Makers Using Instagram as a Sales Tool

The Instagram algorithm has us all scratching our heads a bit. Which is why we are taking with a few #ahasmembers about how they are using Instagram to better their business. Every platform has to be adapted to every business. Hopefully these stories will give you a few ideas for how they can be adapted to yours.

Michelle of Four Letter Word Cards

Name: Michelle Baines

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Business: Four Letter Word Cards

Q: How do you use Instagram to help you connect with your audience and make sales? 
A: I just started using Boomerang a few weeks ago to make videos. I wasn't quite sure if I liked it, since it does a very short playback of video that loops for continuous play. I posted my first one anyway and actually got new followers and likes from it.  I've been trying to post a new video every couple of posts, as people seem to enjoy them. 

Since I own a colorful curse word laden card and gift company, I used confetti in my videos, which sort of captivates people. (Because seriously, who doesn't love a bit of glitter and ohh shiny with their videos?) I've also just been trying to post. Instagram is one of the more challenging things for me, but this year, I am on a mission to learn and grow my Instagram knowledge and base. (...and take over the world, but that is kind of a life long process.)

Q: How has your audience responded and how do you measure success?
A: Since I'm still growing my IG following and learning, if I get over 40 likes, I'm a happy person. I also want to see my followers continually grow, so if I get a few new followers from a post, I call it a success. I try not to go crazy by comparing myself to other accounts. Lord knows, I'd love to have thousands of followers. But I'm not there yet and the more I persist and watch how people interact with my posts, the better I'll become at posting things that excite my ideal audience. 

I tend to get more video likes and comments, compared to just my photos. So I'll keep doing that and figuring out new and exciting ways to interact with those watching them. Who knows, maybe I'll end up cursing and throwing cupcakes at the camera. I'm sure someone will enjoy that! 

Adwoa of Adwoa Design

Name: Adwoa

Location: San Francisco, California

Business: Adwoa Design

Q: How do you use Instagram to help you connect with your audience and make sales? 
A: I noticed that my engagement goes WAY up when I use video. An app like Ripl helps when I'm short on time. It uses slideshows with great transitions to get your point across.  The text included is great yet can be disappointing if you're trying to achieve a consistent look with your branding. There's a variety of fonts but I could not find mine, so I picked the closest to mine. The best part of using it to me is the preloaded music that's available.  

I use Flipagram, but not as often. Their branding is in the right lower corner during the video, so I don't really care for that. After buying the Ripl app, you place your logo in place of theirs which is a plus. Another tool I enjoy is using Stop Motion. Yes, there's an app for that.  

Bringing my dolls to life through stop motion video is time consuming but so worth it. The high organic views of them is amazing.  

Q: How has your audience responded and how do you measure success?
A: Videos really bring on more than likes. The comments give me great feedback and some potential customers begin making requests for dolls. Their comments show that they really enjoy each video.  Who wouldn't want to see a Bob Ross doll do a full split while going down a Soul Train Line?!  (LOL)

In one video, the doll is prompting the viewer to sign up on my email list. The fact that they signed up showed me that this is a great way to get a response to a call to action in a very non traditional way.

Emily of Terminal Distraction

Name: Emily McCrary

Location: Austin, TX

Business: Terminal Distraction

Q: How do you use Instagram to help you connect with your audience and make sales?
A: I like to post pictures of new pieces as I'm working on them. In reality, the piece is already finished, the photos have been edited and scheduled out, but I caption them as though it is a true work in progress. Each post I let my followers know that the original piece will be going on sale and my email list will get first dibs on it. If it's a one of a kind piece that I won't be making prints of, I'm sure to emphasize that. Once I have the piece listed I send out an email to my list with a link to the item and wait 24 hours or so before making it available to anyone else, assuming it hasn't sold. 

Q: How has your audience responded and how do you measure success?
A: Best case scenario, I sell an original piece quickly. Worst case, I get some more people on my list. Either way it's a win.

