Use Instagram to Turn Followers Into Loyal Customers
Dawaud Muhammad, owner of San Leandro, CA-based Big Printing T-Shirt Co., is a true success story: BPTC prints for more than 1,500 brands worldwide—and boasts 113,000 engaged Instagram followers (@bigprinting).
“Instagram is definitely a major sales generator for us,” Muhammad says. “It’s a platform where we connect with an audience that’s very tuned into what we’re doing. For apparel decorators with a very visual product, Instagram’s focus on photos and videos is great.”
Here are eight key ways Muhammad uses Instagram to connect with his exact right prospects—and turn them into loyal customers, who buy and refer his shop, on repeat.
1. Take high-quality photos.
Muhammad has been active on Instagram for six years, and high-quality photography is one constant that’s kept his coast-to-coast followers growing—and engaged. “We just really know who our customer base is, and we show them what they want to see with eye-catching photos and video,” he says. “We offer unique imprinting techniques like chenille, leather and 3-D reflective patches, and dimensional screen printing and embroidery. Because we provide all of these services under one roof, we often do mixed media and that really changes up the game for our customers. When they see the quality in our patches where we really bump it up a notch, it’s a no brainer for them to ask us to do left-chest embroidery.”
2. Show off your decorating prowess in videos.
A huge fan of Instagram Stories, Dawaud loves shooting quick videos of his staff embroidering or printing garments. “When we’re running a really cool job, I take a short video that gives our customers a real feel for who we are and with a firsthand view of our capabilities,” he says. “This behind-the-scenes perspective shows that we’re a real company—and really good at what we do.”
3. Engage with your followers.
Muhammad likes to interact with his followers by asking questions or suggesting that people tag a friend who might be interested in the post. “If we’re posting pictures of characters that look great as a chenille patch, we tag illustrators and ask them to tag other illustrators to get their take,” he says. “When more people see your content and engage with it, the Instagram algorithm in turn shows it to more people.”
Muhammad also gets lots of direct messages that he answers. “We get so many that sometimes it feels like I can’t get to all the questions,” he says. “There’s so many that it’s awesome.”
4. Know your target audience inside and out.
When Dawaud was 19, he started his own apparel line that grew into the brand that became a staple in California’s Oakland and San Francisco Bay-area streetwear market. That’s why part of what’s special about BPTC is that Muhammad views himself as part of the urban demographic he targets.
“I start with myself, and I know I’ve got a whole tribe of people out there to reach,” he says. “I run this business, but I’m also a client so that gives me a leg up. I also know that I can cater to my target market better than most of our competitors.”
5. Know how to present what you sell to your ideal customers.
It’s up to you whether you “soft sell” on social, or present specific offers you know your prospects will scoop up between photos and videos of your latest decorated-apparel pieces. For example, Muhammad recently decorated exclusive puff jackets with faux fur-lined hoods. “I showcased the jackets in a post with the price,” he says. “We sold out in three days.”
Or, he’ll show an imprinting method like chenille patches with a base price. “That leaves a lot of room for engagement, because people post questions in their comments,” Muhammad says. “We get a lot of interaction going that way.”
Ultimately, Muhammad says that he doesn’t post on Instagram “to go and buy something right now.” Rather, he posts content that he knows people won’t want to miss, so they hit the follow button. “They might follow us for a year and a half before they buy,” he says. “But when they need some embroidery, they’ll hit the call button on our website or send us an email. Then, we try to get right back to them, and off we go.”
6. Use hashtags that work for your brand.
Muhammad likes to use the same set of hashtags for his posts. “I recommend that business owners use ones like #bigprinting or #BPTC, which are the name and acronym of my company, so people can find us,” he says. “If I’m showing a chenille patch, I’ll use #chenille, #patch or #embroidery. The key is just to use them consistently, so you appear in your target audience’s searches.”
7. Use Instagram as an extension of your company’s identity.
BPTC partners with UBM fashion to bring streetwear to Sourcing at MAGIC, one of the largest fashion trade shows in the world. “People will come up to us at our booth and say, ‘I follow you guys on Instagram everyday, and now I can see you for real here,’” Muhammad says. “Instagram is a very powerful tool for reaching and communicating with our demographic. We’re also an African-American company in the fashion industry. We’re unapologetic about who we are. We know we’re kind of a unicorn in that regard.”
His best advice? Attract your ideal prospects by showing exactly who your company is and what you do. “That’s how you work Instagram and draw in the people who will buy from you.”
By practicing this, Muhammad feels Instagram offers Big Printing almost viral advertising. “Word of mouth on Instagram is huge for us,” he says. “And it just keeps on going and growing.”
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