How to Sell on Instagram for Free

Businesses are increasingly realizing the importance of using social media platforms to drive the sales of their services and products, and Instagram is one of the most powerful global social media outlets out there. All you need to do is scroll down your feed on Instagram to encounter a range of experiences, places and products recommended and shared by your friends.

Brands are quickly realizing how powerful the word of mouth marketing features on Instagram are, and are using them to up their bottom lines – profits.

But ads on Instagram cost money. However, it is possible to sell your service and/or product on Instagram without having to spend anything out of your own pocket. All you have to do is create your storefront on Instagram, increasing your sales in a much easier way than you thought possible. There’s a host of loyal prospective customers and followers waiting for you to engage with them.


No Links Allowed

For those of you who are new when it comes to using Instagram for marketing, you probably don’t know yet that links do not work with photo posts on Instagram in the same way that they work on other platforms. This makes it harder to use Instagram to sell your service or product when compared to pretty much every other social media platform out there. For instance, you can use Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter to share links along with your images, directing visitors to your page to product pages or landing pages where purchases can be made.

On Instagram, on the other hand, all you can do is paste an image of your product along with a description. But you cannot post clickable links that direct traffic to your webpage. If you try to post a link, it won’t transform into a hyperlink that users can click. Posting these kinds of links can be a big mistake, as they distract users from the image and description you’ve shared, putting them off altogether.

If visitors to your page wish to purchase something, they must visit your website by themselves, locating the product they’re looking for on their own. And since users are inundated with long lists of products on Instagram, they probably won’t have the patience nor the time to sift through the long lists to locate something they have seen on your page. This makes selling on Instagram the trickiest of all social media platforms.

Instagram provides you with the opportunity to post only one link that’s clickable, and that’s on your bio page.

However, while Instagram is a difficult platform to generate sales from, it is great nonetheless for promoting your products. In fact, research shows that having a follower who is engaged on Instagram is worth more than having the same on Facebook by around $10.


Shoppable Posts on Instagram

According to research, 72% of users believe that viewing images on Instagram increases the chance of them making a purchase. According to the same research, up to 38% of users claimed that they buy products that they view on Instagram frequently. This means that you are responsible for making your Instagram page one where users can shop with ease.

A great way of doing this is by using shoppable posts. Shoppable posts are posts that permit customers to click on those products that sellers have tagged within images. Clicking on these tagged images takes customers to your online store where purchases can be made. The reason that this is particularly useful is that it prevents users from having to make inordinate efforts to discover your products. It makes the shopping experience simple, easy and enjoyable.  It is exceptionally convenient, as customers don’t even have to leave their Instagram apps to buy.

The feature that allows sellers to tag their products using Instagram is not yet widely available. If, however, you are within the USA, you are permitted to use this feature. If you live outside the USA, bad luck; you’ll just have to patiently wait for the feature to become available to you.

You need to connect your business profile on Instagram with a Facebook shop or to a catalog within your Business manager to use the feature of tagging products on Instagram.

Before you go ahead and do this, ensure that you have the latest updates on your Instagram app. Additionally you must be the page’s admin or have a Business Manager account. After that, tap on the “Get Started” tab on your profile. The next step is to select “Products” and then “Continue.” You then choose the product catalog which you want connected with your business profile, tapping “Done” in the end, allowing you to tag the products within your Instagram posts.


Include a Call-To-Action in Your Bio

One great way to use Instagram to sell is by making your links noteworthy.

Almost everyone on Instagram who discovers your business will visit your bio page, the perfect (and only) location for the link to your online store.

You don’t need to do anything complex; writing something as simple as “Click to see our products” or “Shop here” will do fine, encouraging viewers of your profile to check out your products, driving traffic to your website, and ultimately resulting in sales. 

According to recent data, the majority of internet users shop on mobile devices, a trend that is only increasing. So, make sure that your website is mobile friendly, as most of the traffic that is going to be directed there will come from mobile devices.


Instagram Stories

The ‘Stories’ feature on Instagram has really taken off since its inception, drawing in excess of 200 million users of the feature on a daily basis, greater than 1/3rd of the most viewed stories being from businesses.

Story posts disappear automatically after a 24-hour time period. Likes and public comments are disabled for ‘Stories,’ and they don’t appear in the profile feed. You can use text as well as stickers and drawing tools in ‘Stories,’ making them a great place from which to showcase the creative side of your brand. Instagram ‘Stories’ appear at the top of the users’ regular feed daily.

