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5 Ways You Can Harness Instagram to Get Leads and Close Sales Instagram doesn't require more time or energy than any other social network, so give it a try and see how your company grows.

By Lesya Liu

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Until recently, Instagram was a pretty self-contained network that didn't allow for any interaction outside it, except for a link in the bio. With the introduction of ads, the situation has changed a little, but Instagram remains somewhat closed off compared to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

The hesitation to use this platform for marketing comes from illiteracy on how to effectively drive and measure sales from Instagram. Here are a few proven methods.

1. Use relevant hashtags.

While it seems like a no-brainer, there is still a lot of confusion on how to employ hashtags effectively. Some decide to not use hashtags whatsoever (you're not Beyoncé, you can't afford this), or stuffing every image with 30 irrelevant hashtags.

Related: Instagram Is Too Large for Your Business to Ignore

Here is the deal: think of them as keywords. Have a good variety and use just enough to be discoverable. I tend to incorporate a few major hashtags to get more exposure, some less used hashtags, so my posts stick on the top longer, and some variations in between.

If you want to include abbreviations used in your industry, make sure to check what those abbreviations can lead to on Instagram. Not all abbreviations are what you think they are, so click on it to see what kind of content pops up. Another advice is to spend some time analyzing the best hashtags for your niche. For example, foodies might use #foodporn instead of #lunch.

2. Think where you link.

How many times have I seen one free opportunity to send the traffic to your website being misused and wasted! I am talking about a single link that actually works as a live link -- in your profile. Please, do not send those people to your homepage and let them scatter around.

Get clear on what you want them to do on your site and link to the most appropriate page. Send them to an "about" section, store page or to your latest blog post. If you feel like nailing this Instagram game down, create a landing page specifically for Instagrammers with a special offer or a call to action. It is also a good idea to talk to them in their language and make experience on your website cohesive to experience on the network.

Related: 9 Tools to Improve Your Instagram Marketing

One issue (that we'll solve in a second) is the fact that analytical software usually attributes Instagram traffic as "direct," meaning it treats these people as though they simply typed in your URL. To combat that, create a special separate trackable URL, either using tools like Ow.ly or Bit.ly, or Google URL Builder if you're employing Google Analytics. This way, you'll know exactly how many people clicked on that URL. If you've built a specific landing page for Instagrammers like we've discussed, that will help with analytics too.

3. Tell a story with pictures.

Instagram is all about creative visual storytelling. If you want people to convert into customers, "hook them in" with an engaging story of your brand. What do you offer? What value does it have for them? What kind of lifestyle does it entitle? And so on and so forth.

Paint the picture with every new post. Don't forget that text here matters as much as the visual aspect of it. While the visuals will draw people in, text is what will make them stick for the journey.

Irrelevant images, inconsistent branding and wacky filters will not help you get more customers. But masterful crafted storytelling will entice people to click on that link in the bio we've just discussed.

Related: 10 Examples of Instagram Ads and the Lessons They Can Teach

4. Check your competition.

It helps to watch what your competition is doing. Get a clear picture of what works and doesn't work for them and improve on it. Or, create a completely different experience on your page.

See who they are following and who follows them. Be on the lookout for any influencers or people with huge followings. If you do identify influential profiles following them, see if you can reach out to them and get them to follow your brand as well.

5. Don't shy away from occasional sales.

If you want sales, go after them directly. Delight your customers occasionally, and create a special Instagram-exclusive sale with a promo code. Upload an eye-catching graphic with a huge copy over it. Do it sporadically, though.

If you haven't tried them yet, employ Instagram ads. You might get amazing results relatively cheap. If you know your audience, it shouldn't be an issue to identify more people with similar tastes and interests. It all depends on your skillful copywriting and great offers.

Instagram really doesn't require more time or energy than any other social network. Yet, you have to be diligent and clever in your tactics.

Lesya Liu

Social Media Strategist at The Social Media Current

Lesya Liu helps entrepreneurs create a meaningful and profitable Instagram presence that feels right for their creative businesses. Born and raised in Ukraine, she is a social media strategist and a photographer. Her passion lies in combining art and marketing to create compelling storytelling, both visually and textually. Most days she roams the Interwebs, looking for fresh, inspirational ideas or testing things out on her own social channels.

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