The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Marketing for (eCommerce Business Owners)

Let’s face it – long gone are the days where Instagram was just for sharing pictures of food.

With over 500 million users, the popular social network has quickly become a marketing powerhouse for visual brands.

And if you’re an eCommerce marketer, that means you need to take Instagram seriously.

Not only can you use Instagram to showcase your products visually – you can create profitable partnerships, build a stronger brand aesthetic, and boost your sales.

Before you raise a skeptical eyebrow, consider these facts:

And according to an eMarketer prediction, Instagram will add 26.9 million users between 2016 and 2020. That’s almost double the incremental users expected for Twitter!

Now that you know how critical Instagram can be to your eCommerce marketing strategy, let’s go over some tactics you can use to skyrocket your brand and sales on the platform.

How to Use Instagram for eCommerce Marketing

Optimize your profile.

Imagine this.

You just discovered a new eCommerce store online, and they sell the exact kind of clothing you’ve been looking for.

On top of that, their brand really resonates with you – to the point where you want to check out their Instagram presence.

But when you find their profile, you notice a few things:

  • Their bio is just a boring one-liner about their company.
  • Their pictures look like they were taken by a 5-year-old.
  • Their profile image has little to do with their brand.

Yikes – you wouldn’t give them a follow, would you?

Nope.

And your customers think the same way.

The lesson here?

If you want them to follow you on Instagram, you need to give them a reason to by creating an impressive, enticing profile.

Here’s how:

Choose the right profile image.

Many brands opt to use their logo as their Instagram profile image, like this:
dollar shave club logo in Instagram profile
That’s because a logo is easy to recognize. Plus, the more people see it, the more familiar they’ll become with your brand.

If you don’t want to use your logo, make sure you use some sort of image that’s recognizable and represents your brand.

Create a compelling bio.

When someone reads your bio, they should immediately be able to recognize:

  • Who you are
  • What you do
  • What your brand personality is like

To let users know who you are, put your company name in the “Name” field when you create your profile. (You should also choose a username that is similar to or the same as your company name – that way, it’s easy for your fans to find!).

Here’s how Eclectic Eccentricity, a jewelry brand, does this in their profile:
Eclectic Eccentricity Instagram profile
You can see that they’ve shortened their username to [email protected] since the full company name is a bit lengthy.

But they still use the full company name in their “Name” field and state that they create jewelry to let users know they’ve come to the right place.

As far as showing off your brand personality, you can do that by spicing up your bio copy and/or using emojis in your bio.

Lime Crime Makeup’s Instagram bio is a great example of how to do this:

Use of emojis in Lime Crime Makeup's Instagram bio
Not only have they stated their brand values by revealing that they’re vegan and cruelty-free in the copy – they’ve used attention-grabbing emojis that fit their brand.

And those emojis aren’t just attention-grabbers. Take a look at this picture of Lime Crime’s Instagram profile on a mobile device:

How emojis are displayed in mobile device

You can see that the emojis actually help with readability by breaking up the text – kind of like a modern-day bulleted list!

Link to your website or another relevant page.

To decide which link to use on your profile, ask yourself this question:

What action do I want users to take when they land on my Instagram profile?

Then, use your answer to guide your decision.

For example, if you want more website traffic, simply post a link to your website.

If you want to promote a specific product line, link to that.

You get the picture.

Consistently post the right content.

Okay – now that you’ve got your profile set up for success, you need to be strategic about the kind of content you’re going to share.

Here are 3 ways to make sure your Instagram content helps you reach your goals:

1. Analyze your competitors.

Start by making a list of some of your major competitors – the ones who have the same target audience as you and seem to be using Instagram successfully. Then, analyze their profiles to see what’s working for them.

For example, if you sell athletic clothing for women, you might list LuLuLemon as one of your competitors.

Lululemon Instagram Profile

Analyze their profile, and you’ll see that their videos get a lot of views. You’ll also notice that they post lots of inspirational photos of women exercising.

Just like that, you’ve got some insights on what’s working for them.

Of course, you’d want to make sure your content is unique and tailored to your specific audience – but a solid competitive analysis is a great place to start when you’re brainstorming content ideas.

2. Decide on an aesthetic and stick to it.

I won’t sugar-coat it.

If someone lands on your Instagram profile and your feed is a mishmash of different image styles, they probably won’t feel as compelled to follow you.

Instagram is all about stunning visuals, so your feed must make the right impression and get people thinking:

Wow, I can’t wait to see more content like this!

So, decide on a brand aesthetic and stick to it. Make sure you nail down the details like:

  • Color scheme
  • Photo style
  • Content type

Let’s take a look at a brand doing it right: Melt Cosmetics.

Melt cosmetics using stunning photos

When you see their feed, you immediately get a feel for their brand. And the fact that they’re sticking to a peachy color scheme makes their feed more visually appealing.

But don’t worry – you don’t necessarily need to create a brand color scheme to market on Instagram successfully.

You just need your feed to have an overall “feel” to it that matches your brand.

