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How to use Instagram to promote your online store

Sep 28, 2015 | Workshop

Do you have an online store at saffronsouk.com?  If you do, you should be well aware that spreading the word about your shopfront is a pretty good idea if you want to make sales! This can be done by getting your friends and family to help spread the word, sending out a newsletter, attending physical markets and using social media – particularly instagram.

We love instagram at Saffron Souk because it means we don’t have to race around town going to events to spread the word about all that local talent that can be found on the Saffron Souk online marketplace. We also love it because it is free (at the moment, although that looks like it is changing really soon with sponsored posts) and highly visual. And we love it mostly because of the people using instagram – they are our target audience, that’s right, Instagrammers are shoppers!

Iconosquare’s 2015 Instagram study shows that 70% of Instagram users report having already looked up a brand on the social media platform. Plus, 62% of users follow a brand on instragram just because they like it! In this case a picture really is worth a thousand words (or a thousand dirhams in lieu of a physical market stall!).

This means that your instagram followers are highly likely to reward you with a purchase if you charm them with fab photos that represent your brand and unleash the desire to get shopping at your online store.  However Instagram’s marketing challenge is its lack of links. Unlike Facebook and Twitter,  Instagram keeps things simple by only allowing a link in your bio and denying hyperlinks to URLs in descriptions and comments, but don’t be fooled that doesn’t make it any less effective.

So how can you get Instagram working for you?

On Instagram, you have only one opportunity to directly lead a click over to your website… and that’s in your bio.

Your bio is the one place where your link is clickable, right under your brand name and user name at the top of your Instagram page. Always include the link to your online shop (www.yourshopnamehere.saffronsouk.com) in this spot in order to make the most of the traffic. A lot of shopkeepers have their facebook page in this location, but you have to weigh up what you want – more facebook followers or a sale…

All you need to do is click the grey ‘edit profile’ button on your instagram homepage and then type in your shop URL where it asks for your website, and click ‘done‘. Your Saffron Souk shop URL is www.yourshopnamehere.saffronsouk.com.

Now every time you post a snap to your account, you can write ‘click the link in my bio to get shopping’, and you won’t miss any of those impulse purchases. Too easy.

All your Instagramming will be for nothing if you are not telling and adding to your brands story.

Your instagram profile picture needs to reflect your business.  All your interactions and communication on Instagram will show the little thumbnail of your profile picture, so we suggest using your logo because it just makes sense really (have a read of this blog post How to promote your brands uniqueness). The same goes for the Instagram name and username you choose. 

So the bottom line is make sure your brand / username and profile picture is the same across your business social media channels and as your Saffron Souk online store. This is your brand, the key to staying recognisable and successful is to own it!

Don’t take your bio content lightly – this is important! Before people click ‘Follow‘ on your Instagram account, they have to click through to your profile. So make sure the last thing people see before deciding to follow you is an interesting, descriptive bio that clearly describes what you do – as a saffronsouk.com shopkeeper we expect to see a bit of love and your quirky character shining too… so basically write your bio description to convince Instagram browsers that it is worth their while to join your fan base and that the content you post will add value to their Instagram feeds.

We think the reason Instagram is a hit is because its visual – remember posts on other social media platforms (such as twitter and facebook) get many more comments when they contain an image versus just text or links – we call that the prove being in the pudding! 

This is why team Saffron Souk constantly harp on about the importance of good snaps and that’s because we are all visual creatures. Don’t expect the shopper to have a good enough imagination to think about how your product is used or the scale or quality of it – if you, the shopkeeper, are too lazy to show just how brilliant your product is. In other words, don’t expect the potential shopper to take time out of their day to have a wee think about how good your items are – make it easy and SHOW THEM with top notch creative photos!

So make the most of the visual world of Instagram and post some product photos that really make sales! But remember that while Instagram is full of shoppers, it’s not necessarily a shopping destination, so don’t annoy your followers…

You want to use your Instagram account to sell your products without sounding like a salesman – yes it’s a contradiction in terms and a fine line to balance but it is achievable (apparently)!

So get creative with your photos to illustrate what you make and market without screaming about how amazing they are. Your fans need to feel like they are making the decision to make a purchase from your online store because your pictures are swaying them to, not because they are telling them.

Saffron Souk is all about the boutique, personal touch, warm fuzzy feel (well we like to think so anyway!), and that’s exactly what Instagram is all about. The photos you share on your account need to be related to your brand, good quality, a bit quirky and attention grabbing (in a good way).

Instagram images are square so keep this in mind when you are taking snaps (you don’t want the key subject cropped out of the frame) and think about the resolution – no one’s a fan of a fuzzy pixilated image (we know we have done this at saffronsouk.com – oh the shame!).  A safe estimate for preserving image quality is to save your photos at double the resolution size, which is 1024 x 1024 pixels.

Instagram also offers a range of in-app filters to make your pictures stand out in a crowd.  At Saffron Souk we tend to use the same filters every time we post a photo to ensure there is some form of consistency in our images when a potential fan has a quick scroll through our feed.  We suggest you have a play around and choose the best filters that work for you and that reflect your brand. But if can’t make a decision, studies show that the Mayfair filter attracts the most interactions per 1,000 followers, on average, and that lighter, brighter images generate 24% more likes than dark images (we live and learn!)

It’s also a good idea to note that images with blue as the dominant color see 24% more likes than images that are predominantly red, and pictures with a single dominant color see a 17% boost in likes.

Don’t think you are swerving off topic if you include brand relevant lifestyle photos. This is actually your wild card, that will set your account apart from your competitors, and strengthen how your brand is perceived.

