From clothes to furniture to supplements, there are a ton of products being advertised across Instagram. Yet, many people may not know just how huge shopping has become on the platform. As first reported by Recode, 130 million people now look through Instagram product tags on a monthly basis -- up from 90 million just back in September of 2018.

To capitalize on the momentum, this past week, Instagram rolled out a new feature called Checkout, which allows users to buy products with just a couple clicks and without ever leaving the app. At the moment, the feature is only available to a select group of retailers, but will open up to the public in coming months.

This push means the company is doubling down on e-commerce. Meaning, influencer marketing may see an uptick in performance given how frictionless selling products will be on Instagram, brands may now see Instagram as a much more viable selling tool, Instagram will begin charging companies to promote their products that use the Checkout feature and more.

While, at first glance, this feature may seem like a small update at best, it's actually something all business owners can benefit from. Here's why, plus how to start building an Instagram audience today.

What this means for entrepreneurs

Instagram is a heavily visual platform where fashion, fitness and lifestyle content rises to the top -- making it a terrific venue for a seamless buying experience.

Checkout presents a massive opportunity for anyone selling products online to boost sales. If you aren't already building a following on Instagram, the new feature should give you another reason to. And with ecommerce sales in the United States alone growing 15 percent to equal a whopping $517 billion in 2018, it's clear online shopping is the future for brands of all kinds.

How to start building an Instagram following

1. Buy shoutouts from big accounts in your niche.

Many of the large, highly engaged accounts on Instagram sell what are called shoutouts. Defined, a shoutout is when a big account features another, typically smaller, account in one of their posts, and encourages their own audience to follow the buyer. 

Given how difficult building an engaged following on Instagram can be, sometimes you just needs a push to get the ball rolling. By purchasing shoutouts from highly relevant accounts in your field, you may drum up the momentum you need to dramatically increase followers.

2. Take a photography course.

At its bare bones, Instagram is a photo sharing platform. So, in order to create high quality content on it, you (or someone on your team) needs to be able to capture high quality photos. If you aren't yet familiar with the in's and out's of photography fundamentals (lighting, angles, etc.), taking a photography course on Udemy or Creative Live could go a long way.

3. Leverage Instagram Stories.

The rise of Instagram Stories has been meteoric, and now boasts over 500 million daily users. The feature gives business owners an opportunity to showcase the less filtered, more raw side of their company. By humanizing your brand to consumers, you'll be able to build a strong relationship with them, increasing the likelihood they'll continue to engage with your content and tell their friends about you.

4. Publish word art on Instagram.

Photos and videos aren't the only types of content that perform well on Instagram. Word art posts also tend to spread like wildfire across the platform too. If you're out of good photos or have tapped the well when it comes to video ideas, give word art posts a try. 

Whether you choose to feature a shareable quote, an infographic, a fun fact related to your industry or something else entirely, word art can drive engagement and results for your business. To start, you can use a free tool like Canva to easily create these posts.

5. Post often.

It should go without saying that consistency is key when trying to build a strong Instagram presence. But if my word isn't enough, here are some numbers to back it up. According to a study conducted CoSchedule, you should be sharing once or twice per day to yield the best results.

With Instagram's rollout of their new Checkout feature, the writing is on the wall. The company is now taking online shopping on their platform very seriously, and trying to make it as smooth for the user as possible. As an entrepreneur, it's important to capitalize on this opportunity while the iron's still hot. Best of luck.

Published on: Mar 21, 2019
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.