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15 Reasons Why You’re Not Getting Any Sales from Instagram

Instagram Sales

Instagram, like most social networks, can be both a great and terrible place to try to sell a product. On the one hand, Instagram is the social network with the best engagement rates out of any of them, often by orders of magnitude. On the other hand, much like Facebook, Instagram penalizes content that is too promotional and makes it hard to directly sell without spending on ads.

If you’re trying to sell products through Instagram, either directly or by referring people to your landing pages, it’s easy enough to track when you’re successful and when you aren’t. Be it UTM parameters, referrer tracking, or just sales numbers, when the numbers are down, you want to know why. So what potential reasons might you be having trouble with Instagram sales?

1. You’re Trying to Sell Directly

Instagram doesn’t like the hard sell. The platform itself might take steps to minimize your visibility if you’re found to be pushing sales too hard. Your audience might not want to see such advertorial content in their organic feed, particularly when they have to deal with ads all the time as well. Selling directly through Instagram is nearly impossible.

Selling Directly on Instagram

There are some platforms you can use to “sell” directly through Instagram, using your feed as a sort of product catalog. Nordstrom uses one that makes a link in their profile into a “like 2 buy” link, taking users directly to their store when you click. The problem, here, is that many users don’t want their feeds to become nothing more than a product catalog. They want cool, creative content, and if the content entices them enough, then and only then will they explore more to see if you’re selling something they might want.

2. Your Posts Aren’t Creative Enough

Creativity is absolutely crucial to a site like Instagram, at least if you want to build any sort of audience or use it as anything more than a strange PPC platform. Posting creative content is what gets users to follow you, look you up, share your posts, and otherwise engage with your brand.

Getting Creative With Instagram Posts

You can’t simply take photos of products in a white void, like a catalog, and just assume it works. You need photos of products in action, photos of carefully staged scenes, anything interesting to look at. High quality images with color contrast, interesting textures, interesting scenarios; it doesn’t matter what it is, so long as it’s interesting to look at. Basically, be the opposite of these nasty posts.

3. Your Audience Doesn’t Trust You

Who are you? If you’re not a national name, if you’re not recognized when your logo flashes on a screen, you need to work to build up to that kind of trust.

Far too many brands jump into Instagram and try to sell, not really realizing that the majority of the people on the platform have no idea who they are. They’re just some account trying to sell something. That might work for an app, but for a product where the user has to give over credit card information and shipping addresses? Forget it.

Before you can even begin to sell something on Instagram, you need to build up an audience that trusts you enough to buy. This means both building trust on the site and importing people from other networks who already trust you.

4. You’re Not Reaching the Right People

Another problem brands often have with Instagram is just catering to what they view as the “Instagram people” without thinking about whether or not those people are potential customers.

Instagram Reach Stats

I see this most with businesses who sell B2B rather than B2C. Most other businesses on the site are being run by social media managers, not CEOs or people who make purchasing decisions. Marketing B2B means reaching other businesses, and you’re pretty unlikely to do that.

Otherwise, brands just find the wrong people on the site. If you’re a business selling children’s clothing, you probably don’t want to be marketing using a bunch of #ForeverAlone content. After all, how many of those people are likely to have kids to buy clothing for?

5. You’re Not Leading People to Other Venues

Instagram is not a good place to sell. You can’t put links in your captions, and even your bio is limited to a single link. What you need to do, then, is use that link, along with calls to action in your content, to lead people to a venue more likely to result in a sale.

Generally, this means leading people to a storefront, a landing page for a mailing list, or some other location that serves to capture user attention. Your bio link should never just lead to a homepage.

Instagram Encouraging Email Signups

Ideally, you want to rotate your bio link every few weeks, to keep the content fresh and match it to the content you’re posting on Instagram. Keep it in tune with your ad campaigns, with seasonal products, and with the gestalt of interest generated by your followers.

6. You’re Not Using the Right Hashtags

Choosing the right kinds of hashtags on Instagram is a hugely complicated issue, and to a certain extent it will take months or even years of experience to refine a list of usable tags. You need to combine research with audience knowledge, past performance with trends, and on and on.

You always want to use hashtags, and you should generally consider using as many as are valid. However, you need to be careful not to choose the wrong kind of hashtags.

7. You’re Using Shadowbanned Tags

Instagram has hashtags that are effectively banned without being banned. They only show top posts, and not an organic feed, so if you don’t rank highly for them in terms of near-immediate engagement, you’re not going to get any lasting value out of them.

Instagram Shadowban Hashtags

There are also actually-banned hashtags that have no content and don’t even turn into links when you post them.

