The photo-sharing site Instagram is in a transition phase between personal and business use. Unlike Facebook or Pinterest, for instance, the site offers no business-specific features.
That has not stopped retailers from flocking to the site in hopes of garnering the attention of Instagram’s recently announced 300 million user base, 60 percent of whom fall between the ages of 18 and 34, according to data from Adweek. A report from digital research firm L2 found that 93 percent of premier brands have a presence on the site.
The use of Instagram is not limited to large brands. Smaller ecommerce merchants can also take advantage of its benefits.
Here are ten ideas for using Instagram to promote products, highlighting online retail brands as examples.
1. Integrate Instagram Photos into Your Ecommerce Website
In 2014, online jewelry retailer Baublebar conducted an Instagram campaign using a widget on its home page to display photos taken by customers wearing the brand’s merchandise. When users clicked one of the pictures, a pop-up window appeared showcasing the jewelry within the photo, with a link to the product page.
Although Baublebar created a custom widget, a third-party tool called Websta enables ecommerce merchants to embed Instagram photos into their websites via a free widget creator.
Websta also has a tool that groups images into Pinterest-style boards, which are handy for arranging products according to category.
2. Sell Through Instagram
Instagram does not allow users to embed live hyperlinks alongside images. This makes it difficult for merchants to facilitate easy clicks to relevant product pages on their ecommerce websites. However, four app providers — Soldsie, Inselly, Instaorders, and 10Sec — found ways to retrofit the site to make it a sales channel.
Online accessory retailer Prep Obsessed used Soldsie to sell through the comments section of its Instagram posts. The brand’s Instagram followers left a comment using the word “Sold,” along with other information such as size, color variation, and email address. Soldsie would receive an invoice for the product to the customer’s email, which it could use to complete the purchase.
It’s worth noting that even though Instagram does not recognize hyperlinks, that does not mean you can’t use them.
Fashion retailer Nasty Gal includes shortened links in post descriptions, which users can copy and paste into the browser navigation bar.
4. Showcase Customers Using Products
One means to call attention to products is to post images of customers using them. Eyeglass retailer Warby Parker often applies this technique.
In the example above, a customer shared a photo of items she was packing for a trip abroad that included her Warby Parker glasses.
5. Take Lifestyle Photos
A creative way to showcase products is by using lifestyle photos, which are images that resemble real-life settings. This is a technique employed by many leading brands because it gives customers an idea of how they can utilize the brands’ products.
In this image, clothing retailer Tsuru presents a photo of a customer wearing one of its products in a party setting.
Ecommerce retailer Incase, a maker of protective cases for mobile devices, often places its products in real-world settings, as in the example below.
6. Run a Contest
Contests are a popular way to engage users on social platforms, including Instagram.
Diamond Candles ran a photo contest featuring a ring candle. To enter, Instagram users were asked to follow the brand and tag three friends in the comments. The brand then chose a winner from the entries.
Smaller retailers may opt to use platforms like Offerpop or Iconosquare to create photo contests. Remember to always include a contest-specific hashtag with each campaign.
7. Show Behind the Scenes Photos
Not every image has to focus on products. Allowing customers to go behind the scenes is one way to build a personal bond with the company and get a sense of its culture.
This example from Keen Footwear shows a blackboard announcing trivia night, an event the company held in support of a local charity.
8. Celebrate the Seasons
In addition to promoting products, Zappos uses Instagram to celebrate the seasons, creating a sense of goodwill. Here are two examples of graphics that Zappos created for Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
9. Use Instagram’s Video Capabilities
Don’t limit the use of Instagram to photos. Take advantage of its video capabilities, as well.
This is the tactic that yoga and running gear clothing retailer Lululemon used to show a model transitioning from summer to winter running outfits.
10. Promote New Products
Promoting new or featured products is yet another way to maximize Instagram’s value.
Online beauty subscription service Birchbox uses Instagram to show images of products it plans to include in upcoming boxes.