How to Sell Online if You’re a Beginner: Part 4 “Getting Social"

14 min read

In the last installment of our series on opening an ecommerce business as a complete beginner, my business partner Kate and I tackled setting up a shop through Ecwid’s Instant Site platform.

This week we move on to something that really does seem like it’s on every aspiring ecommerce merchant’s mind: social media.

Social media can be one of the hardest nuts to crack, ecommerce-wise. It also has the potential to be incredibly lucrative, when used effectively, which is probably why everyone is so interested in getting themselves an Instagram. Now, I’m no expert, but I am here to share what I’ve learned about using social media for ecommerce so far.

Read the full series: How to Sell Online if You’re a Beginner

Bad Asta’s Next Step: Instagram Shopping?

It might surprise you to learn that Bad Asta Vintage already has a social media presence. In fact, we started out as an Instagram account, with the trusty old “dm for purchase” line attached to most of our posts.

Because of that, I originally envisioned this article being about taking our social media strategy to the next level: selling through Instagram Shopping. In case you don’t know, Instagram Shopping is a handy feature where you can actually link to your products in an Instagram post or story. That way, if someone is interested, all they have to do is tap the link that pops up on the Instagram image, and they’ll be able to make a purchase. Sounds cool, right?

Our Instagram in action

As a vintage clothing brand, we thought that Bad Asta could really benefit from this feature: that adding a buy option to our posts (which are often about items for sale!) would help boost our sales. And it probably would! The problem?

The Problem

In 2012 Instagram was bought by a company called Facebook (maybe you’ve heard of them?). And so, little did we know: if you’re interested in setting up Instagram Shopping, you have to set it up through Facebook. Which means you have to have a Facebook for your brand. And posts on that account. And have people who like that Facebook account interact with your posts.

Bad Asta has none of those things. But we do really have a dream of selling on Instagram! So, we’re going to make a Facebook account. And we’re going to continue to build a presence on our Instagram, until one day, we can make these dreams come true.

So, today’s article is going to be about our initial Instagram strategy: how we made an Insta, what we do to gain followers and post content. Our plan right now is to make a Facebook and connect it to our Instagram, so that when we post on the “gram, it’ll also post on Facebook. This, plus having a public page and inviting our friends to like it, will hopefully establish enough of a presence for us to be able to unlock the Shopping feature soon.

Our Initial Instagram Strategy

In this series, I like to stress that we are ecommerce beginners. We have no degrees in business, no computer programming knowledge, no former entrepreneurial ventures. But when it comes to marketing, the story is a little different.

I work in marketing. My business partner Kate has been a hobbyist artist/digital art maker for a few years now. We’re also in our mid-twenties, meaning that we have somewhat of an intuitive understanding of social media platforms and how they work, mostly from personal experience. So, out of all the scary things about building an online brand, this seemed like the least intimidating.

We decided to build our instagram around our niche (as discussed in Part 2). That meant, we wanted to make content that appealed to people roughly in our age range, who liked both fashion and film. So, we made a point that each post we made would feature either an item of clothing that we were selling, or something relevant to film stars from the 20th century.

Kate likes to use a graphic design app (and website) called Canva for crafting visual posts, because it’s relatively easy to use, and there’s a free version. She had me download it as well, and we spent a week or so trading images we created through the app until we settled on a style we liked. Our earliest designs relied heavily on collages that were a mishmash of the old and the new: a film still next to a picture of me wearing a skirt for sale. Posts that pasted black and white images over in-color ones.

Canva can be a wonderful resource

We decided to post every day. Which, at first, given all the photos we had taken of our inventory, was easy. As time went on, it became harder, and we had to scale it back to about two posts a week.

If we didn’t have inventory to post, we would often look up outfits from films we liked and create collages around them, or else give a shout out to a favorite film actor’s birthday, or the release date of a beloved film. We found ways to mix it up with our visual content, so that followers could expect a little bit of something familiar, and a little bit of something different.

No matter what, we sprinkled relevant hashtags into our posts (always throwing in our own #badastavintage for good measure), and always added a geotag, hoping these would help us generate traffic.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to adapt a strategy to your specific business, here’s a trusty article from the Ecwid blog with some more info.

Gaining Followers

Another thing we did: research. Well, Instagram research, which was finding vintage clothing seller accounts. And talking about them. We liked Page of Air’s flair for photography. We liked zona.g.vintage’s inventory and how it was displayed. We followed these pages from our account, and spent part of our weekly meeting talking about what aspects of their hard work we could incorporate into our own style.

