Instagram Ecommerce: Simple Ways to Drive Traffic and Sales

  •    Tim is a freelance business writer. He writes about the business of innovation, comics and genre entertainment on The Full Bleed.

When it comes to using social media to gain traction, few networks are as good as Instagram. Forrester Research studied the network's impact last year and found that Instagram is 58 times more effective than Facebook and 120 times more effective than Twitter when it comes to engaging followers.

Instagrammers also have a history of connecting with eCommerce brands. A 2015 study from Iconosquare (via Social Media Examiner) found that 70 percent of the 16,000 users it tracked had looked for a brand on the network. Of those, 62 percent said they follow brands they love on Instagram, while 41 percent said they engage for access to perks and giveaways.

If you aren't using Instagram to bolster your eCommerce efforts, it's time to get a strategy. Here are three ways to leverage your Instagram account to boost sales.

1. Run a Contest.

If you use Instagram to showcase the products you sell or promote, a contest can inspire followers to spread the word and grow your audience. Say you have a photography blog and an advertising relationship with a camera manufacturer. Ask for a gift card or similar giveaway. Then, create a contest whereby you post particularly stunning shots of the manufacturer's cameras to your Instagram account over a week. Followers who share the photo with at least two friends who sign up to follow you get entered into a drawing for the prize. Repeat once a quarter. (And if you need further inspiration, Iconosquare keeps track of ongoing Instagram photo contests via a search you can bookmark here.)

2. Create an Instagram-only Coupon

Like Pinterest, Instagram is now testing a "shop" button when advertising certain products on the network. There's a good reason for this: Instagram has been a boon for small businesses selling products. How might your make it work for your site? Take a look at your Google Analytics data to find the products from your site that visitors browse most but fail to buy. Take some photos for an Instagram promotion and then get creative. Offer a 10 percent off coupon to shoppers who discover the product on your Instagram, and then another 5 percent off if they share the coupon with three friends. Also: set a deadline of 72 hours. That way, you'll force into action the Instagram followers and browsers who like the deal while also adding to your list of prospects.

​Or, you can simply take a lesson from jewelry artist Christina O., who uses Instagram to not only highlight products found in the marketplace at her website but also to advertise coupons and deals. Customers are buying in response.

3. Create a Showroom

Like most social networks, Instagram isn't self-contained. Tools such as SnapWidget (if you don't mind ads) and Instansive (if you do) make it possible to embed your best photos at your eCommerce site, creating a sort-of virtual showroom for visitors. You can also use the widget to encourage visitors to follow you on Instagram. That's what pro architect and photographer Emmanuel Ramírez does with Wikenly, his site for selling prints that highlight the spectacular views on the beaches of Puerto Rico. An embedded Instagram feed gives visitors a feel for Ramírez's eye while teasing prints to come.

​By itself, adding an Instagram feed on your eCommerce site won't drive more business. But it can help if you actively engage with those who've taken the time to follow you. Reward followers with contests and Instagram-only coupons. Highlight your best photos with an embedded showroom. The more touch points you have with customers and prospects, the more they see and experience your work, and the more likely it is that they'll buy from you and recommend you to others.