You’ve heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, so let’s use this power to its full, customer-hooking advantage.

Analysts credit the growing popularity of Instagram to its image-centric platform, especially since other social media sites (for example, Facebook) get twice as many comments on posts that contain an image versus just text or links.

Our preference for images is bio-engineered into our brains. In fact, 90% of information transmitted to our brains is visual.

So let’s harness the beloved and effective visual world of Instagram and post some product photos that really make sales! But remember that while Instagram is full of shoppers, it’s not necessarily a shopping destination. Here’s a quick note on the Instagram culture and how not to annoy your followers:

Avoid Hard Selling to Appeal to Instagram’s Social Culture

Buyers report strong influence from social media when considering a purchase. While the number one influencer is their friends’ social media shares, a solid 38% say they’re influenced by a brand’s social media, and 35% are influenced by retailers on social media. So your brand has a lot of sway here!

That being said, let’s bring attention to the universal mistrust of the used-car salesman.

Visuals show your products without you yelling about how great they are (I’m picturing OxiClean commercials). Images allow viewers to make their own decisions without feeling pressure from your business, removing the dreaded used-car salesman from the scenario.

So walk the line between wielding your influence and coming off too pushy, which means you’ll need to get creative with your product photos.

Promote Your Products with Creative, Professional Photos

The power of product photos has always been essential to online shopping, and Instagram’s visual platform takes that power to the next level! 67% of consumers consider detailed images to be more valuable toward making their purchase than the product information or even ratings from other customers.

Don’t discount the damage a used-car salesman effect can have on your bottom line. Posting product photo and description after product photo and description is just going to come off salesy. And Instagrammers aren’t there for straight sales pitches.

Instagram is a social marketplace that directs traffic that turns into sales. How do you do that? You share photos that are attention-grabbing, unique, and full of personality.

DSW product photo

DSW spices up their product photo with some appealing color coordination.

Consider that your brand is on social media, like Instagram, to establish a relationship and culture among your followers. Do this right, and your followers will come to you when they’re ready to shop because they’re already connected with you.

Show off your brand’s aesthetics while also flaunting your goods. It adds variety, and it’s less used-car salesy.

santa sock

Santas_sock_central’s product picture tells a behind-the-scenes story.

Size Your Photos for Professional Quality

Avoid an awkward crop or blurred image that loses you professionalism points.

Instagram’s format automatically makes your images square, within a 612 x 612 pixels frame. Consider the square shape when choosing a picture, or the whole appeal of the photo might be lost (i.e., cropped out!).

Make sure your images reflect professionalism. That means they’ll need to be high quality. A safe estimate for preserving quality is to save your photos at double the resolution size.

In Photoshop, you can adjust the size of your image to 1024 x 1024 pixels, and the quality will remain crisp when reduced to Instagram’s parameters.

If you just can’t work with the square, free apps like Squaready and InstaSize allow you to keep photos in their rectangular dimensions and still post to Instagram, which is great for panoramas!


Use Instagram’s Editing Tools to Stand Out

There are 70 million photos posted on Instagram every day. With so much visual competition, you’ve really got to post “look at me” photos that don’t get scrolled past.

Instagram offers a range of in-app filters to enhance the colors and moods of your photos. Just stay consistent so your photos can instantly be recognized as fitting your brand’s style.

Use your own eyes and judgment to decide what looks best. But if can’t make a decision, studies show that the Mayfair filter attracts the most interactions per 1,000 followers, on average.


Play with colors and patterns to make a unique and artistic image.


Lighter, brighter images generate 24% more likes than dark images.

dominant color

Images with blue as the dominant color see 24% more likes than images that are predominantly red, and images with a single dominant color see a 17% boost in likes.

urban outfitters

Urban Outfitters uses the blue and single dominant color tricks for visually appealing photos that earn tons of likes.

