Instagram, the photo-sharing social media platform, isn't just for sharing your pretty photos with friends. In fact, for some clever entrepreneurs it's become a free marketing platform. For others, it's been the impetus to start a business.
The key, they said, is building a following that wants to see your point of view, whether you're selling something or not.
Here are three successful e-commerce retailers who shared their secrets of Instagram success.
MyHauteCloset, which has more than 38,000 Instagram followers, is an entirely new era of consignment that started on Instagram. The founder, Milysan Troche, was a popular style blogger known for posting images of her fashion-forward outfits on Instagram. Eventually, her followers began asking her to post their gently used luxury merchandise for sale on her Instagram and it wasn't long before her following grew. Once the demand grew too large to manage on the photo-sharing app, she started MyHauteCloset.com to make buying and selling gently used luxury items accessible, fun and easy. Buzz about the new consignment website grew quickly, with multiple items selling the same day they are posted.
"When I first started using Instagram, I shared images of my personal style and developed relationships with women across the globe who shared similar interests," Troche said. "As time progressed, I began receiving emails from these women who wanted to purge their closet of designer items they no longer wanted. They figured since I was such a clotheshorse I may be interested. I began consigning and selling items solely through Instagram. As my following grew to 35,000 I thought it time to build a dedicated online store where my followers could shop with ease and still see what's available via Instagram."
Troche said that nearly 100 percent of her clients are from Instagram.
"They're intelligent, always socially connected, and trust someone they believe to be their peer who is in constant communication with them," Troche said.
Owned and operated by Haylee Winard, ShopExcessBaggage is a women's multi-designer online retailer offering current-season designer merchandise at discounted prices. The Excess Baggage Instagram gained its extensive following — more than 20,000 so far — by posting more than just what's for sale on her site. The page has become a trend-setting destination with many of its style posts winding up on the "popular" page. By offering exclusive sales to her followers, Winard now consistently sells out of merchandise after it has been posted on Instagram and has significantly boosted her revenue.
"Instagram has helped generate sales…from customers around the world who may have otherwise had no idea who we were," Winard said. "Every image we post is like a virtual billboard in Times Square. I've used all the social media tools out there to help support my business but none have had the direct impact on sales that Instagram has had. There is a level of transparency on Instagram that allows me to build relationships with my followers. They can relate to me and I think that's what makes them want to shop with me."
RequiredFlare is an accessory boutique featuring funky, fun and on-trend styles at the best possible prices. It has more than 14,000 Instagram followers. Owner Sai De Silva has significantly increased her website traffic and sales by using Instagram to showcase the many ways to wear RequiredFlare jewelry. De Silva posts funky images of herself sporting layered bracelets, bold rings and the like. The RequiredFlare Instagram has become a trend authority for accessories and whenever she posts an image featuring RequiredFlare jewelry, the pieces sell out within days.
"Instagram has made marketing easier by allowing us to create a relationship with current and future customers. As a new small business entering this over-saturated fashion market, it's imperative to stand out. With Instagram, I can target my exact market, offer giveaways and special deals, and respond to every question asked through a more personal approach. Consumers tend to shop with retailers that offer a sense of trust and comfort, and because of Instagram, RequiredFlare is able to interact with our consumers in an unconventional way," De Silva said.