Learning how to sell on Instagram offers businesses of all sizes incredible opportunities to reach their target audiences and drive sales.
Last year, eMarketer reported that Instagram is estimated to have 1.074 billion users worldwide in 2021, 73.5 million more than what it had in 2020.
From major brands to local mom-and-pop shops, businesses around the world are driving results with Instagram. According to one report,, 80% of Instagram users make a purchase decision based on something they saw while browsing the app, Instagram
If you haven’t already started selling on Instagram, you may be missing out on a huge opportunity.
Interested in learning more? Here are nine proven tips to help you learn how to sell on Instagram.
1. Optimize Your Instagram Profile and Bio for Instagram Selling
How to sell on Instagram for free? It’s simple, optimize your Instagram business profile.
The Instagram business profile is becoming the new homepage as more and more consumers are turning to Instagram instead of Google to search for brands.
This means you should be spending as much time and effort curating a beautifully designed Instagram profile as you would creating your website.
Your Instagram business profile should include a:
- Profile photo: Choose a photo that is on-brand (like a logo) and makes your company easy to identify.
- Well-crafted bio: Your Instagram bio is incredibly important. It should include a clear description of your business that speaks to your audience. Let them know exactly what you have to offer.
- Link to your shop: The URL section of your bio is the only clickable link you can add to your Instagram page, so make sure you’re using it! This is a great place to drive traffic from your individual posts and stories. Creating a unique URL for this section will also give you the opportunity to track visits to your website from Instagram.
Love Crochet is a great example of a well-crafted business profile:
Their profile includes a beautifully designed and consistent aesthetic as well as an eye-catching bio and branded profile photo.
Your Instagram business profile is often the first point of contact a customer will have with your brand, so it’s important to make a great impression and entice people to follow your business. By creating a consistent brand story and aesthetic, you can turn new customers into devoted followers, which means they’ll only be a few steps away from investing in your products.
2. Use Instagram Ads to Reach Your Target Audience
With continued changes to the Instagram algorithm and heightened competition on the platform, it’s important to use what works. Namely, this means that Instagram ads are critical to Instagram marketing strategies for businesses.
Once you’ve set up a business profile on Instagram, you can decide how much you want to spend, where you’d like your ads to be seen, and how long you want them to run. Instagram provides a variety of targeting options, so you can choose the ones that best suit your business’ needs.
Running your own Instagram ad campaign isn’t that difficult, but it can be intimidating to many small business owners and influencers who haven’t done it before. Fortunately, it’s not as hard as you think!
The easiest way to run ads is by promoting posts you’ve shared on Instagram. Just select the post you want to boost and hit the “promote” button.
Instagram will automatically pull in a “similar audience” that you can share the post to, but you can easily create your own audience in the app by choosing an interest, age range, and gender(s).
Once you’ve set up your audience and budget, make sure to give your ad one last look-over before hitting “Confirm.”
You can start with a small budget and run your ad for a few days to test things out. To track how your ad is performing, click “View Results” in the bottom left corner of your ad. Remember, Instagram ads can take practice, so make sure you continue to tweak your boosted posts and audiences until you get the results you want.
The best ads to drive Instagram sales for your business are ones that clearly explain how to make a purchase.
Consider @thebouqsco. In the example below, they use the call to action “Shop now and save” in the caption followed by a short description of the offer. They also use “Shop Now” as a call to action for the button text to encourage users to make a purchase.
Basically, The Bouqs Co. simplifies the buying process. The ad makes it super clear what they are offering without any distractions. It’s important you keep your messaging simple, so you don’t distract users from the ultimate goal of your post.
3. Selling Through Instagram Story Ads
In March 2017, Instagram released advertising in Stories, offering brands yet another paid opportunity to reach more people. These immersive, full-screen ads let your business use targeting that makes your ads personally relevant to the people you want to reach.
While photo ads will likely retain their top spot well into 2021, Instagram Story ads should see the most growth based on the rise in Instagram Stories usage. These ads pop up in between Instagram Stories of accounts you follow and can make a large impact on potential customers.
You’ll notice a small “Sponsored” tag in the top right corner and a call to action (“Learn More”) at the bottom of these ads. Again, adding an additional call to action at the bottom of your ad can also be helpful for those interested in learning more.
You have a choice in Instagram ads to create either a video or a photo. Whichever you choose, make sure your initial clip is attention-grabbing. You’ll need to catch the eyes of those who quickly swipe through stories.
