How to Use Instagram for eCommerce

People are working from home and spending more time connecting online than ever before.

At the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, internet usage increased dramatically. While this increase has begun to taper off, some social media platforms are expected to see “a more sustained boost,” and Instagram is one of them.

That’s great news for anyone with an online store because Instagram is the perfect platform to showcase your eCommerce goods and drive more sales. And there’s no better time than the present to start marketing to the platform’s highly-engaged users.

Stick around as we dive into how to use Instagram for eCommerce in this post. Today, we’re covering best practices for setting up your Instagram business profile, tips for presenting your products in Instagram posts and stories, hashtag best practices, and talking about Instagram influencers.

Using Instagram for eCommerce

Ready to get your business on Instagram? Hootsuite reports that Instagram has over 1 billion active monthly users, 63% of them log in at least once per day, and 200 million of them visit at least one business profile daily.

Those are some impressive stats.

Once upon a time, Facebook was a great platform for brands and organic engagement. Nowadays, not so much. But the same can’t be said for Instagram. Brands and businesses can do exceptionally well for themselves on the image and video-forward platform, and we’re rooting for you to do the same.

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? 

Setting up an Instagram Business Account

Back in the day, everyone had a basic, personal Instagram profile. They weren’t anything fancy, and allowed for a short bio at the top of your profile and then your feed. My, how times have changed.

In 2016 Instagram introduced business profiles, and that’s opened up a whole world of possibilities for eCommerce and online retailers.

If you’re using a personal account for your business, don’t worry, you can easily convert it into a business account. Here’s how:

  1. Log in to your Instagram account.
  2. Click on your profile icon.
  3. From your profile, click on the hamburger menu (the three lines at the top of the screen) and select “Settings.”
  4. From your settings, click “Account” and then “Switch to professional account.”
  5. Select either “Creator” or “Business” (there’ll be a description helping you decide what option is best.)
  6. Click “Continue.”

And there you have it; your Instagram account is now all set up for your business.

If you don’t have an Instagram account at all, go ahead and download the app on iOS, Android, or Windows. Sign up for a new account and then follow the steps listed above to convert it into a business account. 

Perfecting Your Instagram Profile

Now that you’ve set up your account, let’s make it appealing to potential followers and customers. The first thing you’ll need to do is create an awesome bio. 

Instagram Bio Tips

Your bio should meet a few guidelines, like the following:

  • It’s written in your brand tone. (Is your brand voice helpful? Light-hearted? Serious?)
  • It’s appealing to your target audience.
    • Not sure what your target audience looks like? Let’s go back to your business idea and plan to determine that information.
  • It’s succinct, but still explains what your business (or brand) is all about (like what you do and what you stand for.)
    • Instagram allows for one link in your profile, so make it count.
    • There are 3rd party tools that can turn your single link into a link tree to support your various posts; however, they’re an additional cost and you’ll need to do your research to select the best solution for your needs.

Instagram Profile Picture Tips

You want your Instagram profile picture to be instantly recognizable. There’s no point in choosing an image that can be mistaken for another business or account, and most businesses will use their logo or logomark (that’s just your logo without any of the words normally accompanying it). If you have a business mascot (e.g. Tony the Tiger) feel free to use that, too.

Your profile picture displays at 110 x 100 pixels and has a 1:1 aspect ratio (upload a square image), but it will be cropped into a circle, so keep that in mind when choosing your image. If you’d like your image to look a little crisper, try uploading an image at a higher resolution.

Now that you have your profile set up appropriately, let’s look at how to craft the best posts and present your goods in the best light possible. If increasing eCommerce sales is your goal, your products need to look appealing. 

How to Take the Best Photos, Videos, and Stories for Instagram

Keep your products and profile looking sharp with the following tips. 

It’s All About the Lighting

When it comes to product photos (or any photos), lighting is essential!

Natural lighting is great, but the tricky part is that you can’t control it. Direct sunlight seems like a great idea, yet the issue is that it can create harsh shadows in your images. Try finding a place at home or in your office with great natural lighting to stage your photos.

If you can’t find a place that offers good natural lighting, don’t fret. There are plenty of affordable options that can help you achieve your desired lighting. 

Backgrounds for images

Don’t let busy, distracting backgrounds steal the show from your products! Try using white (or solid-colored) foam board from your local arts and crafts store to create a backdrop, or purchase some seamless photo backdrop paper.

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

Your photos should maintain some consistency throughout. Using similar backgrounds for styled photos, similar lighting effects, and the same photography tools (it can be as simple as using the same smartphone camera and settings each time) all give a cohesive appearance to your photos.

Having consistency in style doesn’t mean you can’t have any variety. In addition to product photos, try including some lifestyle images that show your products in use. Lifestyle images are relatable because people can see themselves taking the action that’s encapsulated in your photo, and lets them see the product in use. 

Create Better Instagram Videos and Stories

Videos on your main Instagram feed can range from 3 to 60 seconds, and you can upload 15-second-long video content in Instagram Stories (you can upload multiple 15-second videos, you’re not limited to one.) If you’re going to use video, make sure it tells a story.

Just like your product photos, lighting matters for videos. We recommend natural lighting, if possible, and to always keep it in front of you, not behind and casting awkward shadows.

Not sure what kind of videos to post? Here are some ideas.

  • Showcase your products in action.
  • Create sneak previews.
  • Highlight benefits.
  • Showcase what happens behind the scenes.
  • Offer helpful advice or tutorials.
  • Create a series.

