Instagram currently boasts over 800 million monthly active users, all liking, commenting and following accounts spanning a huge number of interests.

Whether you’re a fashionista or a foodie, there’s an audience out there for you.  As a store owner, the photo-sharing app is a valuable resource for your brand’s growth.

But the marketing funnel for Instagram works differently to other social platforms, and as such, you need to be aware of how to hack it in order to grow your store.

 

#InstaSales

Instagram has traditionally served the awareness or research stage of the funnel. Its heavy emphasis on content such as photos or videos lends itself to easy, visual research. Flatlays, multiple photo posts, and editable video clips all make for an accessible way to research a brand or product, deepening consumer engagement.

However, until recently, it was not seen as a sales-driven channel. Where content management systems offered plug-ins for easy sales, social platforms like Instagram had no option to make purchases in-app. Instead, brands redirected their customers to their store through a bio link. Naturally, Instagram didn’t want its users leaving their app, and as such, it didn’t make it easy for them to do so. Buying from Instagram just seemed a little bit too much like work…

With the introduction of Shoppable posts earlier this year, Instagram seems to be embracing native purchases on the platform — an exciting development for brands on Instagram. With that in mind, here’s how to implement your social funnel on Instagram and seamlessly attract hot leads.

 

Stage 1: Awareness

Before any customer can begin moving down the social sales funnel, you first need to make them aware of your brand, and that means growing followers from within your target audience. The average conversion rate across all industries is 3%, which means that for every 100 followers you get, three of them should go on to make a purchase.

But how do you get those followers in the first place, and how do you make sure they come from your target niche? There’s a number of ways you can do this, but here a couple of the most effective are:

Competitions and giveaways
One of the easiest ways to quickly boost your followers is through competitions. Partner up with another non-competing brand within your niche (e.g., a sportswear brand with a gym chain) and offer a prize to users who follow your brand and tag two or three of their friends. Everybody loves a freebie, and people will happily exchange a follow in return for the chance to win.

Hashtags
Adding hashtags to your Instagram posts is a great way to grow your followers. However, you need to ensure you’re only using hashtags that are relevant to your niche. While generic ones like #love or #summer might get you some fleeting engagement, they won’t net you followers. Instead, use free tools like Websta to identify those hashtags that are of most relevance to your brand and get tagging.

Geotags
The hashtag with a twist: geotags are great for making regional-specific posts more discoverable. Locations on Instagram have feeds and Stories that any user can add to by simply tagging their location.

If you have a brick-and-mortar as well as an online presence, geotags can be used to share in-store posts, connecting with customers in your area. Alternatively, use them to promote pop-up stores or launch events in real-time to get your brand noticed.

Using region-specific Instagram posts to promote special offers to leads in your location is a great way to raise awareness for your brand. Customers in your area are more likely to be qualified leads due to their proximity, and so geotags make it easier to target them and promote your brand. Creating a solid audience locally is a good foundation for brand awareness that fosters other stages further down the funnel.

 

Stage 2: Engagement

Once you’ve built a solid base of followers, encourage them to engage with your brand so that they become more familiar with who you are and what you’re all about. This is stage two of the social funnel.

Regularly post high-quality, appealing images with relevant captions and hashtags. Create a strong editorial calendar to plan your posts ahead of time, too. It’ll help structure your output, and you can always amend it if you find certain types of content don’t work so well. Be sure to use a social scheduling tool like Later or Schedugram to automate your calendar — they’re a real time-saver.

But it’s not enough to simply post great content. Liking and replying to your followers’ comments helps build rapport, encouraging future engagement and strengthening their loyalty to your brand. Ultimately, your interaction with your followers will help warm leads move through the funnel to stage three.

 

Stage 3: Conversion

Building a loyal following off the back of consistent posting and interaction will lead to a core group of users who are most likely to convert. These users will regularly engage with your posts and have a clear interest in what you share. As a result, they’re most likely to convert.

There are a number of ways you can target these users and drive sales from Instagram:

Link in bio
Until recently, most brands used the “link in bio” caption on Instagram posts to direct followers to their online store. These days, most brands pin Story Highlights about certain products or pages, including a “swipe up” or “see more” call to action.

However, if your followers are required to leave the app to make a purchase — which they most likely are — then your CMS functionality must be on-point. Your landing pages should be relevant to your Instagram content, with a user-friendly, mobile-responsive design and a rapid loading speed. If they’re not, your hot leads might tank.

When it comes to tracking these kinds of sales, it can be tricky to come up with an accurate measurement of which posts successfully lead to conversions. Using a single trackable bit.ly link in your bio can give you a general idea of the overall success of your Instagram channel, but only broadly.

For a more granular view, you would need to create a link for each post, although this is hugely time-consuming. As such, it might be better for you to use Instagram Shoppable posts.

Shoppable posts
Instagram Shoppable tags were only recently released and were something of a game-changer for the app. Using these tags in your posts lets customers seamlessly make a purchase, without ever leaving the Instagram app. Instagram does need to approve your account for shopping, and you’ll need to have an existing Facebook Page with a Facebook Shop attached to qualify, but it’s a great innovation that’s well worth investing in if you can.

Plus, as purchases on Shoppable posts are all made in-app, these direct sales are easily trackable and measurable. As such, it provides you with a far more detailed view of the efficacy of your Instagram channel in driving sales.

The introduction of Shoppable tags has transformed Instagram and its role in the marketing funnel. Where previously it had primarily served as a means of researching and engaging with a brand, it now plays a key role in encouraging users to swiftly and easily make a purchase without ever leaving the app.

To take advantage of the higher conversions and simplified buyer’s journey that this creates, it’s crucial that your brand implements this where it can.

Instagram offers ecommerce brands a wealth of opportunity when it comes to driving sales. The platform naturally lends itself to ecommerce, with its emphasis on visual content providing the perfect means for curating and presenting products. The recent rollout of the Instagram Shoppable tag has opened up even further opportunities for online retailers. As such, it’s vital that you nail the social funnel and use it to see your growth soar.