For several years, Facebook and Twitter were the big players of social media, evolving from being an online presence for companies, to allowing them to communicate with their customers, and eventually being a source of online revenue through photo and video advertisements. It’s important not to forget about Instagram when it comes to social media marketing, because as someone once said, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” The social media platform that’s based on photo and video sharing recently surpassed Twitter with 300 million users. In a Q1 2014 study, Forrester found that brands on Facebook only generated 0.07% fan engagement, and brands on Twitter only generated 0.03% engagement from followers. Brands on Instagram, on the other hand, had an engagement rate of 4.21%, which is 58 and 120 times more effective at generating follower engagement than Facebook and Twitter, respectively.

Another report by research firm L2 found that Instagram has the best conversion rate of turning a casual browser into a shopper. The report also found that this is particularly true for luxury brands that post an average of 5.5 times a week, with 92% of them generating more customers.

At this point, Instagram is a top of the conversion funnel platform for potential customers and is about the image (or images) that your brand represents. However, if you wish to take your Instagram marketing to the next level in terms of generating online sales, check out the tactics employed by some of the most recognizable companies on Instagram:


Instagram currently allows only one hyperlink to appear in the account bio, and companies have always struggled to figure out what link to display. Some companies put the landing page link of the most recently uploaded product image in their bio, but what if a user isn’t interested in the most recent photo, but in a product image that was uploaded 2 weeks ago?


To solve the problem of only one available hyperlink on Instagram, Curalate, a visual marketing and analytics firm, launched Like2Buy in September 2014. Simply put, Like2Buy is a platform that turns Instagram likes into mobile sales by eliminating the need for users to open a separate browser to search for a product. Instead, users just click on the Like2Buy link in the Instagram bio section, which leads to a page of the brand’s featured products. From there they can select any of the photos that appear on the company’s Instagram feed, and within two clicks, the user is at a landing page for a specific product. Along with the featured product tab, the Like2Buy page also has a “My Likes” tab, which keeps track of product photos that a user has liked and leads to landing pages from a company’s Instagram account in three clicks.

Like2Buy is ingenious at enhancing one hyperlink URL to lead to multiple product landing pages, and by incorporating the same photos from Instagram in the “Featured” and “My Likes” tabs. By using the same photos, the user does not feel like they are leaving Instagram, and the transition from liking an Instagram photo to actually purchasing a product on a company’s mobile website is a streamlined buyer journey. With only two to three clicks needed to get from a company’s Instagram page to their product landing page, Curalate solves user experience problems when shopping on mobile by having fewer clicks to get to a conversion than on desktop.

Since Like2Buy’s launch, Nordstrom, GAP, Target, and Charlotte Russe, among other name-brand companies, have purchased and used its services for their Instagram accounts. While the returns on this platform are still being measured, the CEO and Co-Founder of Curalate reports an 80% increase in click-through rate from the Like2Buy page to product pages, when compared to a regular link. Studies also show that users who visit a company’s mobile site via their Like2Buy page also tend to spend more time on the site than typical mobile users.

Curalate’s Like2Buy is currently marketed for large companies with established brands looking to generate sales from their Instagram followers, typically numbering in the thousands. If purchasing Like2Buy does not fit into your marketing budget, and your brand is just getting started on Instagram, there are other effective alternatives that you can use to grow your brand presence and following on Instagram, with two in particular that can help increase your online sales.


The hashtag was born on Twitter, but it is just as effective a tool for user-generated content on Instagram as well. Create a branded hashtag, include it in your brand’s account bio, and urge your followers to use it when they post photos with your product. You can also create hashtags for a campaign or flash sale, and some companies urge their followers to include a specific hashtag in a post for a discount or competition. According to a September 2014 survey, 35% of U.S. adults said they would include a hashtag on social media if it meant they could receive a discount on a purchase. With a memorable and influential hashtag, Instagram users who aren’t following you can come across your photos and discover your brand. While it is beneficial to include non-branded hashtags as well, make sure they relate to your post in some way and do not use more than three hashtags in a single post. Littering your Instagram posts with five or more hashtags, especially a brand account, comes across as desperate and will do more harm than good.

Blogger Influence

Most influential bloggers not only maintain websites, but they also have branched out to other social media platforms as well. Find and reach out to an influential blogger in your industry and ask them to feature your product in their Instagram photos. You will most likely have to offer them a free service or product in return, but if they have good things to say about your brand, it will well be worth the small investment. For example, if they tag you in the photo description you will be able to generate more brand awareness and followers from their audiences. If you’re working on becoming an established brand, “regramming” photos of the blogger with your products on your own Instagram account will help authenticate their credibility as an industry blogger and build a beneficial relationship. The risk that comes with asking for a product review or feature on Instagram is that influential bloggers will generally state their honest opinions about your product. Bloggers have acquired their influence by not only being entertaining and knowledgeable about a particular industry, but also by staying true to themselves. Give them the best product or service you have to offer when asking for a review or feature.

For several years, the popularity of image-based content has been trending upwards, and the careful placement of images in blog posts, websites, and social media posts can go a long way towards generating higher levels of engagement among your target audience. Instagram is different and presents a unique opportunity from other social media platforms because it is primarily based on uploading and sharing images.

Even though Instagram is a top of the funnel conversion tool, you can still use it to generate online sales and brand awareness. If you are an established brand on Instagram with thousands of followers who consistently leave comments on photos asking where to buy your products or how much they cost, then investing in Curalate’s Like2Buy could boost your sales and provide another online avenue for your target demographic to visit your website and land on your product pages. However, if you are still fairly new to Instagram, and haven’t established yourself as an influential brand with lots of followers, then focusing on your content quality with carefully thought-out hashtags and featured bloggers linking back to your products or services will be the best course of action to build your brand awareness and lead to more online sales.

Read more: What the Heck is…Like2Buy?