Is marketing on Instagram a central part of your content strategy? More importantly, do you have a strong understanding of whether Instagram is delivering ROI?

With more than 400 million monthly active users, Instagram has been dubbed the “king of social engagement,” and with good reason. When it comes to driving action from consumers, there’s no doubt that this channel reigns over the social kingdom. Consumers can’t get enough.

Yet while a smart Instagram marketing strategy starts with quality images, success on the platform lies in the ability to move beyond social interactions (comments and “likes”).

Below, I share six ways brand marketers can monetize Instagram content.

For even deeper insight (or to give your peepers a rest), you can also listen to this brief webinar recording, in which our Community Manager, Lucy Xu, walks through 7 Ways to Reach Revenue Goals With Instagram.

Let’s get started:

1. Facilitate Transactions via Instagram Comments

While their intimate social circles are in the mix, many consumers use Instagram not only to communicate but to get inspired. Instagram is a thriving community where consumers go to keep up with bloggers, designers, models and even their favorite brands and retailers. It’s no wonder branded Instagram content continues to drive more engagement than any other social channel.Marketing on Instagram: Comments

When inspiration hits, consumers tend to “like,” leave comments, and tag their friends on Instagram posts – actions that suggest an intent to buy or learn more about content and products. You can leverage this behavior by actively engaging with these fans.

Start by assigning an internal social or community manager to track Instagram activity and respond to high-value comments and questions. For instance, you can try searching for specific keywords and phrases such as “love,” “where” and “buy” to identify rich engagements about your products. Then, reach out and engage those fans to drive interest and transactions.

Another way to keep tabs on Instagram images is by tracking location tags in posts – something Curalate makes easy for brands.Location Tagging on Instagram

If you’re a fashion retailer, and one of your customers tags a photo lusting over a dress in one of your locations, you can proactively leave a comment saying how great she looks. Most consumers would be thrilled to get the message, especially if they didn’t initiate the conversation. It’s a great opportunity to show that your brand is in tune with consumer feedback and eager to provide assistance.

2. Turn Instagram Into a Direct Traffic Driver

Instagram images don’t just start conversations; with the right technologies in place, your content can become a gateway to products, blogs and articles.

To capitalize on a moment of intent, it’s more important than ever to give consumers an easy way to take action on Instagram images and to learn more about your products and content. If you make consumers jump through hoops to get to the products they’re viewing, they’re more likely to abandon the process altogether.

Smart marketing on Instagram starts with a solution such as Curalate Like2Buy, which is enabling hundreds of brands to generate traffic from Instagram to products on an evergreen basis. As a result, there are now clear and measurable ways for brands to turn Instagram engagement into ongoing opportunities for traffic and revenue.Domino Magazine Like2BuyTake this example from Domino Magazine, both a publisher and an ecommerce platform. Domino is known for their beautiful lifestyle content, which they share on a regular basis.Domino Magazine Content Examples

By distributing inspiring imagery consistently, while using Curalate Like2Buy to make their Instagram content shoppable, Domino has been able to prove Instagram’s value as a revenue channel.Domino Magazine Shoppable Instagram

In one study, the brand reported a 120% higher conversion rate from Instagram to product pages compared to their other mobile channels.

3. Invest in Ads to Reach New Customers

Since Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012, it has evolved from a customer-facing app to a powerful revenue-generating engine for brands. Instagram’s advertising offerings now include standard photo ads, video ads, and carousel ads, which allow brands to combine several photos and calls-to-action. It was recently reported that there are more than 200,000 advertisers on Instagram.

Instagram ads can help you connect with a larger set of users, but don’t fall into the trap of publishing stock images, standard ad creative, and overly salesy content. Relevancy and authenticity should always be top priority, as should who you target.

You can learn more about Curalate’s self-service Instagram ad offering here, which helps marketers achieve both.

Something else to keep in mind when marketing on Instagram is that it’s a mobile-first channel. If you want to maximize the value of your Instagram ads, your landing pages need to be optimized to convert customers who click through using a mobile device.

