Instagram is somewhat of an unknown entity for many businesses, with many choosing to steer clear, sticking to more familiar networks such as Facebook. Instagram is a fabulous social platform, with high levels of media consumption and engagement. The network has 500 million daily active users and 25 million businesses [src]. With the increasing levelling of gender distribution, it’s becoming more of a rounded platform suitable for a wider range of sectors. At present 50.7% of users are female [src].
It’s picture based format is wonderful, but how can it be used successfully to become a marketing asset, increasing ecommerce sales and brand recognition? If updates are well thought out, native, and adhere to basic guidelines brands can fly. Let’s take a look at a variety of ecommerce companies on Instagram, and see where their success lies.
The online clothing retailer, ASOS, do a fantastic job on Instagram. With 7.1 million followers at the time of writing, the brand is excelling on the platform and attracting a global following.
They share a variety of high-quality photos on their account, with a huge amount of user-generated content (UGC) and content from brand ambassadors. These ambassadors, created by ASOS, have the freedom to post whatever they like and all of their accounts link back to the ASOS one. The use of UGC and ambassadors are great for two reasons. Firstly, the account is lower maintenance as they’ve got a stream of content they can readily tap into. Secondly, this content generates more shares and likes, since it taps into other users followers (for example style bloggers). This helps increase likes and engagement.
The lifestyle shots are also good. Images of people doing yoga and sports and such, inspire their audience and encourage them to lead a healthy lifestyle. Videos bring updates to life, some showing models pulling poses and others going behind the scenes to show the origins of certain pieces and fabrics. These video updates build brand personality and increase engagement.
ASOS’ main wins: UGC, lifestyle shots, videos
GoPro is doing a great job of utilizing Instagram, and appealing to their target audience. By sharing pictures of dramatic landscapes and action-packed videos, they’re appealing to photographers, travellers and athletes. Their account is filled with lifestyle photos, which appeal to their target market. They’re selling the travelling lifestyle.
They’ve also created a culture around UGC, where high-quality photos or videos shot using GoPros are reposted. This means that they’ve always got tons of fantastic quality photos to share. Their followers go out with the intention of shooting sterling material with the hope of being featured. It’s a win-win.
Lastly, GoPro does a fab job with their Non-distractive video ads. These ads are short videos, which soft sell their latest product. They are fun, engaging and don’t turn followers off with a hard sell. They’re also making use of tags, which is important for findability on Instagram. The use of tags like #Diving and #UnderwaterPhotography help them to be found for those subjects.
GoPro Main Wins: UGC, lifestyle shots, videos, non-disruptive video ads
Airbnb is being clever with their account, posting stunning photos of locations and properties available to rent through their website. They kill two birds with one stone, sharing fabulous inspirational photos (to excite followers about the idea of travelling to far-flung places) and promoting actual holiday rentals they have available.
The second thing we love about Airbnb is the storytelling, how very human it is. They feature hosts and share interesting anecdotes about each. This is a fantastic strategy since it matches their brand, which is centred around people. Many of their photos are user-generated too, either taken by the hosts or adventurers.
AirBnB Main Wins: UGC and storytelling
Pact Coffee @pactcoffee
Pact Coffee, an ethically sourced coffee subscription service are doing a few things right with their account. Firstly. They’re actively highlighting the ethical nature of their product, sharing stories of growers, the care they take to grow and harvest each bean, and their effect on the community.
They also post a variety of artsy coffee photos showing everything from espressos to lattes. Interspersing pictures of herbal and rooibos teas, shown with their loose tea leaves, bags and garnishes. Pictures of coffee beans, with their flavour highlights pictured, such as peach and blackcurrant. These images do a great job of summarising the rich flavour their teas and coffees posses.
Lastly, the videos they post take their followers behind the scenes into the farms and roasting process. These videos help to develop their brand personality and give followers insight into the process of getting coffee from plant to cup.
Pact Coffee Main Wins: Stories about growers, artsy coffee pics, videos
Not an iPhone in sight. Apple uses their account for one purpose, to show off their phones superior camera quality. Every picture is user submitted, which means that Apple has zero headaches about sourcing stellar photos. Images are extremely high quality and this is because of the sheer volume of submissions they receive (due to the prestige of having a photo shared by the company), so they can afford to be picky.
Apple Main Wins: UGC, community involvement, no selling, videos
JustFab EU @justfabeu
Just fab sell shoes, but they do so much more than that on their Instagram account. Firstly, they post great lookbooks, pictures of outfits matched with a pair of shoes. They post a lot of lifestyle shots too, photos of the beach, champagne, puppies and more. All of these subjects are ones that they’ve deemed of interest their chosen target audience. They have a high level of user-generated content and this helps to create a community feel on the account. JustFaB EU does a brilliant job of engaging with followers, replying to comments promptly, mirroring language and using emojis.
On mobile, each post is shoppable. What does this mean? You can tap on any image and items within it, that are available to purchase will show (in this case shoes), clicking the specific item will take you to the page to buy it.
Just Fab also regularly post to their Instagram story, this is a great thing to do since stories are displayed at the top of users feeds on mobile. Stories are one of the most visible things to mobile users, which is the majority of users.
JustFab EU Main Wins: Shoppable posts, lookbooks, UGC, engagement and lifestyle shots, posting to their story
Moo is doing a fantastic job, sharing content that directly appeals to their target audience – designers. Their focus on design and providing inspiration for print and brand designers means that they have an audience of interested followers. By sharing pictures of superbly design business cards and postcard they are also showing off the quality of their products.
Moo is also winning by posting fun little videos, of handshake no-nos, fonts and non-disruptive product tours. Moos account is like a playground for designers. They also regularly repost followers posts and this helps to create more of an engaged community and increase likes.
