Want to turn your Instagram followers into paying customers? Not sure where to begin?
In this article, you’ll discover the biggest mistakes to avoid and how to turn engaged fans into customers.
Why You Should Be Selling on Instagram
Instagram has been around since 2010. That's centuries in social media time! But it still stands out from the competition as the perfect channel to build a community, connect with people on an individual level, and make sales.
Instagram has over 2 billion monthly active users. At the end of last year, it had more app downloads than TikTok – the new kid on the social networking block. It's cemented its lead with a visual update for 2022 that made headlines around the world.
Instagram is still growing fast and the majority of its users are young, Gen Z and Millennial consumers who want to hear from brands. But that doesn't mean that selling on Instagram will take care of itself.
You still need to be active and intentional about the community you create, the content you share, and the messages you send out.
Here are 5 things you need to know about selling on Instagram in 2022…
#1: Build a Community on Instagram, Not Just an Audience
On Instagram, you don't just have followers. You have a community.
What's the difference? A community goes both ways. When you share content on the social network, you'll hear back from people with likes, comments, DMs, remixes and stickers. It's one of the platform's greatest strengths.
Instagram Is an All-In-One Platform
Other social networks, such as TikTok or YouTube, tend to focus on a single type of content. They also have limited ways for people to interact with that content. For example, you can comment on a YouTube video; but you can't split off into a private conversation with the video's creator.
Instagram offers a huge range of content formats: still images, videos, short clips, even custom AR lenses and effects. And it gives you all the tools you need to attract new followers, nurture the relationship, and finally convert them into customers.
If you're only posting one type of content, or you're only focusing on one stage of the buyer's journey, then you're missing out.
Instagram Gives You More Exposure
Those different content formats mean more potential touchpoints. And Instagram does seem to have a better record than other social networks for actually showing your posts to your followers.
Facebook is notorious for limiting the reach of official Pages. Other social networks, like TikTok, are built around discovering new content – so people are less likely to see your posts even if they choose to follow you.
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In the latest Social Media Marketing Industry report from Social Media Examiner, 75% of you told us that Instagram gets you more exposure than any other social network. The platform was built to develop relationships, and that's why it's such a powerful tool for sales and conversions.
#2: Break the Instagram Content Formula
It's easy to get comfortable with a strategy, repeat it endlessly, and then wonder why growth is slowing. Remember: you're not the only account that people follow. You need to stand out and offer variety over time.
You want to build a community and strengthen relationships with your followers over time. But that doesn't mean always serving up exactly the same content.
Imagine how boring it would be if you had a close friend, you got on really well – but every time you hung out, you had exactly the same conversation. Word for word.
Sounds boring, right? That's why you need to vary your content on Instagram to keep people engaged.
Vary Post Formats
Sometimes it's tempting to go all-in on a single post format. For example, when Instagram released the Reels feature for short videos, some brands pivoted to video overnight.
But that's not actually ideal for your sales strategy. Different content formats will work better for different phases of your sales pitch. For example, carousel photo posts are great for in-depth explainers, while Reels are good for reach and making initial contact with potential followers.
Vary Content Within Post Formats, Too
Content creators sometimes refer to this as using different “modalities”. That's a fancy word for a very simple concept: Show people something different!
For example, if you usually record Stories as a quick chat to your phone camera, try something different. Take photos behind the scenes, record a point-of-view video, or create some quick text slides. Try featuring different locations, people, and interactive stickers in your posts, too.
Varying the content will keep people watching for longer. It can also be important for accessibility. Remember, everyone has different accessibility needs, learning styles, and preferences for how they like to consume content on social media.
#3: Actively Learn More About Your Community
Understanding best practices on Instagram is a good idea. Knowing exactly what works best for your specific community is even better.
And don't be afraid to dive deep. You don't just want to know the basic information that Instagram shows: demographics, peak time online, engagement rates. You want to know things like who else your community follows, what attracted them to your profile in the first place, what they like best about your offer, why they haven't become customers yet…
So how do you get all that data?
Run a Survey
Running a survey can be as easy or as complex as you like. No business is too big or small to listen to their customers!
- Easy mode: create a poll in your Stories. Ask people to select an answer to a question, or use an emoji slider to show how strongly they feel.
- Advanced mode: create a more formal survey with a survey platform or Google Forms. This gives you space to ask people more open-ended questions, where they can write their opinions in their own words.
