It’s nearly impossible to imagine living in times when picture catalogs were rare and expensive to produce. But those of us who soaked up the pages of the Sears Wish Book, and other legendary retail catalogs, recall with great fondness the magic of visualization and how it propelled our desire to shop.
Fast-forward to 2016, when image saturation is both a boon and a bust for merchants hoping to lure customers. Presenting photographs of your offerings is enormously helpful – particularly for those doing business exclusively online. Saying that social media has played a significant role in multiplying sales opportunities of e-tailers is a vast understatement. With players such as Pinterest, Facebook, and other venues offering space for both vendor listings and consumer shares, the promises of commercial prosperity on the World Wide Web have materialized.
Enter Instagram, a visual-based app that began as a way for users to share snapshots of family and friends. Its ethereal growth has led to a jaw-dropping 300 million users worldwide, many of who access the app several times daily. Commercial sellers have taken note and entered the fray, being selective with postings and taking full advantage of demographics that match their niche.
Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of using Instagram to promote your business is found in the habits of its users. They are already visually oriented and fond of narratives over simple text and photos. They look for stories to be told through pictures.
Right out of the box, the sellers’ first step is to build a following while understanding that the lack of interactivity is a limitation. Users can’t immediately access your website from Instagram. But media outlets certainly take notice of how many followers your site has, and if your wares fit their editorial purposes, they will do the footwork if you bring your product to life by incorporating how customers use or display it.
Understanding the basics of social media platforms requires a basic know-how, including the use of hashtags – the “#” character made famous by Twitter, and one that directs potential customers and followers to a special interest category.
Personalizing your offerings through photographs of events where they are featured is a fabulous way to engage media and customers alike. Vintage fashion curator Emme Wynn of Alexandria had a brilliant idea: why not form a partnership with a collection of wedding vendors that fit her aesthetic? The collaboration uploaded finished photographs on Instagram and targeted bridal publications. Wynn’s Etsy store, Gossamer Vintage, became a favorite, and before too long magazines were pushing her hashtag to help promote her shop and entice their readers. Also, by joining with merchants and service providers delivering to brides- and grooms-to-be, she created a holistic marketing strategy that focused on a singular event.
Hashtags are fun, but overusing them can be counterproductive. Set up a schedule for timed and themed events, such as a “Throwback Thursday” campaign, and watch your followers stay tuned each week.
It’s important to remember that quality is virtually everything. Present only the best photographs, and the most enticing, clearly written text, when uploading to Instagram. Followers are far more likely to notice – and to share – when the image is compelling. And keep in mind that while they will ultimately focus on the product, its presentation has the power to attract interest or be passed over. Showing a fashionable patio ensemble is fine; creating a warm feeling by illustrating it with guests enjoying an outdoor party steps up the effect by planting the psychological image of how it would enrich the experience of your customers.
For more tips on how to leverage the power of Instagram, soak up these tips from social media guru Stacey Herbert. She’ll guide you through a series of critical steps that will unleash the power of Instagram to build your brand and your business. Most important, have fun with your marketing. Prospective customers will sense your enthusiasm and respond in kind.