What precisely Sells On can be: Drum pedal, Time-honored B& W HOME THEATER, Pinup books, Glat 8 Track tags, Acoustic guitar, Dual turntable

Funny coincidence about that drum pedal as I sold one a while back that I also got for free; only mine was out on the curb on trash day in the neighborhood.
I just returned from a week in Texas at a small town with a monthly “market days” flea market that happened to be this past weekend. I’ve been going for years but things are getting a bit too precious to my liking. It is now mostly crafts and antique show-style booths with expensive tagged merchandise. I found a couple things worth buying in the few booths just piled with junk but nothing spectacular to report.
This consignment challenge coin is for a Canadian warship – look for the “HMCS” before the ship’s name, and of course there’s always at least one maple leaf somewhere. That being said, Canadian coins generally do not sell for much as the US and Asian collectors are usually not interested and the challenge coin craze has not caught on in Canada itself, apparently. This one went for $16 plus shipping, going back to Canada.
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There is interest in coins related to the US Congressional Medal of Honor. This was a coin from the CMOH Foundation gala of a recent year and would have originally come in a presentation box. A consignment, it sold on a best offer to a coin dealer for $35 plus shipping. I don’t think it was bought for resale, but if it was, that’s fine with me.
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Flea market dealers are mostly wise to the value in old brass belt buckles but I was able to get this reproduction 1936 Mercedes Benz buckle among a handful of smalls I picked out from a dealer’s table for which I paid about $1.75 for each item. It sold for $34.34 with free first class package shipping that cost me $3.57.
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I found this cheeseboard with knife at a Goodwill for $6.50. It appeared well-made and I’ve done well with cutting boards before but I was pleased to discover that there’s a particular following for boards with carved mice, as there was apparently a well-known craftsman in the UK who popularized the style. It sold for $70 plus shipping but stayed in the US.
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What Sells On eBay: Drum pedal, Vintage B&W TV, Pinup books, Blank 8 Track tapes, Acoustic guitar, Dual turntable

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All of the 10 Best Crowdfunding Websites for Escalating Capital in 2021

Raising capital for your next venture can be a major hurdle on the road to bringing your vision to life.
While bank loans and pitching to traditional investors are still viable fundraising options, crowdfunding gives you the opportunity to solicit support from the crowd: a group of individuals who collectively invest in your idea to make it a reality.
What’s more, crowdfunding can also give entrepreneurs a way to validate demand for their ideas, before they enter production, by letting others “buy into it” with pre-orders, donations, and investments.
What is crowdfunding and how does it work?
Traditional fundraising relies on raising a large sum of money from one source at a time. Crowdfunding, on the other hand, is a strategy that focuses on raising smaller amounts of money from a larger collective of individuals.
These “backers”—as they’re often called—can be offered a number of incentives in exchange for their support:

The opportunity to become early adopters of an innovative product
The option to pre-order a product and have a say in its development
Exclusive rewards like an early bird discount or free swag when you launch
Personal access to the founding team or the chance to support people they know personally
Equity in an early or growth stage company with high potential, though this is less common for consumer-facing brands

While every crowdfunding site has its own unique features, platform fee and overall fee structure, and user base, the core concept is the same—you submit your project to the platform with a fundraising goal and a deadline, and then campaign for support online, often through social media.
So, what are your options if you want to crowdfund your business? Let’s take a look at some of today’s best crowdfunding sites (and Kickstarter alternatives), spanning a variety of use cases, for you to raise funds for your next campaign.
8 best crowdfunding sites for new creative projects

Kickstarter
Indiegogo
Patreon
Crowdfunder (Shopify App)
GoFundMe
Fundable
Crowdcube
Crowdfunder

