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How to Sell on Instagram Like the Pros [Proven Tips & Strategies]

Jul 16, 2018 11 min readSocial Media Marketing

How to listen: iTunes | Google Play | SoundCloud | Stitcher | RSS

By now, you’ve most likely heard that the Instagram platform has surpassed 1 billion monthly active users worldwide and that 400 million+ people are using Instagram Stories on a daily basis.

But, did you know that Instagram now makes up more than one-third (36%) of Facebook’s total ad revenue? A revenue number that is expected to grow to $5.4 billion in the U.S. alone in 2018 and $9 billion globally by 2020.

Needless to say, Instagram advertising is becoming a huge deal  for Facebook and an even greater opportunity for business looking to diversify their advertising channels and reach new customers.

In our latest episode of The Science of Social Media, we’re exploring tons of detailed tips, strategies, and best-practices for how businesses can sell on Instagram like the pros.

Let’s dive in!

How to Sell Your Product on Instagram Like the Pros - Proven Tips and Strategies

What you’ll learn in this episode

What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the conversation between Hailley Griffis and Brian Peters. Short on time? No worries! Here are four quick takeaways:

  • Instagram Shoppable Posts: How they work, how to set them up, and how to get started
  • Our top dos and don’ts when it comes to how to sell on Instagram
  • Why UGC (user generated content) and influencer marketing are a few of our go-to Instagram marketing strategies
  • How to create an Instagram business profile that doubles as your business’ home page
  • Measuring the ROI of your Instagram advertising efforts

Must-read resources on how to sell on Instagram

How to sell on Instagram [complete podcast transcript]

Hailley: Hi everyone! I’m Hailley Griffis and this is The Science of Social Media, a podcast by Buffer. Your weekly sandbox for social media stories, insights, experimentation, and learning.

Brian: Welcome to episode #103! I’m Brian Peters and this week we’re exploring the exciting world of Instagram advertising. There are many opportunities for brands, businesses, and entrepreneurs to sell on Instagram – and all they need is a solid place and guide to get started.

Hailley: And what do you know – we’ve got that (and more) in store for you today. Let’s kick off the show!

Brian: In September of last year, Instagram announced their business community has grown to 2 million advertisers, up from one million advertisers back in March of 2017.

Now in 2018, that number is rapidly growing, which means 1) it’s a perfect opportunity for your business to jump on this exciting advertising trend and 2) two million advertisers might seem like a lot, but in reality, competition is still fairly low and return on investment remains high compared to other platforms such as Google and Facebook.

Hailley: Instagram is a very promising platform in terms of both organic posting AND advertising in 2018 and beyond.

Learning how to promote your products on Instagram without seeming sales-y offers businesses of all shapes, sizes, products, and services some incredible opportunities to reach their target audience and drive sales.

Get this, KeyBank analyst Andy Hargreaves recently estimated that Instagram could generate nearly $9 billion in revenue this year – and one The Street analyst believes that Instagram could hit 1.1 billion monthly active users by the end of 2018.

Meaning, your target audience is likely on the Instagram platform… or will be very, very soon.

Brian: Very soon!

However, being that Instagram is a visual platform first and foremost, the rules of the game are a bit different than you might be used to with other forms of social network advertising and posting.

Businesses and advertisers need to take a different mindset going in. Instagram is all about inspiration, discovery, branding, and what AdWeek calls the “continuation of customer journeys”

Hailley: Exactly. And, of course, the tradeoff with ads focusing on inspiration, discovery and branding is that there tends to be less drive for users to click directly on the ads, since their engagement is more likely to be about simply viewing what ads are offering to them than, say, purchasing a product.

But! this doesn’t mean that Instagram posts and ads aren’t valuable—in fact, it can be quite the opposite.

Instagram is one of the best platforms for brands to engage with customers who may not have intended to purchase a specific product.

Brian: So with that. What we have for you in today’s episode is a list of best-practices, tools, and key data points that you’ll need to know to be successful with Instagram posting and advertising, and ultimately, selling your product or service on the platform.

And remember, every successful content marketing and advertising strategy contains a willingness to experiment a TON, analyze results, and learn quickly.

The best top-level advice we can give you right off the bat is to take a growth marketing approach to your Instagram sales efforts.