Moo Main Wins: Focus on design, videos, UGC, shoppable posts
Chilly’s Bottles @chillysbottles
Chilly’s bottles are doing very well with user-generated content. They’ve created a buzz around what essentially are nicely coloured/designed flasks. They post pictures of their bottles on the beach, being held over a cliff, in someone’s gym kit. They’re creating and selling a lifestyle associated with their bottles. Their account has a good mix of user-generated and self-created posts.
They’ve got a high level of user engagement and comments. They’re also great at getting back to comments left on their posts, so they’re known for being responsive. It’s this that helps contribute to their great customer service (and probably helps increase sales from social media too).
Chilly Bottles Main Wins: UGC, responsiveness, shoppable posts
Meow box offers a monthly cat subscription box service. They use their Instagram to share super cute photos of cats, reposting photos and videos from popular accounts. This is a great way of piggybacking off of larger accounts. No doubt that they are asking permission first, then posting each image/video up, crediting the creator with a tag and a mention in the description. It just goes to show that there is more than one way to source content. We also love their use of memes relating to #themeowlife and how they’re making use of thier story, posting screenshots of blog posts.
Meowbox Main Wins: utilising other users content, videos, memes, making use of their story
B&H Photo @bhphoto
B&H Photo is an online and offline store selling photo and video equipment. They post a variety of landscape and portrait photography, appealing to both segments of the photography market (by doing this they’re also attracting photographers by posting up amazing captures. They regularly feature equipment available through their shop. Instead of using user-generated content, they use a similar strategy to Meowbox, approaching other Instagram users and sharing their photos.
They also use their Instagram to promote their weekly podcast (which they link to in their profile) and make use of their story.
B&H Photo Main Wins: Appealing to photographers, utilising other users content, posting to their story
An unlikely contender, FedEx relies entirely on user-generated content. Every shot is a stunning and contains either one of their planes or vans. They’ve been really clever with their strategy and it’s paid off. Followers tag FedEx in their photos so that they can re-post.
FedEx Main Wins: UGC, inventiveness
Beauty brand Birchbox has it all figured out on Instagram. They post artful product selection photos on complimenting backgrounds, quotes to inspire, the occasional treatment video and more. The quotes add personality to the brand and help the company get involved in empowering women. The product photos are beautiful and really stand out, especially against others with stark white backgrounds.
Video demonstrations bring products to life, giving users a chance to see how a product actually works without having to pop into their local drugstore. Tutorials educate their audience on new methods to try in their beauty regime. Overall Birchbox is doing fabulously, with a great mix of content on their account.
Birchbox Main Wins: Quotes, product selection shots, videos, UGC, shoppable posts
Old Spice @oldspice
Old Spice has an off the wall, witty account. In recent years Old Spice has been shifting their target market from 40-60-year-olds to 18-35-year-olds. Their vibrant, zany sense of humour appeals to their new target audience. The videos, engage and delight. While their memes elicit great responses and generate shares/comments.
Old Spice Main Wins: Wit, memes
Dollar Shave Club @dollarshaveclub
The Dollar Shave Club is doing a great job on Instagram. They post a variety of content including tips and tutorials about grooming. They also share funny memes, quotes, illustrations, attractive product photos and spot the different posts. They occasionally feature customers, talking about their occupations and morning routine. This helps to generate a community feel and increase engagement across the account. They have a great tone of voice on their account, using wit to appeal to their target market. They also frequently make use of their story, which helps to increase exposure.
Dollar Shave Club Main Wins: Tips & tutorials, attractive product photos, #yourthing, posting to their story
Vogue Magazine @voguemagazine
Not technically an ecommerce brand, but they do have magazine subscriptions on their website. I want to highlight Vogue as they regularly share news related posts, whether it be about the royal baby or resistance against the Dakota Access pipeline. They refer to articles contained in their magazines, pulling quotes and sharing them alongside portraits. The news is a great thing to capitalise on since when a topic has a buzz around it, exposure is increased. In the case of the royal baby (Louis), many businesses posted on their social media, celebrating the news and capitalising on the extra exposure.
Vogue Main Wins: Posts about news, UGC
Once you get the right mix of content on your ecommerce Instagram account, it’ll surely fly. Posting lifestyle shots are great at appealing to wider audiences. Using video will help to increase engagement and build brand personality. Storytelling is a brilliant way to capture followers imaginations about travel and far-flung places.
If you sell physical products, do get creative with your photography. Take lots of arty photos and don’t be afraid to dress products up and use colourful backgrounds. Don’t sell too much on your account, you don’t want to switch followers off. The occasional promotional post is ok, make it engaging and fun so that it’s received better.
Make use of shoppable posts if you sell physical products, they are the greatest way to generate sales from the platform. Using your story will help you stay in the mind of your followers. Tips and tutorials are a great way to educate your audience and generate brand recognition among new audiences. Don’t be scared to post about newsworthy topics, those are often trending and will get your account more exposure.
Wit and memes are great. Reach out to other users (especially those posting picture of your products) and ask them if you can share their post with a credit. Re-post users who share pictures of your product/service, with a link back to their account. If you can, create a culture around sharing, a community feeling.
Don’t overlook these basics
Above all else, don’t forget to use tags. One of the things neglected by most of the accounts on this list is the use of tags. This is because most of the accounts are so large that they don’t need to rely on them for exposure. Tags are like keywords, they help you get found and increase exposure. Using around 10 per post is recommended, and do your research beforehand to make sure they’re thriving. Be responsive to your audience, reply to comments as soon as you can and mimic the personality of your brand and language of your followers. Use emojis! And last by not least, make sure you post frequently. Consistency is key to building a social following and also builds credibility.
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