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by Giles Thomas on 04 Sep, 2018 ~9 minutes read

Eggs and bacon. Salt and pepper. Strawberries and cream.

Some things were just meant to be: perfect matches made in heaven. And, if you’re responsible for marketing online stores, you can add Instagram and ecommerce to the list.

Over 800 million active Instagram users speaks for itself - especially when compared with a mere 30 million in 2012, when Facebook purchased the platform.

Almost a third of US internet users are now on Instagram and 90 percent of all users are younger than 35.

The phenomenal growth of Instagram has encouraged the most successful ecommerce brands to increasingly see it as the marketing platform of choice. Developing a powerful Instagram ecommerce marketing strategy has become a priority.

The good news is that Instagram has become more brand-friendly in recent years and presents a huge opportunity for ecommerce marketers to showcase what a brand offers its followers - especially if you’re targeting a young audience of under-35s.

Engagement with brands is 10 times higher on Instagram than Facebook and 84 times higher than Twitter. How can you start tapping into that level of engagement with your own audience?

That’s covered below but bear in mind that the window of opportunity is already closing.

If you’re just introducing a brand to Instagram now, the competition is almost certainly already there. You’ll need to develop a smarter Instagram marketing strategy than the rest to help them stand out and get ahead in the pecking order.

Here’s an opportunity to take on board some the key tips to get them started…

The main features of Instagram for ecommerce businesses

First things first. Instagram is a mobile-first app so download it from the App store or Google Play (it’s free).

instagram app in google play

The key features you’ll initially want to get to grips with include:

  • Home screen - once you’ve logged in, start connecting with people here. You’ll see their posts displayed and can also set up your profile, search content, and interact with followers.
  • Timeline - includes all your posts in date order, Stories (short videos), and an area where you can add photos or video to your existing stories.
  • Search - search for content and other Instagram users by name, hashtag, or content type.
  • Interactions - monitor interactions with other Instagrammers who follow you and who you follow: likes, comments, mentions, tags, etc.
  • Profile - create or edit your bio, adjust settings for posts and Stories, view activity, check your content, and check performance analytics (views, reach, top posts, etc.) Other Instagrammers can contact you directly from the CONTACT button on your Profile.
  • Direct message screen - reach out to followers, connect with potential new followers, and share posts and other info/content more directly.
  • Create content screen - develop image and video posts, create Boomerang videos (short snippets on a loop), and even create hands-free videos. Once you’re up and running, you’ll be spending a lot of time here as content is the key to a successful Instagram ecommerce marketing strategy.

The most important optimization tips for Instagram

If you’re just starting out on Instagram, focus on optimizing the key areas of your Instagram profile that are going to get your brand working for you and bringing in results.

You can do the rest later, after you’re more established.

instagram profile view

  • Profile link

You’re only allowed one link on your Instagram profile. Active links in posts are not permitted, so be sure to optimize the one link you can use.

Often it’s best to create a branded link to a shoppable Instagram page (see above), where your target audience is directly connected to relevant products they can buy. This link may change as you introduce promotions throughout the year; don’t necessarily use your homepage.

  • Copy

Use the 150 characters available to instantly describe to your target audience the benefits of connecting with you – and use your main keyword(s) for extra “searchability”.

  • Image

Most ecommerce stores use their brand logo here. Make sure it’s the regulation 110 pixels x 110 pixels.

instagram strategy

  • Social accounts

You want maximum reach for content to create a large community. This should extend beyond Instagram to all your social accounts - Facebook will already be linked when you set up your account but make sure you link Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Tumblr too.

  • Comment settings

Comment settings can be adjusted in PROFILE -> OPTIONS. Make sure you’re able to moderate comments and remove any that damage your brand.

Create eye-catching content

To some people, “eye-catching” means bright, gaudy colours; to others, it’s a serene landscape; it may be a high-quality photo of a favourite meal; or a funny video.

There are so many ways to turn heads and create a loyal community of followers.

Instagram is a visual-based content platform designed predominantly for mobile use. Bearing this in mind, ask yourself: how can I build a community of loyal followers?

Most ecommerce stores find that the best way is to draw people in with high-quality content. Boring, low-quality, studio-based shots of products alone are not going to cut it.

A powerful content marketing strategy should draw from all the various types of content available to you on Instagram; and you should make use of the tools that help you develop a strong brand voice that resonates well with your target audience.

