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How to Sell on Instagram: a Complete Guide for Beginners

How to Sell on Instagram: a Complete Guide for Beginners

There are more than one billion worldwide Instagram users. And 90% of them follow at least one business profile. So, if you’re a small business looking to build brand awareness through social media, it’s worthwhile to create a profile for your business on Instagram. But did you know that you can take your business a step further and start selling directly through Instagram.

To help you get started on your Instagram journey, we’ve prepared this detailed, step-by-step guide. Our goal is to answer any questions you might have as you begin the process of selling on Instagram, so get comfortable and read on.Helpful hint: Add this post to your bookmarks bar to have it handy whenever you need it!

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How to Set Up an Instagram Account for Your Store

Before we get into the how-tos of selling on Instagram, let’s start with some basics. Here we explain how to set up a profile for your business, and the ins and outs of using the platform to promote your store.

Write a clear bio

Before you create the first post on your new businesses’ Instagram account, make sure you’ve crafted an engaging bio. This is the first chance you have to connect with potential followers, so a little thought goes a long way.Some recommendations when writing your Instagram bio:

  • Include your store name
  • Add a short description of the brand
  • Keep the length between 140-160 characters
  • Add a call-to-action button linking to an Instagram-specific landing page or your store (you need a business account to do this)
  • Highlight key information with emojis (phone number, email, etc.)
  • Add a branded #hashtag to curate images and videos

A sample template:

[Store Name] [Brand Description] Tag your pics with [#Branded Hashtag] 📧 [Email] 📞 [Phone Number]

This is your title

This is your content

Prepare a content plan

Before you can sell on Instagram, you need to figure out what type of content you’re going to post. To do that, you need a content plan. This means pre-planned advertising through entertaining and informative content that you will post to your Instagram page. A content plan is essential as it saves you time and helps ensure that your content meets your marketing goals.

Types of content to include in your plan:

  • Promotional: posts about new products, promotions, discounts, loyalty programs, and customer reviews
  • Educational: tips, life hacks, masterclasses, and advice for the use and care of your products
  • Informative: company news, achievements, and plans
  • Entertaining: fun facts, pop culture references, jokes, surveys, quizzes, and user-generated content.

Step up your photography

Instagram is an entirely visual medium, so there’s no better way to show off your merchandise than with some great photography. A user might follow an account simply because they appreciate its eye-catching Instagram grid posts.

You’re more likely to sell to followers who are subscribed to your account because they clearly have an appreciation for your posts in their feed. It’s much harder to sell products on Instagram to the users who are stumbling upon your account for the first time.

Write engaging captions

The secret to Instagram selling is having an engaged audience. The more followers interact with your posts, the more Instagram will promote your content to its users. Great captions generate comments, so don’t settle for boring copy.

Captions are limited to 2,200 characters and you can add up to 30 hashtags to each post. Keep in mind that the Instagram app crops text previews to the first two lines, so it’s vital that your copy is engaging from the first word.

Best practices for Instagram captions:

  • Format your captions to make your posts more readable. Use emojis and numbers to add bullet points and new paragraphs to your text. To add line spacing to your text, write your copy in the Notes app first and then paste it into your Instagram caption box.
  • Use action verbs like “tap,” “tell,” “use,” and “share”, to actively promote engagement.
  • Present a reader with the most important information first. Use titles to catch your followers’ attention right away.
  • Ask questions or start discussions with your audience to get them to play along with your content (remember, content interactions = engagement = sales!).
  • Use location tags and hashtags to generate more traffic to your page.

Organize your profile

The more active you are on Instagram, the harder it will be for your followers to find the information they might need to buy your items. Help them find what they’re looking for with these tips:

  • Add short titles to your pictures. Ex: “Shipping”, “Giveaway”, “How to use X”.
  • Create a short hashtag for each type of post you regularly publish: from new arrivals, lifehacks, backstage, etc. For example, #storename_reviews or #storename_products.
  • Use the Highlights feature at the top of your page to share important information like shipping, prices, customer reviews, contacts, and special offers.

Start growing your audience

The great thing about Instagram is that you can grow your follower count without spending a dime! It’s all about directing traffic to your posts. Some easy ways to do this include:

  • adding keywords to your username and bio
  • using hashtags and geotags
  • participating in various challenges
  • commenting on popular profiles
  • throwing a contest or a giveaway
  • creating engaging posts that reach the Top posts section of the app.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s explore how to sell directly on Instagram.

How do I Start Selling on Instagram?

First, let’s answer some common questions about starting an Instagram shop.

Do you need a business license to sell on Instagram?Is it legal to sell on Instagram? Inquiring small business owners want to know! In short, yes, you can sell on the app. However, you need to keep a couple of things in mind.