How to Write Descriptions for Your Instagram Post

Now, if you followed our tips in the previous section, we know your photos and videos are looking good. Once you have your photos ready to post, you need to think about what you’ll write in the description.

We can’t tell you exactly what to write since it’ll depend on your product, but here are tips to keep in mind.

  • Keep your voice consistent.
    • Whether or not you realize it, your brand has a voice. Your voice can be helpful or direct, casual or professional, or any variety of qualities (depends on your audience and market) — but consistency is key.
  • Don’t get super sales-y.
    • You don’t want potential customers slamming their digital doors in your face (or rather, unfollowing you), so keep things conversational.
  • Make some room.  
    • When your words are all bunched together with no space between them thingsgetalittlehardtoread. Use line breaks or  e x t r a   s p a c e s  when you want to highlight an important part of your description.
  • Use emojis to add visuals and add impact to your text.
  • Get creative to highlight important features.
    • You can use asterisks (*) or other marks (~, –) to draw attention to specific parts of your text.

Leverage the power of hashtags

Social media platforms reward posts that get good engagement. If you want your post to be seen by a broader audience (and rack up those ♥️s), then use hashtags.

Hashtags should be relevant to the post you create. If you use hashtags that have a large following but are irrelevant to your post, then the audience isn’t going to engage with it.

A good thing to do is look for other accounts that are in an industry similar to yours. Scope your competitors’ accounts to find what hashtags they’re using, or search Instagram for hashtags you think are relevant to see if they’re popular.

When adding hashtags to your posts, write them so that they’re accessible to all. If your hashtags are a long string of uncapitalized words, then screen readers will think they are just one long word. If you capitalize the different words in your hashtags then screen readers can make sense of them and people who can’t see the screen can still hear the words as they should be.

#YouGotThis #LetsMoveOn 

Instagram and Influencers

Can you think of Instagram without associating it with influencers?

Probably not.

Influencer marketing “is a form of social media marketing involving endorsements and product placement from influencers, people and organizations who have a purported expert level on knowledge or social influence in their field.”

Using influencers to spread the word about your brand or products is a good strategy if done well. You see, there are oodles of people who call themselves “influencers” but not all of them really are. The thing about influencers is that they actually have to hold some sway and authority in their niche. Many people have huge followings, but that doesn’t make them great influencers.

If you want to find a good influencer that meets your needs and can convince people in your niche to purchase from you, use the following tips.

  • Look for the “authority figures.”
    • Let’s say you’re opening a local game shop. You’re selling board games, but also some games that have cult-like followings, like Magic the Gathering. Join social media groups and follow hashtags relevant to those players and you’ll find the people who are most vocal and most respected in their knowledge. Reach out to them to ask for their help in spreading the word about your products and ask them to be an influencer for you. (Keep in mind, no one works for free.)
  • Don’t say “Yes” right away, vet your influencers.
    • Influencers (especially faux-influencers) LOVE reaching out to brands to ask for freebies and goodies in return for exposure. Just because someone is offering to be an influencer doesn’t make them a good fit for your brand.
    • Vet your potential influencers by looking at their account. Do they promote anything and everything? They’re probably just looking for free stuff. You want someone who maintains your brand’s position and aesthetic.

Once you’ve identified the influencers you’d like to work with, reach out with a friendly email or private message. Tell them why you want to work with them — is it their authenticity? Their personal brand? Make your messages relevant and meaningful to the person you’re engaging with. Ask them about their rates or tell them what you’re offering. And make sure to ask how to move the arrangement forward. 

Make your Instagram account shoppable

If your overarching goal is to increase your eCommerce sales on Instagram, then you need to make it as easy as possible for your audience to purchase.

Instagram isn’t super helpful in offering only one link in your profile, but the platform makes up for it in other ways. Not too long ago, they introduced something called “Instagram Shopping.”

Instagram Shopping “gives your business an immersive storefront for people to explore your best products. With Instagram Shopping, you can share featured products through your organic posts and Stories, or have people discover your products in Search & Explore.”

Shoppable posts include a product tag, that when clicked, brings your viewer to a product description page. That page includes additional information like a description, cost, and a link that takes people directly to your site where they can purchase.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

One thing to note about Instagram Shopping is that it isn’t available to everyone just yet. In order to use the feature, you have to meet the following criteria:

  • Your business must be located in a supported market.
  • Your business must sell physical goods.
  • You must comply with Facebook’s commerce policies (Facebook owns Instagram, and your shoppable “catalog of goods” for Instagram is set up through Facebook.)
  • You must have a business account (good thing we went through the steps to set one up!)
  • Your account must be connected to a Facebook Page.

If your account meets those parameters you’ll want to move on to the next step of connecting your Instagram business profile to your Facebook catalog.

This guide from Facebook walks you through the final steps to create your catalog so you can use Instagram Shopping.

Go forth and make money on Instagram

Ready to increase those eCommerce sales on Instagram? Now you should be!

To support your brand’s digital presence, and use cool features like Instagram Shopping, make sure you have a website created. Our AI-powered, easy-to-use WebsiteBuilder helps small business owners create beautiful, functional websites in a snap. 

Do you have any additional tips for Instagram and eCommerce? Share them with us in the comments below!

Natalie Brownell
Natalie Brownell Marketing Manager. She believes in the power of words and loves a good story. She resides in MA and spends her days behind the keyboard with her two feline coworkers. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Natalie Brownell
Natalie Brownell Marketing Manager. She believes in the power of words and loves a good story. She resides in MA and spends her days behind the keyboard with her two feline coworkers. Connect with her on LinkedIn.