1. Kickstarter

Website: Kickstarter
Fees: 5% if you meet your goal (not including payment processing fees)
Kickstarter is almost synonymous with “crowdfunding” as one of the most popular platforms where innovative ideas can find support. Since its launch in 2009, the Kickstarter community has successfully funded over 156,000 projects—including physical products, movies, games, and more—for a total of $4.1 billion raised.
Kickstarter is a reward-based crowdfunding platform. Backers are offered incentives to support the project, from t-shirts to shoutouts to exclusive pre-order discounts. You can offer different tiers of rewards too; the more money a backer pledges, the better the rewards they unlock.
Kickstarter campaigns are an all-or-nothing affair, which means that you only get access to your funds (and pay Kickstarter’s fees) if you meet your initial fundraising goal. If you fall short, then all the money remains with your backers.
The result is that projects on Kickstarter tend to be high quality and novel—often creative or innovative enough to catch the attention of early adopters and headlines from the press. Backers also generally view these projects as more trustworthy given they don’t actually part with their money unless the campaign succeeds.
You can learn more about running a successful Kickstarter campaign in our interview with Rockwell Razors. And if you’re looking to transition from your Kickstarter campaign to a Shopify store, be sure to check out our guide.
2. Indiegogo

Website: Indiegogo
Fees: 5% if you meet your goal (not including payment processing fees)
Indiegogo is a robust crowdfunding platform that supports businesses, artists, and nonprofits. While at first glance it may sound similar to Kickstarter, it comes with its own unique features and campaign options.
The most noteworthy difference is the option to choose a fixed funding goal (all-or-nothing like Kickstarter) or a flexible funding goal for your campaign. With flexible funding goals, you receive your funds regardless of whether you’ve met your goal by its deadline.
The flexible funding option is especially useful when you can fulfill your promise to backers even if you don’t raise enough capital, say if you’re launching a new product line for an established business.
On top of that, Indiegogo InDemand lets you continue raising money even after your crowdfunding campaign ends, while you’re in the production stage or getting ready to fulfill orders. InDemand is available to you whether you run your campaign on Indiegogo or another crowdfunding platform. BodyBoss actually transitioned to Indiegogo InDemand right after their success on Kickstarter.
Startups based in the U.S. might also consider Indiegogo’s equity crowdfunding offering—where you can submit your campaign for consideration to investors on the platform looking for a financial stake in your company.
3. Patreon

Fees: 5% (not including payment processing fees)
Patreon is one of the most unique platforms on this list with a specific focus on the new wave of creators—bloggers, YouTubers, podcasts, cartoonists, musicians, live streamers, and their ilk.
Whereas many of the top crowdfunding sites support limited-run campaigns, Patreon was made for creators and internet personalities with loyal audiences to generate recurring revenue through paid memberships. You can choose to let patrons pay “per month” for special community perks, or pay “per Creation” to incentivize you to create more.
Patreon creators offer all kinds of exclusive perks based on different payment tiers, such as exclusive content, branded swag, sneak peeks, shoutouts, and more. If you’re a creator who regularly ships new content and has a sizable online fan base, it might be worth creating a Patreon page.
Here, you can build a community of dedicated fans and serve exclusive content (through Patreon’s various integrations) that unlocks based on the patron’s membership tier.
You can learn more about monetizing your audience with Patreon in this interview with Wait But Why.
4. Crowdfunder (Shopify app)

Fees: $29/month (not including your Shopify subscription)
If you already have a Shopify store and are interested in crowdfunding a new product through your own website, the Crowdfunder app for Shopify is a great fit.
With this app, you can transform your product page into a crowdfunding page, complete with a progress bar, setting your goal based on a threshold of items ordered or money raised.
It enables crowdfunding in its simplest form: accepting pre-orders from people as a way to simultaneously validate an idea and fund production. Plus, you can avoid the commissions charged by third-party platforms in favor of a more predictable monthly fee.
You can use it to test out new product ideas, raise money for a cause, or launch limited-run products.
5. GoFundMe

Fees: Free (not including processing fees)
GoFundMe is a free crowdfunding platform built primarily for supporting individuals and causes.
Because GoFundMe is suited to personal causes—and anyone can go about creating a campaign—backers on here tend to only support campaigns that come from within their own personal networks and communities or causes they’re familiar with.
GoFundMe isn’t designed for commercial crowdfunding campaigns, like the other platforms on this list. However, if you’re a small business owner who has fallen on hard times, or you need to raise money to overcome a personal challenge, you can try leveraging this platform for support from your personal network.
6. Fundable