Here’s a great example of a photo ad from Levis.Instagram Ad ExampleOne of its strengths is authenticity; the photo was created by the Levis brand, but Instagram users might expect a similar photo to be shared by a friend. That’s the beauty with Instagram ads. Only the most relevant lifestyle images will meet the Instagram standard.

4. Pull Instagram Images Onto Your Website

There’s no shortage of brands that are featuring Instagram content—both from community managers and customers alike—across several areas of their ecommerce sites. Urban Outfitters, Saks Fifth Avenue, Christian Louboutin and Crate & Barrel are among the first that come to mind.Urban Outfitters Fanreel ExampleThe benefit of using Instagram images to enhance the ecommerce experience is clear. By publishing a dedicated gallery or microsite of images spotlighting fan-sourced photos, you can increase the number of ways that consumers engage with your products while shopping. Urban Outfitters, for instance, knows that their user-generated content galleries deliver a 15% click-through to shop.

Here’s another example of what this experience can look like from Curalate client Fossil.

Fossil eCommerce Example

Primping Your Product Pages

One of the most valuable places for brands to add user-generated content is on product pages. Most of the time, product pages are flat, lifeless and focused on the product itself. User-generated content, which often starts on Instagram, shows how real people are using (or wearing) products, which further inspires visitors and drives site conversions.

For example, Sigma Beauty has bolstered its ecommerce business by leveraging Instagram images in a dedicated gallery as well as on individual product pages. Much like the brands mentioned earlier in this section, Sigma uses Curalate Fanreel to achieve this.Sigma Beauty Fanreel Example

Photos of consumers and influencers showing off their favorite beauty looks are integrated across the brand’s site, so visitors can get inspired and see what their products look like in real life. When they’re ready to make a decision, shoppers can simply add products to their digital carts and complete their transactions.

5. Cross-Promote Your Top Assets

Every day, your community managers, social strategists, store associates and others share inspiring Instagram images that show your products in the moment. Are you maximizing the value and reach of this content?

Data shows that when brands use lifestyle images, whether created by the brand or consumer, they see higher clicks and conversions. In short, Instagram images have legs. You just have to use them. Here are a few examples of what this looks like in practice.

For instance, many brands are already integrating their top performing Instagram photos within email campaigns.

Instagram and Email Marketing

Here’s a less expected and highly innovative example from Guess. They’re leveraging Curalate to pull Instagram images into their native app.

Pull Instagram Images In-App

And lastly, here’s one final example from PBteen. The brand is leveraging Curalate Reveal to feature Instagram images on their blog. Readers can simply hover over the image to “reveal” products and click through to shop.

Reveal on the PBteen Blog

6. Analyze Customer Preferences With Instagram Data

Your team can tap into Instagram to unlock a wealth of valuable insights about your consumers’ behaviors and preferences. Even referring to simple metrics such as total number of “likes” and comments can help you gauge the type of content your consumers gravitate to and, in turn, create photos that truly resonate.

If you take a deeper look into the context of comments, you can also better understand consumer sentiment and their opinions on products, colors, patterns and more. And if you have a solution to make your Instagram shoppable, you can analyze your data to see which images and products consumers have clicked on, and whether those clicks ultimately converted.

Lilly Pulitzer is a prime example of a brand that mines Instagram feedback via Curalate analytics to pinpoint its most popular photos and designs. After realizing its most-liked images were 5×5 prints—illustrations developed by in-house artists—the brand then cross-promoted them on several channels, including their website and in emails. They even turned the prints into a book that was released during the holiday season. It became a bestseller.

Lilly Pulitzer Instagram Data

Final Thoughts

As Instagram’s user base continues to grow, it will only become more important for your brand to monetize content from the platform. Whether you’re trying to boost sales directly from Instagram or by leveraging content and data outside of the Instagram environment, the key to delighting and exciting your customers is to understand how Instagram can add value throughout the funnel.

Want more? Watch our latest webinar, 7 Ways to Reach Revenue Goals With Instagram, for a few additional ideas for monetizing Instagram – plus even more brand examples.