social media how toDo you want to attract more attention from fans and followers?

Have you considered Instagram as a key marketing tool?

If you’re not on Instagram or haven’t applied your resources there, it’s time to start.

Instagram has 75 million daily users and multiple opportunities to reach your target audience.

In this article, you’ll discover eight ways you can use Instagram to increase your reach, engagement and sales.

nike instagram profile

Tap into Instagram’s highly engaged audience to promote your products and services.

#1: Use High-Resolution Photos

Striking visual content grabs the attention of potential buyers, and it’s the most important factor in fan engagement on Instagram for brands like Zappos.

zappos instagram profile

High-resolution photos are more likely to catch someone’s eye.

To that end, I recommend posting only high-resolution photos on Instagram. Smartphone photos are good for in-the-moment action and instant uploads, but consider hiring a professional photographer to take HD images of your products.

#2: Make It Easy for Fans to Buy

Part of the reason people follow your company on Instagram is that they like your products and want to know about new products and discounts.

nike instagram link in image description

Include a link in the image description to make it easy for fans to buy your product.

When Nike posts product pictures, they use the image description to include a link to the relevant product page on your website. Your followers will appreciate how easy it is to buy or find out more about the items they’re interested in.

#3: Use a Soft Sell

It’s no secret your endgame is a sale, but you don’t have to make it obvious. Use your photos to tell a story that resonates with your followers and subtly features your product.

sharpie instagram images

Use subtle marketing and showcase user pictures when possible.

Sharpie‘s Instagram stream is a great example of subtle selling. They don’t show their products as much as they show what people can do with their products. Sharpie gets in front of their audience with compelling content while selling their product, but they do it in a way that’s not intrusive.

Much of Sharpie’s content is actually shared by their followers and reshared by the company, and their fans look forward to seeing the inspiring pictures.

#4: Create a Personal Bond

Don’t feel like everything you post needs to be a product picture. The NHL knows that behind-the-scenes photos that reveal your company’s personality help build a personal bond with your audience.

nhl instagram

The NHL takes their fans and followers behind the scenes, on the ground with Instagram.

The more you share those in-the-moment photos and engage with your fans, the more your fans feel like part of your company community. That kind of bond is what creates loyal fans who later become brand evangelists.

#5: Use Instagram Direct

Instagram Direct allows Instagram users to send pictures and video to others privately; a direct message (DM) on Twitter or a private message (PM) on Facebook. Only you and the person or group you send a message to can see the content and subsequent conversation.

With Instagram Direct, you can reach your most engaged fans via a personal message. In fact, you have the option to reach out to individual followers or create a group message of up to 15 followers. You can even segment your group based on location and demographics. What an opportunity!

To find your most engaged fans, look through your photo stream and see which followers stand out. Perhaps there are fans who comment a lot or favorite your photos more than others. Your most active fans are the most likely to buy your products.

When you’ve identified your most active fans, you can create a group message to introduce new products, announce giveaways and contests, drive traffic to your website and more.

You can also use Instagram Direct as a chat forum. You can invite a group of people to attend a Q&A session, introduce a product with quick how-to advice or even handle customer complaints.

Keep in mind that you still have to send a picture out to the group to get started. Instagram Direct doesn’t support text-only messages.

When you use Instagram Direct as a marketing tool, it’s extremely important to send something creative and interesting. Anything that appears remotely spammy will end with those users unfollowing you.

#6: Share Offers and Discounts

One of the main reasons people follow brands on any platform is to get information about sales and discounts. Like WalMart, you can capitalize on that by rewarding your fans with exclusive deals, either publicly via the Instagram feed or privately via Instagram Direct.

walmart instagram offers

Reward followers with discounts and special offers.

You already know word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful thing. When your followers get exclusive discounts, they tell their friends. Those friends are likely to follow you as well to get the discount.

#7: Host Giveaways and Contests

Giveaways and contests are always popular with fans and brands. And why not? They generate buzz and each side benefits. Your fans have an opportunity to win something and you have an opportunity to reach a wider audience and gain new followers.

Keep your giveaway or contest theme simple, fun and brand-related. If it’s too broad, you’ll get irrelevant photos from people who aren’t interested in your brand or products. If it’s too narrow, people won’t bother to take and share pictures.

instagram kitchenaid hashtag example

KitchenAid used a branded hashtag so they could track entries and reinforce their brand.

When you host your giveaway or contest, use a unique hashtag. Without a hashtag, you won’t see all entries or be able to track your success. Using a hashtag that includes your brand’s name gives you the added benefit of clearly branding your campaign.

Above, you can see how KitchenAid included key information in their image and made their brand stand out.