The chances of stories being viewed by customers are much higher when compared to the chances of them seeing regular posts, including images and videos. Stories present a great opportunity for your brand to create imaginative content without having to worry too much about quality. Use them to attract followers by showing behind the scenes situations involving your brand.


Gaining Followers

Gaining followers on Instagram is no cakewalk. You need to be smart with your strategies and put a bit of hard work into it. Here are some ways you can increase your followers on Instagram.


Pay Attention to Your Profile and Feed

Make sure that you complete your business profile and keep your feed smooth and consistent in order to gain followers.

Your profile constitutes the first impression that you make on visitors to your Instagram page; make it memorable in a positive way.

If users visit your Instagram page to find a jumble of random photographs and a bio that isn’t properly filled in, they’re not likely to follow you. Pay attention to these details and make sure that your profile picture shows you clearly, communicating to people what you look like.

Your aesthetic on Instagram and your profile should be geared towards telling your brand’s story. This will encourage people to follow you, converting casual visitors into devoted followers.

Pay as much attention to your Instagram profile page as you would to your website’s homepage. It reflects on your brand, your services and products, so make it professional.


Use Appropriate Hashtags

Using the right hashtag to accompany your posts and stories can help to attract followers who are interested in your brand. However, users now also have the option to opt out of being shown content for certain hashtags. If users mark too many of your hashtags as content they don’t want to see, it could impact your visibility on Instagram, thanks to the Instagram algorithm. One way around this is to use a different hashtag for each post. It requires more effort on your part; rather simply copy pasting the same hashtag over and over again, you have to use new ones every time.

You can use hashtags to describe the service or product that you offer, such as ‘#organicfood’ and ‘#accessories.” You can also use hashtags to describe your ideal customer, such as ‘#foodie’ or ‘#prettywoman.’

You can also use community hashtag, hashtags which connect like-minded people based on the subject that they are interested in. They’re a wonderful way of connecting with other people, improving your posts’ searchability, gaining your follower, growing your community. 

A great way of finding the appropriate community hashtags is by observing what other industry leaders in your field are doing, as well as other brands belonging to your niche. Look at influencers too. There you will learn what hashtags are popular in your niche and you can use them too.


Instagram Image and Post Timing Details

The images you post on Instagram and the times you post them can have a huge bearing on your success on the platform. Here are a few pointers for you to keep in mind while using Instagram.


Plan for Your Photo

Good photos can happen by accident, but such accidents are relatively rare. It is unwise to rely upon them. Getting good photos consistently requires planning, involving experimentation with the angles, securing the best lighting, and scouting for good locations. You may have to take 10-20 photos of your chosen subject before you get one worth using.


Use Your Phone’s Camera App

Getting good photos doesn’t require you to purchase expensive cameras; you can accomplish just as much through your smartphone’s camera app. You may want to avoid using the camera on your Instagram app though. Using the phone’s native app allows you to easily access the phone’s home screen, and you can take multiple photos without trouble and with greater control. The Instagram camera gives you just the one shot, rather like a Polaroid. The phone camera offers greater control.


Use Other Apps to Edit Your Photos

Since Instagram allows you to import photos from your camera roll, you can be flexible with how you edit your photos. Your editing options aren’t limited to only Instagram’s files. There are a large number of apps out there that offer editing services, allowing you to make micro adjustments to your photos.  


Timing of Your Post

A lot of users wonder about the best time for posting on Instagram. However, the answer is not straight forward. One reason is that the Instagram algorithm changes often.

Previously, influencers on social media have stated that 8pm to 10pm was the best time to post on Instagram. This, however, has changed in 2018, with influencers reporting that 11:30am to 1:30am is the new best time to post, as well as 7pm to 9pm in the evening. However, you should bear in mind that each audience is unique, and this time may not work best for you.

Different people living in different time zones all across the world will have different optimal times to post on Instagram. You have to determine the ideal time for yourself.


Timing Tips

One thing you can do to ensure that your timing is right is to post during the most active time zones, which include the USA, Canada and the UK. All of these places can be reached simultaneously while users are still awake.

A second tip is to not post in working hours. Reserve your posts till such time as people are free. Otherwise, there’s no point in posting while your audience is busy at school or work; they will likely not be using Instagram from these places. You could, however, post during the lunch breaks.

Thirdly, save your highlights for the weekends. Post your most important content on the weekend, a time when the majority if not all of your audience will be free. Take notice of how much engagement your posts generate at different times, and adjust your timing accordingly, identifying the best times.


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