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If you're reading this, there is a good chance that you're active on Instagram and trying to build your business. You want to attract more of your ideal clients to your page and start converting your audience into paying clients. 

This guide pulls from my 8 years in the marketing industry and over 5 years of experience working with online entrepreneurs – ranging from course creators to service providers to product sellers and more

The Ultimate Guide to Selling on Instagram is dedicated to teaching you exactly what it takes to close sales on your Instagram account and maximize your content marketing efforts.

How Social Platforms (Seem to) Work

Everything we’re talking about in this post comes down to supporting how Instagram works. We need to work with the algorithm, not fight it. 

But before we dive in, I want to clarify a few things. Everything I say about the algorithm and social media strategy is based on my experience and many years of working as a social media manager and digital marketing expert. 

This is just what I can tell based on my work on accounts of varying sizes, discussions with my peers, and industry news. Instagram did disclose some of its algorithm shifts back in 2018 and these changes do support many of the theories I’m going to talk about next.

With that being said, Let’s jump in! 

  1. They Have an Algorithm

    Algorithms rely on machine-based learning that uses past behavior to curate your feed. That’s why you don’t always see your friend’s content but if you engage with it, you’re more likely to see it. It’s important to note that these algorithms are constantly changing, platform to platform, because they are unique to  you and how you use the platform.

    For Instagram, they’ve said that there are three main factors that play into what you see on your feed. 
    1. Interest: They predict you’ll care about a post based on how you’ve interacted with similar content in the past. That’s why if you’ve liked a photo about plants, suddenly you’re seeing more content on plants!
    2. Recency: Newer posts are prioritized over old content BUT the platform is not in chronological order. This plays into why it is important to be consistent with your content plan.
    3. Relationship: Instagram takes into consideration how close you are with the content creator. It ranks the content from someone you interact with more frequently, higher. This is one of the reasons I’m such an advocate for DMs and other relationship-building techniques. The stronger the relationship, the more your content will show up for them!
  2. Social Platforms WANT You to SPEND TIME On the Platform.

    Social platforms make money based on the time that you are on the platform! So when your content is engaging and the algorithm notices you’re having conversations with people or inspiring people to keep looking around, they’re rewarding your content by keeping it in the feed. 

    With this being said, there is NO evidence that content that gets a spike of engagement right after being posted actually helps your content. It’s just overall engagement.

  3. They REWARD You When You Adopt New Features.

    You’ve probably noticed that Instagram doesn’t always roll out features to everyone at the same time but once something is out there and widely available, they’re expecting you to use it and go all in. 

    We saw this with Instagram Stories, and then with Carousels when they allowed 10 photos/videos in one post! Now we are seeing it again with Reels. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the new features if you get them!

  4. Algorithms SUPPORT the New Features

    Now, this is a little meta, but platforms reward users of the new features by giving them higher reach and greater visibility. They change or tweak the algorithms to support or promote their new features. This is why, as mentioned in number 3 (above), it is so important to at the very least, experiment with the new features even if they don’t become a part of your “normal” content strategy!

  5. ROI for Creators of the Content

    Your investment in creating content for a platform is always TIME (and occasionally dollars if you’re running ads). Believe it or not, the platforms DO try to give you a good return on investment. It’s one of the reasons I recommend spending more time engaging than you do posting. You need to be engaging instead of endlessly scrolling.

  6. Platforms CARE About the Users and Content Creators

    Because there is so much competition out there now (Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest…), platforms are fighting for your attention. They know that if you aren’t getting the results you want, you can move to another platform. 

Setting Up Your Account (Or Auditing Your Account if You're Already Live)

When one of your goals for Instagram is to convert followers into buyers, you need to start by optimizing your profile.

➡️ Is Your Profile a BUSINESS Account?

Business profiles are recommended over personal or creator accounts because it gets you access to a lot of features such as insights, shopping, and auto-publishing. 

Being able to access analytics and insights is the biggest perk since it allows you to see a breakdown of your Instagram profile’s performance including profile views, website clients, reach, and more. All of this information is super valuable when it comes to knowing what is working for your Instagram. 

