said, Instagram Shopping allows you to tag products within your posts. Of course, this makes it easier for customers to find and engage with your products. But, if you want to take things a step further, you can use these tagged shopping posts as ads to form part of a paid-for Instagram marketing campaign.
To launch these kinds of advertisements, you’ll have to use the aforementioned Instagram Ad Manager.
Audiences can then tap on these ads, which takes them to a product description page on Instagram. From here, they can choose whether or not to make a purchase.
When you run a stories ad, customers will see a “sponsored” tag in the top right-hand corner and your chosen call-to-action at the bottom of your ad.
To get up and running with Instagram ads, here’s what you need to do: Pick one of your prior shopping posts to run as your ad. Or, create a new ad by tagging products inside of your Instagram catalog. You can use just one product image or several. Then:
- Go to Ads Manager and choose “+Create”
- Pick an ad objective, such as “Post Engagement,” “Reach,” or “Brand Awareness”
- Select an audience
- Click “Edit Placements” and then “Instagram Feeds”
- Select “Use Existing Post”
- Choose which shopping post you want to use as an ad
- Select “Continue”
If you’re not already, give it a try because it’s a sure-fire way to get your products in front of Instagram users so you can sell more and expand your brand’s reach!
Stick to the Basics: Sell Through DMs
Selling through DMs is a grassroots way of promoting your products. It’s ideal if you’re a small business on a budget or new to Instagram selling.
How does this work?
Well, when you post Grid or Story images of your products, your followers can then DM you to buy them.
It’s an excellent way to personally engage with your followers and enhance customer loyalty when you’re just starting out. You can cultivate a close and uncomplicated relationship with your audience, and they can then pay via PayPal links or whatever other payment methods you choose.
This option would really only work for small Instagram accounts where you’re able to actually manage the amount of DMs that come in, but for brands just starting out, this can be a great option!
You can continue to use DM selling as your business grows to reward loyal customers with special offers and exclusive content. You can also provide DM customers with exclusive access to new products by sending photos or video content ahead of launch. So, it could be built into your long-term sales strategy if you want it to be!
Optimizing your Instagram business account for sales and marketing opportunities is a great way to boost your revenue and profits. We hope by following these tips, you’re better equipped to grow your store and brand awareness through Instagram so you can sell more products to more people!
This article originally appeared in the A Better Lemonade Stand blog and has been published here with permission.