Tips for Starting an Instagram Shop, From The Head of Social Media Agency Socialfly

November 13, 2018

By Carlo Versano

When Stephanie Cartin and Courtney Spritzer co-founded Socialfly in 2011 as an agency for the social media age, Instagram was in its infancy.

Now, Instagram is arguably the most important (if not the largest) social platform in the world for businesses, and accounts for a huge segment of Socialfly's client base of brands and influencers.

The burgeoning field of social commerce, wherein businesses can sell products directly to customers from their feeds, is changing how people shop online, Cartin told Cheddar. Instagram is particularly ripe for the shopping experience ー given how users and brands already interact there ー and an ad experience that's considered second-to-none on the social web.

Instagram has seen the writing on the wall, recently making it easier to shop right from the feed, with a new Shopping channel and the ability to shop from Stories. It's also reportedly building a standalone shopping app. That's all going to entice more small businesses to try their hand at selling their wares on Instagram and other platforms like Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram parent Facebook ($FB).

But there's a lot to know before you jump in. Cartin told Cheddar what she tells her clients who are looking to build an e-commerce store using Instagram:

  1. Before anything, make sure you have a business (not personal) profile set up. This allows you to advertise and receive analytics from Instagram's powerful data insights platform. Instagram currently requires businesses to create their stores within Facebook first. So make sure all pricing information is correct in the Facebook interface.
  2. Don't just throw up any old photo. Every post should feature a high-quality image with functioning tags. You don't need a professional camera or photographer: iPhone photos work fine, so long as they are well-composed and edited.
  3. Stay away from direct feed promotion. It's way too tempting to spend $50 here and there to boost poor-performing posts, but be more strategic about it. Use Facebook's Business Manager tool to promote your spend at the time of day that makes most sense for your audience, which the analytics will tell you.
  4. Create a lot of content up front, and ration it to one post a day at first. If you're lucky, you'll be too busy fulfilling orders and shipping packages to create premium new content regularly and can rely on the reserve you built up in the beginning. With each post, pay attention to the insights from Instagram's analytics to help you decide the best time of the day to capture the engagement of your audience. Make note of what your competitors are doing, and when they're most active.
  5. Engage, engage, engage. Ask customers questions about how they're interacting with your product. Don't be afraid to engage with your competitors' audiences, either. Integrate your offline and online strategies by including a physical call-to-action and hashtag with your shipments, then encourage customers who use your hashtag by re-posting and interacting with them on their feeds. "Everyone wants that recognition," Cartin said. "It's human nature."

More than anything, though, Cartin told us that social e-commerce is not for every business, especially if what you sell is not inherently "sexy or visually appealing." And it should never be the only platform you use. Because Instagram doesn't take a cut from sales you make on Instagram ー it's making a longer bet that the shopping experience will become so fulfilling that it can charge even higher ad rates down the road ー it may be tempting to move your inventory from a site like Amazon ($AMZN) or Etsy, which take commissions. But don't. Instead, think of Instagram as one part of a broader strategy to meet your customers wherever they are online, Cartin said. Then be patient.

"You really need to spend time on this for it to work."

For full interview click here.