Another business profile feature is the ability to tag and shop products directly on Instagram. Instagram is also rolling out Instagram Checkout which will allow business profiles to sell their products right on the app. 

Instagram Ads are also only available to Instagram business profiles, which will be important as you scale. 

There are a ton of other benefits like Quick Replies, links in Instagram Stories, and inbox management. 

➡️ Do You Have a Profile Picture That is Your Face, Team, or Logo? 

This is important because it helps to build up your like, know trust, factor! Ideally, you want a picture of you smiling and looking at the camera.

➡️ Is Your Username Your Business Name or Your Name If You’re a Personal Brand? 

Does it have any extra characters such as dots, underscore, letters, or numbers?

You want your username to be easy to spell and easy to remember. Removing additional characters helps you to do this. If your ideal name isn’t available, play with variations such as adding HQ or “its” or “the”.

➡️ Does Your Name Field Include Your First Name and What It Is You Do?

This is important because in your DMs your name field shows up. You also want to have what it is you do to help you be more searchable on Instagram. 

An example would be “Victoria – DM Sales Strategist” or “Tiffany – Website Designer.”

➡️ Does Your Bio Clearly Explain What You Do? 

Could someone read your bio and know exactly how you can help?

There are a lot of ways to write your bio. Your bio is that little chunk of text under your name field and above your link!

Instagram only gives you 150 characters to captivate your audience at the top of your profile. So how do you do it with such little space? 

Honestly, this tiny character limit is a gift because it forces us to get creative and specific! Here is a basic “bio formula” to get you started: 

1. Start out with a statement that clearly states what you do. Something like “I help…”, “I motivate…” “I coach…”, “I create…”… basically *I [verb].*

This first statement needs to tell your audience exactly what to expect from you! An example: “I teach entrepreneurs to create emails that convert to sales.”

2. A call-to-action is your second priority! A call-to-action is a singular action you want people to take when they get to your platform. For example ‘Book a Discovery Call,’ ‘Lock In Your Offer,’ or ‘Click to Learn More.’ Think about what your goals are for the platform and if you’re currently promoting something (product, service or opt-in).

Your call-to-action should encourage your profile viewer to click the link AND the link needs to take them DIRECTLY to where they need to go. No linktree, no link.inbio site – directly there!

Don’t be afraid to change your CTA and link when you need to. Where you send your visitors will depend on the CTA you want to focus on in that season.

3. If you have space, add some emojis to break it up and something personal like that you love tacos. This will make you m ore relatable and memorable while contributing to your personal brand.

Creating High Converting Content 

Now that our profile is set up, we can start creating content. Creating high converting content comes down to a couple of things. It’s going to come down to what you want to be known for and what you’re selling. 

Breaking Down the Different Facets of Instagram: 

Instagram is like 6-platforms in one. There is the feed, video, and even chat options all within one platform and one app. Let’s talk a little about each one and how they can be utilized. You don’t have to use all the options, but they all have their place when it comes to marketing your business.

Feed Posts:

Posting on your feed is the most obvious place to start. These are the posts that have a picture, short video, or carousel that show up in a grid pattern on your profile. These are also what you endlessly scroll through on your homepage when you open the app. Feed posts are great for creating “evergreen” content. Over the years creating longer and longer-form content has become normalized on Instagram because of the feed. 


Live Videos:

Live videos are where you talk to your audience live – in real-time (or with a little delay if we’re being honest here). Live videos are one of the most powerful lead generation tools you have on the app. They’re powerful because your audience can engage with you in real-time and you are actively building your like, know, trust factor as well as your authority!


IGTV:

IGTV is like Instagram’s version of YouTube,  if you stripped away all the cool features of YouTube. Oftentimes IGTV is just used as a way to save your Live Videos for viewing later but it can also be used for pre-recorded, longer-form content to save to your profile.

Reels: 

Reels are Instagram’s version of TikTok. They’re short 30-second clips meant to be fun and binge-worthy! Reels are really powerful for growing your account and infusing your personality into your content.



Instagram Stories:
 

Stories provide users a place to share content more frequently while still maintaining their regular content schedule for their feeds. The content in Stories is often a little less perfect but completely impactful. You can be unedited and authentic on Instagram Stories which helps you maximize relationship building.

