How to use Instagram for your small online business

How to use Instagram for ecommerce business

Category: Social Media

Instagram is a very simple, easy to use, visual form of social media. This makes it perfect for any small business selling products that are interesting or easy to photograph. Even if you don’t think it’s appropriate for your eBay or online shop's products, there are a lot of creative ways to make Instagram work for your business.

"Engagement on Instagram is 15 times higher than on Facebook."

Engagement on Instagram is 15 times higher than on Facebook and you can take advantage of this to increase your brand awareness and make a community of followers that you share an insight and ‘behind-the-scenes’ peek into your business with.

Getting started

To learn all the basics of setting up an Instagram account, take a look at this article. As with your other social media accounts, choose a profile image that stands out as your business - either your logo, name or a picture of your products. The picture is very small on Instagram so make sure it’s easy to see what it is. You also get a short bio section, which you should use to write a brief description (copy this from your other social media accounts if you have already set them up), and include a link to your online shop (or eBay or Amazon shop) - this is the only place to include a link on Instagram so it’s important you don’t miss it out.

When you are starting out try searching for Instagram accounts that are for businesses similar to yours, or that you find inspiring. Take note of what and when they post and use that as a starting point for your account.

Instagram for online sellers

What to post and when

With Instagram posts, it is more about quality than quantity. You can use your Instagram to post pictures of individual items you have for sale: pick one really great photo and make sure the caption includes the key details and a few relevant hashtags. However, not every image has to be selling an individual item, this isn’t as crucial as on other social media sites because you can’t link directly to that item for sale. You can post a picture of a group of items you have, or a new delivery, or any ‘behind-the-scenes’ pictures. Instagram is quite personal, people using it want to see in to how the business works, the story behind it, and not just see constant adverts for products.  

"It's more about quality than quantity."

Find popular hashtags for your business or products, and use these to promote your pictures. As you develop a following, you can introduce your own business specific hashtag, so that if customers or followers post about your products they will use your hashtag.

Your pictures don’t always have to be high quality, taking pictures on your camera phone makes it quick and simple. Just make sure the photos are in focus and use the filters to improve them. If you have pictures that are too big then there are various picture resizing apps you can download for free.

How to use Instagram for ecommerce

Make sure you post consistently, don’t upload five or six posts one day and then nothing for the next two weeks. Take a few pictures at the same time, and then just take five minutes each day to post one or two to Instagram. Also, remain consistent in the types of images you post, don’t post random pictures that may get ‘likes’ but are in no way related to your business - you’ll lose the followers you already have.

You can also post short videos on Instagram, up to 15 seconds long. This could be an ideal way of showcasing your products, in particular, you could show someone wearing an item of clothing, or a complete 360 view around the item.

"Engagement on Instagram is fairly consistent, regardless of day or time."

Engagement on Instagram is fairly consistent, regardless of day or time. There is a slight increase on Mondays and after work hours - post when you can and review your posts to work out what works best for your business.

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Who to follow, and how to gain followers

When you setup your account connect your Instagram account to Twitter and Facebook (if you have them), so that your images are shared automatically. This will save you time rather than having to upload images of the same item to each account separately, and it will also link back to your Instagram account.

If you already have other social media accounts set up, post about your new Instagram account so that existing customers or followers can find you. To increase your following, find people to follow by searching relevant hashtags. You can also like and comment on people’s posts about similar products to your own, which will make them aware of your brand.

"Respond to comments on your pictures, follow people back and connect with them on other social media sites."

Make sure to respond to any comments on your pictures, follow people back when they follow you and try to connect with them on other social media sites.

You can review the ‘likes’ and comments you receive to measure which images work for your business, you can even use your Instagram to ask customers opinions about your products - maybe about different options, or potential new products.

best time to post on Instagram

best time to post on Instagram

Infographics by Quicksprout

Opinion from the Experts

When asked...
How to make social media promotion/marketing part of your routine?

In my job as an eBay Specialist Consultant I can't express how important social media marketing is to my business clients.  I hear the excuses of age, time and resources from many clients. I attended a Facebook Marketing Boot camp early this year and a staggering 28 million people in the UK check their Facebook account at least four times a day. That is a staggering amount of marketing power to be tapped into.I tell my clients that the best way to incorporate this as part of a daily routine would be to use an app such as Hootsuite so you can do your marketing quickly across many platforms in one place and to attach the job to something you do during your working day, e.g. when you make a coffee do some marketing, or when you get back from lunch for instance. 

Jane Bell - eBay Specialist Consultant

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