If you haven’t been living off the grid for the past decade, you probably know that Instagram (and social media in general) is a powerful tool for promoting your business. According to digital marketing agency Omnicore, 32% of all internet users (your buyers) are on Instagram. The social platform caters to 800 million ‘grammers monthly, and that includes 25 million businesses.
In other words, if you don’t have an Instagram account yet, you’re probably going to want to sign up for one, pronto.
Maybe you already do have an account, but you’re just using it for connecting socially instead of for your business (we recommend keeping them separate). Maybe you did set up a business account, but you’re not using it to its full potential.
Wherever you’re at, we’ve got you covered.
In this article, we’ll tell you all you need to know about making the right moves on Instagram to be a successful eBay entrepreneur, including how to set up your business account, and how you can use the platform to market your business.
Part I: Foundation & Strategy
1. Set Your Instagram #Goals
Before you do anything tactical with Instagram—setting up your account, picking your handle, figuring out what to post—set your social media objective so it aligns with your selling goals.
As an eBay seller, you might simply want to market your items to more buyers.
Sprout Social has a great list of objectives to consider while setting your Instagram goals, including increasing buyer engagement and loyalty, highlighting your items, incentivizing buyer engagement, and more.
Keeping your objectives in mind will help keep you on track while you design your profile, build your social strategy, and engage with your followers. Any time you’re unsure about if you should post something, remember your goals. Did you snap of shot of your cat doing something cute, and want to share it? Maybe not on your business page. Did you come across an awesome quote about vintage items, and you sell vintage items? Maybe you should share that. Put your business and your goals first, and your pathway to success will be clearer.
2. Set Up Your Account
Once you have your objective in mind, create your Instagram business account.
a. Download the app.
Instagram primarily operates on mobile, so download the app for Apple or Android. (While you’re at it, also make sure you’ve got the eBay app on your phone. Being mobile-first is highly important in the modern market.) You can also access Instagram on a desktop browser, but that only allows for limited functionality (for instance, you can’t toggle between accounts on desktop.)
b. Sign up and create your Instagram handle.
When you sign up on the app, you'll enter your email or phone number. Then, you'll be asked to enter your name and a password. Enter your eBay business name in the name field, and choose a password. Instagram will choose a username for you, but you can change that after you create a password.
Then, head to your profile page and tap "Edit Profile." Here, you'll be able to update your username and other information.
Since you have already entered your business name, start with your username. In the interest of keeping your brand unified across platforms, you’ll want to name your Instagram account the same name as your eBay seller name. That way, buyers who already know you on eBay can more easily identify you.
If, for some reason, you eBay seller name is not available, you can get creative by adding an introductory phrase in front of it, or an underscore to separate words (instead of a number at the end). For instance, if your store name was Patsy’s Place, and “PatsysPlace” or “Patsys_Place” are already taken, you can try “eBayPatsysPlace,” “TheRealPatsysPlace,” “ItsPatsysPlace,” and the like. The introductory phrase is cleaner than adding a number at the end—especially if you already have a number at the end of your eBay store name, that starter phrase can eliminate confusion.
c. Complete your profile.
You create a profile when you sign up, and you can edit it further once you reach your new Instagram page.
If you haven't yet, add a profile photo, and make sure it represents your brand. If your face is very important to your brand, post a photo of yourself. Otherwise, use a seller signifier, such as your eBay business logo, or an item that represents the category you generally sell in.
In the website section of your profile, link to your eBay seller page or store.
Fill out your bio with information that lets your followers know you’re a seller, and what you specialize in selling. You are only allotted 150 characters, so be concise. You can use emojis to cut down on words, or elaborate on ideas.
For instance, you might say something like, “Certified sneakerhead. 👟 I collect rare kicks and sell them on eBay.” Or, “Fashion is my passion. You can find my vintage 👗, 👜, 👠 on my eBay Store.” Be a stickler for good grammar (it makes you look professional), but don’t be afraid to get creative.
It is especially important to have your profile complete before you start following buyers, potential buyers and other brands. If they can identify who you are and what you’re about, they’re more likely to follow you back. (But don’t follow anyone yet! More on that soon.)
d. Switch to a business account.
A few years ago, Instagram rolled out business accounts. Having a business account gives you more clout as a business, helps you get analytics about your posts and followers, and helps you promote posts.
To set it up, go to your settings, and scroll to find “Switch to Business Account.” Follow the subsequent steps (which includes connecting your account to a Facebook page. Make sure it’s a Facebook page for your eBay business, and not a personal page.)
3. Know Your Posting Types, Best Practices, and Tools
With your brand goals and identity set, put your posting strategy to paper (or digital notepad.)
a. Get familiar with Instagram content types (and use them).
Instagram isn't just for photos! Although that’s the primary function of the site, you can also post videos. And when you do post photos, remember that you can post multiple photos in one post—up to 10.