 
Instagram Direct Messages:

The DMs are where it goes DOWN. Direct Messages on Instagram are where you have the ability to connect with your audience on an intimate level. You get to answer their questions and build a relationship rooted in trust. 

What You Want To Be Known For: 

If you’ve made it this far in this post, I know you’re serious about building a name for yourself and your brand and impacting others. Knowing what you want to be known for is key to succeeding online. Another way to think about this is is if you were walking out on Oprah’s stage, how would she introduce you? You may have heard this called your legacy statement before or your brand statement.

An example of a legacy statement would be mine: 

I want to be known as the go-to marketing expert that makes marketing actionable, effective, and lucrative.

Your Content Mix: 

In this next part, we are going to break down my methodology for taking your deep understanding of your audience and let the knowledge of their fears, agonies, and dreams drive your content. This strategy is powerful because it guarantees that you’re talking to your audience and that your content will convert. Let’s break it down:

FAD Connection: 

F: Fears: What is scary for your ideal customer? What makes them sweat? What is it that keeps them stuck?

A: Agonies: What is painful to them and keeps them up at night? What would they want to fix if they could wave a magic wand?

D: Dreams: What do they dream about? What are their deep deep desires? What are their goals?

How to get to know your Audience to Understand their FADs: 

  • Spend time talking to customers/clients that have worked or purchased from you. Ask them questions like: “What hesitations did you have about working with me?” “What were you struggling with before purchasing?”
  • Go through old forms you’ve had your audience work through. If you do an onboarding survey, take a look at all of those. These are especially great for finding out their dreams and goals. 
  • Spend some time searching Facebook groups for your subject to see what people are talking about. An example search could be “website template” or “landing page design.” You can read the conversations to see what is bothering people or scary for them. 
  • Use Instagram Stories to do a few polls and then start conversations to get more details.
  • Spend some time thinking about it or journaling around it. For some of us, our ideal customer is us from years ago! Spend some time thinking about what kept you stuck before. Or what you wish you knew when you were getting started.

Types of Content to Create from the FAD Connection:

Once you’ve identified your audience’s Fears, Agonies, And Dreams, you can take that content and break it down into these categories. The point of content categories is to build affinity and trust with your audience. 

Here are the 4 Content Categories you need to be using to organize a variety of content and consistent with your posts.

  1. Educational: Educational content is all about teaching your audience something and giving them a quick win. 
  2. Story: Showing them what is possible. This could look like a case study
  3. Connection/Conversational: Designed to build community and help your audience to connect with you and for you to connect with them.
  4. Entertainment/Inspirational: This content could be quotes or memes and may overlap with educational or story content!

Putting it all together: 

Here’s an example of this in action.

Fear: Afraid to Show up on Instagram Stories 

  • Educational: 3 Tips For Knowing What to Say On Instagram Stories
  • Story: What Using Instagram Stories Did For My Client’s Business 
  • Informational: Why Instagram Stories is important For Growth
  • Inspirational: Quote about confidence and “Doing It Scared”
  • Entertainment: Meme about doing something out of your comfort zone

We took one content idea (the fear of showing up on Instagram Stories) and turned it into 5 post topics for your account!

Formatting Captions for Attention and Cash Conversions 

Let's be honest, nowadays we have squirrel brains. Attracted to shiny objects, speed, and quick wins! It's so important that we rope our audience in early so they read the caption we wrote. 

Actually getting our audience to CONSUME our content is part of the work that it takes to grow our audience and move them closer to becoming customers.

That’s why I consistently use a captivating caption writing formula to make sure everything I post is as engaging and eye-catching as possible. This is one of my favorite ways to format a caption for both my own content and my client’s  content. 

  1. Start With a Headline

    Think of this like a blog post title or a video title. It's the first thing they see before they hit “read more.” It needs to be captivating and tell them exactly what they'll learn about if they keep reading.


Ex: The first time I made a sale on Etsy, I screamed.

  1. Hook Them In

    This goes right under the headline. This should be something that really ropes them in.