To sell on Instagram, your professional account must follow these requirements:

  • Comply with Instagram’s policies
  • Represent your business and your domain
  • Be located in a supported market
  • Demonstrate trustworthiness
  • Provide accurate information.

Having a business license definitely helps demonstrate trustworthiness, though it isn’t listed in the platform’s requirements.

Obtaining a license for online selling depends on your location, the products you sell, and your business needs. Keep in mind that different countries have different laws regarding business licenses. Make sure you know which ones apply to you.

How many followers do you need to sell on Instagram?

There’s no follower minimum for selling on Instagram. The only feature that has a follower minimum is the “Swipe Up” function in Stories: to be able to add links to your Stories, you need to have at least 10,000 followers or a verified (blue check) profile.

But don’t worry too much about that! Because you can successfully sell through Instagram and promote your store with a thousand followers or less.

Do you need a website to sell on Instagram?

Technically, you don’t need a website to sell on Instagram. You can gain followers and promote your products simply through posts and stories. However, having a website helps.

Why? Well, for starters, Instagram doesn’t have built-in e-commerce that allows sellers to accept payments and process orders through the app. If you don’t use an e-commerce platform that integrates with Instagram like Ecwid E-commerce, you’ll need to find a way to manage orders and collect payments on your own.

How to sell directly through the Instagram platform?

Sure, getting your store an Instagram account and promoting your products through the app is a great asset to your business. But you might wonder: can I sell directly on Instagram? The answer is yes!

You can enable Instagram Shopping for your store to allow customers to purchase from your store directly through the app. This convenience is valuable! For shoppers, nothing beats the ability to buy an item with a single tap.

You may encounter other names for this feature like “Shoppable Posts”, or “Product Tagging”. All those names refer to Instagram Shopping.

How much does it cost to sell on Instagram?

You can sell on Instagram for free. Keep in mind though, that in order to use the Instagram Shopping feature, you need an online store. You can get one by signing up with the ecommerce platform of your choice (pricing plans may vary).

To get faster results, you may want to advertise your products online with Instagram Ads. But this isn’t a requirement, so if you simply want to post and promote your products, using Instagram is free.

Is it better to sell on Etsy or Instagram?

If you sell handmade products, you might be wondering: “Can I sell on Instagram? Or should I stick to Etsy?” The latter is a popular marketplace for all things handmade and vintage, so many DIYers prefer Etsy as a sales channel, even though the hosting platform involves certain fees.

How to Tag Products on Instagram

Now that we have some basic FAQs out of the way, let’s learn more about the Instagram Shopping feature that enables your customers to buy from you with the app.

What is Shoppable Instagram?

With Shoppable Posts, you can tag your products in pictures and stories. These posts are marked with a little shopping bag icon in the lower left corner and a price tag over the object.

When a user clicks on a tag, they’ll see its product description and price. The user can tap “Shop Now” to view the item’s name, pricing, description, more photos, and a direct link to your storefront product page to purchase the product. To complete their purchase, users can shop your store without ever leaving the Instagram app.

After you publish 9 shoppable posts, your business page populates with a Shop tab, to help organize and promote posts with a tagged buyable item. This means more potential exposure for you.

How to get approved for shopping on Instagram?

If you want to get approved for shopping on Instagram, you’ll need an online store. Shoppable posts are only available for users that have an ecommerce platform which integrates with Instagram.

Consider Lightspeed’s eCom, a fast and user-friendly option. Lightspeed has worked hard to create an ecommerce solution that is robust and can scale and grow with your business. 

But how do you make your Instagram Shoppable? Here are the requirements:

  • Have an online store
  • Sell physical products that comply with Facebook’s commerce policies and merchant agreement
  • Locate your business in one of Instagram’s supported countries
  • Have an Instagram business profile
  • Connect your Instagram business account to a Facebook page
  • Update your Instagram app to the latest version.

Tips for preparing your business account for review:

  • Add variable details such as a business address, contact phone, and email using CTA buttons under the bio
  • Assign the right category to the Facebook page your Instagram account is connected to
  • Use your store logo in a profile image
  • Publish brand-specific content and post consistently
  • Add more products to your catalog
  • Consider setting up a Facebook Business Manager for your business.

How long does it take to get approved for shopping on Instagram?

The Instagram team reviews business accounts before they’re approved for Instagram Shopping.Approval for shopping through the Instagram app can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. You’ll be notified by the Instagram app when your account is approved. After that you’ll be able to tag products in your posts. 

How to enable product tags on Instagram

After your account is approved for Instagram Shopping, here’s how to enable product tagging for your profile:

  1. Go to your business profile options, then go to Settings.
  2. Tap Business.
  3. Tap Shopping.
  4. Tap Continue.
  5. Select a product catalog to connect to your professional account.
  6. Tap Done.

If you don’t see the Shopping section in your account’s Settings, your profile is probably still under review, or it hasn’t been approved for Instagram Shopping.

