So, you’ve got your online shop set up and are starting to explore different avenues for traffic. Instagram is one of the most popular avenues for online merchants but can also be incredibly tricky. With roughly 600 million active monthly users, Instagram is loaded with potential new customers.

All you have to do is set up an Instagram account, post a few pictures, like a few photos, and … boom! You’ve unlocked a stream of traffic available at your every wish and command, right? Wrong. Just being there is not enough to make the most out of Instagram, and, in order to hit the growth metrics you want, you will have to pursue a more active Instagram strategy.

To boost your Instagram traffic, you must adopt a two-part strategy that focuses on first building up credibility and your audience on your Instagram account, and then funneling that traffic to your site.

Building Your Instagram Audience

Accounts and niches respond to different strategies in a variety of ways. The first step in building your Instagram audience is to clarify what type of audience you want to have, relevant to your industry.

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Building an Instagram audience is getting increasingly more difficult, as Instagram post engagement is down an average of 33% for 2017. Every Instagram user is seeing much more content than they were just a year ago, and they have started to react to this content overload by becoming increasingly less engaged with brands.

Variety of Post Content: If your focus is on building an audience, your posts should primarily be entertaining, informational, and community oriented. These posts help to build up your brand and increase your follows. Having a variety in the type of posts is a great way to keep your followers interested. For each product-oriented post in the early growth stages, you run the risk of pushing your audience away.

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Hashtags: Having at least one hashtag on Instagram, on average, gets a post 12.6% more engagement than a post without one. Although hashtag use is not as novel as it was a few years ago, there are still massive numbers of users that use hashtags to discover and surf new accounts. Try to find what hashtags your audience is already using instead of playing guessing games. The more community-oriented, trending, and specific a hashtag, the better.

Call to Action: Having a CTA in your Instagram caption is an excellent way to encourage users to engage with your brand. Sparking a conversation in a caption like “What does everyone think about Instagram Live? We like it better than Snapchat, but we want to hear your thoughts” is a simple way to bring up a topic with which everyone using the platform should be familiar. The more industry-specific your captions, the better you will be able to target your audience in the future.

Sending Instagram Traffic to Your Site

So, now you’ve got a significant amount of engaged followers familiar with your brand. Your Instagram growth strategies don’t need to come to a stand-still, but it’s time to start incorporating specific posts that send traffic to your site. Once you hit a sweet spot of followers and engagement with your Instagram account, consider using a few of these strategic posts to boost your site traffic.

Related Content Post: Now that you have a significant following on Instagram, you have an excellent opportunity to share useful content from your site. Creating a captivating and informative post adds variety to your posts, but a link to your on-site content in the description also provides interested readers with additional useful information. Using a site like Canva.com allows online merchants to create graphics with text that drive the reader’s attention toward the description and then toward your site.

Host an Instagram Contest: Running a giveaway or photo contest is an excellent way to reward your followers with an enticing prize. An effective prize for your contest would be something that draws attention to your brand and your products. Although showcasing your best-selling product in the giveaway might drive attention to the product, it could also seem overly promotional if done a certain way. It is important to set the criteria to enter to meet your end goal—in this case, getting site traffic.

An alternative brand-building strategy to drive site traffic is to promote an on-site contest on your Instagram account, with the main prize being something not directly related to your business. For example, if your store primarily sells high-quality bandanas and your Instagram audience consists of a high percentage of music-festival-goers, you could host a ticket giveaway to an upcoming festival.

Run a Limited Time Discounted Instagram Promotion: The first step to taking advantage of Instagram’s feed is to understand what time your audience is checking their Instagram. By viewing optimal times on Instagram, online merchants can plan contests to add an atmosphere of exclusivity and urge users to pay attention to their brand name in the future. If you find that the majority of your audience is on Instagram at 3 p.m., you could launch a two-hour contest during which each purchase comes with a free item.

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Network with Influencers: Sometimes the best way to send traffic to your site is to work on promotions with influencers with significant followings. Most influencers usually welcome working with other companies for a share of the revenue, a fixed payment per post, free products, or even, occasionally, goodwill if they are familiar with your brand.

Conclusion

In addition to the above strategies, there are many other tactics that will help online merchants boost traffic from their Instagram account. The logic behind driving Instagram traffic to your site is pretty straightforward, but, in order to optimize the full potential of Instagram, online merchants need to have a clear strategy and the ability to analyze what works and what doesn’t. Neither of these strategies is a magic pill for site traffic, but when combined with a holistic content strategy they can come pretty close.