Fees: $179 per month during active campaigns instead of a percentage of total funds raised (not including payment processing fees).
Fundable is part of the Startups.co platform and is among the top crowdfunding sites that allow startups (registered in the U.S. only for now) to offer rewards or equity in exchange for funding.
According to their site, startups that offer rewards typically raise less overall (under $50,000) but get more backers, whereas startups that offer equity usually raise more capital from fewer investors.
However, to succeed with equity fundraising you need all the ingredients accredited investors expect to see: a track record of growth, a solid business plan, and a pitch deck, if not more.
7. Crowdcube

Fees: 7% of funds raised if you meet your goal and a 0.75% to 1.25% completion fee.
Crowdcube is a UK-based equity crowdfunding platform. It has a relatively small number of campaigns, but companies that are approved and succeed with their fundraising goals on the platform are able to join Crowdcube’s “Funded Club”, gaining exclusive benefits from their partner organizations.
You can promote your pitch to solicit investors from your network or appeal to Crowdcube’s established community of investors.
8. Crowdfunder

Fees: Plans start at $299 per month to create a public profile and “deal room” to invite investors. You can create a non-public profile and deal room for free.
Crowdfunder is another equity crowdfunding platform where you can raise capital through a “crowd” of accredited investors. Its network includes over 12,000 venture capitalists and angel investors for you to potentially connect with and pitch.
Rather than paying a percentage fee on the funds you raise, Crowdfunder offers monthly plans. As such, the platform is ideal for startups that have already experienced some degree of validation and have demonstrated their potential for growth. Deals can be made for equity, debt, convertible note, or revenue share.
Choosing a crowdfunding site is just the beginning
Crowdfunding can offer entrepreneurs a way to validate their product ideas, raise the money needed to start production, or fund their growth with access to a network of potential investors and customers.
In fact, many Shopify merchants were able to take off thanks to the money they raised through crowdfunding sites like the ones above.
But it still takes a little bit of luck and a lot of preparation for you to realize your fundraising goals. You need to convince people that your idea is worth backing, after all, pitch your campaign the right way to the right people.
If you’re interested in crowdfunding, be sure to also check out the following case studies and interviews from successfully crowdfunded businesses:

Equity Crowdfunding: Is It Right For You?

The search for business financing can be frustrating. Banks may not lend to you because your company is “too risky.” Venture capitalists may say you’re not fundable. And angel investors? Well, they’re hard to find.
Is crowdfunding the answer? Kickstarter and Indiegogo can work well—especially if you can offer great rewards and you’re excellent at online marketing. But there’s another way to raise money from the crowd.
It’s called equity crowdfunding.
With equity crowdfunding, you can sell shares of your business to just about anyone in exchange for equity in your business. And no, it’s not just for tech companies.
What is equity crowdfunding?
Equity crowdfunding—also known as crowd-investing or investment crowdfunding—lets startups and private businesses raise capital from the public (i.e., the “crowd”). Basically, it allows everyday people to invest in your business and in exchange, you offer them equity in your business (think Shark Tank and Dragon’s Den). Each investor is entitled to a stake in your company proportional to their investment.
And these days, anyone can be an investor.
This type of fundraising has always existed, but until recently you could only sell shares of your business to accredited investors—fairly wealthy individuals who met specific net worth and income criteria. Now, your cousin, your neighbor, or almost any member of the public can buy shares as a non-accredited investor, provided you set your business up properly (more on that later).
Equity crowdfunding vs. crowdfunding
Crowdfunding refers to raising money from the public, primarily through online forums, social media, and crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter to finance a new project or venture. In return, these people might get a reward, like a copy of what’s being produced for example, or nothing at all. Project creators on Kickstarter and similar platforms maintain 100% ownership of their work and business.
With equity crowdfunding, the crowd can fund your business or project and in exchange for relatively small amounts of cash, public investors get a proportionate slice of equity in your business venture.
How does equity crowdfunding work?
Navigating the equity crowdfunding landscape can be pretty confusing. Typically, securities and those who offer securities to the public must be registered and subject to regulation. Securities regulation protects investors by ensuring that investors obtain the information they need to make an informed decision, and that issuers are held accountable for any misrepresentations or fraud.
But equity crowdfunding is considered an exception. In recent years, regulatory bodies have allowed registered platforms to act as an intermediary between crowdfunding issuers and your investors. But that means you can only raise financing this way by signing up for a registered equity crowdfunding platform in your country or region. There are plenty of equity crowdfunding sites out there right now, but you should do your research to find the right one for your business. In general, FrontFundr is one of the best Canadian portals for equity crowdfunding and in the USA, SeedInvest and Indiegogo are the better options. And depending on your campaign and how many investors you’re looking for, it may even be an option to use more than one platform.
While the structure of your offer, including the equity percentage and the type of securities you will sell, is a bit complicated and best done with the help of your lawyer, the process of actually creating a campaign is fairly straightforward. Here’s a general overview of how the process works in the U.S. and in Canada:

Sign up for a registered equity crowdfunding platform. Set up an offer on a registered equity crowdfunding platform and begin raising funding in exchange for real, legal shares in your company.

Make your pitch. Once accepted by your platform, you have to prepare your crowdfunding pitch. This is the most time-consuming part of the process and may involve frequent iterations to keep interest going. You’ll have to determine what the equity stake is and the share price in your pitch, too.

Provide essential information. You’ll have to submit to background checks by the platform and provide essential company information to prospective investors. That includes financial statements and forecasts, a credible business plan, and so on.

Funds are released to you. When you’ve either hit your financing target or when the campaign ends, the platform will perform some final vetting before releasing funds to your business.

Shares are released to your investors. In exchange for the money, investors get a share of your business. These shares give investors voting rights in your company.

Pay platform fees. Since these platforms are handling the legal compliance on your behalf, they make their money through fees. This can be a percentage of the amount raised plus transaction fees, or maybe even equity. This varies from platform to platform.

Investors continue to be advocates for your business. The perks of having several investors with a stake in your business is they’ll promote your business like it’s their own—because it is.

But before you pursue equity crowdfunding, it’s important to know that it’s not free. Although it can also have incredible benefits for your business, mounting a campaign does cost money. Some of the costs may include:

Legal and compliance fees
Fees charged by the equity crowdfunding platform (could be flat or a percentage)
Consulting and business plan fees
Marketing and advertising for your campaign

Who is equity crowdfunding for?
Contrary to popular belief, equity crowdfunding isn’t just for tech companies—it’s for anyone with a viable business plan. I repeat: it isn’t just for tech companies. As long as you’re willing to give up some percentage of ownership in your business, your bakery, your fashion brand, and even your construction company can qualify to raise money this way. If you’ve got a product or service that tells a great story that regular consumers can get behind, understand, and endorse, then you’re halfway there.
Benefits of equity crowdfunding
The main benefit of equity crowdfunding is that you can raise large amounts of money on crowdfunding platforms—and quickly. Once you and your lawyer have structured your share offering and you’ve chosen a platform, you could go from underfunded to fully financed in a matter of weeks. Normally, you’d have to approach each investor individually and pitch them on your idea, which can take years.
The other key benefit is that you retain company control, rather than having an investor who may want to be on your board and have a say in your company’s decisions. And since investors are part owners with a stake in the business’ success, you have a team of dedicated brand advocates from the start. This means a team of people who are sharing your brand with their networks and raising awareness for your products, and building brand loyalty in the process.
Risks with equity crowdfunding
The main risk with equity crowdfunding is that you may end up with lower-quality investments than you would have if you had raised financing from more conventional sources, like venture capitalists or angel investors. Since the general public is less experienced when it comes to business and investing and they don’t typically meet the net worth of accredited investors, you won’t benefit from huge sums of capital or the business advice that many investors often provide.
Finally, you’ll want to consider how you would manage having so many investors with a stake in your business. It’s important to develop a clear communication strategy for staying in touch with them and empowering them to continue to support your brand, even though it could be years before they see any financial returns.
Next steps: Funding checklist
Before you drop a lot of money on legal fees, there are a few checks you can do to determine if your company is ready for an equity crowdfunding campaign. In other words: is your start-up fundable?

