Selling online is an opportunity for you to minimize costs, expand quickly, and literally make money in your sleep. And when you’re ready to dive into the world of ecommerce, Instagram can be a big part of your success — and even one of your online sales channels thanks to Instagram Shops — but it can also harm your brand if you’re not careful.
Instagram is a platform where all too many brands overpromise and under-deliver. With more photo editing tools and social media pros available than ever, it’s easy to make your products look flawless and lose customers as a result. When considering the benefits of selling products online, it’s also important to familiarize yourself with how to handle social media platforms like Instagram. Here’s why you need to avoid Insta perfection and what you need to do to meet (and exceed) customer expectations to deliver a product they love instead.
The Problem With “Instagram Perfect”
When you visit the Instagram Explore tab, chances are, at least one image on your screen has been retouched in some way. Whether it’s through slight lighting changes or extreme Facetunes, Instagram creates unrealistic expectations as it is.
Business owners and marketers need to be particularly conscious of inflating expectations. While you do want to show your products in the best light, no product is perfect. Selling any product as such can destine it for failure.
When your marketing is better than the experience your company provides, this can lead to poor customer retention at best or a PR nightmare at its worst. The internet gives disappointed customers the power to voice their opinions and if many do, your reputation will take a hit.
That said, transparency is your best friend — not perfection. It’s important to never overhype your products, whether it’s through unrealistic captions, excess Photoshop, or something similar.
So how do you engage followers in a truly authentic way, and continue to exceed their expectations long after their first order? Let’s take a look at seven strategies you can take.
Take Your Followers Behind the Scenes
Beautiful imagery of your finished product is always good to show, but it never tells the full story when posted alone. Showing your followers the other aspects of your business — the production process, the shipping process, and more — helps you give customers a raw look at what you do and help generate greater interest.
So why does this help match client expectations when you deliver a product? You’re giving customers insight into the materials you use and the effort involved, answering questions they may already have. Plus, your customers will get to meet you and your team and recognize that you’re human, too.
This transparency can even help you exceed expectations by giving customers an appreciation for the work behind each product.
If you’re also willing to show customers the struggles you face (and how you overcome them, of course), your brand will become all the more relatable — even admirable. One little mistake won’t lead to major backlash.
Don’t Limit Yourself To an Aesthetic
“Aesthetic” Instagram feeds have long been the standard for brands. Think influencers adding the same undertones to every image, or businesses alternating between photos and templated graphics each day. It creates a uniform Instagram grid — and it can create an image you need to fulfill at every customer touchpoint.
Staying on brand is always important. But sticking to a strict, planned online aesthetic can make it difficult for your real-life product to live up to its marketing. This is especially the case if your product photography (among other content) depends on ring lights, filters, and editing to shine.
Give yourself some room to break away from how you typically showcase what you sell. Try out new media formats, new backdrops, and more.
Your followers may even appreciate your uncurated feed more than your highly planned one. Younger Instagram users especially are breaking away from aesthetics in favor of greater authenticity. They’re aware that products don’t always look like they do in picture-perfect images, and they may gravitate to the ones that willingly offer a more realistic look at their products.
Make Filters Your Customers’ Friend
While filters are a huge contributor to picture-perfect Instagram content, they can be used to create better customer experiences, too. Many brands are now using artificial intelligence to help their clients choose the right product, so their purchase is more likely to satisfy.
Take beauty companies for example. They’re using AI to help consumers find their exact foundation matches, suggest the best moisturizer for their skin, and — on the Instagram platform — virtually try on beauty products before they buy.
Customers can see what they would look like with a lipstick shade or blush color first. A virtual try-on feature sets better expectations than a model wearing the same makeup.
With Instagram rolling out try-on filter ads — which can be created with Facebook’s Spark AR Studio — to more brands, delivering a satisfactory product may soon be easier.
In a world where just about any content can be edited, live video is unique. It gives you a chance to give a totally unfiltered look at your brand and your products, all while helping you connect with customers in real-time.
Jump behind a camera for a Q&A, product demonstration, or even a live tutorial, which can all help your followers learn about what you really offer. Not to mention, you’ll also be building a stronger relationship with viewers, too.
Offer Excellent Customer Service
Great content isn’t the only must for succeeding in your Instagram marketing. To consistently meet expectations, you need to provide timely, transparent customer service, too.
Make it easy for customers to contact your brand on the Instagram app. Open up your comments and DMs, and ideally respond within 24 hours with helpful, honest messages. If you don’t use sustainable packaging, be transparent about it — though you can still boost your reputation by mentioning any existing sustainability practices you do follow.
Similarly, don’t simply delete negative comments. Being professional in your response can show both the unhappy customer and other users that your brand is committed to great service — so even if there’s an issue with a future order, you’ll still have their backs.
Embrace User-Generated Content
Who better to show your products as they really are than your real-life customers? Every brand wants their products to look good as possible — even consumers know it — but buyers don’t have the same stake in the company. That’s why showcasing their images can offer a more well-rounded view of how your products look, work, and feel in actuality.
Encourage users to post their own Instagram content with your products by hosting photo contests, re-sharing content you’re tagged in through Stories, or even sharing user-generated content right on your feed (with permission and credit).
User-generated content can even help you boost engagement, too.
Use a Social Media Management Tool
Staying on top of your customer service isn’t always easy — especially when you’re keeping an eye out for user-generated content, experimenting with AI, and creating more authentic content all at once. A social media management tool can help.
Social media tools like Hootsuite allow you to see your feed, your messages, all your notifications, and more all at once — even across platforms. This way, you’ll never miss a beat and will be better equipped to build one-on-one relationships with your clients on Instagram.
A social media management tool could be the final piece of the puzzle that can help you fully meet client expectations every time.
Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he’s learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication that he brings to his work. When he is not writing, he enjoys reading and trying new things.