Boss Lady

How to build a business entirely from Instagram this year

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“It’s all about paid advertising,’ everyone is saying, or ‘Organic reach on socials is just too hard,’ they claim, or simply ‘You can’t build a business from Instagram anymore – it’s too competitive.’ To all of this I say – not true. I have built my fashion brand entirely from Instagram, so much so that Insta now forms 90% of our website traffic and a significant proportion of our sales. So much so, in fact, that if you’re building a brand, I can’t imagine that you’d want to do it in any way but using Instagram – but of course, there’s more than a few things I’d recommend you get right beforehand.

Here’s how to build your business using Instagram:

First things first – create a quality product

You might think it’s strange that I start a post on Instagram with advice on creating your product. But they go hand in hand. Trust me.

From the moment I had the idea for my brand until now, I’ve always had a relentless and unwavering focus on producing only the highest quality garments for our customers. Quality is incorporated into everything we do, from researching and designing unique, stylish and elegant dresses, to personally sourcing beautiful, high-end fabrics. And from here, the focus on quality only continues – we hand-make every garment before it’s manufactured, and we’re not afraid to send dresses back if they’re not what we envisioned.

As Instagram is such a visual platform, our focus on quality is always on display. The eye is naturally attracted to beautiful and unique things, so our focus on creating these has been the foundation of our success on Instagram – and one I’d recommend you follow, too. 

Find designers, stylists and photographers with a following 

On Instagram, people like, share and tag their friends in images they love. But in order to discover those in the first place, they follow people that produce these images in the first place, whether they be celebrities, influencers or photographers.

Given my focus on quality, when I did my first ever photoshoot (and to this day), I always use professional photographers and stylists. Doing so helps my brand portray a luxury and high-end image. But it also comes with an incredible added bonus.

As well-known photographers, stylists and influencers have also had to build their brand visually, they’ve usually done so via Instagram. So when I engaged my photographer and stylist initially, they were able to feature my photos. This meant that I automatically had access to their Instagram audiences, and built an initial following for my label. 

Decide on a theme – and stick to it

A picture is worth a thousand words, and nowhere is that more true than on Instagram. You might have the best quality product in the world, but if you’re not able to showcase it visually, you risk losing customers.

When I first started my brand’s Instagram account, I was very specific about how I wanted it to look and feel – both individual photos, and the aesthetic of the account as a whole. Specifically, I wanted all of our garments to be showcased in bright light, where our customers could see the intricate details in the dresses. I also wanted white backgrounds (as much as possible), again to highlight our unique colours, silhouettes and styles. So specific was I about our visual aesthetic, that once when we completed an entire photoshoot at a bar, I decided not to use the images as they wouldn’t have aligned with our style (this was, of course, not a cheap decision!).

If you’re going to do Instagram, make sure you choose a theme like this, and stick to it. Beyond your products, your customers will come to expect a certain look from your brand, and it’s important to hold true to that. 

Influencers and user generated content 

In Instagram’s early days, not many people knew about influencers, yet they delivered phenomenal results. Then suddenly, everyone was an influencer, Instagram took away likes and businesses became dubious about using them.

I can say that I’m firmly in the former camp when it comes to influencers – they’ve been incredible for our business, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without them. Given the focus we put on quality and the visual aesthetic we created for my business, I was fortunate that a number of top stylists actually reached out to me in the beginning, wanting to feature our dresses (albeit when I was still running my brand from my garage!).

Once we’d been featured on a few prominent celebrities, it wasn’t hard to reach out to more, and usually, the wonderful women we work with are happy to feature us in exchange for being gifted a dress, sometimes one we’ve custom made.

Like many others before me, I’ve also found that micro-influencers, those with perhaps 10,000 to 50,000 followers, produces the best results. In my opinion, it’s because these micro-influencers cater to our niche and also because they feel ‘attainable’ to our customers, as opposed to being featured somewhere where we’re simply one of the millions of brands that an influencer works with.

Yet the type of content that really sells for us isn’t celebrity content, but user-generated content. This is because we all know that dresses look amazing on models, but what women really want to see is how they look on people like them. Having user-generated content has been a real boon for us, as it creates trust; the idea that ‘if it looks good on them, it will look good on me too.’

Now we’ve grown our following, it’s also fairly easy to encourage customers to send photos (often they do so voluntarily). And I can understand why they do – we’re now a community of over 110,000 luxury fashion lovers, so it’s great that we can give women, who might be aspiring to various things in their own careers, exposure. 

Analytics 

One of my favourite things about our Instagram isn’t the look of it or how it showcases our products, but it’s analytics. Without those, everything we’d be doing would simply be guesswork. I love how Instagram gives us insight into our customers and target market, and how we can have a real conversation with them on it.

From the beginning, we’ve been analytics focused on Instagram. What images are producing the most sales?  Which dresses should we strategically feature to drive more sales, which need user generated content, etc. Now, our entire Instagram strategy is data-driven, down to when and how often we post (for example, we find that posting 3 times a day works best, but if you overpost, images are seen and engaged with less).

Analytics has also helped with our Instagram stories. We’ve found that stories with flashing images are the most engaging. We’ve also discovered which influencers are most effective for us over time, and we now have a colour-coding system to help us decide who to work with.

Encourage engagement

The final, and one of the most important things I’ll say about Instagram, is that it isn’t the ‘one way street’ that many brands think it is. It’s way beyond that – it’s an opportunity to have a conversation with your customers, understand their preferences, and treat them like humans, not simply dollar signs.

There’s many ways that we do this via Instagram. One of the ways is with the captions on our photos which, through testing, we’ve discovered can skyrocket our engagement. With our captions, instead of simply posting about the garment, we actively ask for feedback, for example, which colour do you prefer, or anything else you’d like to see? We also start a conversation directly with Instagram posts (one of ours recently read; What styles would you like to see more of in 2020?) and through voting and direct response requests in our stories. All in all, we’re in conversation with our customers every day, understanding their needs, wants and preferences, and these directly influence our future collections.

Time + effort = results 

A lot of people think that just because Instagram might seem easy, that it is (after all, how hard can it be posting a few photos be?!). But besides the glitz and glamour of my feed, myself and my team are working hard, every day, to post images, stories, write captions, review our analytics, and engage with customers. Every single day (including weekends, as I often respond in real time), I spend at least a few hours on Instagram; sometimes more if we have a new collection coming up.

The work of Instagram is definitely endless – but at the same time, fun. And even though it might occasionally seem like a grind, I love the opportunities it affords us, I love the genuine interactions we have with our customers because of it, and I love the lasting impact it has on my business. So if you want to build your brand in 2020 or beyond, invest time in your Instagram – and you’ll hopefully reap maximum rewards.

About Louise Elia

louisee@thebusinesswomanmedia.com'

Louise Elia is the Founder and Creative Director of Eliya the Label. Her business has been featured in Business News Australia, Trailer Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar. Elle and the CEO Magazine, among others. She was recently awarded Melbourne Young Entrepreneur of the Year (Fashion).

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