Hailley: Alright, right off the bat lets cover Instagram Shoppable Posts.

You might have seen these in your feed over the last few months, but essentially Shoppable Posts allow eCommerce and others businesses to tag and add products directly to an image.

Users can then click on a specific product within an image and purchase the item directly on Instagram. So from discovery to checkout, users never have to leave the Instagram app which is pretty incredible.

Brian: Yeah I’ll admit that I’ve been hooked by several Shoppable Posts over the last few weeks. The experience is pretty seamless and fun actually.

However there are a few eligibility requirements you’ll need to check off before you can get started with Instagram shoppable posts:

  1. You must be located in one of the following countries: United States, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, or Australis
  2. You need an Instagram business account
  3. You must be on the latest version of the Instagram app on either iOS or Android.

Hailley: Yeah, all pretty easy to that point. But there are two more steps to get started which can be a little tricky.

The first is that your business must sell physical goods that comply with Instagram’s merchant agreement and commerce policies. You can find these on Facebook’s website by searching “Facebook commerce policies” in Google.

And then second, your business profile must be connected to a Facebook catalog. This can be created and managed on Business Manager, directly on your business’s Page on Facebook, or through a 3rd party tool like Shopify.

Brian: I know it’s a bit hard to demonstrate how to complete the steps that Hailley just mentioned, however, be sure to check out this episode’s description in iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts and we’ll include a great resource that HubSpot recently created on getting all of this stuff set up.

Anyhow, as soon as you’ve completed those steps, your account will be reviewed by Instagram before you can access their shoppable posts feature. And once you’ve been approved, you will receive a notification letting you know you’re ready to start selling on Instagram. Boom!

Hailley: And that’s where the fun begins!

Whether you have access to Shoppable posts or not, there are some must-dos (and donts) when it comes to selling your product. And these apply to both organic posting and advertising on Instagram.

The first is that while selling on Instagram is easier than ever, it’s important to remember your audience shouldn’t feel like they are being sold to.

One way to think about it is that you as a business should aim to maintain your current content strategy, and only incorporating shoppable tags on photos that are a natural fit for your profile. The same goes for organic content as well.

Brian: Great point, Hailley. In other words, you’re going to have a lot more success by doing what’s already working for you rather than completely changing your strategy to try and sell products.

For example, a great way to organically sell your products through your posts is by leveraging high-quality user-generated content in your content and ads.

Here’s a fun fact, Millennials trust UGC 50% more than other types of media, so it makes sense that these images would work well for selling your product as well.

One of my favorite brands on Instagram is a outdoor retailer called Huckberry. They do a great job of incorporating UGC into their content naturally. Definitely go check them out for inspiration.

Hailley: Yeah and somewhat in the same realm of UGC is that you can also optimize your Instagram sales strategy by using influencer posts.

According to HubSpot, Instagram influencer collaborations and sponsorships have nearly replaced traditional ads and are a huge part of a social media strategies today.

One cool example of this is when Herschel Supply (a brand many of you might have heard of) featured a popular fashion model (Michelle Dee) using one of their suitcases on their profile. They of course tagged the suitcase allowing users to instantly purchase it.

Brian: Such a good example, Hailley, and so easily replicated as well.

You can quickly identify several influencers in your space and offer them some sort of compensation for capturing themselves using your product or talking about your product in some way.

Then, you can feature that post on your profile. And for a double win, you can also have them post it to their profile as well.

Lots of fun and creative ways to go about it.

Hailley: Switching over to some quick-fire tips and strategies for selling on Instagram like the pros.

First and foremost, and we’ve chatted about this before, is to treat your business profile as if it were your website’s homepage.

Think about this, there are currently about 3.2 billion internet users in the world.

1.1 billion of those people use Instagram. Meaning that more than one-third of the earth’s population of internet users are on Instagram searching, exploring, and connecting with brands and influencers.

It’s time we start treating social media profiles as more than just a means to an end. They are becoming the end!

Brian: Perfectly said, Hailley. Love that.

So what does this mean for you, you might ask?

Well, this massive shift in behavior means you should be spending as much time and effort curating a beautifully-designed Instagram feed as you would creating your website.

Yup, I said it!

