11 Tips for Retailers to Make the Most of Instagram

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I can feel my heartbeat pounding and sweat dripping from my temple. My breath heavy as I walk over to the elevator. It’s a trip up to the third floor for weight lifting. No stairs for me today; intervals were enough to drain my leg muscles but sprint training isn’t the only exercise I have to do.

The elevator is slow and I have a few minutes. What’s the first thing I open? Facebook? Snapchat? Twitter? No, I open Instagram. What are my friends doing today? What makeup tutorial should I copy for my date tonight? All will be answered on Instagram. It’s fast, too. Unlike Twitter, I don’t have to worry about being caught up for long. If your store is doing it right, I’ll see you, too. If you make it easy for me, I might even make a purchase in that elevator.

Instagram for retail

So how do you make sure that I’m seeing you in that elevator? Here are some best practices of Instagram for retail:

How to Gain the Most Followers:

1. Create a Brand Story

Instagram was created so the users can connect with the people and things they’re interested in. As you know, your brand is more than just the objects that it sells – Instagram is a great place to showcase that. Show the lifestyle your brand embodies on Instagram by sharing photos of more than just your products. These types of photos will help you appeal to potential customers who may not have initially been interested in looking at a photo of your product, and helps show your customers where you fit in their lives.

Instagram for retail

via Flickr, Andy Spearling

There’s another benefit to sharing photos of things other than your products, too: Everybody’s feed on Instagram is personalized. Instagram’s new update has made it even more difficult to show something someone doesn’t like by updating the timeline style from chronological to best comes first. This means if you show what your brand embodies you’re more likely to get more likes and start appearing in more followers’ feeds.

2. Remember Instagram Was Made For Connection. 

Show your products being made and the inside of the shops. Show what your CEO is doing. Your customer wants to get to know the people behind your company. You can use this strategy to show what the company stands for.  For example, say your company likes to donate or do good deeds, show these acts of charity your company is doing or who they are giving to.

Young consumers, in particular, like to feel like they’re giving back. Just look at how successful Toms is. This tip is certainly similar to the first tip. The difference is that tip #1 is about showing the lifestyle you’re a part of, while this tip is about giving a human face to your brand.

3. Join in on Big Events

Like Fashion Week or the World Cup. Post something which ties your company to it. For instance, on Kentucky Derby Day, a hat shop could share a photo of your employees wearing ridiculous hats to #DerbyDay. The end goal here is more about connecting with the wider world, and showing your followers where you fit in.

4. Grow your base by using the foundation that’s already there.

IE your fans! Mobilize them by having them post the items they’ve purchased from you. When their friends see your clothes on their feed, they will want to know what’s up and if your feed is interesting they’ll want to follow you. It helps to give your brand credibility. Peer Reviews matters.

A great way to employ your fans is to set up promotional Instagram contests. Ask customers to post photos of the products they’ve purchased from you to a certain hashtag and tag your store – then you choose a winner for an awesome prize.

5. Hashtags and Location tags are a Must-Do.

Your feed will receive more views if you use these especially if they are relevant hashtags and locations. Try looking for a hashtag that has 500-1000 posts in it. It needs to have enough posts that you know people are looking at that hashtag feed but not enough that your post will be lost in a sea of posts.

Hashtags are great because it makes everyone potential customers not just people who have heard of you. For example, someone from India who has never met me nor knows someone who knows me has the ability to find me by simply looking at a specific hashtag feed with my post on it.

Instagram for retail

Don’t be afraid to break hashtags down. For instance, if you have #bohostyle don’t be afraid to also use the hashtags #boho and #style. It’s ok if it looks repetitive. Additionally, don’t be afraid to mix generic hashtags with specifics hashtags. Basically, as a clothing retailer, you may want to use the generic #style to get maximum views, but also use #beachdress, which gets less views, but all those views will be from people who definitely care about the beach dress you posted.

Now to location tags. Location is important for brick and mortars to use. When you offer location it means that people near you who are looking at their location feed (which shows all the posts from places nearby the person) can find you. Location tagging may inspire a customer grabbing coffee next door to drop in and grab that item they just saw. And at the very least, it puts your location into customers’ heads for next time.

6. Make your profile consistent and as close to your store name as possible.

That way, if a fan is looking for you on Instagram, it’s easy to find you, and once they find you on Instagram they can find you on Twitter or Facebook if you use the same usernames/photo/bio.

How Do I Get Them to Buy?

7. Post About your Flash Sales and Other Company Events.

Flash sales are a huge way to bring in customers and Instagram offers you the perfect platform to post about it. Whenever you are having a sale, especially a flash sale, send the word out by posting about it. See below for rules on how to link properly to the flash sale.

8. Sign Up for Instagram’s Ads.

You will need a Facebook to create these ads, because Facebook owns Instagram. The good news is, they’re very cheap! In Facebook, you can choose the pictures and copy you want displayed. You can also choose your targeting. Remember to target as specifically as possible for best results. This is a link to their tutorial. These ads very simple and easy to create, even for a beginner.  

9. Learn How to Get Around the No-Link Rule.

Unfortunately, Instagram has a rule that prevents anyone from putting an active link in their captions. It’s sad, I know. But fortunately, there are a couple of ways around this.

One way is to put the link in the caption anyone, so that people can copy and paste it into their browser. In the same vein, you could post the style number of the item in the caption, for people to search for on their store. Another currently popular method is to post the most recent photo’s link your store bio on your profile.

However, no Instagrammer is going to want to spend seconds, let alone minutes, surfing through your store to find the product, no matter how pretty. With Instagrammers you need to catch their attention and give them what they want in the quickest way possible. And undoubtedly, the easiest way currently to give an Instagrammer your product’s information is using an app that dms or emails a link for the product to them if they comment or like the post. Soldsie and Like2Buy are two of these apps.

Now for Etiquette (Follow the Rules Or Be Unfollowed):

Instagram for retail

10. No posting back to back and no posting the same thing over and over again.

Basically the only rule. Instagrammers don’t want you to be the only one on our feed. If you do this it means the Instagrammer has to travel through endless miles of you to get to see her friends or the next tutorial, which is most users’ main goal for Instagram. My friend unfollowed KYLIE JENNER simply because she posted too much of the same thing. If Kylie can be unfollowed because of that so can you.

You can post more than one picture in a day. IF you do though, they have to be spaced out by hours. Whatever you decide, though, make sure you post at least one photo a day, or you’ll be forgotten!

11. Learn the Best Times to Post.

Ultimately, you’ll have to do some testing to decide what times of day work best for your particular company, but here are some general guidelines from a recent study:

  • Wednesday at 5pm is found to be the best time to post over all.
  • The worst times to post are typically 9am and 6pm, with the best general times being 5pm and 2am.
  • However, Monday at 5pm is not a good time to post. Try 7pm on Monday.

Overall, you will have to play around and see what works for your audience. And remember that your audience’s 5pms maybe very different, depending on what locations they live in.

More?

What’s worked for you on Instagram? Do you have any tips on using Instagram for retail? Please share you ideas of how retailers can make the most Instagram!

Looking for Point of Sale software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Point of Sale software solutions.

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About the Author

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Marissa Wood

Marissa is an intern at Capterra and a student of the University of Mary Washington. When she’s not at work, she can be found playing soccer for UMW, at the gym, or hanging out with friends.

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