#8: Stream Instagram to Your Website

Did you know you can stream Instagram photos to your website? Cool, right?

Sharing Instagram photos from campaigns (like a giveaway) is great for exposure and sharing. Even if you’re not hosting a giveaway, ask followers to share Instagram pictures of themselves using your product (don’t forget to have them use your hashtag!).

Lululemon promotes their #thesweatlife hashtag by streaming Instagram photos shared by their fans. They’ve even segmented their apparel with additional hashtags.

lululemon instagram follower images

Ask fans to share pictures of your products, then stream them to your website.

Here’s an important tip: You must be familiar with and follow Instagram’s terms of service. In this instance, you need to know that you can’t save submitted photos. Just because someone submits a photo does not mean you own it.

When you embed an Instagram photo stream on your website, you may only use the appropriate Instagram URL. If a user removes his photo from Instagram, the photo will no longer show on your website.

The Takeaway

Not only is Instagram perfect for connecting with customers, its image- and video-based format is ideal for increasing brand awareness and user engagement. It’s a goldmine of promotional opportunities. The more your company participates in the community and shares compelling photos, the larger its community will grow.

Once you have a sizeable audience, you can start generating buzz through public and private campaigns, as well as giveaways or contests.

What do you think? Is Instagram an effective marketing tool for your brand? Have you reached out to customers via Instagram Direct? Leave your comments below.

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  • First I’m glad that you called Instagram a tool, “Have you considered Instagram as a key marketing tool?” because it’s not smart is to build the core of your business around something that can change in a heartbeat. (Applause)

    To me what resonated most out of all of these tips was the fact you must have a homebase (website) to direct traffic back to and sell your ideas, products or services. Thanks for sharing Kinjal Adeshara!

  • Great post! I’ve been digging around recently to figure out if I should create a company page for my business on LinkedIn. The more I read about it, the more I feel I need too. Based on my experience with my personal account it seems like LinkedIn users are more engaged than say those on Twitter.

  • Hi Brian, it seems like this comment got mixed up. This article is on Instagram 😉 Yes, LinkedIn is definitely an active social space.

  • treb072410

    Amazing! I really had a great read.. It was very informative.. Thanks for sharing…

  • OMG, what an idiot I am. Guess that’s what happens when you have multiple browsers open and try making a comment before finishing that first cup of coffee. I’m sorry. At any rate, Instagram is another platform that I haven’t yet got the hang of for my business. But, this post provides several great tips for me to get started.

  • Kinjal Adeshara

    Thanks, I’m glad you liked the post.

  • Awesome tips Kinjal. I’ve just recently started an Instagram page after reading that it was the fastest growing network right now. I can say that after about a month, it’s definitely a powerful tool for marketers. The engagement and interaction I’ve found there trumps anything that I’ve been getting anywhere else.

  • How does posting a long link like the link in #2 benefit brands if consumers can’t click it? Instagram doesn’t allow links to be clicked in captions yet. The best thing to do would be to change the link in your bio/profile in reference to the last photo posted.

  • Madhava Verma Dantuluri

    Very good one, Instagram is good and lots of scope for branding.

  • Happsters from

    That’s what I was wondering too, Alexis.

  • Taylor LaMott

    I was wondering the same thing, since it is not a hyperlink.

  • AlisaMeredith

    My thoughts exactly! I so wish they would allow linking from captions. Maybe it’s a new feature we don’t all have yet? Please!? 🙂

  • Max’s

    I have had issues with posting a direct link to a product from my website in an image description on instagram. It does not show up as a direct link, so viewers have to copy and paste it as a separate URL. Has anyone found this to be true or have a different way to go about posting a direct link onto an image description?

  • Katie Thiel

    Wondering the same thing. Is that a new feature? That would be pretty big news, I would think!

  • Instagram (or should I say Facebook!) should definitely make this a new feature or make it so if you hold your finger down on a picture it goes to a link because right now it is not beneficial to brands if they can’t link to their product.

    And plus that link should be shortened anyway! please!

  • Nikita Alok Sharma

    Thanks for sharing the nice post. The idea of contest is very nice.

  • Amber

    I was wondering the same….I’m on Android..maybe it’s an iOS thing?

  • JustBats

    I agree, #2 is very misleading. I knew that links weren’t possible in the comment section, and this sent me scrambling to see if there had been an upgrade. Although this is a helpful article to review, #2 and the Nike image make it look like there is a URL option that actually doesn’t exist. Hopefully it’s a feature that is coming soon!

  • Pingback: Marketing Day: Yahoo Q1 Beats Expectations, Search Stronger Than Display()

  • Yeah – #2 is actually the link to share if you’re viewing via web.stagram! Definitely not a link to the product page.