Create Unique Lifestyle Photos That Capture Your Brand Culture

Since your Instagram account isn’t a direct sales market, you’ve got to focus on adding value and appeal to your feed if you want followers to stick around. The ultimate party trick for injecting your IG feed with appeal is lifestyle photos!

What’s a lifestyle photo?

Use life-inspired backgrounds, scenes, and models to add a scenario to your product so users can imagine how great those earrings would look wearing them out on a date, or visualize those hiking boots powering through mud.

Research found that 60 percent of Nike’s posts in 2014 contained lifestyle content (as opposed to traditional product photos and calls-to-action), while Adidas shared only about 32 percent lifestyle content. Nike saw 8 times more interaction on social media (993 shares per post versus Adidas’s 122).

nike lifestyle

In marketing terms, by presenting not only your products, but also the culture and lifestyle that surround them, you’re strengthening your brand equity; that is, the feelings associated with the brand.

Offer Promotions and Exclusive Announcements to Followers

Pump up your followers’ feeds with bonuses, special offers, and insider announcements. Since 41% of Instagrammers state that they follow, or would follow, a brand to take advantage of perks and giveaways, give followers that incentive.

Text overlay lets you include your promotion right on the photo, which is a stylish and visual way to announce sales and discounts.

text overlay

Free apps like Phonto, PicLab, and Over let you choose the font, message, and positioning of text right over your image, an eye-catching and informative promotion that fits perfectly within the visual square of Instagram.

Starbucks uses cozy autumnal images and the hashtags #PumpkinSpiceLatte and #PSL to announce that their popular seasonal drink is back on the menu. (We’ll get to more about hashtags in a bit.)

Pumpkin Spice

Case Study: Buried Diamond

BuriedDiamond Collage

Martha Porter’s online shop, Buried Diamond, attributes much of its popularity to its Instagram page. How does Porter pump value into her feed? She sends out exclusive announcements of new products and sales so her followers can jump on the trend before anyone else!

“By posting shop updates with item release times on Instagram, I allow my customers to plan ahead and be ready to purchase right when new items go live,” Porter says. “My shop sells out quickly when I list popular items.”

By including announcements and sales on her Instagram, Porter manages to sell out stock, sometimes minutes after it is posted online, while also offering exclusive information to her IG fans.

Promote Events on Instagram and Share Exclusive Insider Access

A seldom-used but surprisingly effective Instagram tool is geo-tagging. Only 5 percent of Instagram posts tag a location, but statistically, posts with a geotag get 79% percent more engagement!

A geo-tag appears above your photo and adds a location (street, city, or country) to show followers where you’re physically located. It’s a feature built right into Instagram. Geo-tags let potential customers know where they can go to find your products and buy. Plus, you can tap into local loyalty.

Many brands use Instagram to promote events, using geo-tags to share the location and invite followers who are near the area.

Brands like Toms have been latching on to the Instameet strategy, rallying Instagrammers behind a common cause, and setting up localized get-togethers to support their brand values.

Toms Instameet copy

Another value-adding event strategy involves backstage Instagramming at an industry event. This offers exclusive content that only your Instagram followers get to see and makes a great way to include your followers in your brand’s story. Here’s an example:

Case Study: NY Fashion Week

Lucky Magazine’s editor-in-chief Eva Chen coordinated an Instameet for New York Fashion Week, leading a group of 15 Instagrammers through the photogenic chaos of backstage at the Lincoln Center.

Chen’s Instagram of behind-the-scenes macarons received over 3,000 likes and included the hashtag #firstlook. No products were even present, but there was tons of brand engagement and support from fans!


MichaelKors posted some behind-the-scenes selfies and shots of models at New York Fashion Week to capture the “insider’s look” trend. This tactic is right on target, since statistics show that Instagram images with a human face in them see 38% more likes on average and a 32% increase in comments.

michael kors

This snap of three models taking a backstage selfie got a community response of over 74,000 likes. Even if you don’t have famous models to represent your brand, behind-the-scenes, personal snaps like these are appealing because they’re intimate and relatable.