Here’s how the NikeWomen brand does it:

NikeWomen Instagram profile

While these images don’t all feature the same color like in the Melt Cosmetics example, they are all edited in a similar way. And many of them feature powerful pictures of women exercising – perfect for the Nike Women brand.

3. Post consistently.

Post too often, and you might annoy your audience to the point where they unfollow you.

Post too infrequently, and people might forget about your brand.

So, how often should you post?

On average, major brands post to Instagram 1.5 times per day or more.

Of course, you may want to try a different posting frequency based on your specific audience and brand, but 1-2 times per day is a good starting point.

If you don’t have time to post manually every day, automate your Instagram updates using a scheduling tool like Hootsuite or Latergramme.

Whatever you do, make sure your content is relevant to your target audience and helps you reach your marketing goals.

If you feel like spreading out your branded posts a bit, try influencer marketing to fill in the gaps.

Having other popular users post images featuring your products is a great way to expand the reach of your brand and build a bigger following!

An eMarketer survey even showed that 81% of marketers who have used influencer marketing judged it to be effective, so you can feel confident that your efforts will pay off.

Also, keep in mind that you can use Iconosquare, an Instagram analytics app, to see how your content is performing.

Screenshot of Iconosquare - Instagram Analytics app to optimize performance

This app gives you insights on the effectiveness of certain hashtags, post engagement, and more. Use it, and you can improve your Instagram marketing strategy as you learn what works!

Make the most of hashtags.

Picture this.

You recently created an Instagram account for your eCommerce business.

You’re posting photos every day, putting tons of effort into crafting the right captions, and doing your best to share content that your audience will love.

The problem?

Your target audience can’t find you, so your posts aren’t getting much engagement – at all.

Ouch.

To prevent that situation from happening to you, use hashtags that are relevant to your target customers.

Why do hashtags work so well?

Because Instagram is often used as a search engine – people search for media tagged with specific hashtags all of the time.

So, if you use the right hashtags, you can feel confident knowing your posts will pop up when your target customers perform searches on Instagram.

Want to see an example of how this might work for your ecommerce brand?

Let’s say you want some new workout gear, so you search for “#athleisure” on Instagram.

use of hashtags in Instagram

Take a look at this post that popped up as a top search result:

use of hashtag to bring attention and sell

You can see that this eCommerce brand sells athleisure clothing, and using the #athleisure hashtag on this post helps bring attention to the jogger pants available in their store.

One more thing:

Don’t just use hashtags that are already popular.

You should also create your own branded hashtag that your customers can use when they share content related to your brand on Instagram.

For example, Madewell uses their hashtag “#everydaymadewell” when they post photos.

create a hashtag to your brand

Promoting this hashtag encourages customers to use the hashtag when they share photos too.

And it’s clearly working – search the “#everydaymadewell” hashtag, and you’ll see over 80,000 posts pop up!

more than 80000 posts in one hashtag

Bottom line:

Hashtags are important because they make it much easier for your target audience to find you on Instagram. And having a branded hashtag is critical if you plan to harness the power of user-generated content in your marketing strategy!

Create a shoppable feed.

What if you could turn your Instagram feed into an online storefront, allowing customers to quickly purchase the products they see in your feed?

That’d probably help you convert lots of users to customers, right?

It certainly worked out that way for Domino, a magazine and eCommerce platform. They saw a 120% jump in conversions after implementing a shoppable Instagram feed.

Here’s what their profile looks like:

use of Instagram feed as a online storefront

Then, you can click on any image to shop the product in the post. For example, here’s the product page that pops up when you click on the first Instagram image.

shop the product in the post in Instagram

It’s understandable how this strategy can help increase sales – it makes it easy for your customers to quickly locate the exact product they want.

If you want to create a shoppable Instagram feed for your eCommerce business, try using a platform like Photoslurp or Curalate. Who knows – you might just find that a shoppable Instagram feed is a great way to get your audience to take action and make a purchase!

Host giveaways.

Want to experience explosive growth on Instagram?

One of the best ways to do that is to host a giveaway. That’s because giveaways incentivize people to engage with and promote your brand.

Here’s an example of a giveaway The Swell Co. recently ran on Instagram to get more brand exposure:

giveaway to get more brand exposure

This kind of giveaway works because:

  • The rules are clearly outlined in the giveaway post, making it easy for people to understand how to participate.
  • They’ve created a giveaway guideline (“Tag 2 vape friends who are of legal vaping age”) that will help them get in front of their specific target audience.
  • They’re giving away a product that their followers are clearly interested in, which makes it more likely that they’ll entice lots of their followers to participate.

No matter what, make sure you approach all of your giveaways with a clear strategy in mind.

Experiment with multiple strategies.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with several of the strategies listed in this post.

You may not be able to implement them all at once, but you can implement all of them over time. And as long as you track your results, you’ll be able to discover which strategies give you the best return on your marketing investment.

Do your research, and keep your business goals and target audience in mind as you make decisions about your Instagram marketing strategy.

How do you use Instagram to market your eCommerce business? Share in the comments section below!