Rosalie of Ugly Baby

Name: Rosalie Gale

Location: Seattle, WA

Business: Ugly Baby

Q: How do you use Instagram to help you connect with your audience and make sales?
A: I've been experimenting with selling through Instagram. Now, when I'm introducing a new product, I offer it up on my Instagram (@uglybabyshop) at a discount before I post it on my website. 

My system: I make a post & direct people to comment "sold" if they would like to buy the item. Then, I send them a direct message asking what email address they would like me to use when I send them a Paypal invoice. 

Once I've done that, I also tag them in a comment to let them know that I've sent a message. Sometimes people don't notice Instagram messages, so I find this is the best way to keep things moving. Once they've paid their invoice - I send them their loot. 

Is this all a tracking nightmare compared to selling through a website? Short answer: Yes. Longer answer: Absolutely.

I create a spreadsheet that has all the information I need to match up people with their payments. Sometimes people have different names listed on Paypal - or they might use a business name instead of their personal name. 

I create a spreadsheet with the following information: 
Customer Name
Instagram Handle
Email Address
Have I sent them an invoice? 
Have they paid? 

There's something about the ease of just typing "sold" as opposed to going through a whole shopping cart & check out process that moves people to action. I sell WAY more on an Instagram post like this than I do if I just post a photo of an item and tell people where to go to buy it. 

Q: How has your audience responded and how do you measure success?
A: I was very surprised by the response to my first Instagram sale. I was introducing our Roller Skating Unicorn Enamel Pins and I wasn't sure whether they would be a hit so I wanted to pre-sell some to gauge the level of interest. I think I sold 40 pins through Instagram and Facebook in one day (out of the 100 that I ordered) and then I was hooked. Now I do a new promotion once every couple of weeks or so.

One thing to keep in mind is that sometimes people get carried away and then regret their decision to buy. I always let people out of their order with no hassle. In each promotion, I normally have 2-3 people who never follow through with payment. But for each of them, I have 40 or so people who do -- so I'm fine with those odds.  

Right now I'm doing an Ugly Baby Holiday Grab Bag where people get a huge discount on products where I have overstocked. I initially offered 50 grab bags at $75 each (plus $15 shipping) - and 36 remain. I think it's good to have a limited supply to increase the likelihood that someone will act quickly but if I had to do it again (and I will!) I would reduce the number available to 15-20 so I would be sure to sell out. 

Josie of LA Finch Fabrics

ame: Josie Maldonado

Location: Long Beach, CA

Business: LA Finch Fabrics

Q:How do you use Instagram to help you connect with your audience and make sales?
A: I use Instagram to connect and actively participate in the sewing /craft community. For a long time, fabric buying has been a tactile business, where you needed to visit a store to really see and feel fabric to ensure the right pattern and look. Being my online fabric shop is via pictures, my audience depends on interaction and want to see daily looks from garments made with fabric, new fabric arrivals, alternate pictures, what is trending and  really an overall sense of belonging and being able to trust that they will be taken care of as a consumer. That is how I make sales by connecting with customers :) Showing them the store, via pictures.

Q: How has your audience responded and how do you measure success?
A: Since I first started a year ago, my audience have turned into sewing friends and kindness truly wins as word travels fast of  Finch Fabrics customer service. Instagram has helped others share their experience. If you love what you do and truly care, people take notice and that has really what made the difference.

Without instagram,  the interaction with my customers would start/end as a transaction via website. Now with help of instagram, it gives a sense of community and you really get to know your customers and I love hearing their love of fabric, their family, and even their personal struggles that I am truly blessed they trust to share their life issues.

About 54% of my site visitors are from instagram. I am lucky that shopify ( best site ever!)  provides me daily and weekly web traffic analysis info as to where my visitors are visiting from and what sites referred them. When orders are received, I love being able to see where my customers were referred from and their landing page. ( It will show instagram and the link listed on my instagram)

I do not sell directly on Instagram, but perhaps that is something to look into. For now, as a small business owner social media has been a game changer and I recommend as it has been the easiest to manage.