  • winechick

    At the moment you can’t add a URL but you can change your website in your profile for that time period if you are trying to drive traffic to Facebook or your website or a contest, etc. At least then all your followers have to do is click your name then tap your URL. That’s worked for me in the past. Another way, if your URL is straightforward, is to add it as the location. It’s not a link, but it will at least show up right above the photo.

  • AlisaMeredith

    Me, too! I looked all over – on my phone and on desktop – hoping. But yeah, if this ever happens, it will be shouted from the rooftops and we are unlikely to miss it! 🙂

  • leshawn

    links don’t work when posted in the description on instagram tho..

  • Adam

    So how do you upload high-res photos onto Instagram?

  • Kinjal Adeshara

    Oops! You are right Alexis, the image is misleading. Sorry for the goof up.

    It is possible to link to your product pages on Facebook, but in a slightly roundabout way as winechick has explained well: “At the moment you can’t add a URL but you can change your website in your profile for that time period if you are trying to drive traffic to Facebook or your website or a contest, etc. At least then all your followers have to do is click your name then tap your URL. That’s worked for me in the past. Another way, if your URL is straightforward, is to add it as the location. It’s not a link, but it will at least show up right above the photo.”

  • Stephen Smith

    I was about to comment and say get yourself a account Alexis you’ll love it. Can’t go wrong with 🙂

  • Rick

    This article should have been titled, “How to create Instagram Spam”. For me (and I think the majority of users) Instagram is a mobile photography sharing platform. I don’t use Instagram to find the next get rich quick scheme or buy a pair shoes. When I see profiles like this I immediately block them and report them for spam.
    This article however is great advice for Twitter or Facebook. Please, just keep it off Instagram.

  • Max’s

    Thank you!

  • Jess Afonso

    This is a great post. I have a question about #2. I have tried to add a clickable link to my Instagram captions but once I post it, the link can’t be clicked on or copied. I know that there is a way to add a link to my bio but I feel it would be more effective under the picture I’m uploading at that moment.
    My question is, “Is there a way of adding an accessible link to my caption?”.

  • Brandon Smith

    I agree with you on all points except one: High Resolution Photos.

    Although I could banter about a number of points, mostly that Instagram is, simply put, an “in the moment” photo sharing medium that was not intended to be used for professionally touched photos, resolution really only matters if the intents of the photo are that they be printed. Remember, resolution refers to, in the world of device screens, pixels per inch. If your viewer’s screen is only 72ppi (though the typical computer screen varies somewhat) than your photo will only be 72ppi even if you uploaded it at 300ppi.
    Even with that in mind, the majority of smart phone cameras are set to take photos at much larger ppi ratios (the iPhone 4s is set at 336ppi) which is more than suitable for print purposes.

    I’d recommend modifying your point’s focus to be on creating striking visual content and aesthetically pleasing photos, not on meeting a specific resolution ratio.

  • Thanks Kinjal for this post! Those are 8 tips people can use RIGHT NOW! Personally I found the Direct Messaging idea the most compelling. That is definitely a feature that has been greatly overlooked.

    Thanks again!

  • Jitendra Padmashali

    Always fell wonderful to read your post Kinjal, If you are a small or large business who can tell your story visually then you need to be using Instagram for business to help generate foot, website and phone traffic!

  • Ture about the short straightforward link Kinjal!

  • Just to touch and weigh in on your LinkedIn option. I think you should create a profile for your company, at the very least! It is such a valuable business tool for owners to leverage. Don’t miss out.

  • Sarah

    Thanks for sharing these tips! I feel that Instagram is still new to the company or business world and organizations are still learning how to use it. Also the site is still changing and molding to better serve their users.
    I especially like tip #2. I see items posted by companies and they don’t post links to where you can buy them. The point of using marketing sites is to direct consumers to your page and products easily.

  • I think Instagram is simply good for creating brand awareness as opposed to being a real marketing platform .

  • Somebody with a made up title

    Sorry – but that’s just what marketers do. We’ll find out where you like to ‘hangout’ online and then proceed to bombard it with advertising until you move onto next ‘new’ platform (Check your fb newsfeed for evidence).

    It’s all the better if the advertising is related to things you actually like and find value in as that will drive sales faster and keep you browsing longer. But unfortunately instagram’s business model is not furthered by mobile photography enthusists. Instead, like all social media platforms today, it is predicated on aggregating consumer data for the purpose of targeted selling.

    Until people are willing to pay cash for a social media platform (spoiler: not soon) they’ll happily continue paying with their data and marketers will be forever chasing.