By lifestyle snaps we mean photos showing your products in action, people (and customers) wearing and using your items, along with anything related to it – perhaps it is a material sourcing outing, you in the process of design or making, your fab packaging, a parcel being shipped off, a product being used by a happy customer, you out and about networking.

And remember ideally these photos should be presented in a way that reflects the overall character of your brand. So if you sell fun sunglasses preferably the snap may have a beach, summer, active lifestyle feel to them, as opposed to if you make and market skincare where you might go for a clean, spa like appearance.

Use your photos to tell your story and create a connection with your followers.

Please don’t make this the focus of your account, but also remember everyone loves a bargain. So if you have an offer, sale or special announcement don’t be afraid to share it (this goes for all of your social media accounts). Apparently 41% of Instagrammers state that they do follow, or would follow, a brand to take advantage of offers, so go ahead and give Instagrammers what they want and gain fans in the process.

If you want some easy help in generating gorgeous images to help spread the word, make the most of all the accessible text overlay apps that can jazz up your product pictures.  Websites such as canva and free apps like Phonto, PicLab, and Over let you choose the font, message, and location of text over your image, in a format that works with Instagram. Again – don’t try and be a smart cookie, select a graphic style that works well with your brand and stick with it!

What’s your Instagram strategy? As in, you might be posting some rather fab snaps, but how are you getting people to see them and join your fan base? We struggle with this at saffronsouk.com so we had a hunt and will be taking on board some of these techniques to increase our Instagram followers…fingers crossed…

#Hashtags clump your posts together into groups with the same keyword or tag. It is advisable not to go overboard with hashtags as it makes your posts look a bit to market (as in sales) orientated, which we now know is a big non-no when it comes to Instagram.  In fact engagement has been shown to go down on posts with more than 5 hashtags (Note: Saffron Souk typically uses up to the maximum 30 allowable keywords but we write them as a comment after we have posted the image so that fingers crossed it gets lost in the comment feed – perhaps we need to experiment with a new approach!). 

So if we are so obviously getting it wrong, how does Dr Google recommend you Hashtag?

  1. Have a think about keywords that are relevant to your brand and product
  2. Research popular and trending hashtags that are applicable to your brand, product and character. Use data analysis apps like Iconosquare to research popular, trending hashtags. For example, you can look up whether #handmade or #handcrafted has more searches. Then search through people who use those tags to see if your image fits that community.
  3. Collect a mix of big-hit tags alongside more specific tags. Tagging something generic like #fashion (which has been used millions of times) means your image is in a popular group but it will get lost. So getting more specific with something like #summerstyle or #summerdresses will narrow down your community and keep you accessible in searches for longer.
  4. Create your own unique hashtag. This will place all your content into an easily searchable collection. Plus, users can then place your unique tag on their own photos. At Little Majlis we use #LittleMajlis along with a few others for specific events (#hellohabibti #shopsmallhabibi etc). We also encourage all our shopkeepers to use #littlemajlis this way we can like all your posts as well as share anything we think might be relevant to the Saffron Souk community.
  5. Apparently a really clever way to include tags without the clutter is to post the tags in a comment after you’ve published the photo (so we’re not that silly after all!), so that the tags don’t overpower the message of your caption.

Just kidding! Well not really… consumers are influenced to make purchased based on a brands social media. So get people sharing your posts and product images (in a genuine way) and people will listen up – especially if they respect the person doing the sharing.

Spread your brand influence by:

  1. Coming up with a hashtag (something unique to your brand)
  2. Encourage customers to share their photos and reviews using the unique hashtag
  3. Reward those fans by re-sharing their pics and giving them a shout-out!

Your image is obviously the life and soul of your Instagram posts, but an effective caption is the icing on the cake, making certain you get the full potential of engagement and response from your fans.

Keep it simple and perhaps make a call-to-action ask a question and invite conversation about your post. For example perhaps you are considering making a new product or colour of an existing item – why not post a snapshot of the work in progress and ask your fans what they think – this is a win-win, giving you much needed feedback and making your followers feel a sense of belonging to your community.

Make captions direct, short and interesting enough to hook attention.

Instagram is not a one way street – respond to notifications and comments, thank fans for their tags, and follow and like other users’ posts. This not only reflects well on your brand but is certain to get you brownie points and more engagement in return.

Whenever you want someone to see your message, make sure you include their @Instragram name (e.g. @littlemajlis) so they get a notification that you are engaging with them.

Measure you growth on Instagram to see how you are getting on and adjust your behaviour on the platform to increase your growth – the whole idea is to keep growing and attract new customers to your online store. Easier said then done and we are certainly not great at this at saffronsouk.com (not too sure if we should be spilling the beans there, but there is ALWAYS room for improvement).

So in a nut shell you need to analyze what is working and repeat.  Tools like Iconosquare are good for helping with this. The following is a discussion of the top metrics to pay attention to:

Track your followers and find out who interacts with your brand the most; who is liking, commenting, and tagging. You need to build on these relationships and reward these fans by giving shout outs etc.

Knowing what times and days your fans are the most active helps you plan a posting schedule that gives you the most exposure and maximizes your likes and comments. 

Analyse when your followers are most commonly engaging with your posts.  For example if your brand / product range appeals to mainly stay-at-home moms, they might check their social media posts early to mid morning after dropping the kids at school.

Consider using a scheduling App to cut down your time on Instagram. Although we don’t at Saffron Souk, we can see the benefits of being organised, and wasting less time looking for last minute content of good quality, relevant images of our feed. So I think we are going to have a play with some handy scheduling apps such as Schedugram and Latergram that let you queue up posts when you have the time, and then send them out in accordance with your optimized posting schedule.

What do you use? We would love to have some feedback…

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