chapter 6

Work It on Instagram

What makes Instagram so popular is that it’s basically Facebook boiled down to its single most engaging function: sharing photos. Throw in some brilliant photo filters and you’ve got one of the fastest growing online communities to date.  And of course, Instagram is also a great marketing tool for your business with a lot of potential for getting you that first sale. So, let’s discuss just how you and your business can benefit from Instagram.

Delight the World with Your Photos

The whole point of “Instagraming” is to take photos that will generate some sort of positive and viral reaction. The worst thing you can do on Instagram as an online retailer is to upload thousands of white-background product pictures and hope to get tons of traffic.


No one will follow, like or comment on an account that does that.

This is an upload from Sharpie, a photo that is both motivating and has smart product placement. Motivating and positive are great themes for Instagram content.

Here is another great use of Instagram – Active Mailorder (and online action sport retailer), uses Instagram in this upload to advertise an upcoming video premier at one of their shops. The artful and comedic execution is something to take away.

How to #Hashtag

Knowing how to “hashtag” is key to getting more exposure on Instagram. It’s a great way to attract people from all over the world to your account page. The key to “hashtagging” though is to use a mixture of broad and specific terms for your hashtags.

For example, say you posted a photo of your best-selling limited edition Air Jordan basketball hi-tops, you might want to use the hashtags: #kicks #sneakerheads #jordans #airjordan #ballin #hi-tops #sneakers #nike.

If you ran an online kayaking store, and you posted a photo one of your sponsored kayakers doing some amazing whitewater kayaking you could use the hashtags: #kayaking #extremekayaking #snakeriver #kayak #rapids #whitewater #class5. You would also include the name of your sponsored athlete as a hashtag.

Keep using 5 - 10 appropriate hashtags and you’ll notice people increasingly liking your photos. 

Photo Tips

Instagram doesn’t let you link to your online store from individual posts (they only allow you to link in your bio). So you have to be clever about how you get people to know what you do. 

One way to get people to your store is to watermark your images with your domain name:

One thing to keep in mind about Instagram is that it will crop your images into a square. So if you are going to watermark your images, be sure that you don’t put your domain name in any corner of your photo. Take a look at what happens to the photo above once it’s cropped into a square:

The next thing you may consider testing is to put in coupon codes on your photos.


You should be conscious of how often you post on Instagram. The general rule of thumb is to only post a few times a day. However, some people are very successful posting once an hour. In these cases, these posters are successful because they have exceptionally good image content.

You’ll have to test to see what works best with your audience. Keep track of your follower count closely. If too many people start unfollowing you, then it’s probably a good idea to tone down your posting frequency a bit.

Run a Contest with Instagram

Instagram is a great tool to build buzz around your product which not only can help your brand go viral, but also lead to that holy grail of that first sale you're after. Getting started with running a contest on Instagram is pretty simple:

  • Choose an incentive (prize)
  • Pick a campaign hashtag
  • Create a contest "theme"
  • Aggregate and display the photos online 

Not to worry if you don't have the know-how to grab your contest photos from Instagram's API, luckily there are plenty of tools out there that do just that for you. A few we recommend that you get to know are:

Incentivizing your Instagram account through contests is a fantastic way to build engagement and build a loyal following who'll have no problem spreading the word about your products for you.

A Final Word About the Secret to Instagram

Though it may appear to be just a mobile photo sharing app, Instagram is being used by small and large brands alike to generate enormous amounts of sales. For example, Black Milk Clothing uses Instagram to create user-generated content it then adds to its product pages.

Use Instagram with the intent to engage your followers with something fun, entertaining, and eye-catching. Otherwise,  you’ll end up putting mediocre content out there that won’t attract interest from others, much less their hard-earned cash for your goods. 

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