Online retailers use many photos and videos on their websites. With its focus on imagery, Instagram is a place where merchants can showcase their products, build their brands, and increase sales.
However, not unlike its social network cousin Pinterest, which also emphasizes visuals, Instagram is designed to tell the story of your brand, so sharing goes beyond just product photos.
What Is Instagram?
Instagram, to quote Wikipedia, is an “online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service that enables its users to take pictures and videos, apply digital filters to them, and share them on a variety of social networking services, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr.”
That definition, while adequate for explaining the technical aspects, falls to convey the real heart of what makes the platform so popular. According to the company, it is a way to share your life (in this case your business), experience moments, and make memories through the use of photos and videos.
6 Reasons to Use Instagram for Ecommerce
The emotional appeal of Instagram is one reason to consider using it. Here are five others.
Facebook reach decline. Facebook’s marked decline in reach for brand pages — as low as six percent according to some estimates — has led businesses to find other ways to market their wares via social media.
Fast growth and active user base. Having surpassed 200 million monthly users, Instagram is currently the fastest growing social network, one that has attracted quite a following among businesses, including ecommerce.
With more than 20 billion photos shared over the course of its lifetime, an average of 60 million photos shared daily, and 1.6 billion likes each day, Instagram is also an extremely active network.
Business focus. Instagram created a section of its site directed toward business use, and plans to launch an advertising platform in the near future.
Marketing friendly. Unlike Facebook, Instagram uses no algorithm to gauge what people see. Every post appears to followers and remains in the gallery and archives.
Visual marketing and branding. Due to its ease of use and suite of photo-editing tools, Instagram’s platform is well suited to visual marketing and creative branding.
How to Start Using Instagram
To start using Instagram, follow these steps.
- Download the app from iTunes, Google Play or the Windows Phone Store.
- Once installed, tap the app icon to open it.
- Tap “Register with Email” to sign up using an email address or “Register with Facebook” to sign up with your Facebook account. When registering with email, you will be asked to create a user name and password. If you register with Facebook, you will be prompted to sign into your Facebook account if you are currently logged out.
Instagram suggests using an account name — ideally your business name — that is tied to your brand. For a profile photo, Instagram recommends your brand’s logo. It will be cropped into a circle and appear as a 150 x 150 pixel image.
Best Practices for Using Instagram
- Use hashtags. Hashtag use, typical on Instagram, is expected when posting images or video. Keep hashtags short and use no more than three.
- Comment and like. Engage with others by liking and commenting on their pictures. Use hashtags and “Photos of You” to find images associated with your brand.
- Tag images. When appropriate, include the location of where photos and videos were taken.
- Use image-editing tools. Instagram contains a set of image editing tools that you can use to improve the look of photos. Multiple filters add special effects that enable you to set a mood or give photos a sense of character that helps to tell your brand story.
- Capture the moment. One reason Instagram has achieved such popularity is that photos posted there have a sense of authenticity and immediacy. “Whether your subject is a person or object, capture it in a context that gives a sense of your brand’s identity or point of view,” says Instagram.
Rather than limit photo sharing to showcase products, let it become a place that puts your company’s personality on display. You can do this by sharing images of your staff, office or warehouse facilities, photos posted by customers and employees, or that show products being packaged and shipped.
Instagram’s ability to post short videos presents an opportunity to answer customer service questions, provide instructions on product use, or even feature a “day in the life” of your business. The beauty of using Instagram is that you are limited by your own creativity. It is fun to use, so experiment with different ideas.
In “Using Instagram for Your Ecommerce Business,” I listed 10 other ways to use Instagram.
- Track analytics. It is always important to measure social network activity. Although Instagram does not include the actual analytics, a tool called Iconosquare (formerly Statigram) can show key metrics about account activity, including the total number of likes received, your most liked photos, the average number of likes and comments per photo, follower growth, and more advanced analytics.