The two post types are:

  • Image posts: either from the LIBRARY already on your phone or from new photos you take or upload to your phone. Image posts can be square or rectangular in shape:

instagram post view

instagram post view

  • Video posts: these are becoming more popular and most major brands actively use video now because it is a proven way of connecting with a younger audience.

instagram post with video view

Content types

What types of content strategies can you draw from for Instagram marketing? Here are some of the leading content types used by the most successful brands to engage followers:

  • User-generated content (UGC) - get your own followers to post images of your products in use; there’s no better way to engage them.
  • Lifestyle shots - show images and videos of your products actually being used in real-life situations: far more effective than endless studio shots.

instagram post view

  • Creative product showcase - get creative with posting product shots; develop your own feel and ‘themes’ for your content to create a consistent ‘voice’
  • Customer stories - highlight how customers have used your products successfully to achieve their goals. Mention them and make it real!

instagram post view

  • Company culture - post content that injects personality into your brand: share a few images or videos of what it’s like to work in your business.
  • Fun shots - make it fun, light-hearted, amusing: anything that can snap your followers out of the bored state they may be in!
  • Behind the scenes - give your audience a ‘sneak peek’ of life behind-the-scenes at your ecommerce store.

instagram post view

  • Get to know the team - another type of post that helps put a face on your business; introduce followers to the personalities that make up your team.
  • Educational - teach your followers about something related to your ecommerce store; if you sell makeup, show them how to apply eye-liner effectively!
  • Contests - Instagram contests are proven engagement magnets; the chance to win something is always a head-turner.

instagram post view

  • Guest takeover - arrange an Instagram ‘takeover’, where you allow a guest (preferably renowned in your field and well-followed) to run your account for a few days.
  • Seasonal posts - create posts that relate to special events, dates, holidays or seasons to maintain relevance throughout the year.

Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories deserve a special mention as they represent a prominent, secondary feed to your main Instagram content feed.

If someone you follow has a live Story, they appear with a red circle around their profile picture in your feed (and on their own profile).

instagram profile view

Stories are short slideshow-based image and video/live video clips that disappear after 24 hours unless you choose to add them as a highlight on your profile.

They are particularly effective in showing sequences of events over the course of a day or a sequence of product promotions.

instagram story view

“Boomerangs” are also included in your Stories. These are one-second videos that are played on an endless loop, forwards and backwards.

Tools to help you spice up your content

The best way to stand out from the crowd is by engaging followers with great content. Fortunately, there are many great tools on Instagram to help you do this - plus many third-party apps if you want to take it a step further.

Apart from the various types of visual content you can create, the following tools help you with spicing up your content and the accompanying text captions:

  • Captions - you get up to 2,200 characters to caption your post: add information, questions, calls to actions, etc.
  • Emojis - liven up your captions with the use of expressive emojis
  • Add text - add meaning and context directly to images and videos with text additions

instagram post view

  • Draw over images - a virtual pen, highlighter or neon pen can be used to doodle over images
  • Stickers - for weather, time or location, bringing context to images and other content
  • Hashtags - these help your posts show up in Instagram search, potentially reaching more followers and customers
  • Social sharing - share your content across the other social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, etc.
TIP: Using a content calendar (like Schedugram) will help you plan and create a diverse mix of content for followers and speed up the process of content creation using templates.

Interact with your Instagram ecommerce community

Once you’ve started to build your community and provide engaging content, you need to interact with followers to help turn curiosity into interest and interest into sales.

This takes consistent activity not just for the first few days - but ongoing activity.

The main ways to interact with followers are:

  • Likes - most of you know what these are by now!
  • Comments - taking the time to make a positive comment on another post will be appreciated and should attract more comments on your own posts.
  • @Mentions - these are also appreciated by the people you call out (again keep the mentions positive)

instagram post view

  • Tagging - tag people who have contributed to posts to create good sentiment (such as a contest winner or those whose user-generated content you publish)
  • Direct messages - send photo, video, or text-based messages directly through Instagram Direct.
  • Hashtags - making your content searchable is a win-win. Up to 30 hashtags per post are allowed and using the most popular ones (relevant to your ecommerce store) is a good way to get found by new people.

instagram post view

  • Geotagging - adding your geographical location to posts can help people find what they’re looking for and may expand your reach if location is important to your brand.

Consummating the marriage

You have enough to go ahead and consummate the marriage between Instagram and ecommerce!

The above tips are by no means exhaustive but should help you focus on what’s most important so that you can start to grow ecommerce businesses on Instagram.

This will get you to the first stage, where your brands are attracting and engaging followers and boosting traffic to their stores.

From there, you can help take the marriage to heaven.

(Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash)

About the author:
Giles Thomas avatar

Giles Thomas

Giles Thomas is the co-founder of, founder of AcquireConvert & CEO at Whole Design Studios. He has helped hundreds of Shopify stores grow over the last 7 years with his services and training courses.

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