If your business is little more than a concept on the back of a napkin, it might not be the right time. But if you can check off at least half of the items on the list below, then equity crowdfunding could be worth pursuing, especially if you’re looking to raise about $200,000 or more. If you think you’re fundable but you don’t have a business plan, then the absolute next step is to write one. Here are a few tips for writing a great business plan.
Is equity crowdfunding right for you? 
Equity crowdfunding is, by its very nature, extremely transparent. The crowd gets to know everything about your business and comment on it. That means you have to be comfortable sharing really specific details about how your company operates.
You also need to be in tip-top shape financially and legally so you can demonstrate to your potential investors that you have a strong company that operates ethically and has a clear business plan. As a bonus, being organized in this way will have plenty of other benefits for your business: it may protect you from legal hassles in the future and could open doors for other types of financing as well.
So, if you feel like you keep walking into closed doors in your search for business funding, you might find the equity crowdfunding door wide open.

Ready to create your online store? Start your free 14-day trial of Shopify—no credit card required.

Approach to segment your web based for Ecommerce

With the COVID-19 lockdowns across the globe, you may have realized by now that your current and future Consumers scattered across time, geography, and a plethora of digital platforms.
A thorough grasp of your audiences and how they spend their time is one of the best strategies to give a boost to your online store.
This entails knowing which channels, messaging, and approaches will yield the best results.
It’ll need better targeting to get there.
This article will help you to define audience segmentation, explain benefits of segmentation, learn the types of segmentation and improve your segmentation to get the most out of your online store.
Audience segmentation defined
Segmentation is the process of grouping clients together based on observable qualities.
These are frequently demographic characteristics like age, location, sexual orientation, and favorite brand.
What are the benefits of segmentation?
Because audience segmentation makes your marketing efforts more targeted, it enables you to:

Define your target demographics.
Customize your message to speak directly to them.
Meet a specific demand in order to increase conversion rates.
Make a connection with your customers and earn their trust.
To shorten your sales cycle, bring in leads.

Customers are more inclined to listen to what you have to say if they feel that the message was written particularly for them.
This type of personalization is made feasible by segmentation.
The approach you use to segmenting your audience is determined on the product or service you’re offering.
How to segment your customer base
If you run an online store that sells male beauty products, treating visitors from different geographical regions as discrete groups might not make sense because the majority of them have different tastes and preferences.
If you’re selling male beauty products, segmenting them based on their activity and participation level might be useful.
Here are some tips you can use to segment your customers.
1.       Demographics
This is perhaps the most common—and generally the simplest—method of audience segmentation. You can utilize demographics to categorize your audience based on;

Their age
Economic level
Job type
Geographic area.

This technique is well-known for a specific purpose: it delivers results.
One type of location-based segmentation technique is to approach clients when they are most likely to require your goods.
During winter season, for example, Ski lovers may be more likely to purchase skiing equipment.
2.       Behaviors and profiles
Behavior-based segments are created based on what users have looked for on recent and past visits, as well as purchase history.
This process moves a little farther than just separating people based on their demographics. Analyzing behavior entails examining what people buy, how often they buy, and why they acquire the product or service in the first place.
Profile-based segments are divided into categories based on the type of consumer they are, such as infrequent visitors, and first-time visitors.
Someone who makes frequent modest purchases, for example, requires different messaging compared to someone who only makes large purchases once in a while.
You can use this segmentation to target their marketing efforts.
3.       Buyers Journey
The three basic stages of the buyer’s journey are awareness, contemplation, and choice.
You personalize your messages based on where your customer is in their buyer’s journey. A customer who is just starting their adventure may be discovering that they have a problem to be solved.
However, one nearing the finish already knows what to buy and is prepared to make a decision. Rather than delivering everyone the same message, segmentation allows you to cater to each buyer’s unique needs and respond to any inquiries they may have.
4.       Level of participation
Customers who are frequent require different marketing than those who are uncommon. Someone who is interested in your business—for example, by signing up for your newsletter—is more likely to be open to your message than someone who only buys things periodically.
5.       Devices and platforms used
A personalization system should be able to distinguish browser, screen resolution, and devices such as smartphone, or tablet.
E-commerce personalization will allow you to create ads that target mobile phone users to compare to desktop marketing for the best results.
6.       Referrer or traffic source segmentation
This refers to the location where your visitor was before arriving on your website. An AI-based personalization system can figure out which offers perform best for visitors coming from various sources, such as referral sites, social media, direct traffic, and paid link ads.
7.       Types of visitors
New or returning visitors, for example, can be tracked using analytics and customization tools. This is a frequent personalization method, such as giving new visitors a discount on their first purchase or generating welcoming gifts for recurring customers.
8.       Duration of site visits
The amount of time spent browsing or the number of pages viewed are examples of this.
In some cases, it may be preferable to give personalization to users who have spent a specified amount of time on the site. Because audience behavior varies by day, week, and time of day, audiences who visit at different times might be addressed differently.
9.       Viewed content (products)
Based on product categories or specific products viewed, this is the most prevalent segmentation strategy used in retail personalization.
Similar products in a similar style can be displayed. An automation rather than a rules-based approach is essential.
Final thoughts
The most important thing to remember when it comes to segmenting your customers into distinct categories, is to determine which segments will assist you generate business growth.
You can only stand out from the crowd by demonstrating that you know who your customers are and what interests them.
That’s why you shouldn’t compromise on segmentation when putting up your marketing strategy.

