How to Use Instagram for Your Business in 2018

Learn how to easily use Instagram for business and capture leads through promotions and contests. Instagram engagement is higher than Facebook.

By Dana Kilroy ・6 min read
Best Practices
Business & Marketing Strategy
Social Media

I know what you’re wondering: Is there really a way to easily use Instagram for business? And can you really capture leads on Instagram? The answer to both questions is a resounding, yes.How?By running an Instagram promotion or contest. If your next question is: Are there tools that'll make it easy to collect and manage leads on Instagram? The answer to that one is yes , too.

Instagram engagement is about ten times higher than it is on Facebook.

Bottom line: Instagram is a powerful place to invest your lead-generation efforts. For starters, engagement is about ten times higher than it is on Facebook. And there’s less competition for eyeballs on Instagram, too: About 90 percent of businesses are on Facebook but, as of the end of 2017, only about 70 percent of businesses in the U.S. are trying their hand at Instagram marketing. Now that Instagram has roughly 800 million monthly active users, it’s the ideal time for brands to look for ways to engage with their followers.It’s important to remember that building an engaged audience and collecting leads on Instagram requires more than publishing pretty pictures. It requires a thoughtful strategy, SMART goals (that is, specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and timely), and the right software.

4 Steps to Generating Leads on Instagram

There are four basic steps to the lead-generation process, and they’re the same on Instagram as they are just about anywhere else:

  • Step 1: Attract people to your business with an offerThe offer could be an Instagram exclusive offer (#instagramexclusive), an Instagram giveaway or contest.
  • Step 2: Convert your Instagram followers into prospectsUse an incentive, like a discount or the chance to win a prize, to motivate people to share their email address with you.
  • Step 3: Nurture the prospects closer to making a purchaseAs soon as someone enters your contest and shares their email in exchange for the chance to win your prize, or access a discount you’re offering, email them to confirm their entry and include a special offer.
  • Step 4: Close the sale

Before we get too far into details about the steps listed above….let me say a few words about Instagram “like to enter” or “tag to enter" contests. These kinds of contests are everywhere these days, mostly because they’re so simple to run. But the fact is, they’re not very useful -- at least if your goal is to collect leads. They’re kind of like the old Facebook “Like our page to enter” contests that were all over the place just a few years ago. These contests are great if you just want to boost your “vanity metrics,” but that’s about as far as the benefits go.You’re much better off using the link in your Instagram bio to collect email addresses so you have a way to send customized marketing messages to people who like your brand enough to follow you.Ready to see details about the steps to take when planning and running an Instagram promotion that will bring you leads? Let’s go!

Step 1: Attract People with an Offer

The last thing you want to do on Instagram is a hard sell. So this is where coming up with a compelling offer can get tricky. In a perfect Instagram world, your images blend right into people’s feeds so they don’t even realize you’re selling to them. In the example below, Elements Self Care created a little montage that says “relax” and in the caption they ask their followers a question to stir engagement. They conclude with an offer: A special price on the featured product, for Instagrammers only. The catch? People have to DM Elements in order to learn more and place an order. Kind of a hassle.


Elements of Care offer

Make your offer easier to access

As any business marketing on Instagram knows, there’s only one link allowed in a profile. Most business use that link to drive people to their website, or to a third-party provider, where it’s possible to make purchases, and to collect email addresses, UGC or other data. The third-party option, using companies like Like2Buy, can be expensive and it’s more suited to mega brands like Target and Pottery Barn. However ... there are plenty of ways any business could use that link to collect email addresses and then reward people who fill out their form.For example, using a ShortStack template to create a branded landing page, Elements could have easily allowed people to make a purchase without having to DM, and even offered the added bonus of a discount code for other purchases to anyone who shared their email address.

Use a landing page to collect leads

Using ShortStack, you can build a landing page with a built-in autoresponder to link to from your Instagram bio

Step 2: Incentivize People to Share Your Offer with Their Friends

Dogs rule on Instagram (seriously, there are 81 million #dogsofinstagram posts vs. just 67 million #catsofinstagram) and @Dood_its_Chester” -- Chester being the photogenic goldendoodle -- is just one of many accounts with a committed fanbase. Chester’s owner seems to make sales by offering up special discount codes for people who follow the account. The followers then use the codes to buy various pet-related products. In the example shown below, Dood_its_Chester ran a “Follow & Tag” giveaway. Since one of the account’s goals was to grow their Facebook page, Dood_its_Chester also awarded bonus chances to win to people who followed them and tagged a friend AND then moved over to Facebook and liked that page as well. It sounds well and good, but it would be a hassle to track.

Chester the dood post

Dood_its_Chester offer incentives for liking on Facebook

Make the incentive more compelling

A better solution would have been to direct people to the link in Dood_its_Chester’s bio where they collected an email address and awarded bonus points to anyone who took the actions Dood required.For example, Dood_its_Chester could have linked to ShortStack’s Refer-a-Friend Contest template and collected email addresses and awarded extra chances to win to anyone who shared the link. Or they could have linked to an Earn Extra Points Contest where they could have collected an email address and awarded extra points to people who chose to answer a few questions about their product preferences.While it might be nice to amass a big following, those numbers are essentially a vanity metric that isn't necessarily useful. You're much better off awarding extra points to people who share their email address with you so you have an opportunity to follow up directly with them.

ShortStack's Refer-a-Friend Template

ShortStack's Refer-a-Friend Contest template View and Create Your Own

Step 3: Use Marketing Automation to Nurture a Sale

Once you’ve compiled lists of people who are interested in your products/services, it’s time to nurture those leads by sending personalized messages with relevant and enticing offers. Did you know that more than half (51 percent) of marketers say email list segmenting is the most effective to nurture leads? When it comes to sending targeted messages, there are so many options:

Some of ShortStack's email templates

Examples of some of ShortStack's  email templates

Step 4: Close the Sale

In a perfect world, your offer(s) are compelling enough that the sale takes care of itself. But if your sales goals haven’t been met, marketing automation tools give you lots of opportunity to close that sale in future emails. I love this post from Jon Brandon, a reporter at Inc., who shares email messages that he believes will help nudge leads toward a purchase. His post includes five ideas, and you can read them all here , but there are two that are especially compelling for follow-up emails:

  • “We know our product is a perfect match for your needs.” This kind of message does double duty. First, because the people you’re sending it to have previously expressed interest in your products and services, you are reminding them of their initial interest. Second, it’s a reminder to all these folks that you have confidence in your products and services (because, duh, of course you do!).
  • “If there is any more information we can provide, please let us know.” At first glance, this sounds like a general “We’re here for you,” but the difference is subtle. You’re telling your leads that you are an information provider, and you’re at their service. The quid pro quo is that you provide information, they provide you with the information you need -- their credit card number -- so you make a sale.
Scheduled Email Examples

Examples of follow-up emailsInstagram is starting to gather massive momentum and there are plenty of ways even small businesses can use Instagram to collect leads and information that is much more valuable than likes and follows. The key is to think strategically and then take the basic steps it takes to close sales the way you do using your other channels. 

Start collecting leads  today

Get Started Today. It’s free and we don’t need your credit card.

About the author

By Dana Kilroy ・6 min read

Dana Sullivan Kilroy is a communications professional with more than 20 years of experience delivering compelling content. Her work has appeared in national, award-winning publications and sites, including: The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Fast Company, Inc.

Get productivity tips straight to your inbox

Thank you!
Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
We’ll email you 1-3 times per week—and never share your info.