Sell more online with these two Instagram methods

Sell more online with these two Instagram methods featured image

Instagram is fast overtaking Facebook and Twitter as the social media channel of choice for businesses. Originally based entirely on photos, it’s now evolving into a fully fledged shopping channel. With 1 billion active monthly users worldwide, including nearly 4 million in South Africa, Instagram is an extremely effective tool to sell more online.

Instagrammers love to buy brands online

Instagram is especially worthwhile for your business if your target audience matches that of the social media channel i.e. brand conscious and mostly under 35. Many of these consumers use Instagram as a way to get to know brands and make purchasing decisions.

Amount of instagram users in South Africa seperated by gender and age


In South Africa, Instagram users include well over 150,000 influencers, most of whom are “nano-influencers” with between 1,000 and 4,999 followers. If you can attract the interest or services of these influencers, you’ll automatically get the attention of their followers too.

Why use Instagram to sell more online?

Launched in 2010, Instagram started as a way to showcase images uploaded by users. It has since developed into so much more – and many of the new features facilitate shopping. Users can make use of the ‘Explore’ tab to find new content that matches their likes and interests. Businesses can tag products in images and stories so viewers can click directly through to that product in their online store. And recently, Instagram has launched an option to checkout from the platform itself. The potential for business on Instagram has never been better.

Consider these global stats:

  • 70% of US businesses use Instagram (more than Twitter).
  • There are 25 million business profiles on Instagram.
  • 80% of users follow at least one business.
  • Over 200 million users visit at least one business profile every day.
  • 60% of users discover products on Instagram.
  • After seeing a brand’s post, 75% of users take action such as clicking through to the brand’s website.
  • Over a third of users have purchased a product online using their mobile device.
  • 130 million users each month access product tags in Instagram shopping posts.
  • Instagram has a 2.2% interaction rate vs Facebook’s 0.22%.

Facebook content might still reach more people than Instagram, but Instagram’s engagement rate, including likes, shares and comments, is at least 3 times more than Facebook and 30 times more than Twitter.

For example, when Mercedes-Benz posted about its new A-Class, the same image received 10,000 Likes on Facebook and 150,000 on Instagram.

An image of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class

South Africa is slightly behind the curve but there’s no doubt that we’re fast moving in that direction. Now is the time to consider how to best leverage Instagram for your business.

Before you start selling online with Instagram

In this blog, we’ll be discussing two ways to increase your sales using Instagram:

  • The ‘traditional’ method, which sends users to your online store to view and buy products; and
  • The ‘direct’ method, which allows users to start the purchase process from within the platform using Instagram Shopping.

Before you begin applying either of these methods, you need to consider your strategy (point 1 below). If you’d like to implement the ‘direct’ method, you also need to be approved for shopping (point 2 below).

1. Get clear on your strategy

Just like your business strategy and social media strategy, having an Instagram strategy will help you make the most of this platform. That means:

  • Deciding what you want to achieve on Instagram
  • Understanding your customer segments
  • Knowing which social media channels your customers prefer
  • Deciding how you will measure whether you achieve your goals
  • Identifying the hashtags your customers are most likely to use to find you
  • Setting up a brand hashtag to utilise user-generated content
  • Creating an attractive and effective Instagram business profile
  • Setting up guidelines for content and scheduling
  • Creating about 3 months’ worth of content upfront

You also need to understand how the Instagram algorithm works. Instagram’s goal is to get users to spend as much time as possible on the platform, as this maximises the number of ads they see while they’re there. They rank your content in any user’s feed based on many factors, but primarily:

  • How much the user interacts with your business account;
  • How closely the content matches their interests, based on their past behaviour; and
  • How recent the post is, with newer posts appearing first.

If you know your customers well, you will be able to maximise on each of these factors.

Find out more about the Instagram algorithm here.

