How to use Instagram with your Ecommerce Store
Becki Griffiths / June 15, 2015

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“Narcissistic filtered heaven”, a casual put down mentioned by a friend when the discussion of Instagram once came up. True, to an extent, but the influence of Instagram is a dangerous thing to ignore for businesses these days, particularly for online retailers.

Launched in 2010 by Kevin Systrom (@kevin) and Mike Krieger (@mikeyk) Instagram has thrived, even after it’s debated Facebook takeover in 2012, to an active online community of 300 million monthly users in 2015. It is estimated that a whopping 70 million photos are uploaded daily. That’s a huge slice of the pie to be ignoring.

This post is for those of you who are still coming to grips with how to use Instagram, and will examine what you should be focusing on once your account is set up and running. Your feedback is most welcome and always taken with a smile on my face.


And why it's so important

As a business, be it old or new, big or small, branding is key. Your brand identity speaks volumes to the consumer and so ANY social media platform should follow this message from offline to online and back again.

Instagram is no different. When looking at your Instagram account, it is important to keep that famous look and feel of your brand there. Take Vogue’s Instagram account for example - beautiful, aspirational and fashion led compared to Roxy - sporty, fresh and for the outdoors.

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Now, I hate to point the obvious out here, but Instagram is image led and so your content has to be great. No blurred, finger over the lens shots here. Most smartphones have a great camera on them these days, but if this isn’t your forte then look to your brand imagery or regram photos you like (always give credit though, more about this later.)

Don’t forget the importance of video too. With the app allowing video to be taken and now with Hyperlapse too, your Instagram page has even more ways to be engaging to your audience.


Another thing that a lot of brands don’t do, is mix up the types of photos. There is nothing more boring than a company that only posts their products. As a user we want to see what else the company loves, whether this is behind the scenes photos, landscape pictures or photos of employees.

It’s a great way to show your followers a sneak peek of personality and something they can’t gain access to anywhere else. ASOS have gone so far as to create their own behind the scenes ASOS_STUDIO account.

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Unlike other social platforms, there doesn’t seem to be an overwhelming evidence to suggest that engagement rates decrease the more often you post. However according to Union Metrics, most big brands post between once and twice a day. The key to your posting schedule - make it relevant and make it consistent. If you only have enough content for 3 posts a week then do 3 posts a week and do them well.

#Hashtagging on Instagram

What you need to know...

This neatly brings me on to that now infamous expression - hashtagging. It is vitally important to use hashtags on any social media platform, but on Instagram it is the way people search, so without it you are nothing (unless you have a million followers, then you are everything!)

Getting the number of hashtags right can be like trying to impress your partners family. Too little and they won’t see you, too much and they’ll find you annoying and avoid you. The single most important thing is that the hashtag is relevant and you use it across your branding.

Lululemon do this really well, by using their hashtag #thesweatlife for their Instagram account (and pull this through on their blog and Twitter accounts too.) This simple hashtag tells you instantly what their brand is about and has generated more than 170,000 posts to date.

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A great tip for any brand, but particularly those starting out, is to have the hashtag you want your brand associated with in the bio section. For example, if your brand contains a symbol that cannot be hashtagged, such as an ampersand then make it clear how you wish your consumers to tag you.

The This & That Company
doing things here, there and everywhere

Anywhere upwards of 11 hashtags gain the most interactions but don’t forget people don’t want to be forced to scroll past them to read the comments. Equally avoid #tagforlikes and #tagforfollows, you may as well be waving a desperation flag. My newest eatery crush - goodlifeeatery - has got this down to a tee.

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I think it is important to gain a balance between how many people you follow and how many follow you. It’s a lovely rush to get people following you back when you go on a following frenzy - but think carefully.

You want to build an engaged, loyal audience. Better to have 500 followers who view, comment and share your content, than 1 million who ignore you. Building a steady audience, and implementing some strategic campaigns early on will help your Instagram journey be fruitful for your business.


Giving back to your followers is important. They are the reason you are there don’t forget. This can be done in many ways. Firstly, always reply if someone asks a direct question - particularly if it’s about where they can buy something. This can be as simple as asking them to drop you an email, to actually answering the question there and then.

Secondly, take the time to see who is hashtagging pictures of your brand. If you genuinely love a picture click on the heart and give it a like. Such a simple action will mean a lot to that follower - a bit like a kiss from your idol as a teen!

Thirdly, you could be really clever like Jimmy Fairly and have a whole page dedicated to your followers on your website. See it in its entirety here.

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A word of warning though. Ensure, as always, everything is moderated and still in-keeping with your brand. Don’t ever underestimate the skills of your followers. It can be a nice idea to pick your favourite pictures from the week or month (depending on your available resource) and regram them (I’ve recommended a regram app at the end of my blog post so keep reading even if it’s just for that.)

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Competition can be a bit of a dirty word client side. But done tastefully, in-keeping with your brand and with a clear end goal it can be a successful quick win. It is vitally important that you have hoops that need to be jumped through, do not make it easy for those individuals that spend their days simply entering competitions for the prizes only.

You want genuine fans who will appreciate your brand and the prize. The beauty of Instagram is that it is an image centric platform, meaning if volume of entries is your purpose then making the competition qualifier uploading a picture of X and hashtagging #XXXX means effort has to made. You also gain some great user-generated content for your brand - win win!


With the ability to send direct messages available to Instagram users, it enables you to cherry pick active fans or users who show a lot of interest in certain items and serve them very targeted offers. This could be a picture with a discount code on top (see the end of my post for recommended apps that do this) or maybe a detailed product shot to entice them to buy.

You could even section by region or location and give free shipping to a certain group. This is also a great way to let customers know about exclusive pre-sales or sneak peeks of upcoming collections. Perhaps its most engaging feature is the chat function - allowing you to gather feedback or just get to know your fans and consumers.


show me the money

So what is the biggest issue that an ecommerce merchant faces with Instagram? No direct link to a product. (A side point this is being trialed with select retailers in the US with a minimum budget of $200,000 but once this goes live on a larger scale we will of course be talking about here!) This means it can be difficult to show any ROI for Instagram, much like other social media platforms and equally as difficult to grab an impulse buyer. However there are some clever ways to get round this.

Despite there being no direct link to products and websites on Instagram posts, in your bio you can enter a clickable link. There is also the option to “name this location” when you upload a photo. Choose a custom location and pop in your website address or the product code of your item, whichever you feel suits.

Instagram helps to build your brand. Celebrity endorsements are king on Instagram. Estee Lauder winning the highly coveted Kendall Jenner for their advertising campaign. One million likes in 16 hours is brand exposure you cannot deny.

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My Personal favourite apps for Instagram:

  • Instasize - allows you to do a few things - collage, add filters and borders but the most relevant use is that it will squeeze any photo into Instagram size (as the actual scale and crop feature is very poor on Instagram itself.)

  • Over - this app allows you to add text and artwork to any photo - this is great for ecommerce businesses as you can add website addresses, product details and prices to the photo.

  • Repost - great app to #regram other people’s photos - particularly consumers who are raving about your product.

  • PicFrame - If you like having more than one picture in an Instagram post, ideal for showing things in different colours, before and after shots etc.

  • Snapseed - allows some advanced editing of photos for those whose creativity reaches further than Instagrams standard filters

  • Split Pic - for picture layouts and mirroring pictures

  • Bokeh Cam FX - adds shapes (including hearts) to pictures as you want - a lot of fashion and makeup bloggers use this app. It’s a girl thing.

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