How I made my first £1000 in Instagram sales
Now that Qtique has been up and running for over 6 months, I feel a little more entitled to begin talking about starting a business. When building a company from scratch it can be overwhelming. I found reading about the experience of others in posts, forums and books reassuring and full of useful guidance. Now it is time to join in on the discussions and give my own advice too.
For me, there is nothing more comforting than knowing that you are not completely alone in the huge space of startups, and if I can help someone else to pursue their dream of becoming their own boss like others have done for me, these posts will be completely worthwhile.
I will be talking about what I have found that works, what doesn’t and why. I do not have a degree in business, but I do run a business, and I have never learned as much as I have done in the past couple of years that have got me to this point. Through practical trialing and physically testing different ideas, I will review the steps I have taken that have got me to where I am now. I have been inherently fearful of failure but have finally understood that making mistakes is how you discover what works. It’s true that success doesn’t come overnight and that’s okay. I hope that by sharing what I am learning will help guide someone else who is new at all this too.
My first post is on how I successfully made my first £1000 in Instagram sales. Instagram was my initial social media platform of choice to get my small business off the ground and it has proven to be a powerful source of marketing for my mugs. Like with anything worthwhile you must be patient, Instagram takes effort and time before starting to see meaningful results. The first 4 months were low in return but it is now starting to pay off.
Instagram is a free photo sharing app and a social media giant with over 300 million users, with the highest engagement ratio of all social networks. Social media users are moving away from Facebook and Twitter and are shifting their time to Instagram, where research has found users are 60 times more likely to comment, like or share on Instagram than on Facebook, and 140 times more like to engage than on Twitter. As Instagram gains far more user interaction, it is clearly an important tool to be used within the marketing strategy of any brand. Instagram is a social discovery platform where users are not just sharing their own content, but using it to find new content, making it a great way for brands to attract the attention of new customers and build up a targeted following. It is simple to use and it is able to get a brand and its products in front of millions of potential customers very quickly and can lead to a healthy stream of revenue for your business. If used correctly, it is full of potential with users wanting to connect with a brand on a more intimate and tangible level. Quite simply, content on Instagram is more shareable, easier to understand and more universal than other types of social media content.
Using Instagram has brought me new connections, new followers and most importantly, new customers – all by simply posting engaging imagery. Instagram is a purely visual platform and that’s the beauty of it. A picture tells a thousand words, and what better way to tell the story of your brand, business and life with one little (powerful) square at a time.
Here is how I did it:
I established a clear brand image and voice from the beginning, one that was true to my company and one that would differentiate me from my competitors. It is important for someone new coming across my profile to be able to look and understand within a few seconds what my company is and what is does. Applying these same standards across all my other social media accounts makes sure all branding is uniform and consistent.
I have used the same handle, @Qtiquestudios, on my Instagram account and all other social media accounts to eliminate any confusion. A handle should closely resemble a company’s name, and keeping the same handle across all the social media platforms helps strengthen brand recall and makes it easier for people to find the company’s other social media pages.
In my profile information I have short memorable words describing my company, notably: the brand name ‘Qtique’; a concise and meaningful tagline ‘Great British Mugs’; and a call to action ‘Shop #muggsie & #alphabetty at:’ with the link to the website at the bottom. With the profile picture, I have used the company Q icon logo as it is the most recognisable and consistent thing about the brand. It is important not to over-do it on the profile information written content, I instead rely on my images to communicate the brand personality clearly.
The importance of beautiful and original imagery is fundamental to Instagram success – visual content is king. Using well-taken, captivating pictures to tell a brand’s story will draw attraction and interaction from users.
What is great about Instagram is that it is not a platform where in-your-face advertising or spam-like promotion prospers, instead content must be creative, relatable and inspiring. I am able to share our company values in a visually exciting way through a highly interactive and personal brand tour, without needing an advertising or PR agency to do it for me.
There are many companies getting it right, with posts that I look forward to seeing in my feed – in particular, @Tellkiddo, @darlingclementine.no and @teaandkate have wonderfully inspiring content. They successfully use Instagram to share their story, their background and their vision. If you're not confident in your photo taking abilities, there are quite a few online photography courses out there that can help you improve - I've heard very good things from people who have used Photocraft.
I regularly post varied content on the Qtique account, mixing lifestyle snippets with our products and behind the scenes of the company, but I make sure it is not exclusively about promotion. It would become very boring for both users and myself if it were just a constant hard sell. I’ve clearly identified the key messages I want to communicate and refer back to this brand strategy to remind myself of what it is I want to say.
By creating standards and templates I am able to keep all material in check and consistent, making sure the content is a true reflection of Qtique’s core values. I deem a post successful when it leads to interaction and users link through to my website.
It may seem trivial, but it absolutely does matter which filters you use to edit your pictures. Using good filters will inject life into an image, turning a dull photo into something captivating. I do not use the standard filter package that comes with Instagram (nor would I recommend using them to others), instead I have downloaded photo-editing apps that beautifully transform my images. Currently, I like to use both VSCO Cam and Afterlight, but I’m always on the lookout for new ones. It’s about finding a style that you think best showcases your imagery, and keeping that style consistent throughout your posts. You want your images to compliment each other when grouped in the profile grid yet still look interesting when they are by themselves.
Gaining exposure with hashtags
To get optimal exposure, defined hashtags are crucial to make sure your posts are spread across different pages instantly. When used correctly, they can generate new traffic and help new people find a brand. I hashtag words related to the content in the post and words related to my business, sometimes using a couple of generic popular terms too. I wouldn’t recommend hashtagging anything unrelated to your post, this is how you become a dreaded spammer and it is a quick way to turn people off a brand.
Instagram will allow you to use a maximum of 30 hashtags, and in posts directly about my products I maximize using as many as possible. However, as mass-hashtagging looks like spam and is unsightly, I have found the best way to balance this out is by not using these additional hashtags within the initial description of my post, but instead posting in a separate comment below to detach it to keep the image caption clean.
Instagram is an excellent way to interact with customers and users, it’s also a great way to network with fellow small businesses and influencers. It’s super important to actively be involved in the IG world and it makes it a lot more fun too.
When interacting, genuinely engage and be authentic. Don’t be tempted to purchase spammy and generic bought comments/likes via a spambot – they are very obvious and annoying, and like I said before, spam makes an account look ungenuine and can put people off a brand swiftly. Remember, your account activity can be seen by your followers in the ‘Following’ tab, and it is quite noticeable if an account is bulk commenting/liking posts.
Connecting with influencers on Instagram is key, as having your product featured on a larger account in your niche exposes your brand to a much wider audience. By finding the right influencers to help broaden your brand reach to your target demographic, you can drive substantial referral traffic and create advocacy at scale.
I began with finding bloggers and YouTubers that fit the branding of my product and contacted them to see if they’re open to reviewing and doing a post on my mugs. The less forced and less obviously promotional the image, the better users interact with it. Approach more established bloggers who care about working with brands and products that fit in with their blog and could be interesting for their readers or viewers. Avoid bloggers with smaller followings that blatantly ask for freebies. Your product is not free, it has a cost and you need to see results from gifting it. Worthwhile bloggers have worked hard to get themselves to the stage they’re at, ignore newbie bloggers trying their luck before their blog justifies such accolade.
By developing this understanding of Instagram, I have gained a responsive following that has converted into sales. It is an exciting space that I look forward to using and creating content for. It is inspiring for my business and forces me to constantly keep the brand fresh. As an added bonus, I’ve also met some truly wonderful people and I can’t wait to see what direction it takes me in next. Don’t underestimate the power of a 612x612 pixel square.