Can I sell on Instagram through DMs? If so, how?

As we said, you can’t enable Instagram Shopping if you don’t have a website. So, if you still want to accept orders from customers in the app, you can do so manually via Direct Messages (DMs).

Here’s how how to sell on Instagram through DM:

  • Post pictures with your products in your Instagram feed (think of your account as a digital product catalog).
  • Ask followers to reach out to you via DM for information on payment methods.

One of the ways to accept payments without an online store is with PayPal. Here’s how to sell on Instagram using PayPal:

  1. Customers reach out to you via DM to order a product.
  2. You provide your PayPal email address to customers. Or, you can ask for their PayPal email address and send them a PayPal invoice.
  3. After getting paid, you update each customer manually on the order status.

Selling on Instagram DM without a website involves a lot of manual work. This might prevent you from spending time growing other aspects of your business. That’s why many merchants prefer to sell directly on Instagram with product tagging. It’s not only more convenient both for sellers and buyers, but it can help boost sales. 

Tips for Using Instagram for Business

Some hints and tricks for using Instagram for business and turning your profile into a powerful sales channel.

Get a business account

A business profile comes with some baked in benefits for selling on Instagram. It allows you to display details like your business address and contact info, as well as call-to-action buttons under your bio.

It also comes with a handy “Insights” section where you can view data on impressions, reach, website clicks, and follower activity.

Interaction and discovery metrics can help to organize your posting schedule (Image: Facebook)

With a business profile, you can promote your posts within the app just by clicking on the Promote button under each post. Promoted posts have Instagram generated call-to-action buttons with clickable links.

Run ads on Instagram

Paid promotions allow you to reach your goals faster as compared to organic growth. There are a few different types of Instagram shopping ads:

  • Stories ads
  • Photo ads
  • Video ads
  • Carousel ads
  • Collection ads
  • Ads in the Explore section.

Read on to learn more about advertising on Instagram.

Schedule your posts

Scheduling apps (like Later, HootSuite, or Buffer) are a time-saver for building a content plan that works for you and your team.

Add links to Stories

When you get +10k followers, you can use the “swipe up” option for your regular Instagram Stories that will lead viewers to the URL. That allows you to sell a product on Instagram right from the Story — just add a link to a product page to it.

Take advantage of interest with links to your bio

It’s easy to sell on the Instagram app with Shoppable Posts, but sometimes customers want to learn more about a company before they make a purchase. Use your bio to navigate them to additional resources, like your blog or website.

Though you can’t include more than one link in your bio, you can use the Linktree app to create an additional page with multiple links. Simply share a link to your Linktree page in your bio, and when followers click it, they’ll see a landing page with all the links you’ve added.

Use hashtags

Hashtags are a word or a group of words that follow the # sign. For example, #SkincareTips or #giveaway. They are searchable keywords and keyword phrases that group content by topic.

Instagram hashtags are a great discovery tool to help you reach new and relevant audiences. Some best practices when using hashtags:

  • Use hashtags relevant to your niche and topic. No need to cram 30 irrelevant tags into one post. Instead, choose hashtags that best highlight the content of the image and caption.
  • Use tools like Hashtracking or Hashtagify.me to monitor popular hashtags and track the success of different hashtags you’ve employed.
  • Create a simple branded hashtag to curate user-generated content and promote your business on other pages.
  • Study influencers in your niche to learn which hashtags they frequently use. Similar hashtags may work for your brand too!

Use different types of content

Don’t overlook any possibility to connect with your audience via your content. You can post pictures, videos, or create Stories and save them to your Highlights if you want them to last more than 24 hours.

Publish curated photos and staged videos in your feed. Share casual pics, updates, and quizzes in Stories. Use Highlights to save FAQs to give your followers easy access. Go live to announce a new product launch or a giveaway. Explore all the ways you can create content with Instagram and then stick to the ones that see the most engagement from your followers.

Pay attention to organic engagement

Organic followers are those that you don’t have to spend a dime to acquire, but rather ones which are genuinely engaged with your content. For example, they found you in search or saw a repost on their friend’s page and followed it back to your page.

To successfully sell on Instagram, you need to keep your organic engagement high. This happens when followers interact with your content a lot outside of ad campaigns. For example, they like and comment on your posts or react to your Stories.

Here’s how to grow your organic reach:

  • Create high quality content relevant to your audience
  • Post this content regularly
  • Promote discussions in the comments section of your posts
  • Run contests and giveaways
  • Encourage sharing photos of your products and tagging your profile

Partner with influencers

Well, micro-influencers, to be more precise. A micro-influencer is an influencer with a smaller audience (1,000-100K followers). Often, these audiences are more engaged than the followings of bigger accounts. Usually, micro-influencers are experts in some niche, meaning that their followers place more trust in their opinions. As a bonus for you, the cost of working with a micro-influencer is lower.

