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Here's a fact.

Instagram just hit 150 million users and is becoming a social platform that’s harder and harder to ignore.

However, what’s more interesting is that recently a study published by L2 Think Tank found that Instagram gives brands 25 percent more engagement than any other social platform out there, including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

The photo-sharing app has experienced a 900 percent year-over-year growth since its launch and has a user demographic composed of roughly 70 percent women and 30 percent men according to the research firm. 

Some of the factors that account for its success have typically been attributed to the fact it’s a native mobile platform and that it almost entirely visual, a winning combination considering the rise of the visual web ever since other visually-dominant platforms like Pinterest entered the picture (no pun intended).

So, Instagram is kind of a big deal, but how can you make it work for your ecommerce brand?

Here are 4 ways to leverage Instagram for your business.

1. Run a Campaign or Contest

When it comes to user-generated content, let’s just say you can never have too much of a good thing, and there’s no better way to do it than running a campaign or contest on Instagram. 

Unless you’ve got the brand recognition of a Nike or Starbucks, this is a great way to incentivize and get your customers to share their purchases and what they love most about your brand.

Getting started with running one is pretty simple:

  • Choose the right incentive by giving away something people want
  • Pick a campaign hashtag with both simplicity and uniqueness in mind
  • Have a theme that gives your campaign a point of focus
  • Aggregate and display the content online 

Luckily, if you’re not inclined to pull photos directly from Instagram’s API, there’s plenty of handy tools to make your life easier when it comes to making your Instagram contests and campaigns come to life.

A few we recommend checking out are:

A great example of a brand doing Instagram contest marketing right is Michael Kors. They run a contest where users have a chance to win one of three limited edition timepieces when they upload a photo flaunting one of their watches with the hashtag #mktimeless.

Here’s an example of a submission:


Incentivizing your Instagram account with contests is great way to build engagement and make your account more interesting and valuable to your audience.

2. Add User-Generated Instagram Photos to your Product Pages

This is a great way to demonstrate to current or prospective customers that your products are not only popular but purchased regularly courtesy of a well-known psychological phenomenon known as “social proof”, a concept we covered in-depth in our post on psychological triggers that increase sales.

The gist of it is that being social creatures, we have a tendency to like things other people we can relate to also like. Why not give your prospective customers product images of actual customers using and loving your product in addition to the glossy models and fancy product images?

Here’s a great example of this concept in action from Free People:

To add Instagram photos to your product pages, check out Olapic, one of the services that’s also mentioned above.

3. Go Behind the Scenes

Nothing says engagement like giving your followers the ability to see what happens behind the scenes and giving them a chance to like and comment. It’s analogous to inviting someone over for dinner, it oozes with feelings of brand loyalty or perhaps one step further going into brand intimacy that consumers are looking for given the never ending array of options.

For example, Threadless gives its Instagram followers not just insight into how they work at their office but how their t-shirts get printed.

Going behind the scenes gives your customers a more personal experience, something that makes it very worthwhile to do on an ongoing basis.

 

4. Show Your Product Catalogue in Motion

Sure you can continue having those crisp, clean, and faded white backgrounds for your actual product photos on your website, but Instagram gives you an opportunity to promote your wares in creative and real-world ways. This gives your followers an opportunity to see your products in a context they can relate to in their day to day lives.

For example, Nike, which is rated the top brand on Instagram, puts its latest sneakers as they would look in real life yet captured by Instagram, giving its followers the opportunity to like and comment on them.

Think of all the ways your consumers interact, wear, and show-off your products and highlight them through interesting Instagram photos.

Hopefully these tips and insights get you started on your way to rocking it on Instagram and taking advantage of the engagement opportunity the platform offers.

If you have other creative ways you’re using the social network we’d love for you to share by commenting below.