That’s the sort of increase you can reasonably expect by learning a few Instagram marketing secrets and applying them consistently over a few months; and this is not simply growing followers who will never buy, like some Facebook ‘feeding frenzy’ of old. We all know that doesn’t lead anywhere. I am talking about qualified followers who are your target customers, ready to visit your store and to help you grow your revenue.
Despite this, few online stores are effectively using the power of Instagram marketing campaigns to generate traffic and sales. This is because they have no idea how to tap into this power, or because they are not prepared to put the hours in; either way, they are failing to take advantage of its enormous benefits.
Instagram marketing is a cheap and relatively simple way to differentiate and grow your business. But note that I used the phrase ‘applying consistently’ earlier. This is important: while this strategy is a sure-fire winner, it is not simply an overnight win. Instead, sound strategy and consistent activity will get you the results you’re looking for. And it means focusing not only on boosting traffic, but on converting that traffic into sales.
So now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get into the steps you need to take to grow your Instagram followers and send large volumes of qualified traffic to your shop to convert.
The great thing is that these steps will help you grow fast whether you have a well-established Instagram account or a brand new one.
Here’s a summary of what you’ll learn from my ecommerce Instagram marketing strategy below:
- My 4-step Instagram marketing strategy to get more followers
- How to turn followers into traffic and track your Instagram visitors
- Essential website changes needed to convert Instagram visitors into sales
- The type of results you can expect
Get more followers: 4-step Instagram marketing strategy
STEP 1: INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT CROSS-PROMOTION
There’s no need to re-invent the wheel here. Do you know the quickest and cheapest way to reach a large audience? By borrowing someone else’s audience!
That’s right. There are brands out there that share a similar audience to yours, but do not have directly competing products. All you need to do is find them, reach out to them, and offer what I call ‘Shoutout for shoutout’.
These brands will then post an Instagram image and message about your brand; and you post about their brand; then you both link to each other’s profiles.
You then ‘steal’ each other’s followers and traffic in bulk. This is like cross-promoting, and is the quickest way to boost your following almost instantly.
Where do you start?
Firstly do some research and create a ‘hit list’ of relevant ‘shoulder niche’ brands to target. Again, these should have a similar audience to you, but not be a direct competitor. You might, for instance, choose a shoe brand with the same audience as the jeans you specialise in.
Obviously, if you are just starting out with 100 followers there’s no point approaching a brand with 5,000 followers, as there would be little ‘win’ in it for them. It needs to be a ‘win win’, so look for accounts with a similar (or slightly larger) following than yours. This makes the ‘ask’ more reasonable.
Try to aim for at least 10 new brands per month to improve your chances of success. This part is a numbers game after all.
Creating the perfect email outreach template
Find the email addresses of your chosen brands and send them an email, asking them to swap a post for a post, explaining the benefits of doing so. This is the template I use to request this:
Email template 1
I was looking on instagram for fashion inspiration and came across your account [@nameofaccount], really love your pics!
I work for [@nameofyouraccount] and wondered if you’d like to do a swap, instagram post for instagram post on each other’s account.
Like a shoutout for shoutout, I think our audience would love your products and vice versa.
We can both grow our followers too.
Let me know if you are interested.
Email template 2 – After two days (Boomerang)
Just checking if you got my email?
Email template 3 – After two days (Boomerang)
Sorry, just checking if you got my email?
Feel free to copy this word for word, but remember that you are not the only one reading this; chances are that you won’t be the only one sending such email. Trust me, they get plenty of emails, so it pays for yours to stand out.
Add a personal touch to maximize your chances of getting a reply. For instance, mention something that’s only relevant to the receiver, like a specific product of theirs that you admire, or a feature of their website you like. This shows that you are not simply ‘copying and pasting’.
However, be sure to keep any message short and to the point – people’s time is valuable.
Tips for automating email outreach management
If you’re targeting multiple brands each week this will get time consuming, so it makes sense to use tools to automate the process (without losing the personal touch) wherever possible.
- Use boomerang for tracking email opens and sending follow ups
- Check out Sujan Patels Connector app
Results will vary, depending on the size and ‘pull’ of your brand, as well as the brands that you are reaching out to, but normally you should get around a 30 percent reply rate.
From these, not everyone will be positive, of course. The more followers you have, and the more you target complementary brands to yours, the more likely you will be to get a positive response. But you should expect around 10 percent to reply with YES YOU ROCK!
Don’t forget to follow up
If you don’t get a reply, it doesn’t automatically mean ‘NO’. Maybe your contact was busy and your email was buried amongst hundreds of other similar emails.
But guess what? Only a small fraction of senders follow up their emails. This is where you can again be more proactive and stand out against the competition. If the ‘shoutout to shoutout’ makes sense to them, you will most likely spur them into action and they will agree to it.
You don’t need to be super creative with this follow up message. Something along the lines of the following is enough:
Just wanted to be sure you got my previous email. I was just wondering whether this is something you’d be interested in? Looking forward to hearing from you
Posting the perfect shoutout
Once you’ve reached agreement with a ‘partner’ brand, it’s time to post a shoutout. Note that there are two different types of shoutouts:
- Caption only – the brand you’ve approached uses its own image and style and mentions you in the post.
