10 Tips for Using Instagram to Create Fans and Make Sales

Here are some tips for using Instagram to build your fan base and generate sales revenue.



Brad Shorr is the B2B Internet marketing director of Straight North, an Internet marketing firm headquartered in Chicago with services including SEO, PPC and responsive web design.

If you are marketing to teens (and college-age youths), the time has come to beef up your Instagram presence, as this recent SocialTimes article demonstrates. Here are tips for using Instagram to build your fan base and generate sales revenue, based in large part on what we learned during the successful launch of our sister company, Pro Stock Hockey. A few quick stats on the company’s Instagram results to date:

Instagram Tips

    1. Find fans the old-fashioned way, through trench work. Instagram gives you the option of searching by hashtag or user name. This is rather limited, but the hashtag feature is useful if you identify popular, relevant terms. Find images that use those hashtags, and follow users who like them, hoping they will follow you back. Other ways to identify potential fans:


      • Follow followers of other users after reviewing their profiles to determine whether they are relevant.
      • Follow followers of companies or other organizations after reviewing their profiles to determine whether they are relevant.
      • Follow people who like related images, after reviewing their profiles to determine whether they are relevant. As you may have noticed, the key here is to vet users rather than indiscriminately follow people. All the shotgun approach does is give you a bad followers-to-following ratio that turns off relevant would-be fans.


    1. Post images regularly. Once or twice a day is plenty when you’re ramping up your presence. Long intervals between posts leads to an “out of sight, out of mind” situation that inhibits engagement.


    1. Use captions to stimulate conversation. When you post an image, you have the option of adding a description. Whenever possible, use the description to encourage comments. For example, instead of posting the image of a product, use Pic Stitch or another image-editor app to create an image of two products and ask, “Which one would you prefer?” Also: Use popular hashtags in your descriptions — they help users discover your images.


    1. Use direct (private) messages to encourage fans to spread the word. Once you have a few engaged users, asking them for a shoutout via a direct message is OK. Their endorsements, which are visible to their followers, give you greater credibility and visibility, and attract fans.


    1. Run contests. Instagram’s promotion guidelines allow you to be very creative — take advantage of the opportunity. A good Instagram contest is simple; for example, enter a prize lottery by commenting on this post or by posting an image of you using this product. Remember: The Instagram audience is young, and young people always, always, always want a chance to get free stuff.


    1. Publish “behind the scenes” images. Instagram users love to see images that aren’t the same stuff they see on a company website. Star Wars on Instagram (555,000 followers) is a great example of a behind-the-scenes strategy. Also look at Alice and Olivia and Google for ideas.


    1. Use video. Instagram allows you to publish videos up to 15 seconds in length. Videos are popular (especially the behind-the-scenes variety) and need not be expensive productions to attract attention. In fact, non-professional video – and photography – can be much more popular with Instagram users than the highly polished stuff.


    1. Respond to comments quickly. Instagram users really enjoy getting a response to their comments; it makes them feel connected and excited about sharing the news about your brand. When responding to comments, always start with @username so everyone can keep track of who is talking to whom.


    1. Connect posts to your website. If you publish the image of a cool new product, insert its URL in your image description so fans can find it, and maybe order it, on your website.


  1. Be generous. Like images posted by your followers. Besides being a thoughtful gesture, this makes you more visible. Go out of your way to mention followers in your posts or in comments on your posts or theirs. Like most social media platforms, the principle of “give to get” goes a long way.