However you choose to run a survey, don't forget to offer your followers an incentive. Share a discount code, free gift, or prize draw when they complete all the questions.
Finally, remember that a survey is not a one-off. Your audience will change, develop, and evolve over time. So you'll need to check in again regularly to make sure that your content is still on track.
Start a Conversation
Here's a great example of how Instagram's all-in-one platform helps you to reach people.
You can share a public post on your profile that invites people to message you directly. For example, you could ask them to DM you with a keyword so that you know they're interested in a particular issue or offer.
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Once those followers land in your DMs, keep the conversation real. Listen – and I mean really listen – to their comments, questions, and worries. Use the conversation to build a relationship… and qualify the lead at the same time. Then you can offer people something that's really relevant to them – whether that's a product recommendation, a link to a lead magnet, or a connection to someone in your customer service team.
#4: 4 Types of Strategic Instagram Content to Post
We've already talked about how you need to vary your post formats and your content to reach a wide audience and keep people engaged. But now it's time to get a bit more specific. Whatever you're posting on Instagram – whatever you're selling on Instagram – you need to keep these 4 types of strategic content in mind.
Show Expertise Every Day
The first and most important point is to be consistent.
Maybe you created an awesome post that went viral – but when people come to your profile, they see that you're posting infrequently or irregularly. It's not a good look.
You want to show your expertise every day. Post regularly so that people can see there is real value in following you.
Share “Belief-Shifting” Content
When someone chooses to join your community on Instagram, they're doing that for a reason.
Maybe you're sharing knowledge that no one else has. Maybe your products represent an aspiration for your followers. Maybe your posts inspire them and empower them.
The point is that your content should improve people's lives – whether that's by motivating them, giving them new ideas, or sharing expert insights. This type of content creates gratitude and encourages people to keep following and interacting with you.
Show The Person Behind The Content
One fundamental truth of social media: People like people. We're always interested in photos, videos, and stories about our fellow human beings. And you can tap into that for your content strategy.
It's a good idea to re-introduce yourself on your Instagram profile regularly. New followers will feel welcomed into your community, and long-standing followers will get a reminder of the person behind the content.
Share “Offer-Focused” Content
Showing daily expertise, showing the person behind the profile, sharing inspirational content… These are all great ways to reach followers and get those short-term engagement wins.
But you also need to think about the long-term.
Lots of people are confident in building up an Instagram presence, but when it comes time to sell, they get nervous. They see posts which outline their offers and pricing get low engagement, and they think that followers hate these posts.
The posts where you actively sell might get less engagement within Instagram. But they will get those clicks and conversions outside the platform. In fact, experience has consistently shown that most people aren't selling hard enough on Instagram. You might have a dedicated community – but they're not buying because they just haven't heard enough about what you're offering.
If you're just getting into selling on Instagram, here are some ideas for strategic posts that sell:
- Share a carousel post where the final image or video is a call to action. You're still putting plenty of value into your content, but you're asking for the sale as well.
- Choose one day of the week where you share a positive review from a client, followed by a CTA. The social proof will encourage more people to convert.
- Automate your sales strategy! Use software like MobileMonkey or Minichat so that when people comment or DM with a specific keyword, they instantly get sent a lead magnet. You can take the sales conversation from there.
#5: Match your KPIs to Your Goals
One last piece of advice: Make sure you're looking at the right analytics.
Often people look at the wrong metrics and then get discouraged. But you need to think about what you're trying to achieve. If you want more sales, does it matter how many likes your posts have? If you want more reach, do total comments or total views matter more?
Don't give up on a strategy just because it doesn't perform in the areas you're used to. And if you're not seeing the results you hoped for, make sure you're asking for the right kind of engagement. For example, if you really want a sale, don't waste time asking for comments and likes!
Running social media does cost money (and time, which is money), so each piece of content should have a return on investment. That's why it's important to share strategic content and ask for the sale. Even if you don't hit those conventional metrics of social media success, you will see your business grow.
Other Notes From This Episode
- Save your spot in Vanessa's free course teaching her Followers to Clients SystemsTM at FollowerstoClients.com
- Connect with Michael Stelzner at @Stelzner on Instagram or @Mike_Stelzner on Twitter.
- Watch this interview and other exclusive content from Social Media Examiner on YouTube.
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