Actually Selling from Your Instagram Posts

Friends, let us hope this is the last in a series on how to use, post, and sell on Instagram for small and medium businesses, nonprofits, and private practices, consultants, and service providers.

We’ve discussed Instagram as a lead generation tool for your sales funnel. Which is marketing geek-speak for getting people into your store and intended purchases into your shopping cart — online or the old-fashioned kind with wheels. You could say, this post is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.

Beyond Lead Gen: Instagram Posts that Convert

We’ve explored post examples designed to send their Instagram followers to a website or a brick-and-mortar store. Other posts entice viewers to visit a real place, say, the beach, the downtown market, or even the boutique hair salon.

Posts can send us on flights of (domestic) fancy, say, an organized day planner, an ergonomic uncluttered workspace, or a lush container garden. This imagery, the stuff of daydreams, certainly it’s meant to inspire. It’s also meant to capture and convert.

Instagram’s Inspirational Well-Lit Spreads of “Real” Goods

It is meant to be cumulative — eventually, you’ll click through or drive up and purchase that standing desk you’ve been ogling, or maybe you will have that self-watering Italian terra cotta strawberry planter delivered.

You’ve seen this version of advertising in any glossy print mag you’ve ever picked up. That’s why retailers fell so hard for Instagram. It’s their lengua franca. What’s new is that service providers, sellers of non-tangible goods, can get in on the game, too.

Digital, Distance, and Other Services Sell Well on Instagram

When I say “other” above, I’m being cagey. Why? Because I’m feeling squeamish about coming right out and saying it.

Energy Services. There, I said it. I’m including energy healers, Reiki practitioners, tarot readers, psychics, and all manner of fruity nutty crunchy granola mystical guidance. (I believe in miracles.)

In the case of energy and Reiki healers, their primary service is ethereal — by definition, it’s in the ethers. It’s a transmission. And, while it may be quantifiable in clinical research scenarios, it may or may not be perceived by the purchaser. The rest of the rainbow coalition generally sell something slightly more tangible, specifically words. (Like me!)

For what it’s worth, here’s a crash course on pop culture quantum stuff. After all, you and I, dear reader, right now, our minds are connected in this little pocket universe all of our very own. We’ve created it together, your mind and my own. We’re sharing knowledge, experience, and understanding through the medium of language.

Language that’s been transmitted over copper and fiber, across the airwaves, from land to satellite and back, as pulses of light.

Or is it waves of light? Particles of energy? Depends who’s looking? What’s in the box, Erwin?

Digital Mystical Whatever It's All Energy

And if you don’t believe in All That, we can back off the airy-fairy woo woo vibe.

Let’s include all of the advice-giving professions — from nutritionists to interior decorators, from licensed counselors to life coaches to sales coaches — anybody who can properly and thoroughly complete their assessment, deliver a single or a series of appropriate consultations over phone or video call, and provide all necessary monitoring, oversight, and interventions from a distance.

All of these practitioners can sell directly from Instagram with abstract aspirational posts that take the viewer to a higher ground.

But, first, let’s have a look at the ways “money” can “change hands” on the interwebs.

Payment Processing on Instagram

Cash in hand, so to speak — it’s all digital payments these days, right?

Shoot, I haven’t had a checkbook in years. I handle my finances online. I pay for most things with credit card. These papery pieces we call cash, occasionally I see them. I don’t foresee a Scrooge McDuck moment of swimming in gold coins. And, thankfully, that precludes a Slumdog Millionaire moment of dealing hundreds into a gritty death scene.

Money is energy, too.

And, in order to sell directly from the post, you have to be able to take that in. (I don’t mean working through your scarcity mentality or root chakra issues of “deserving” or not. Which, of course, you may have to do, too.)

How Will You Accept Electronic Funds?

For instance, if you have a PayPal account, you can now get a PayPal.me shortlink to make requesting money super easy.

Just so you can see what that looks like, here’s mine, dearest reader, set up to request funds equivalent to a coffee and a breakfast taco: PayPal.me 5 USD.

Other folks use Google Wallet. I’ve used it successfully to make purchases before a new site’s shopping cart was up and running. Still others use their Etsy shop. There are countless plugins for WordPress and other content management systems (CMS) that set up and maintain your sales transactions.

Accepting electronic funds used to be a lot more complicated for the average small business person to navigate the various “hand-offs” from all the financial entities involved. There were authorizations and authentications and hand-shake protocols from bank to credit card to website and back again.