- Full shoutout – you get to use your own image plus caption.
Obviously having your own image in the other brand’s post is more effective. But, in general, the more followers an account has, the more rules and restrictions it will place on you; so it may not be entirely up to you.
The key is to have a good, clear message about your brand and a call-to-action to follow (don’t forget that you can’t put links in captions).
Here’s a good example of a ‘shoutout’ from Quirk Collective, the Australian fashion, home ware and design company – for my client, By Charlotte, an Australian jewellery company:
STEP 2: CREATE & POST THE RIGHT INSTAGRAM IMAGES
Learning to create and post the right Instagram images (those that create the biggest impact) is a skill you should be able to learn quite quickly.
Again, we can ‘borrow’ from other brands to some extent, seeing how they do it and ‘reverse engineering’ it.
You may be familiar with the Sumorank tool, which allows you to analyse what performs best on any Facebook page, in terms of post types, images, post lengths, most popular days and times etc. Well, we need to apply a similar concept here to our Instagram marketing.
You can use Crowdfire to analyse what works best on Instagram pages – and then set out an image posting strategy to follow the same guidelines.
Where do you start?
You can start by creating several Instagram templates that allow you to easily create images to act as an extension of your brand, without having to start from scratch each time.
Finding a format that you like, that looks great, and that gets a good response from your audience may be a question of experimenting a little at first. Have a play until you are happy with the image styling, colours, and brand imagery.
The nature of these images will depend on your personalized brand aesthetic and messaging strategy for your followers.
If you are not familiar with Photoshop yourself, get these templates professionally designed. They will pay for themselves many times over.
Make sure that you and your designer follow industry best practices, so that your posts can achieve maximum reach. This includes:
- Using industry and niche-specific hashtags
- Using popular Instagram image filters
- Getting creative and using image collages at times
Your images are your ‘raw material’ for Instagram marketing; but you need to optimize your usage of them to get the best results.
This involves using your Instagram analytics from Crowdfire, which will help you define the best time to ensure the biggest organic reach to your audience.
You can then use the Latergram application to schedule bunches of posts at the best times. Simply log in and upload your image files from Instagram, and drag the appropriate picture to the day and time you want to post it; write a caption and then save it.
If you download the app to your phone, you will receive a notification when the image is ready to be posted on Instagram.
Another great new tool is SkedSocial, which allows you to auto-post right from the desktop app.
Aim to create and post three Instagram images per day at first; that will be 90 per month and this will demonstrate strong activity on your account – a good sign to followers.
STEP 3: COMMENT ON & LIKE COMPETITORS’ FOLLOWERS CONTENT TO GROW YOUR OWN FAN LIST
A solid Instagram marketing strategy doesn’t push competitors to one side in an attempt to forget about them. We need to escape from the ‘Us vs Them’ mindset a little and realise that our competitors are there to help us!
Well, by liking and commenting on the posts of followers of competitors, it’s possible to grow our own number of followers and fans. In fact, this is one of the essential Instagram marketing tools that many businesses are neglecting to use.
How do you do it?
First you need to find and create a ‘hit list’ of your competitors on Instagram, keeping in mind that their followers are your target customers. This may involve a little research but you should know most of the names anyway.
Then, to interact with these followers, and to start creating interest and engagement with your brand, you start to ‘Like’ and comment on their Instagram posts.
It’s important to maintain a strategy and structure to this. Create a spreadsheet plan that outlines who you will target and when. Make sure you divide up your time and pay adequate attention to each of your main competitors, so that you achieve maximum potential audience reach.
Liking is quite self explanatory. You should choose regular ‘likers’ of your competitors’ Instagram posts, and firstly perform a simple check to make sure that they are real accounts (yes, there are plenty of fake accounts out there). Then simply select a photo of theirs and HEART it.
Commenting is generally more effective, but involves a little more effort on your part. Keep comments positive, complimentary, personalised, and relevant. Also mention something unique about the image so they know that it is not an automated comment. For instance you may want to say ‘Absolutely gorgeous make-up’, ‘I love the necklace you’re wearing’, ‘I love your hair this colour’, etc. etc.
This will take a little while to master, but when you’re getting it right, you will receive 1-2 replies out of every 10 comments you leave. These are all potential followers for your Instagram account and, over time, you will drive a lot of new people to your brand, ready to interact with you and your content.
STEP 4: BULK FOLLOW AND UNFOLLOW YOUR COMPETITORS’ FOLLOWERS FOR FAST GROWTH
You’ve already found your competitors in step three; and you’ve created a time management spreadsheet for interacting with their accounts. As noted above, this exposes you to huge numbers of your target customers.
You want these customers following you, so in Step 3 you already started interacting with some, by liking and commenting.
It also helps to follow everyone who follows your competitors’ accounts: from bulk following, there is usually a reciprocal follow-back ratio rate of around 10 percent. So, for every 100 new Instagram users you follow, around 10 will follow you back.