Instagram Stories have become a great way for businesses to make deeper connections with their followers and show off their brand’s personality. They offer you the chance to connect with your followers on a daily basis (and without cluttering up their feed). Make sure you’re not missing out on this great opportunity to connect with future customers.
4. How to Sell Products on Instagram: Creating Stories With Product Links
Instagram Stories continue to explode in popularity, and the feature has more than 500 million daily active users – that’sdouble what Snapchat has! So, it’s no surprise businesses are continuing to find new and creative ways they can sell using this feature.
Instagram Stories provide the perfect opportunity for businesses to engage with audiences on a more frequent and personal basis. Many brands use Instagram Stories to capture their products in action, promote special offers, or showcase new items.
In 2017, Instagram graced users who had 10,000 followers or more with the ability to add links to Instagram Stories, which was great news for retail brands and publishers. This is a huge Instagram trend right now and can help you grow your email list, sell products, drive traffic, and more.
When adding a link to Instagram Stories, you’ll notice a small arrow and “See More” text appear at the bottom of your image. Since this small text may go unnoticed, you can add text directing users to “Swipe Up” (or something similar) for added visibility.
The Instagram algorithm now takes into account all the interactions you receive on your Instagram Stories as well, such as replies and shares. The more that a user interacts with your Instagram Stories, the more likely your posts will conquer the Instagram algorithm and show up in their feed.
A great Instagram hack to get around the algorithm is to take advantage of Instagram Stories engagement opportunities, including the polling feature or “Swipe Up” option (that is, if you have over 10,000 followers).
We’ve also been seeing a lot of micro-influencers telling their followers to DM (direct message) them for a direct link to the product. This is a great way to drive people to your inbox, build relationships with your followers, and ultimately increase the chance of your posts showing up on their feeds.
These are all great tactics to drive your customers to check out your product and to make sure you stay relevant with your audience.
5. Build a Shoppable Instagram Feed to Start Selling
Shopify’s shopping feature integration is also a huge win for businesses on Instagram. According to Shopify and TechCrunch, “Instagram is already a ‘significant’ driver of Shopify merchant store traffic, so being able to convert said traffic right on the platform instead of round-tripping could result in a big boost of additional sales.”
Instagram’s shopping feature allows businesses to tag products that are available for sale and lets users purchase them directly within the app.
Shopify plugins like Shoppable Instagram Galleries makes it easier than ever for your business to make sales. The Instant Purchases feature lets visitors add items to a cart and buy the products directly from images on your feed. Businesses can create a custom gallery to showcase their products and add the gallery’s link to their Instagram bio.
Creating a shoppable Instagram feed with a "link in bio" tool, such as Shopify’s Linkpop, is a popular strategy for businesses looking to drive sales through Instagram.
Here you can see the custom URL in @MeUndies’ bio, where they can direct users through post captions and Instagram Stories:
Linkin.bio is a landing page that resembles your Instagram feed and displays your posts as clickable images that you can link directly to a product page. This makes it easy to build a clickable, shoppable feed that links your audience straight to your content. You can also link to multiple websites and pages without changing the link in your bio:
When one of your followers clicks on the link in your bio, they’ll be taken to a mobile-optimized landing page that resembles your Instagram feed and displays your Instagram posts as clickable images. When your followers visit your Linkin.bio page, they can click on any of your Instagram posts to visit the product page that corresponds with the photo.
6. How to Sell On Instagram: Offering Instagram-Only Promotions
Shoppers love a good sale or promotion. Instagram is the perfect place to promote a sale, new product launch, or discount code exclusively to your followers. You can either add your promo information in a caption or in Instagram Stories, encouraging users to click the link in your bio to take advantage of the offer.
If you’re running an Instagram-exclusive promotion, you also can create a teaser on your other social networks to drive traffic to your Instagram business profile. Promoting exclusive Instagram-only promotions (for example, a special discount code for your followers) among your other social networks will encourage audiences to follow your Instagram account to make sure they don’t miss out on future offers.
7. Establish Partnerships with Instagram Influencers
Consumers today don’t trust traditional advertising – they trust people. Research from Nielsen shows that consumers trust personal recommendations above brand advertisements.
The easier it is for a customer to picture themselves using your product, the easier it will be to sell to them.