You can also use Instagram Stories, which allows you to add moments throughout your day to a single “story” without cluttering the newsfeed. After 24 hours, the story will disappear. For instance, if you want to post a special feature about how you ship, but it doesn’t quite fit within the rest of the content you’ve been posting, you can add those videos and snapshots to your daily Instagram story. It’s a savvy way to engage with your audience without diluting your meticulously curated content page.
Even better: If you’re savvy at video, posting your moments-in-motion on the site can get you twice the engagement that photos will get you on any other social platform.
b. Create content in advance, and know how much (and when) to post.
Creating content beforehand is a great way to make sure you always have something to share. Consult your schedule, and carve out a few times per week that you are available to take photos and write captions for the items you want to feature. You can file these on a folder in your desktop and use a spreadsheet to track everything. The Instagram community takes care in the images they post, so educate yourself on best photography practices. And check out accounts you like, and learn from what they’re doing.
Once you have amassed content to choose from, post consciously, around a few times per week. You don’t want to flood your feed with too many images at once. Once you get on a regular posting schedule, and understand the rhythm of the site, consider posting more frequently. Think strategically, and you’ll be able to gauge how much is just enough to post.
c. Add helpful apps to your posting toolbox.
Apps are a great way to add a little kick to your posting plan. One way you can get creative is with layout apps. Instagram’s own Layout for Apple or Android is a great one. It allows you to stitch together multiple snapshots in one frame. (Although you can post multiple photos in one batch post on Instagram, the first photo is what catches everyone’s attention, so consider using a layout app for this purpose.)
And, if you want to edit outside of Instagram's filters and tools, you can get a photo editing app like Afterlight for Apple or Android. This will help you crop, add borders to a photo to make it square, and use other filters.
Apps like Regram (Android) and Repost it Whiz (Apple) can help you with engagement. By reposting a photo that you liked and tagging the person you posted it from, you can show goodwill and earn their confidence and trust enough for them to possibly follow you back. Make sure reposting fits within your overall business aesthetic, objective, and strategy.
If you know another great tool for Instagram, let us know your favorite in the comments.
Part II: Build Your Followers (Buyers) & Post With Pizazz
4. Post Photos and Follow ‘Grammers Like You.
Now that your profile is set up and ready to go, there are a few things to know before you follow, and how to encourage followers to follow you back.
a. Before you follow, add photos with hashtags.
Add at least two photos to your Instagram page before you start following your seller community and potential buyers. Just like having a completed profile, having a few photos on your page signifies that you’re engaged, you’re the real deal and not a bot, and ready to be part of the social community.
Tag those first few photos with something relevant like #seller, #entrepreneur, #smallbusiness. Or, if you are selling fashion, #jewelry or #sneakers. These tags will help others find your post and page more easily. Common words are more likely to be searched than say, a more unique hashtag like #sellingiscompelling or #hiphiphoorayforebay.
b. Follow your friends and competitors’ friends.
When you search for people to follow, the obvious ones might be your friends and family. But you can also do some digging. Do you have a competitor? Check out their followers and follow those accounts. Spend a little time getting to know the landscape and who is out there. When you follow someone, there’s also a drop-down arrow by the “Following” button. If you click on it, a list of other relevant accounts will appear. Follow those, as well.
c. Engage with your feed.
Following others won’t guarantee that you’ll get followed back, but it will give you an avenue to engage. Once you’ve followed enough people, you’ll have content in your Instagram feed that will give you engagement opportunities. Carve out some time to like and comment on the media you see. The more you like, comment on, and share other people’s posts, the more likely they will be to add you to their network.
Engagement, in short, is key to growth. That mantra will come in handy as you post.
5. Shape Your Content for Engagement.
One thing you have to remember about social media: It’s fun! Although many of those 25 million businesses on the ‘Gram are there to sell, you don’t have to sell in every single post. For instance, popular fast food chain and social media powerhouse Wendy’s will post product shots that advertise their menu. But they’ll also celebrate events like “National Pigtail Day.” That kind of feature is relevant to their brand, since their brand icon Wendy sports pigtails in the logo. But it’s also a fun way to get the audience involved and inject some enjoyment into the brand page, rather than hammering their community with a constant ‘buy, buy, buy,’ message. Plus, it’s shareable, and followers love content they can share with others. Remember that as you shape your posting plan.
And, if brands are there to solely sell, they’re putting creativity into their product shots to delight potential buyers as they scroll through the app. Check out this eos post where they likened the shape of their product to a balloon. It’s interesting to look at, and also showcases the item. In short, it makes the brand look professional, yet fun.
Some ideas for your posts could include inspirational quotes, or even videos with short tips about what gifts will be popular during an upcoming holiday. Your content will really depend on your goals. Remember that objective you set? Here’s where you’ll lean on it. If you want more buyers, you might position yourself as a personality with inspirational quotes to offer. If you want more sales, you might position yourself as a purveyor of quality, posting highly refined photos of your best items for sale.
