eMarketer graph for social media

Instagram use has been on the rise over the past several years, and is projected to continue its upward path.

One thing is for certain in the digital world we live in: things are always changing. This is especially true when it comes to social media. As new platforms are introduced, old favorites must adjust to keep up with the times.

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While social media giant Facebook still leads the pack, users are beginning to move to other platforms. eMarketer has reported that time spent on Facebook and Snapchat have hit a plateau, and those numbers are actually expected to drop in the coming years.

However, one platform is catching everyone’s eye, as users begin to spend more and more time scrolling its feed and viewing its stories. That platform is Instagram.

While Facebook is not projected to lose its lead in the social media world anytime soon, it’s important to pay attention to the increased popularity of Instagram, and to take advantage of innovative new ways its developers have created to reach your target audience.

What’s New With The ‘Gram?

If you’re at all familiar with Instagram (and you should be as a small business owner!) you’ll know two things about calls to action: up until now you have not been able to add clickable links in post captions, and you’ve only been able to feature one clickable link in your bio. Quite frustrating when you’re trying to bring followers to your website to shop your products and services!

We’ve got some great news for you. Recently, Instagram introduced two exciting new Call to Action features, which allow users to interact with your posts, and even to shop your store without ever leaving Instagram.

1. Shop Now

Instagram Shopping For Small BusinessIf your business sells products, the Shop Now feature is just what you needed from Instagram. This new feature gives businesses to tag products featured in a photo, allowing users to click on the product, thus opening a window within Instagram for the users to purchase the product from your website.

This is a huge deal, not only because you’re able to potentially make a sale through a social media post, but the user is able to shop for products without ever needing to leave Instagram. People don’t like it when they’re taken away from something they are trying to do, and by allowing them to click a few buttons, purchase a product, then get right back to scrolling through Instagram, everyone is left a very happy camper.

2. Swipe Up

Swipe Up is a feature you may have seen in Instagram Stories (that collection of videos and pictures that are posted along the top of your Instagram feed, which disappear after 24 hours.) This is perfect for small businesses that feature services instead of goods, as Swipe Up allows you to direct users to the content of your choice, rather than a tangible product.

By using the Swipe Up feature, you can allow users to do everything from view a full-length video of you featuring your service, to opening a page that describes a service you offer, to bringing up a blog post on a recent project you completed.

How Does It Work?

First off, these features are not available to everyone. Instagram has implemented several requirements a business must meet before they can create shoppable posts, and a separate set of requirements to add the Swipe Up feature to stories. Here’s how to take advantage of each of these new features:

1. Activating Shop Now

Instagram Shopping For Small Business - ModCloth

Items within the post are tagged for sale, allowing users to select whatever catches their eye and make purchases right within Instagram.

First, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Your business must be located in a supported market
  • You must be selling physical goods
  • You must agree to comply with Instagram’s Commerce Policies
  • Your Instagram account must be a business account
  • Your Instagram account must be connected to a Facebook page

Once you have confirmed that you meet all of these requirements, it’s time to connect to a Facebook catalogue. You can either build your catalogue directly within Facebook (which owns Instagram) or you may link your Shopify or BigCommerce catalogues to your account.

Next, sign up for Shopping in the Instagram app (under Profile Settings -> Business.) Your request to sign up for Shopping must be approved before you can create a Shopping post.

Finally, once you receive your approval, it’s time to start posting! Simply upload your image, tap Tag Products, and add products from your catalogue onto your post. Instagram even offers the opportunity to check Insights from your Profile, so you can see what posts are getting the most interactions and can adjust your future posts accordingly.

Need more help? Click here to review Instagram’s full set of requirements and their detailed how-to on setting up Shop Now.

2. Activating Swipe Up In Stories

Instagram Shopping For Small Business - ModCloth Swipe Up

By activating the “See More” feature of ModCloth’s story, users can view a page linked to their online store, without leaving Instagram or its Stories feature.

There are only two requirements for businesses who want to add a Swipe Up CTA in Stories. They may seem daunting at first, but we promise it’s quite easy to activate this feature.

In order to use Swipe Up, you must either:

  • Have 10,000 followers (quite the feat for the average small business) or
  • Be Verified

Being Verified used to be reserved only for top brands and celebrities afraid of their followers being tricked by copycat accounts. However, Instagram recently made it very easy for the average user to become verified. Simply go to Menu -> Settings -> Request Verification. You will be required to provide a government-issued photo ID or official business documents such as tax filings, but once Instagram has confirmed you are who you say you are, you will officially have a Verified Instagram account.

Once Verified, it’s time to post your first interactive story! Record a video, take a photo, or upload media from your Library. Then, click on the “Link” icon on the edit bar which appears after you’ve uploaded your media, and insert your URL. You can use several terms, such as “Swipe Up”, “Learn More”, “See More”, etc. Be sure to grab the user’s attention with animated gifs such as arrows to let them know your CTA is there. Then, publish your story!

What If I’m Not Verified?

You can still create interactive posts to engage your followers! Instagram introduced exciting new story features, such as polls, tags, questions (which users can reply to using chat,) and countdowns. Use these features to make your Stories more exciting, and to encourage your followers to become involved with your brand.

How To Apply Instagram Shopping For Small Business

Home Depot Instagram Story

While not a small business, Home Depot presents a very interesting (and engaging) application of Instagram Stories features.

A quick search on Instagram for popular small businesses in the surrounding area showed very few Stories being published. Since so many of these features are brand new, many small businesses may not know they exist. This makes it the perfect opportunity for you to become a pioneer in your area!

Looking for an example of how to make some of these features work for you? Take a look at Home Depot (yes, I realize they’re not a small business, but this really is a great example!)

They set up a quiz in today’s Story, asking followers to guess what the definition of their Word Of The Day was. Once you select your answer, the quiz shows the percentage of your peers that answered in the same way. The following Story displays the correct answer, followed by a Story showing all of the different types of custom countertops they offer, and an option to Swipe Up to learn more and shop. What an engaging way to guide followers towards their Call To Action!

Here’s how, you as a small business owner, can start taking advantage of these new features:

Once you’ve set up your Business profile on Instagram, be sure to let people know you’re there via some sort of campaign. Run a Facebook campaign, send out an email newsletter, or write a blog about your latest venture in the social media world.

As you begin to gain followers, you can actually use these new features to your benefit. Create a poll to see what products or services your followers want to see. These followers represent your community, and this is the perfect way to find out what your community lacks, and how you can provide them with what they truly need.

If you’re offering a service, or a good which can be used to complete a task, use the results from your polls to post how-to Stories, which viewers can follow as they see your goods or services being used in real-time to satisfy their needs.

You can also post Stories with behind-the-scenes footage of a recent project or new product, with an option to Swipe Up to see the full video or view a web page with the product/service being featured (you can also use Instagram’s new “Live Video” feature to do the same thing!)

Once people start purchasing your goods or services, encourage your followers to post photos of them being put to use, and to tag you in their posts. You can then use the “Share” feature to publish their post in your Stories, tag the customer as a thank-you, and add the option to Swipe Up to view the good or service on your site.

As Instagram rises among the ranks in the social media world, its features will only continue to evolve along with it. Now is the best time to hop on board, especially if you’re a small business. It’s time to show the world what you’ve got!

If you need help establishing your social media presence, we can help. Click here to get your free evaluation from Sweet Rose Studios.