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How to sell on Instagram: Yoco’s guide for beginners | Part 1

Instagram is one of the most powerful places to do business online. First, we'll look at how to optimise your business's profile so you are perfectly set up to start selling on Instagram.
sell on instagram-yoco

Welcome to the Yoco beginners’ guide on how to sell on Instagram. In this 2 part series, we’ll start by unpacking the ins and outs of optimising your profile to do better business, and in part 2, we’ll look at different ways to use Instagram to actually make sales. With so many social platforms to choose from these days, it can be difficult to hone in on which serve your business best. No matter your social portfolio, we’ll discuss why Instagram should be on the top of your list. 

Why use Instagram to boost your sales?

The photo-sharing colossus boasts more than 1 billion users globally, and 500 million of them engage with the app every day. Instagram has become one of the world’s most powerful tools for businesses that want to use a digital platform, to make real-world sales.

A
2019 Survey conducted by Facebook states that 83% of users say that Instagram helps them find brand new products and services; 81% further research the product right there on Instagram; and 80% ultimately decide whether or not to buy the product because of what they have viewed. 


Gaining an international following is one thing, but what about
stats for SA? After all, that’s the market your business is most likely to operate in (at least at first). Well, brace yourself: 40% of the SA population uses social media (that’s 22.89 million people), there are over 5 million South African Instagram accounts in 2020, 53% of these users are women, and the highest user group is aged 25-34 (1.4 million). So, if your target market includes women, or a younger crowd, you’re in the right place. 


We already know that when it comes to marketing your business, social media is the ultimate way to easily reach out to a wider, already engaged audience. Creating and developing a brand personality is a natural side-effect of posting and interacting online, building awareness for not only your products, but what your business stands for and means to people. Engaging with customers is part of the package deal, which builds trust and more intimate connections with potentially millions of users.

How to use your business’s Instagram account for maximum impact:

1. Convert to an Instagram business account

If you haven’t already upgraded to a business account (don’t worry, it’s free) we highly recommend you do so. It gives your profile a totally different edge and provides access to several super helpful features:

a) Instagram shopping (more on that in part 2)

b) Adding an Instagram CTA button: like contact, sell tickets, or schedule appointments.

c) The option to organise and schedule posts with free plugins/tools

2. Enhance your business profile

Many consumers go straight to social media when wanting to learn about a brand, not Google. This means your social media profiles could already be more important than your website – at the very least, they deserve the same amount of targeted creative energy.

a) Pick a pro profile pic

On Instagram, your profile picture must look great in a circle, so think about that when deciding on what to choose. Use a well branded image like a logo or professional headshot, and make it pop and easy to identify.

b) Better your bio

If you want to sell on Instagram, you’ll need to speak to your audience and tell them why they should be interested in your brand. You have max 150 words and 30 hashtags – no pressure.

Some recommendations:

  • Include your business name.
  • Give a short description of your brand.
  • Use no more than 140-160 characters.
  • Add a call to action (CTA) straight to your business website or online store.
  • Highlight key information with emojis (like phone number, email etc).
  • Add branded hashtags to curate images and videos, and encourage user generated content (UGC).

c) Link smart

It’s the only clickable link you can add to your Instagram profile, so make it count. First choice for conversions is an online store, but it can also be a website, blog, or anywhere else online that you are most active. (More on leveraging this link to sell on Instagram, in Part 2.)  

3. Post photos and promote your catalogue

Instagram is literally all about the imagery, so really allow your products to shine and look as beautiful as possible. This is what makes Instagram the perfect platform for a digital catalogue – in fact, some people will follow a business just because they love their grid-posts, before they even know what the brand is actually selling. Give context, grab the opportunity to showcase products outside of the store-window environment, and make them look more real and feel more natural. 

4. Encourage user generated content (UGC)

The unfortunate reality is that people trust people more than they do brands. This means that posts about your products that are made by someone else, hold a lot more water. So, if someone happens to post about your business/product, ask them permission to be tagged or to repost.

Or, instead of waiting for someone to rave about you, ask for what you want: encourage them by offering special deals or giveaways if people post about your products or business. Think unboxing videos, usage shots, and branded hashtags. This also allows you to showcase your products from a different angle, although the execution isn’t quite as much within your control. A great way to encourage UGC is through Instagram contests – but, we’ll get into that in Part 2. 

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“I’m the owner, I’m the sewer, I’m the stuffer - I’m everything.” Meet Mitchell Mpofu, founder of @thecushiongirl_za which specialises in custom-made knot cushions and braided cot bumpers. She’s also one of the Grand Prize winners form our #RestartWithYoco competition. With just one more exam left of her Civil Engineering National Diploma, lockdown began and physical classes stopped completely. Instead of just sitting at home, she decided to harness her creativity and start a business. “I had a lot of time on my hands and I had always wanted to start something of my own. I got a link to a group of wonderful ladies from all over the continent who were also interested in making home decor products. That’s how I started.” She began sourcing and playing around with different fabrics, stuffings and knotting techniques before settling on her now signature style. And just like that - Nomvelo Eland Creatives was born. Her first social media post showcasing her products was on Twitter and after that initial post, orders exploded! She now also sells from Facebook Marketplace, Instagram and the Riversands Farm Village Market, and has big plans for the future. “I would like to open a store. A physical store, where people can actually come in and get to see the products, interact, touch and all that. I’d also like to create jobs and employ a few people, as well as create more of a product range.” When asked what advice she would give to other people wanting to start their own businesses she said; “I’d say you shouldn’t fear, you should start wherever you are. It’s important to start. If you are scared that people won’t buy, just start.”

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5. Other Content?

If your profile feels spammy, your followers will be put off and quickly lose interest. So, as with most social media platforms, what keeps your fans captivated and engaged is useful, generous, and interesting content. Simply posting about competitions, or constantly pushing for sales just isn’t enough. You can also drive traffic to your blog, website, or other social pages by sharing across platforms, and pairing it with an inspiring image to lure Instagram users into reading more. This means whatever content you do manage to produce, can be used to delight even more potential customers. Here are some great tips and ideas to help get the creative juices flowing. It’s always a good idea to have a content plan – here’s how.

6. Link your Instagram account to a Facebook business page

If you plan to sell on Instagram by dabbling in the world of Instagram Shopping, or want to start posting ads and boosting posts, you’ll need to attach your Instagram business account to your Facebook business page. This will give you access to important features and tools like Facebook + Instagram Ads Manager, and combined analytics.

However you approach it, you’ll want to make sure that your brand look, feel and story are consistently reflected in every aspect of your online activity. Your aesthetic at first glance, must mirror the style and feeling you want to evoke in your customers. And it must stay that way over time, in order to build a loyal and devoted following that will soon convert into sales. Join us for part 2 of our guide on how to sell on Instagram, to get stuck into the nitty gritty of actually making those sales.

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