You can partner with micro-influencers to run giveaways, to share a review on your product, or publish a sponsored post.

How to Advertise on Instagram

Is it worth it to advertise on Instagram? The answer depends on how fast you need your results.You can promote your Instagram profile organically, meaning you acquire an audience without the help of paid campaigns. This option is free and shows more engagement in the long-term. If you need more followers or orders in a short period of time, paid promotion might be the option for you.

Instagram offers the following ad formats:

  • Photo ads. A static image ad works best when you want to close the deal by offering a discount. Photos can be in square or landscape format.
  • Video ads. These are great for introducing first-time buyers to your product and its features. You can share videos up to 120 seconds long in landscape or square format.
  • Stories ads. These dynamic ads help reinforce the engagement you’ve already had with the customer.
  • Carousel ads. Users can swipe to view additional photos or videos in a single ad. This type of ads helps to highlight all the features/benefits of the product.
  • Collection ads. Use them to visually inspire and help your audience discover, browse and purchase products. You can use video, images or a combination of both.
  • Ads in Explore. Users go to the Explore section to discover content, watch, and shop. Each user’s Explore tab features curated content that’s personalized based on their interests.

You can add different calls-to-action to each ad. If you’re showing off a product’s features to a first-time audience, use CTAs like “Learn More”. If you’re offering a final discount to close a deal, use “Shop Now” as your CTA.

How do you set up a “Shop Now” ad on Instagram?

To set up an ad with a “Shop Now” or any other CTA, you must have a Facebook Page and a business profile on Instagram. Once you have these, you can run and track ads within the app or through Ads Manager.

How to set up your Instagram ad:

  1. Within the app: select a post that you’ve already shared on Instagram and tap “Promote”.
    Within Ads Manager: select your ad objective, target audience and ad format.
  2. Decide how long your ads will run for and determine your budget.
  3. Click Publish. You’ll receive a notification when your ads have been approved and are ready to run.

How to Monetize Your Instagram

Instagram isn’t just an image-sharing platform anymore. These days, you can actually make money with your Instagram shop online. You don’t even need to have a huge following to make Instagram work for you. The secret is an engaged audience: followers that like, comment, and tag their friends in your posts, and react to your Stories.

Here’s how to calculate your account’s engagement rate: take your total number of likes and comments, divide them by your total number of posts, divide by followers, and multiply by 100. A 2-3% engagement rate is considered average, and a 4-6% rate is considered high.

When you have an engaged and active audience, you can use the following tactics to monetize your Instagram.

  • Make sponsored posts. Collaborate with brands to make a post that promotes an advertiser’s product on your page for a fee.
  • Create your merch to sell via Instagram. Put your art or logo on t-shirts, mugs, posters (anything that’s easy to print) and sell your branded products.
  • Make your own product and sell it. There are all kinds of things to sell on Instagram, from clothing and cosmetics to furniture and DIY products. Make sure to enable Shoppable Posts for selling directly on Instagram.
  • Teach what you know. You can’t sell services on Instagram with Shoppable posts, but you can use the platform to promote a course you teach or a downloadable guide. Don’t forget to add a work email or a link to your website in your Instagram bio.
  • Host giveaways or contests (a repost giveaway, a submission contest, a raffle, etc). Partner with influencers and brands, or throw a contest all by yourself.
  • Sell affiliate products. You don’t need to have your own goods to sell through Instagram. Think about what brands your audience might find interesting, and reach out to those companies to check if they have affiliate programs. You can sell affiliate products via special links or promo codes.

What to Sell on Instagram

We encountered the all-important question “what should I sell on Instagram?” almost as often as the “how do I sell on Instagram?” question. Let’s explore which products have the most selling potential on the platform.

Instagram’s biggest markets include beauty, health and fitness, travel, fashion, lifestyle, business, and animals. So you can’t go wrong choosing a product that fits into one of these markets.

Here are some product ideas for selling on Instagram:

  • Beauty and skincare products. Share useful skincare and makeup tips to keep your audience engaged.
  • Clothes and shoes. Instagram is the perfect place to attract customers with beautiful look books. Aim for sustainable fashion to stay on-trend.
  • Eco-friendly products for the home. Shoppers are becoming more eco-conscious, but they still want their homes to be comfortable. Think of products like reusable bags, doormats from recycled materials, natural cleaners, and more things to sell on IG.
  • Accessories and jewelry. Shoppers often browse Instagram for inspiration for their personal style and these products might help them find that missing piece.
  • Food and drinks. #foodporn is one of the most popular hashtags on the app. Take some mouth-watering pictures of home-baked treats and you’re ready to sell on Instagram

Interested in taking the plunge with a commerce platform that’s a one-stop solution to all your retail POS needs? Look no further than Lightspeed Commerce. Talk to an expert here.

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