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I used Instagram for Business and Doubled my Sales in One Month

instagram-for-businessIf you’re participating in the Great Online Marketing Scavenger Hunt – you know that one of the challenges is to snap a photo with Instagram – but a few people have been wondering – why Instagram? It’s a good question, and as luck would have it – we’ve got this awesome guest post about how one Internet Marketer used Instagram to double their online sales – and how you can get a little of the Instagram mojo working in your own business! (The Scavenger Hunt is over – but you can check out the results right here!)

You’re probably heard of Instagram – a photo taking and sharing application most often (it seems) used by the young and affluent to take pictures of their food and outfits with old-timey filters.

But I’d like to tell you that the service is NOT just for tech hipsters. Turns out you can turn a pretty impressive profit using tactful Instagram for your business and really thrive in the 15-30 year-old retail space.

And with every marketer and their dog raving about Pinterest for their eCommerce strategy, I have seen three times the results using Instagram for my retail business.

At a high level, Instagram works by allowing users to take and upload pictures, and then “tag” them so that other users can find and interact with them. Pretty simple right?

There are plenty of different ways to use Instagram to get clients, increase traffic and increase sales – but I’m going to focus on one or two particular techniques that made the most difference for me in my business.

Sound interesting? Listen up…

Part One: Instagram Outreach Made Simple & Effective

The first thing to do when you sign up for Instagram is to choose a username and picture that will represent your business well. It sounds obvious, but this is the only thing people will associate you with when you first get started – getting traffic back to your main blog or website isn’t something that will happen right away – so you need to choose a name and image that are highly reflective of what you’re doing, and will appeal to the people you want to connect with.

Then get started on building a following by interacting with other users through liking, sharing and commenting on their photos. Search for people who are in industries related to yours, who will have overlapping target customers.

Let show you how that might work:

I have a simple website that sells a t-shirt and hoodie referencing a very niche hip-hop artist, J Cole. I get a lot of traffic based on specific searches through Google and other search engines from that term- so I will search for it in Instagram with the hashtag #jcole to immediately connect with people who are interested in this artist.

If you have more of an audience based business, use a hashtag of a term that will mean a lot to your readers, is an issue they talk about frequently, or concerns a problem they need to have solved. For “hashtag inspiration,” check out Top-Hashtag.com – it has a pretty comprehensive (and searchable!) list of hashtags that you can browse to find relevant ones.

Now, you find images tagged with your keyword by going to the ‘Explore’ tab inside the Instagram app on your iPhone and search for #YOURKEYWORD.

PIC 1

This is what a results page will look like when you search for a hashtag – you can go through each picture to follow the original poster, and make interesting comments.

There are thousands of people that have posted pictures on Instagram that have included my hashtag – and you will likely find the same thing.

Go through the pictures one by one, and “follow” the person who posted it, and make a funny, insightful or otherwise meaningful comment on each picture. This increases the chance of getting a follow-back substantially.

Next, go through the pictures again and follow every person who “liked” it. This is a hugely important and powerful step! That person was interested enough in your topic to interact with a photo about it – that means they will be very likely to interact with photos that you post!

Now – a note about my particular hashtag. Some people will say: “Jeremy, why don’t you just go straight to J Cole’s instagram (which has over 100K followers) and start following all of them?”

Simple: If I am going to take time to follow and engage with people, I only want to concentrate on users who liked or commented on something related to J Cole. I have found that those are the most probable buyers. There will be a lot of casual (or worse, inactive) people that followed his main account. Those aren’t buyers. For you – this means not worrying about following the biggest authorities in your niche, or the most popular products, but rather the people who engaged with them. 

Now, after I have followed about 1,000 users, (I said this was effective, remember – not super-speedy!) I cut back on the following and do more commenting. This keeps your follower/following ratio more balanced, and gives your profile more authority. (We all have seen that Twitter account with 7k followers but following 25k accounts – they instantly lose credibility.)

To keep your ratio balanced comment, rather than follow if you’re following more than you are being followed. Remember – as with any social media platform engagement and credibility are highly important.

This sounds like a long, drawn-out process, I know – but keep in mind that these are simple things you can do while you are waiting in the grocery line or pumping gas. It doesn’t take much brainpower, but with time, will deliver results.

Part Two: Your Instagram Content

This part might shock you.

I spend about 5 minutes a week putting up content on Instagram.

That’s right. 5 minutes.

I post about 4-5 times a week on my account and it takes about a minute each time to choose and upload a picture.

First, do the same type explore search that I explained before. Then, choose a recent picture that is either funny, amusing or sexy, and comment on the photo: “Great picture – mind if I repost it for my followers?” Nine times out of ten, the user will say: “Sure thing!” and then you take a screenshot of the image and upload it to your account (with a link back to the original user in the description). Finally, using hashtags to accompany the picture, which makes it easily searchable.

Simple. It takes about a minute and a half all together.

You will be tempted to just blast pictures of your products on Instagram. Don’t do this. Never blatantly throw your product on your Instagram account – this is about building relationships.

PIC 2

Notice the number of relevant hashtags – this is what will make your content searchable.

The best case scenario is when you can find, and get permission to use a photo of someone using your product or doing something directly related to your service. When you post these images, people will often ask: “Where can I get this?” or “How do I do this?” Then link to your product and service pages for all you’re worth! This is really your end goal.

How does one inadvertently sell their product? Sell the lifestyle and benefits associated with it.

To reiterate: you want to be posting content that is associated with what you are selling more often than you post pictures of what you are actually selling. For example, I will repost a picture of a woman wearing the apparel I sell, but say something like “Shout out to the Dreamville girls out there”, instead of the shameless plug: “Dreamville Hoodie is on sale now till Friday”.

(It would shock you how often young people post pictures of things they buy – it’s unreal.)

This is called attraction marketing. You aren’t blatantly selling anything. But you are still inadvertently – and hypnotically – selling them 24/7 through the content.

Instagram Marketing: Examining the Numbers

Now let’s look at the data. I am results driven, and hate to spend time on endeavours that don’t pay off!

So let’s look at some of my results:

1740 followers in just a few months of casual reaching out on my part. And these aren’t random followers – these are real people who are incredibly interested in what I’m selling.

My latest uploads are averaging 250-275 likes per photo. Folks, that is one ‘like’ per 4 or 5 followers. I have yet to see this ratio of engagement on any other platform – and it translates into sales!

My sales nearly doubled from November to December in 2012. $1150 to $2100, or about a 46% increase, and all of this from using the principles of attraction marketing and engagement to get my product in front of the right people, in an environment they like at the right time.

Not too shabby for a free platform.

So take advantage of Instagram for your business while it’s still a marketing dark horse. It’s primarily a social platform – and I’m not saying we should try to turn it into an “all sales, all the time” kind of venue – you can find people who are interested in what they’re doing, build a relationship through sharing content that matters to you, and turn that into a profitable and pleasant transaction.

As the great Bill Walton recently said while commentating a basketball game:

“The fate of the known world is in the balance here…who wants it?”

I ask the same question…Who will capitalize on Instagram this year?

Who wants it?

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