These are the Instagram hacks that will drive your product’s exposure and boost your sales.

Every successful online retailer knows Instagram is more than a simple photo sharing platform. For retailers, it’s an essential business tool that can be used in a variety of ways, from an online product portfolio, to a digital sales channel.

Instagram, a highly visual platform, with over 1 billion engaged users and mass consumer appeal, has massive capacity to influence consumer buying behavior when used in the right ways.

For the savvy retailer, Instagram should be seen as a tool that can be leveraged to drive profit and boost the bottom line, rather than used as a simple social media platform. Instagram understands the value of its platform to businesses, particularly for retail and eCommerce, and as a result, the tech company has applied a specific focus to developing new features, specifically for brands.

Here are 4 Instagram hacks brands can use to turn their page from a passive platform to a profitable sales tool:

  1. Business ready bios

Your Instagram page should provide potential customers with a glimpse of your brand, from your look, to your messaging.

The first thing users see is your bio. You’ve only got 150 characters to play with here, so make it punchy and easy on the eye. Consider spacing, emojis, links and wording. Most people will try to do this in-app, however you can hack the formatting by using a note taking app to write your bio, before copying and pasting it into Instagram. For example, check out Primark’s bio – they use spacing as well as their branded hashtag #Primania, and feature a particular upcoming event their audience may be attending.

From there, it’s all eyes on your grid.

  1. Get your grid right

Rather than posting a mess of random images, stick to a central theme and style that embodies and communicates the values of your company’s brand. This theme should cover your colour scheme, type of image content, hashtags, captions and comment style.

It can be hard to visualise this until it’s live on your page, though. Rather than uploading your posts and hoping for the best (and probably having to delete them and the likes they’ve accrued) clever online tools including Schedugram enable you to visualise your grid (as well as create, analyse and schedule content collaboratively), before publishing. The other benefit of these kinds of tools is you can easily collaborate with contributors in one place — whether it’s agencies and brands, product teams and designers and copywriters or others — will help you make sure you can post regularly with a consistent style.

Lululemon does a great job mixing different types of content (user-generated, product shots, brand events and even some from staff at their stores), but also manages to keep their style and brand consistent across their feed.

  1. Up your hashtag game.

The best way to broaden your audience and reach is with hashtags that are relevant to your brand and business space. Use a mix of general and niche hashtags to get your post in front of the right people. For example, if you’re a fashion brand posting about a new handbag line, you may want to use a broad #fashion hashtag, but then include more specific tags to the product like the designer, the type of bag, colour, celeb inspo, season etc.

The problem with hashtags, however, is they’re ugly and can clutter your post. A simple fix to this is to add a few rows of full stops and Instagram will automatically hide any content after them. Schedugram lets customers put their hashtags in a comment under the caption – another common technique used to keep things clean.

But what about Insta-stories?

Add all your hashtags, shrink them as much as you can, then add an image, sticker or GIF over the top to hide them, add some fun to your story and give it a massive engagement boost.

  1. Become a product pro

Aside from core marketing features most retailers are savvy with, (like the ability to sponsor posts and view analytics) Instagram now offers a range of features that take the platform from a social media site to an ecommerce portal.

If you’ve got over 10,000 followers, make the most of product tagging on your posts. It’s a simple way to encourage ‘click through” to your site from a regular post directly to the product(s) featured in it, in addition to swipe-up links in video or image stories.

This is a great way to showcase products in action, and when used in conjunction with carousel (multiple image) posts, can be an effective way to demonstrate the versatility of products.

The best Instagram management tools will have these features built in, so you can schedule posts ahead of time to ensure products are amplified as soon as they land in your followers’ feeds.

Don’t forget there’s more to Instagram’s ecommerce capabilities than built in features, however. Since Instagram released its API for developers, various tech providers have built clever add-ons to boost the value brands can extract from the platform. Apps like Shopify have integrations for Instagram Business accounts to synchronise your product catalog so that you can use tagging to create a seamless shopping experience for customers. Product tags are only visible on the Instagram app, but browse some of your favourite retailers and you’ll notice the telltale shopping bag icon quite quickly.

Any retailer who identifies online sales as part of their core revenue streams should be taking full advantage of the many benefits of having a well-managed, engaging Instagram presence. As the fastest growing online platform, ignoring Instagram or not making the most of its features could mean thousands of dollars of missed sales, and more business for your competitors.

By Hugh Stephens, CEO Schedugram, Hugh is the CEO and founder of Instagram planning, management and scheduling platform Schedugram