Your Instagram Business profile is your first opportunity to make a great impression and entice people to follow your business. By creating a consistent brand story and aesthetic, you can turn new customers into devoted followers – taking one giant leap closer to making a sale.

Hailley: Another quick tip, along with doing what already works, is to use one of the most effective strategies out there for Instagram advertising and that’s promoting posts you’ve shared on Instagram.

Once you have a Business profile set up on Instagram, you can decide how much you want spend, where you’d like the ad to be seen, and how long you want to run it for.

What we do to decide which posts to advertise with is focus on engagement rate, rather than guessing or randomly picking posts. You can quickly calculate engagement rate for posts by going to your Business profile analytics and dividing the total engagement by total reach.

We also offer many of those same Instagram analytics and data points within the Buffer product for marketers managing Instagram from our dashboard.

Brian: Yeah, I love using Buffer to quickly figure out which posts to boost on Facebook and Instagram. Super easy.

One pro tip is to make sure that you’re using Facebook Ads Manager to manager (instead of just using the Promote button. This will give you a lot more options when it comes to audience targeting, creative, budgeting, and placements. So just a quick heads-up there.

Hailley: Yeah and, this is material for a separate episode entirely because there’s a ton to cover, but a lot of what we’re talking about today applies to Instagram Stories as well.

So, the basics like making sure you have a complete business profile, not totally changing your strategy just to sell, experimenting a ton, and promoting what works instead of guessing are all applicable to Stories.

However, I know I glossed over that part a bit, so stay tuned for another episode in the near future about using Stories, videos, and multimedia to continue to sell your products on Instagram.

Brian: Good call, Hailley. We could easily turn this episode into a 4-hour deep dive into Instagram advertising. Which we might have to do at one point!

But one more thing that I wanted to mention before you go is measuring the success of your Instagram content and Ads.

Be sure, be sure you have some sort of attribution model or tracking set up for your Instagram content, particularly with ads.

Hailley: Yeah, one of the biggest frustrations we hear from businesses is that they aren’t able to track the success and ROI of their advertising content.

Ensuring that your Instagram ads get credit for their role in any conversion is paramount to painting a clear picture of the full customer purchase journey.

And it has other benefits like making you look like a genius as well as justification for increasing your advertising budget in the future.

Brian: Yeah so first and foremost, use some sort of doc or spreadsheet to keep track of the links you’re using, the copy and image that was used with those links, and how they performed.

It’s important to keep experimenting with images, copy, shopping tags per post, or any other factors that may contribute to your Instagram sales success and have a system in place to track all of that will only make your job easier.

Hailley: No matter what type of products you sell, delving into your Instagram analytics allows you to understand your audience’s wants, improves your content, and ultimately helps you drive more traffic and sales.

Brian: Thank you for tuning in to the Science of Social Media today. The show notes for this episode are available in either iTunes, Soundcloud, or wherever you get your podcasts. We’ll include links to all of the resources we covered into today’s show.

If you ever want to get in touch with me or Brian, we’re always here for your on social media using the hashtag #bufferpodcast. You can also say hi to us anytime and

Hailley: As always, thank you so much for your iTunes reviews! We see more and more pouring in every week and we can’t tell you how much they mean to us.

Our goal is to get to 200 reviews by the end of the year and we’d love for you to help us make it happen!

How to say hello to us

We would all love to say hello to you on social media – especially Twitter!

Thanks for listening! Feel free to connect with our team at Buffer on Twitter, Buffer on Facebook, our Podcast homepage, or with the hashtag #bufferpodcast.

Enjoy the show? It’d mean the world to us if you’d be up for giving us a rating and review on iTunes!

About The Science of Social Media podcast

The Science of Social Media is your weekly sandbox for social media stories, insights, experimentation, and inspiration. Every Monday (and sometimes more) we share the most cutting-edge social media marketing strategies from brands and influencers in every industry. If you’re a social media team of one, business owner, marketer, or someone simply interested in social media marketing, you’re sure to find something useful in each and every episode.  It’s our hope that you’ll join our 15,000+ weekly iTunes listeners and rock your social media channels as a result!

The Science of Social Media is proudly made by the Buffer team. Feel free to get in touch with us for any thoughts, ideas, or feedback.

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