2. Get approved for Instagram shopping

While anyone can use the ‘traditional method’, only businesses can sell directly through Instagram – and only if they fulfil certain requirements. To qualify for approval, you must:

  1. Sell physical goods.
  2. Have an Instagram business account.
  3. Comply with Facebook’s Commerce Product Merchant Agreement and Commerce Policies.
  4. Have a Facebook page that is connected to your Instagram business account.
  5. 5. Have a Facebook catalogue that is connected to your business account. To create your catalogue, you can use Facebook’s Catalog Manager or Business Manager, or you can do it by integrating with your e-commerce platform. Contact us to discuss your options here.

Method 1: A traditional way of selling online using Instagram

In this method, the e-commerce merchant posts engaging photos and captions to inspire people to (a) follow them and (b) click on the one link available to you in your bio to find out more. This link in your profile takes the visitor to your online shop, where they can look for the product they are interested in and buy it from you.

A great example of a business that uses this method is one of our Comalytics clients, Yamayarn in Noordhoek, Cape Town. Madeleine is a graphic designer turned indie yarn dyer. She takes photos of her new batches of yarn and what she’s created from them, and posts those on Instagram. This engages and inspires her followers, creating a community of yarn lovers. Her followers then follow the link to her e-commerce site,, where she quickly sells out of her new batches, shipping them around the world.

This is her Instagram account – note that her e-commerce site address is very clear so followers know where to go to buy:

Yamayarn's instagram acount


Because Instagram only allows you to display one clickable link, you have one chance to entice your followers to where you want them to shop. This clickable link appears in your bio or profile. Madeleine has opted to use her website homepage link here, and this method works very well for her. Whenever she mentions a product in a post, her followers love visiting her beautiful site to find that product.

In this post, she creates anticipation for a product update (shop update) coming later this month:

Instagram post where she creates anticipation for a product update (shop update) coming later this month


And in this one, she creates excitement and curiosity about her DK Luxe product, also coming out later this month:

Instagram post where she creates excitement and curiosity about her DK Luxe product, also coming out later this month


If you have a broad selection of products though, this method of sending your customers to a general landing page on your website may not work very well. They are very likely to get frustrated with hunting through tons of pages for the product you mentioned in your post.

Read our blog on tips to sell more using Instagram to see how you can make the most of this method using dedicated landing pages and other ideas.

Method 2: A direct way to sell online using Instagram Shopping

With Instagram Shopping, visitors can access your product information directly on the platform. Eliminating the need to use a link in your bio to search for the product you mentioned, it makes shopping easy and fairly immediate.

Note: Remember that for this method, you first need to get approved for Instagram Shopping as described above.

Using this method, there are several ways you can help potential customers buy from you:

1. Product tags in Instagram posts

When a user taps on a tagged product in a photo, they’re taken to an Instagram product page with more information. If they’re interested, a link there takes them directly to the relevant product page on your online store, where they can checkout.

An example of how people insert product tags into their instagram posts


2. Product stickers in Instagram stories

As an approved Instagram shopping vendor, you can display a sticker for one of the products in your story. When a customer taps the sticker, it again shows them more product details and links through to your product page.

An example of how people use product stickers in their instagram stories


3. Explore Shopping

Instagram’s Explore tab displays content that is personalised to each user, depending on their likes and interests. With the launch of the new shopping channel within Explore, users can now see suggestions of posts from businesses they may like to buy from, based on their preferences. This channel is a great way for small businesses to gain exposure to a wider audience.

Using instagrams explore page


4. Instagram wishlist

Much like on a normal e-commerce site, Instagram users can save products they’re interested in but aren’t ready to buy yet. This list is easy to access from their profile and they can complete their purchase on those items at a later stage.

5. Instagram Checkout

The latest feature from Instagram is in-app checkout. This is still in beta and being tested in the US by some well-known brands. Once it rolls out, Instagram will be able to provide a fully fledged e-commerce experience in its own right.

For more helpful tips on growing your business using Instagram, read here.

The bottom line…

Instagram has evolved from a simple collection of images into a social media force to be reckoned with. It’s an extremely effective way for businesses to get the attention of potential customers, and then engage with them further to grow their brand loyalty. Whether you choose to use the ‘traditional’ or the ‘direct’ method, that relationship translates directly into sales for your e-commerce business.

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