You can read more about Instagram and their hashtag policies, shadow bans, and the different kinds of hashtags in this post. I highly recommend it; you don’t want to run into issues with your hashtags not working, or worse, tanking the post in the feeds for the rest of them.

8. You’re Not Giving Away Enough Value

The largest secret for social media marketing is that for every post where you want to ask for something from your users, you should have several that are giving away something for free. Now, I don’t mean giving away products, or coupons, or even sales notifications. I mean value in the most nebulous kind of terms.

You want to be a joyous presence in the feeds of your followers. You want them to see your pictures and have them make their day just that might brighter. You want to give away advice, tips, recipes, and any other kind of value you think you can give. Ask nothing in return, not normally. Save those asks for the rare instance where you want to “call in the favor” so to speak.

9. You Can’t Capitalize on Mobile Traffic

You would not believe the number of times I have been asked for Instagram marketing tips for a business, only to investigate and find that their website doesn’t have a mobile version.

Mobile Optimized Site Versus Non Optimized

Instagram is a primarily mobile website. They’re so heavily focused on mobile that you can’t even post from a desktop! A huge majority of the users of the site are using phones or tablets to browse, and that means nearly 100% of the traffic you get from Instagram going to your website is mobile. If your site doesn’t have a responsive design or other mobile functionality, how do you even begin to expect a single conversion?

As far as I’m concerned, having a good responsive design is a prerequisite for using Instagram for marketing. There’s just no way to be even anywhere close to effective without one.

10. You’re Not Tracking and Iterating

Instagram has built-in analytics, and there are other apps that will pull data from your feed and give you similar analytics set up in slightly different ways. They all do the same thing; take data about your feed and its performance, and format it in various ways so you can see how your posts are performing.

Instagram Analytics Example

You should always be tracking your posts, with a wide range of metrics on hand. When did you make the post? What was the topic and goal of the post? What kind of post was it? What hashtags did you use? How much engagement did you get 24 hours later, 48 hours later, a week later? Did you get any conversions from Instagram in that time?

Pay attention to the data and iterate on what the data tells you. If certain kinds of posts, hashtags, or timing leads to better conversions or even just better engagement, capture that and iterate upon it. Do it again, and again, testing and probing and figuring out just what works and what doesn’t. No one can do this for you; you have to figure out your audience on your own.

11. Your Techniques are Stagnating

Social media is always changing. What works on one site won’t work on another. For that matter, what works on one site won’t work on that same site six months later. Every few months, Instagram tends to release some new feature or another. Instagram Stories, new ad systems, who knows what they’ll think up next.

If you’re not monitoring the news, watching marketing blogs, and keeping an eye on the types of content available to you, you’re wasting opportunities. Part of social media marketing is keeping up with the times, and you can’t do that if you ignore new features or new techniques.

12. Your Bio Link Doesn’t Work

Your bio link is the one way you have to bring people from Instagram elsewhere. If it doesn’t work, you’re not going to make your sales goals.

Instagram Bio Link

I don’t just mean a technical “doesn’t work” where a typo means the link is broken. I mean things like running it through an untrustworthy link shortener, or linking directly to your homepage, or otherwise not ferrying traffic to one specific kind of page. You want people who leave Instagram to land somewhere they can take action, for whatever kind of action you want it to be. A landing page with a mailing list opt-in, a product page, it doesn’t matter what, so long as it aligns with your goals.

13. You’re Not Engaging with Your Audience

Engagement is the bread and butter of online sales. It’s part of trust, it’s part of community, and it’s part of the Instagram algorithm for sharing posts widely throughout the network.

When you make a new post, stick around for an hour or so. Watch as people leave comments, and take the time to respond to those comments. This further encourages more comments, boosts your engagement rates, and has a better chance of getting you into the top posts section for your hashtags.

14. You’re Posting Too Often

More specifically, you’re posting basically the same thing too often. One of the hallmarks of spammers on Instagram is posting the same photo, or very slightly different photos, over and over with captions using different hashtags. You’ll see a feed full of 100 different versions of “buy ray-bans online” or whatever counterfeit swill they’re trying to sell. If you post the same thing too often, you’ll be lumped in with those spammers.

Instagram Number of Likes Per Post

Posting anything too often can be detrimental as well. You don’t want to flood the feeds of your followers, at least not without a very good reason. You can post a bunch in one day if it’s a one-time thing, like attending a special event, but even then it’s generally better to emphasize quality over quantity.

15. You’ve Made Your Account Private

Believe it or not, it’s really hard to market using a profile people can’t see. When you mark your account private, your posts don’t show up in hashtag feeds and users can’t see them if they aren’t following. That makes it kind of hard to entice new followers!


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