Page of Air Vintage takes the cake on effortless beautiful vintage

Not only that! We gave accounts that we genuinely liked lots of engagement: liked their posts, made comments, even bought a few pieces we were interested in and gave them a shoutout. We followed accounts that liked these accounts. We interacted with them as well. That, plus posting regularly actually gained us followers. Before we knew it (and just a couple of months in!) we had over 500 followers.

Of course, it helps that there are two of us. An extra set of hands means extra time spent following accounts, liking posts, and making content. But even so, as the follower count kept climbing, we found that people almost never dmed us for purchase. And what’s worse? We were getting exhausted.

Need more tips on attracting your audience? Here’s another article about growing Instagram followers.

Instagram Marketing: Changing it Up

How do you fight Instagram fatigue? We found that a great way to do this was to change up the type of content we post, and allow ourselves to re-evaluate our strategy every once in a while.

We had a brainstorming session and came up with an idea for a series, which we called ‘Monday Movies.’ Every week on Monday evenings, we would pick a movie to discuss on Instagram Live. The two of us would hop on a live for a 20 minute, informal discussion on a film we loved, and the fashion looks we loved in it. We’d even mention if we had anything similar in our own inventory.

An Instagram story from our Monday Movie series

This type of content was great because it involved little prep work, and we genuinely enjoyed getting together and talking about films. It also diversified the type of content we made (going Live vs. making regular posts) and established our credibility as people who really genuinely had passion for film and fashion. It also worked on a schedule that was easy to follow, and allowed us to bank content on a regular basis without having to be super innovative with our design from week to week, and thus, addressing burnout.

Another way of changing it up: stories! We started to log films we watched and outfits we wore inspired by films in our Stories section, giving us more ‘off the cuff’ content to work with. This showed off a slightly less polished side to ourselves. And in turn, changed our overall brand a bit.

One of our stories

After all, we aren’t some polished brand of fashionistas hawking their wares with expertise: we’re two friends living on opposite sides of the country in a pandemic, who love talking about film and clothes. With this new instagram strategy, we were able to let other people in on the fun while showcasing our genuine enthusiasm.

And sure, a lot of our engagement still comes from supportive friends and family. But with just about 1000 followers, we are happy with our current strategy, and hope that the lessons learned along the way here can help us as we continue to grow.

We’ve started to think of Instagram as a piece of the ecommerce puzzle, not the puzzle itself. Having an ecommerce storefront has helped us do that. Opening an Etsy shop has helped us to do that too (more on that later!). And most importantly, adapting and re-evaluating who we are and what we want to accomplish has helped. And maybe it can help you too!

Some Nuts and Bolts

The first thing we did was make an instagram account tied to our brand name ‘badastavintage.’ A great thing about Instagram is that it will let you have multiple accounts, and it will also allow multiple people to have access to a single account at once. This is great for keeping yourself organized.

It’s important to make sure that your business Instagram account is a…business account. Personal instagram accounts are great for posting pics of your family vacation. But a business account will allow you access to some sweet analytics which will show you who is visiting your page, when, and even demographic information about people who are engaging with your account. This can help you better understand your audience, and tailor new content to those people who are most interested.

Some of our posts tagged with analytics on traffic

Lastly, we connected our Instagram and Facebook accounts, to populate post from one onto the other. The process here was really simple. Often, Instagram will ask you if you’d like to cross-post onto Facebook. All we had to do was say yes, put in our account information and voila! Two accounts for the price of one.

Key Takeaways From Today

The most important thing we’ve learned about selling on social media is this: you have to have both an established Instagram and Facebook presence to sell through these platforms. Not knowing this brought us some upfront disappointment, so learn from our mistakes.

Brand identity can help social strategy: If you don’t know who you are as a brand, who your target audience is and what types of messages you want to convey, social media will be tricky! It’s important to do some of this planning upfront so you go in with a strategy. Check out free tools like Canva to help with some graphic design brainstorming.

A working social strategy? Consistency and flexibility: It’s really important to establish a social media identity, and then to post regularly. It’s also important not to overburden yourself, at the risk of getting burnt out. If you have someone who works for you whose job it is to post on social media, great! Post everyday. But if you’re going at it alone, maybe try to post a couple of times a week, and use a combination of posts, stories, and other types of content to keep you going.

Have a tip or take away from your own social media strategy? Or maybe just a topic you’d like me to explore for the series? Let me know in the comments section below!

Read the full series: How to Sell Online if You’re a Beginner

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About the author

Nicole is a writer and Content Marketing Manager at Ecwid. As newcomer to e-commerce, it’s her goal to provide informative and user friendly articles that are accessible to all stripes of sellers. She is based in Southern California, the perfect place to chase the sun and watch old movies.

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