    Ex: Imagine making a full-time income off of one product line! It's easier than you might think!
  2. Build It Up

    This is where you give them the meat and potatoes of the caption. You can use this spot to educate your audience and give them a quick win!


Ex: I went from ____ to _____ by doing ______.

  1. Close It Up With a Call-Tto-Action (CTA)

    Tell them what you want them to do!

    Ex. Send me a DM if you want to grab my free guide for growing your Etsy Sales! 

There are a lot of different formats you can use to write your captions. 

Don’t be afraid to play around with it and have fun! And don’t forget to incorporate your personality and some emojis that help break things up and add in your own flavor.

Using Instagram Stories to….

Build Relationships

Instagram Stories are naturally a little bit less “curated” or “perfect” than your feed content because of their nature. Because of this, they’re great for building relationships. You can post more often and be a little more off the cuff and random!


Get to Know Your Audience

Using Stories is a great way to dig a bit deeper and get to know what your audience really cares about. Story format makes it easy for your followers to slide into your DMs and start a conversation with you. 

Let’s say an ideal client hopped into your DMs to thank you for a recent post you shared because they found it inspiring. Instead of just sending a heart emoji, start a conversation! 

Spend a few minutes chatting back and forth (remember to use voice memos and video messages too!) and asking good questions about why the post resonated with them, what they took away from it, and how they might apply it going forward.

Take notes on what they say during your convo. Maybe they liked your post because you boldly told the truth when most people in your industry would dance around the subject. Maybe they resonated with your content because it applied to one of their pain points.

Knowing what your audience likes and doesn’t like to read about can help you write stronger, more strategic marketing content going forward. This will make attracting more of the right clients even easier!

Create Product Demand  

Are you hoping to launch a new offer soon? 

Create an IG Story using Poll, Quiz, or Question stickers to ask what your audience would like to see you create. Most people are more willing to engage with these fun stickers than DM you with a paragraph of thoughts, so this is a great way to ease into the conversation.

If someone responds and they seem like an ideal client, you can directly reach out and ask if they’d be willing to answer some follow-up questions. Keep it light and friendly, not pushy or salesy. The answers you get may help you make a better decision on what offer to build!

This can be helpful for getting critical feedback on a failed launch, understanding your audience’s needs and pain points, or testing if the audience you are reaching is your ideal audience after all.

Knowing what your audience likes and doesn’t like to read about can help you write stronger, more strategic marketing content going forward. This will make attracting more of the right clients even easier!

Drive Direct Messages 

Instagram Stories makes it easy and natural for someone to slide into your DMs since if they reply, it creates a DM thread. 

But Instagram Stories also lets you start conversations easily by using Polls. You can put up a poll to let your viewers self-identify or raise their hands about a specific topic. This makes it really easy for you to look at who is interested.

From there you can message them to move the conversation forward. This can look like asking them a question or like sending them the link to whatever they are fit for (in a not-used-car-salesman-sleazy way though – obviously).

Driving DMs 

Unless I’m swamped and can’t answer DMs or need a break, I rarely say “link in bio.” I always use a call to action like “slide into my DMs” or “send me a DM for the link.” I do this because it invites people to connect. It makes collecting their email address or whatever the specific objective is an experience vs. just being transactional.

Direct Messages feel like a huge ask. It’s something we need to “train” our audience to do with us. 

Posts build your business. Stories build connections. DMs build customers who become fans 💙

So how do we train our audience to message us? I like to think about it this way…

Asking someone to like your post is easy. All they have to do is “double-tap.” 

We see Instagram influencers use the CTA “double tap if….” all the time. Why? Because it is a super easy ask. It’s a really easy first step for training your audience to engage with you.

Answering Story Polls is similar. All they have to do is use the slider or click an option on the quiz or poll. 

Direct messages feel like the next easy step. These (like polls) are easy to come from Instagram Stories since if someone wants to reply, it opens the DM thread. Or if they just react, it also opens a DM thread for you.

Comments are actually one of the hardest asks because it’s public. Secretly, comments are also one of my least favorite forms of engagement because it can be difficult to keep the conversation going.

CTAs for Stories and Captions 

A call to action is a phrase used to tell your audience what you want them to do and how to do it. It’s often found at the end of a caption or as the last part of a Story. Your CTA is like “learn more” buttons on a website, but on Instagram instead. 

