I have almost never seen organic Instagram being used efficiently by ecommerce businesses. Or any businesses for that matter, but my observations beyond ecommerce are a little limited to make the claim, so let’s just keep it at ecommerce.
I’ve seen lots of great campaigns, I’ve seen successful influencer partnerships, and I’ve seen many posts go viral, but I’ve yet to see a complete working strategy where Instagram is methodically—to a measurable degree—used as a tool to increase profitability.
Even the most junior digital marketers running FB and IG ads, Google Ads, email marketing, and SEO all use some kind of frameworks with these. They have goals and something meaningful gets measured. It’s often far from perfect, but it’s still miles ahead of what businesses are doing with organic Instagram. Everyone just seems so lost when it comes to running an IG account for a shop—even the social media agencies.
Again, pieces of excellent content definitely exist. It’s not even that uncommon. Awesome photos paired with a great story that’s written well. But if they don’t follow a high level strategy that’s designed to somehow make all the effort worth it, with systems in place to measure it, organic Instagram more than likely ends up having a negative ROI.
The thing with organic IG is that it’s not an efficient tool to reach and convert a cold audience with—yet if there’s any kind of strategy businesses seem to follow with their accounts, it’s this. They try to reach new people with their posts and convert them as followers or get sales right then and there.
It probably comes from all the “complete guide to Instagram” articles which all start with “Instagram is used by 700 trillion people every day, so it’s a great way to reach your target audience for free”. In reality it’s inefficient and there’s no reason to focus on reaching and converting a cold audience, when you could be doing that with paid FB & IG ads for a fraction of the effort.
You simply cannot target your posts sufficiently. Hashtags and the algorithm won’t help you enough. Even if you have a homerun product with mass appeal and built in virality, you’re better off with paid ads when it comes to scaling.
(There is an exception to this for certain photogenic niches, where organic IG can be used to drive growth with good results, but that requires a secondary lifestyle account and some good judgement if it’s worth the effort.)
Most businesses should instead use their Instagram account for retention. Make sure to consistently funnel as many of your existing customers to your account and shift your focus completely to them. Dedicate your account to increase the lifetime value of your customers and to turn them into evangelists of your brand.
Help people get the most out of your products. Troubleshoot common problems. Make them feel better about their purchases. Do giveaways and offer free upgrades or repairs, not to increase reach, but to reward your customers. Do your best to really pamper them.
A couple things will happen. The reach and engagement among your own following will go through the roof, but at the same time you’re optimizing your profile to convert people into followers and customers who visit it for the first time. Even if your own posts won’t bring them in, you’ll have people checking out your IG profile who heard about you from a friend, people who found your site through Google or your paid ads and want to familiarize themselves with your brand, and people who come via influencers or organic mentions on Instagram—the latter which will increase when you don’t forget about your customers the second they’ve bought from you. Your profile now gives an exclusive look into what it is to be your customer—and it’s pretty nice.
Give it a try if you feel like IG isn’t really helping you. Obviously you still need good content to connect with your customers, but that’s something many social media managers know how to do and there are lots of resources to learn that. Good luck!