How do you do this?
This is where your time management plan becomes key. Consistent activity is especially important here, so you will need to schedule regular slots to perform this activity – or outsource the work (more about that later).
You can only follow around 100 users per hour, but doing this on an hourly basis, numerous times a day, for the first two weeks of every month, creates incredible opportunities to grow your account.
Let’s say 100 users per hour, for 3 hours a day, every working day for the first two weeks in a month:
100 x 3 x 10 =3000 contacts
3000 x 10% = 300 new followers
Using the above figures, in one month we can increase our account by 300 followers.
You can then use software to ‘auto-unfollow’ the people who do not follow you back over the final two weeks of the month’s engagement. Managing your account like this leaves you with a good follow/follow back ratio and helps you grow with a good engagement rate. The users are ‘real’ users that have great potential to spend money with your brand. This, in turn helps to grow your traffic and, ultimately, your ecommerce sales.
It may sound like a LOT of hard slog; but many businesses that don’t have the time to manage the day-to-day activity involved in this Instagram marketing strategy end up outsourcing all the legwork to a management company. They find that the returns more than outweigh a little investment.
Getting returns is what matters, after all! We’ve reached the stage of growing our audience, and it’s time to start monetizing all this hard work…
Turn followers into traffic and track your Instagram visitors
An audience of hungry followers is a great start, but how does this translate into sales? There are a series of steps to go through before those items start flying out of your online store.
You already have a link on your profile, so some traffic will start drifting through simply by visiting your profile and clicking that link. The more followers the more traffic, in general. This is the ‘low hanging fruit’; it’s essential to create the back-end systems that are set up to convert and track these visitors, and that’s what this step is all about…
Design dedicated landing pages
First up, you need to design dedicated landing pages for Instagram users and for the specific campaigns you are running. Do not make the mistake of relying on your home page. A professionally written landing page will press all the right ‘buy’ buttons of your target audience and make it easy for them to come to a buying decision.
Create a branded URL shortener
Use the Google Campaign URL builder. This tool uses the URL Shortener API to create short links for long campaign URLs, allowing you to create your own branded shortened URL.
You can also run campaign-specific offers in your Instagram profile bio and use bit.ly/ urls that have value propositions in them, such as: bit.ly/sale-free-shipping.
Measure traffic and sales
Google Analytics reports are essential for use in measuring your traffic and sales; they allow you to assess the success of campaigns and to adjust and ‘tweak’ your strategy accordingly.
Make sure that you generate:
- Landing page reports that show traffic and conversions
- Campaign reports that provide overviews of results achieved.
Convert Instagram visitors into sales with some other essential changes
In addition to the dedicated landing pages mentioned above, there are a few other changes that you will need to make to ensure that you successfully convert Instagram visitors into paying customers.
The most important of these are detailed below.
Basic mobile optimization
The likelihood is that many of your customers will be accessing your store from mobile devices. Therefore make sure your website is responsive and mobile-friendly. This means that it will display correctly on all mobile devices AND makes it easy for the customer to buy.
Pay special attention to:
- Ease of navigation
- Search functionality
- The shopping cart
- BUY buttons
- Ease of making payment
Make Instagram ‘shoppable’
Plenty of tools exist to make Instagram ‘shoppable’; that is, to turn your Instagram account into an extension of your website, by turning your user-generated content into shoppable galleries for your online store.
The main tools are:
- Foursixty – allows you to embed Instagram galleries anywhere
- Evocative – allows customers to shop for what they want, as seen on your Instagram feed
- Magento Connect Instagram extension – allows merchants to display the images from their Instagram user profile
FourSixty is always my tool of choice, link to it from your bio as above and embed the tool in a dedicated ‘shop instagram’ page.
The visitor can then browse Instagram like a store.
Zoom in on specific images and check them out if they like.
What results can you expect?
All this activity must yield some results, right?
Too right it does! I’ve seen some incredible results for brands in all sectors by applying the strategies outlined above.
By Charlotte, referred to above, was a mature Instagram account before it started to apply this methodology; the site was doing OK, plodding along, but it was not converting enough traffic into sales.
After four months of applying the above strategy, the account both looked and performed very differently.
It went from 39.7k followers to 51.6k followers in two months – around a 30 percent increase; over four months it averaged around 5000 new followers per month. But how did that translate to revenue? The graph below details that… as you can see revenues increased significantly too:
Another client of ours, Starzonics was a new Instagram account. After just one and a half months of applying our strategy it had attracted more than 4500 new followers. A great example of concrete action leading to concrete results.
Following the Instagram ecommerce marketing strategy detailed above brings a proven increase in sales: it takes is a combination of consistent and targeted activity on your Instagram account with some specific changes to your website to accommodate and convert new traffic.
The bottom line here is that HARDLY ANY ecommerce sites are doing this properly, so there is a ‘window of opportunity’ here for businesses wanting to get on board to fully harness the power of Instagram.
Most of the time consuming processes can be outsourced, so that they do not impact on your time, and I guarantee that the natural increase in traffic and sales will make the investment seem like a drop in the ocean.