You need to work on creating strong CTAs because it’s your opportunity to move your audience into action. It’s what can push your audience member over the edge to DM you, comment, like, check out the link in bio… etc.

Here are some sample call to actions:

  • Drop an emoji and I’ll DM you the link 
  • Ask their opinion or experience on what you’re talking about 
  • Put a poll in your story that says “THIS IS SO ME” vs “YUP”
  • Comment below and tell me…

CTAs are great to put at the end of your caption or even in the headline area of your caption. Play around with it and see what works best for your style and your audience. 

The Sell in DMs Framework ™

Now that we have broken down so much about Instagram and you have your audience in your DMs, we can dig into part of my cash converting methodology!

My 5 KeysFramework: 

  • Magnetic Mindset 
  • Attract & Amplify 
  • Nurture & Note 
  • Pivot & Pitch 
  • Convert & Close 

This builds upon the 4 Cs… Clarity, Consistency, Conversation, and Conversions.  

Let’s start with the 4 Cs before diving into the framework:

Clarity: Before you can begin having DM conversations and really rolling in the deep from your DMs, there are a few things we need to work towards getting clarity on. What you’re offering, who it’s for, and what to post.

Consistency: This comes down to how frequently your followers are hearing your messaged. Do you post once a day? Three times a week? Get clear on how often you can post and what your launch schedule looks like. 

Conversation: Take the time to talk to your audience and the people who are there listening to you. This also means taking the time to reach out to people that don’t follow you to connect with others, build  your network, and flex that relationship muscle!

Conversions: Depending on how you like to close sales, make a plan for how your sales conversations will go. We need to make our offers easy to buy if you want to sell in the DMs and right on Instagram. This could mean a shorter sales page for DM conversations or having a checkout form that was designed mobile-first.

Next is the 5 part Framework:

Magnetic Mindset: A lot of selling and showing up on social media comes down to having a bulletproof mindset. Marketing is a lot of experimentation. Approach your Instagram account and content with a scientist's curiosity. Test and see what works. Note what works and then try more. 

Attract & Amplify: We need a plan and structure that goes beyond hashtags. Think about how you can collaborate with other businesses and creatives to get your voice heard by more folx. This is where you also need a solid plan for lead generation, not just engagement. From there, you need to create content that is designed to be sharable and saved by your audience and fans. 

Nurture & Note: As you’re attracting new leads to your business, you have to focus on nurturing them. This can vary depending on the person and the business. You’ll want to create a lead tracking method that works for you. I personally like a Google Sheet or an Airtable. I note what they’re perfect for (or if they’ve expressed explicit interest in an offer), what our conversation topics have been about, and any other relevant notes. From there I can remember our conversations and continue to nurture the relationship. 

Pivot & Pitch: Important! This is only for WARM leads. Don’t come in cold. You have to make sure you properly build rapport with the lead before you go in for a pivot & pitch. As you’re building genuine friendships with your audience online, there comes a point where you can begin to pivot the conversation from friendship to talking about business and pitch your offer. One way you can do the pivot is by asking them how their launch is going or what their business goals are. When you get this information you can anchor it by giving them some sort of education or advice to move in with your pitch. 

Convert & Close: Next up is handling any objections that may come up from your warm lead. For example, if they come in with a price objection, offer up a payment plan. Or if they come in with a time objection, ask when is a better time. Once you get a “HECK YES,” move into the close by sending them an order form or whatever the next step is in your sales process. Collect your cash and you just converted a lead into a buyer right in your DMs! 

Closing Thoughts…. 

I appreciate you SO MUCH for reading to this point! I poured so much love into this post and I hope you got a ton of value! If you did, I’d love for you to comment and share  it  –  it is SO appreciated! 

And I don’t want to leave you hanging. If you’re ready to take things to the next level with your Instagram, you can grab the Sell In Your DMs Playbook by clicking here. I break down all of my DM strategies for warming up leads and closing sales, right at your fingertips, with clients that make you excited about work.

With that said – you can always find me in my DMs at @victoriahboyd if you have any questions.

DM soon!