Some dear patient soul explained it to me once. It required a white board. John Madden ain’t got nothing on all those routes.

It’s Not In-App Commerce, But…It’s Close.

To be clear, I’m calling it “selling directly from Instagram” even though the payment is processed off-platform. Even the big retail brands, paying exorbitant ad fees barely got to experience the much-touted (a year ago) Shop Now button, which took the consumer off-platform and to the advertiser’s site.

It’s not that “in-app commerce” doesn’t exist or is so difficult to code. They are owned by Facebook, after all. As we’ve discussed before, Instagram has made deliberate decision to maintain the app’s focus on “user discovery.” On users. Not brands.

“People just don’t see an image and say, ‘OK, got it, done.’ There’s the research phase, the merchandising … that’s where we want to invest time with the retail partners to try to figure out what information is needed in that intermediate space that we can help provide,” said the app’s global head of business and brand development, James Quarles, last week.

Selling Digital Goods & Energy Services from Instagram Posts

I had a great example lined up from a Tarot Reader, whose services I’ve purchased in the past. He’s since deleted that particular post after I requested to use it. I will honor what I perceive as mixed signals, merely describe what I’ve seen in general from the various energy services folks, listed above, when they seek to boost their Instagram sales.

I will illustrate each step with a redacted screen shot, so you can see what it might look like and start visioning around how you can utilize this method.

First, they publish a post saying they’ve got free time on their hands. With varying levels of sophistication, based on their audience and offering. For example, energy workers might post that “The channel is now open.” Sales coaches might post that they’re stuck at the airport and “I’ve got a 30-minute window for a quick coaching call. 15% stuck-in-airport discount. Holla at me.”

Sell Services on Instagram In-App

In that post, they refer to the link in their bio, which points to their site’s shopping cart, or Etsy account, or any number of other vehicles that capture payment and contact info.

Sell Services on Instagram with Off-App Payment Processing

This seller’s link in bio is a shortlink from bit.ly (that’s publicly trackable, by the way, just add a + sign to the end of any bitlink) and points to the seller’s StoreEnvy account where the transactional administrivia gets handled — and non-physical funds get moved, digitally, from the client account to the sellers. (It’s all energy.)

Once the seller gets a notice that payment has been made by another client, that client gets added to work flow.

Finally, they make with the consulting or the vibing or whatever.

In the case of the tarot reader, clients have a choice of a public or private reading. A public reading gets posted to Instagram and the client gets tagged in their post, but everybody gets to read the interpretation of the cards. A private reading, presumably, is emailed or otherwise direct-messaged.

Speaking of Digital Service Packages and Offerings

If you’re familiar with the work of Tim Ferriss or the idea of selling digital downloadables as passive income streams, then you’re familiar with the idea of building an audience, a following, a tribe and then selling them an e-course, an e-book, a webinar, a podcast series, a subscription, private access to a community of like-minded others, and so on.

Instagramming to Promote E-Courses & Other E-vents: 3 Examples

A reminder to followers of an upcoming “Food Photography & Styling Online Course.”

A holiday sale for followers who register for a different online course.

The opportunity for locals to sign up for a VIP package with a famous photographer of post-baby mommies. (In this image, you can also see how they’re plugging their book and their Tata Tops.
3 Types of Instagram Ads

Caveat Emptor: Selling Hard Goods on Instagram

Lastly, I wanted to treat you with one approach I’ve seen, which makes me weary, and I’ll tell you why. Post an appealing photo of the item or items for sale. Give *clear* instructions on how to “claim” the item.

Rocket Fuel Vintage Instagram Accepts PayPal from the Post

The approach taken by Rocket Fuel Vintage gives me pause because of privacy reasons. Yes, I did just publish my PayPal.me link. Somehow that feels safer than sharing my email with a stranger and that stranger’s followers on Instagram. That’s probably arbitrary silliness on my part. And, while you have the buyer and seller provisions and protections provided by PayPal, in this case, you don’t have any additional oversight or structure as you might from Etsy or StoreEnvy or other established online marketplaces.

If caveat emptor is “buyer beware,” what’s the Latin for “seller beware?”

More Instragram Resources for You, Friends

Aaaand…that’s a wrap. I am DONE writing about Instagram.

If your fire still needs fuel, I strongly encourage you to sign up for the app and email newsletter from Later. I’ll let them walk you through the finer points of “scheduling” posts on Instagram. Their weekly newsletter and blog will get you Insta-savvy in no time.