Since launching in 2010, Instagram has quickly become a go-to platform for social content.

Currently, it has over one billion users, making it an invaluable tool for companies to boost brand awareness and drive engagement amongst target audiences. Of course, these benefits have not gone unnoticed by the 25 million businesses that have set up profiles on the platform, or its two million monthly advertisers.

However, despite such a large corporate presence, less than half of organisations say that they see a return of investment (ROI) from Instagram. Indeed, many brands admit they struggle to translate user interaction – whether that be likes or views – into measurable sales. This has been put down to the platform’s continuous updates and the difficulties associated with ensuring that social marketing strategies keep up.

There is no one set formula on how to drive social sales. However, below are a few key tips that brands can adopt in order to make the most out of Instagram’s commercial opportunities.

Minimise the steps to purchase

A convenient and easy shopping experience has the potential to drive key improvements for retailers. For example, it can increase conversion rates and dramatically reduce shopping cart abandonment, an issue that affects almost three quarters (74%) of online sales.

Instagram’s shoppable posts are achieving this by minimising steps to purchase. On a widespread scale, this enables product tagging within posts, while the latest update lets users checkout without leaving the app. Currently, this feature is exclusive to the US but, if successful, it could become a feature worldwide.

Almost half of e-commerce brands already incorporate such posts into their social activity, which alone is evidence of this feature’s success. What’s more, it capitalises on the 600 million people turning to Instagram to find new products. However, to make the most of this opportunity, brands need to maintain follower engagement. So, what is the best way to go about this?

Sharing is caring

Encouraging users to share content – and therefore reaching a completely new customer base – is just one way of boosting engagement.

To do this, businesses should leverage the power of user-generated content and urge customers to share images of their purchases. Establishing branded #hashtags and photo competitions will then build on this interaction.  

However, research found that a fifth (17%) of the UK’s leading e-retailers are currently stifling their brand’s reach by failing to incorporate sharing buttons onto their sites. This is an issue that urgently needs addressing.

Effective use of Stories

With a third of the most popular Instagram Stories coming from business accounts, the majority of retailers are already aware of this feature’s ability to boost brand engagement.

Until now, brands have predominantly featured product-related content on their feeds – utilising shoppable posts – and used Stories for more conversational, “behind the scenes” visuals. However, following the introduction of product stickers in Stories, companies need to showcase products across all aspects of their account.  

One way of doing this is by creating catalogue-style feeds consisting of simple product shots to generate initial interest. Stories can then include more detailed information on corresponding products (such as price) to engage and convert interested customers.

Given that users have to actively click on a story, they are naturally going to be more engaged in a brand. So, companies taking advantage of this feature will help maximise the number of social-generated sales.

Keep the ball rolling

With the above information to hand, brands can expect to effectively capitalise on the benefits that Instagram has to offer. However, with the ever-changing nature of the platform, social strategies need to be constantly updated. Therefore, to maximise social success, brands need to revise their approach to Instagram on an ongoing basis.