Influencer marketing gives brands a unique opportunity to reach an engaged audience. Although it may initially seem like a risk to invest large amounts of money into influencer marketing, it’s important to consider exactly what you are paying for.
Consider advertisers that spend upwards of $5 million (excluding production costs) for a 30-second Super Bowl commercial to reach more than 100 million viewers who may or may not be the brand’s target audience. A series of Instagram posts by a fashion blogger with 500,000 followers and a cult-following could sell out an entire product line within 24 hours.
If you don’t have the budget to partner with a big influencer, consider finding a micro-influencer. These influencers have a significant, but not massive following, usually ranging anywhere from 1,000 to 100,000 followers.
Micro-influencers are typically much more willing to do an “in-kind” agreement, trading products for promotion. If you’re a small business, investing in micro-influencers could be a great way to help drive potential customers to your page.
It’s important you spend more time thinking about your strategy and campaign goals before getting started on your influencer marketing campaign. Setting up crystal clear goals will drive initial planning decisions and help you determine the best fit for your partnership.
While working with an influencer, it’s important to make the paid partnership feel as natural as possible. Sitting an influencer in a chair to talk about how great your product is will likely come off as an advertisement and will quickly lose your viewer’s attention.
For example, lifestyle blogger Jacey Durprie’s partnership with Biossance aligns perfectly with her brand, as she frequently shows off her morning routine, productivity, and favorite products. She keeps it conversational, asking her followers their favorite “beauty hacks” and shares one of her.
The partnership feels very natural without looking like a typical advertisement.
Whichever route you chose, influencer marketing is here to stay. It’s a great way for you to tap into a niche, build brand awareness, and, of course, drive sales.
8. Use the Right Hashtags
If you really want your brand to gain traction on Instagram and reach entirely new audiences, then you have to master the art of the hashtag.
Hashtags can be great for putting your brand in front of potentially millions of people. However, it’s important to not use too many hashtags in your posts. Doing so can make your posts look spammy and low-effort.
It’s much better to focus on a couple handfuls of highly trafficked hashtags. This will increase the chances of the right people seeing your posts. After all, you’re not targeting just anyone – you’re targeting your specific audience. By carefully choosing your hashtags, you’ll ensure that the people finding your posts are in your target demographic.
One simple trick to find great hashtags is to see which ones are being used by influencers in your niche. Keep in mind that many of these hashtags may have millions of posts, so if you choose these hashtags, there’s a good chance your post will end up getting buried. Try to find hashtags that are used by influencers and receive a lot of attention, but watch out for hashtags that might be used too much.
For example, the hashtag #travel currently has more than 406 million posts:
So, if travel is your niche, this might not be the best hashtag to use since it’s so oversaturated.
It’s better to get a little more specific. Take #backpacking. With 12 million posts and counting, it’s still a popular hashtag, but it’s much more targeted than #travel and attracts a certain type of audience.
When choosing your hashtags, think about your specific niche, and build your hashtag selection around that. This is a much better approach than simply using any old popular hashtag.
9. How to Sell on Instagram: Nail the Caption
The caption is another integral element to any Instagram post. A caption can make or break a post. If you havea compelling image but a weak caption, your post may not do too well, so this is an area you definitely need to pay attention to.
Your caption can actually do a lot. First and foremost, it can relate to the viewer. Apartment Therapy excels in this area with captions that relate to a specific emotion without trying too hard.
Second, captions can serve as calls to action. That doesn’t mean that you need to be pitching a product in every post, though. You can encourage people to interact with your brand in other ways, like visiting your site or checking out a video.
For example, travel brand Away encourages people to interact with their posts using fun, unique prompts:
If you’re having trouble thinking of great captions, check out our list of more than 200 Instagram caption ideas.
Figuring out how to sell on Instagram will take some practice in order to determine what methods work best for your business. Following these nine tips will make the process a whole lot easier by eliminating a lot of the guesswork for you.
While learning how to sell on Instagram can be a little intimidating at first, it’s a lot easier than it seems. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be off to the races, drawing in tons of new people who just might turn out to be your next customers.
Summary: How to Sell on Instagram in 2021
- Optimize your profile and Instagram bio for sales
- Use Instagram ads to reach your target audience
- Start selling through Instagram Stories Ads
- Create Instagram Stories with product links
- Build a shoppable Instagram feed to encourage purchases
- Run exclusive Instagram-only promotions
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