According to Smart Insights, Instagram is now the fastest growing social network in the world with over 600 million active monthly users as of December 2016. And, while Instagram has long been known as a fantastic platform for building brand and community as well as a great place to generate awareness and leads, it was difficult to show how these activities could translate directly to sales. Like most social media networks, Instagram simply wasn’t built with last-touch attribution or CPA campaigns in mind. As a result, proving ROI from Instagram has been challenging.

All that may soon change as the app continues to roll out features that make it easier for brands to convert leads into sales — and more major updates are still in the works. If these are successfully integrated with Instagram’s already retail friendly and visually appealing user interface, we may soon see the photo sharing platform explode into a major sales channel and an ecommerce powerhouse.

Here are some of the new or recent features you should know about if you’re looking to convert more leads through Instagram:

 

Tell your story with Instagram Stories.

While many of us would love to rush to the finish line, it takes time to make a sale — especially on social media. Brands need to tell their stories in a compelling way that attracts prospects and nurtures relationships throughout the buyer’s journey before experiencing significant sales volume.

This past summer, Instagram replicated Snapchat’s “stories” feature, making it possible for Instagrammers to produce short, bite-sized videos that disappear 24 hours after posting. A series of these videos is known as a story.

Stories allow people on Instagram to connect with their audiences in a deeper, more intimate and authentic way. They also have a more urgent, ‘in-the-moment’ feel than do static photos or videos and users can see which of their followers and how many of them view their stories. Attracting followers and keeping audiences readily engaged through Instagram stories, which now show up in the Explore tab, makes it possible for brands to attract attention as well as keep top of mind with followers and establish a more personal relationship with them. Creating daily story content that provides value that will prime viewers to be more receptive to any sales messages the brand puts out.

While Instagram is notorious for its lack of link-sharing, Instagram recently gave users the ability to feature to tag themselves or other accounts in their Instagram stories. Sellers can now use Instagram Stories to talk about their products, demonstrate how they work, and tag the brand so viewers can then click a link in the bio to a landing page.

 

Go live!

Stories certainly provide an exciting and in-the-moment feel, but nothing is as ‘right-now’ as live video. Like Facebook, Instagram informs your audience when you’re live, but unlike Facebook, Instagram live videos do not save. This means no one will see the video once it’s done. Therefore, make sure to give your audience the heads up so they will be ready and watching at the time when you are live. To ensure maximum exposure and viewers, announce in your stories, your Instagram posts, and on other marketing channels when you will be going live on Instagram. 

Live videos are a direct and fun way to establish greater rapport and connection with your audience. They also provide a wonderful opportunity to tell people what you’re all about and answer questions from your audience about your products and your company. You can also tell your viewers to go to your website or other channels where they can purchase your products.

 

Message people directly.

A brand has to be very careful how it uses the direct messenger or DM button. Steer clear of spamming, which could cost you a great deal of followers and get you suspended or banned from the platform.

Instead, use the DM feature for business development. Connect with influencers with whom you can establish strategic relationships. Answer questions from prospects or respond to messages from customers. You can also DM people who have been expressing a great deal of interest in you in the comments of your posts.

 

Brace yourself for the Shop Now button.

Engagement on Instagram is particularly high, even relative to other popular social networks. In fact, user engagement on Instagram is 10 times higher than it is on Facebook, 84 times higher than on Twitter, and 54 times higher than on Pinterest!

Clearly, Instagram commands a large portion of the attention graph, which makes it a potential goldmine for any store that figures out how to monetize its Instagram following. However, this was not easy to do until now, because brands could only feature one link at a time and only in their page bios.

Recently, Instagram announced that it will be rolling out a Shop Now button, which will enable users to purchase any shoppable product on Instagram without leaving the app. Since it’s hard to get people to click through a variety of different web pages, ecommerce stores will likely enjoy more sales from Instagram once it’s possible for users to buy directly on the platform.

Currently, the shop now button is in testing with a small number of popular brands, including Warby Parker and JackThreads. However, once this technology becomes available to the general public, it will surely be a major game-changer for Instagram and for ecommerce.

While it still has a way to go, Instagram is poised to become a major player in ecommerce and online sales. Ecommerce stores would do well to take advantage of the new features currently available on Instagram and keep abreast of any new developments that will make selling on the popular platform easier than ever before.

Zev Gotkin

In addition to blogging and consulting on marketing content, Zev is known to take a lot of selfie videos and is always down for late night karaoke.

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