Explore brands you admire to get ideas, especially ones relevant to your industry.
6. Brand Consistency Is Key.
When you create posts, you’ll want to remember to keep your messaging and look consistent so your audience can recognize your brand. Notice how when you go to a brand page, it has a specific aesthetic. If it has different types of posts, those posts still have the same type of filters, colors, and fonts. For instance, Panera tends to have top-down or 45-degree angle shots of food in natural lighting. They don’t tend to feature posts other than product shots, but most of those product shots still evoke a feeling of warmth. (That’s another thing to remember: it’s okay for your brand to stay human. And there are different ways you can do that, either through personality, or aesthetic.)
To create uniformity, you might want to pick one filter you use on all of your photos. Or, maybe you use no filter and always shoot in natural light. If you’re selling a product, you might want to always post three photos in a row: a sideways shot, a head-on shot, and a shot of the brand name on your item. That way they’ll all line up in your Instagram page. Again, do some research about how the best brands curate their pages.
7. That Text Box Matters
When you’re captioning your photo, there are a few things to keep in mind.
a. Keep your caption pointed.
Unlike the more concise Twitter, you can write a little more in your caption on Instagram. But that doesn’t always mean you should. When captioning your post, tell the audience what you want them to know, and add an action item if needed.
For instance, if you’re selling an item that’s on sale, let them know with an item description and a price, and then how they can reach that item. If you’re posting an inspirational quote, you can let them know you want to inspire them by using a hashtag like #motivationmonday.
If you’re into adding a bit of flair to your posts, you can use emojis. A good rule of thumb is “not too much.” Use good judgement when you’re adding them to your posts.
b. Direct potential buyers to the link in your bio.
One limitation to Instagram is that you can’t link in the post caption. Many get around this by directing people to the link in their bio. You can change the link whenever you like. For instance, if you want to link to a specific item, change your bio link when you post that item for your followers to see.
c. Hashtags are your friend.
Whenever you post, incorporate hashtags! Hashtags are used by the service to organize your post into categories, and allow other users to find you. But, as mentioned previously, there are a few strategic ways you can use hashtags. You can make up your own, but it’s harder for those to catch on as you begin to build your following.
According to Later, the best way to use hashtags is to seek community-oriented tags. Instagram has a plethora of tight-knit communities, from readers, to runners, to fashionistas, to woodworkers, and more. They all use specific hashtags to connect. You can start finding them by using the search and explore feature on the app to search a word that relates to the industry you sell in, like technology, electronics, musical instruments, fashion, or anything else. See what the top posts are using to tag their content. Adopt those hashtags.
If you already have a substantial following, or want to create a social foundation for your business, you can consider creating or using a hashtag that represents your brand. For instance, if your seller name is Stellar Seller, you can use the hashtag #stellarseller on each of your posts.
As with emojis, a good rule of thumb for hashtags is “not too much.”
Pro tip: Many people use hashtags at the end of their caption, and they also like to separate the hashtags from the caption so they’re not in the way.
For instance, your caption might be something like:
“1950s collectible figurine. $55. BOGO. See store link in bio.
#ebayseller #collectibles #figurine #porcelain”
Or you might prefer:
"1950s collectible figurine. $55. BOGO. See store link in bio.
#ebayseller #collectibles #figurine #porcelain"
Don't be afraid to test, and see what's working for you.
8. Promote, Engage, and Pay Attention to What’s Working.
After you've gotten warmed up with posting and finding followers, now you can have a little fun with your community, and analyze what's getting you the most engagement.
a. Run a contest.
Once you have a small number of followers, consider running a contest. On one of your posts, you can ask your followers to like, comment, tag someone, or share to win. This will both promote an item you are trying to sell, create engagement and awareness about your brand, and encourage followers.
b. Feature your buyers and followers.
A timeless way to build buyer loyalty is to highlight great feedback you receive. You might post a screenshot of a positive review, and thank that buyer and show your appreciation. This will also show your followers you have a strong reputation for great service and high-quality items.
c. Use ads to increase your reach.
Ads might sounds like they’re for large enterprises, but Instagram ads are accessible to small businesses, too. They are managed through Facebook, and can cost as little as a few dollars per day. If you’re unsure about if they’ll work for you, start small, and do some tests to see if they are for you.
d. Track your progress.
Regularly (at least weekly to start) check in to your posts to see how they’re performing. You might want to give some posts a bit of time to stew before you gauge their progress, but it’s also good to see what does well immediately. Keep a spreadsheet of your best posts, and note the hashtags you used, if you used emojis or not, what kind of photo you featured (product shot? inspirational?) and other details you can think of. As you study what’s working, you can begin to shape your content around your successes.
Got any more tips? Share how you sell successfully on Instagram in the comments.
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