Getting going on IG: A good Beginner’s Guide to Instagram Marketing

As far as social media marketing channels go, Instagram has been a major power player for a while. And that’s particularly true for ecommerce businesses who get access to a visual-focused platform with enthusiastic followers and high engagement.
In the past few years, Instagram has grown and evolved at a rate similar to Facebook, adopting new features at a lightning-fast rate and becoming even more valuable to merchants and users alike.
In this starter guide, we’ll outline all of the fundamentals for Instagram marketing, including how to optimize your profile, how to create high-engaging posts, how to get more results with both feed and Stories content, and how to evaluate your progress on the platform.

Free Webinar:
How to Grow and Monetize Your Instagram Account
A free workshop with field-tested Instagram marketing tips. Learn how to grow your Instagram audience and monetize it with an online store.

Why use Instagram for marketing?
Instagram is a staple of many small businesses’ marketing campaigns. And for good reason. It has a large and diverse audience that is happy to engage with brands, resulting in high engagement overall.
Research and case studies have demonstrated these benefits clearly, finding that they can translate directly into sales and leads.
Consider that:

80% of users follow at least one brand on Instagram, with 60% of these users saying they’ve discovered new products or services through the platform.
At least 30% of Instagram users have purchased products they discovered on Instagram.
65% of top-performing Instagram posts clearly feature products.

People are happy to follow brands on Instagram, and they’re actively discovering and purchasing products on the platform. That’s a big win.
Also worth noting is Instagram’s continued efforts to embrace commerce.
Instagram ads see excellent results and offer high engagement. Shopping on Instagram streamlines the Instagram sales process. And business profiles with over 10,000 Instagram followers gain “Swipe Up” links they can add to Instagram Stories to drive traffic directly to the site, something that was otherwise difficult to do on the platform.
The platform keeps expanding, making it more valuable to merchants and ecommerce businesses, especially if they have products with a strong visual appeal.
Optimizing your Instagram profile
Most merchants know the basics about setting up an online profile; you need to fill out your contact information, have a keyword-optimized description, and choose a profile picture that’s easily identifiable, like a logo. This is a great start.
But Instagram has rolled out several changes that affect business accounts. To get the most out of your limited Instagram profile space, you should include the following:

Clickable hashtags. These can now be added to your profile description just by entering # and then the desired phrase, just as you would on a post. Focusing on your branded hashtag is a good choice for most businesses and can help you work with the Instagram algorithm. 

Clickable profile links. There’s several options for how to use this, but you can now also add clickable links to other user profiles in your own Instagram bio. If you have two different profiles for a sister company, you can use this to direct traffic there. If you’re hosting a contest with another merchant, link to them when discussing the contest in your bio. You can also use this feature to send people to your personal profile if that fits with your branding.

Story Highlights. We’ll talk more about Story Highlights a few sections down, but this relatively new feature lets you add “expired” Stories to different featured categories, which will be listed above your Instagram feed on your profile. This helps your profile to look fleshed out and allows you to showcase certain key Instagram content like UGC or posts that highlight your brand’s story.

Here’s an example from Fashion Nova that combines all three of these features into a well-optimized profile.

What images and videos work best on Instagram?
If you want to get results on Instagram, you need to know what types of posts perform best. While every audience is different, there’s fortunately been a lot of data compiled that can give us some insight on where to start.
In terms of the types of posts users want to see, they’re pretty open. They’re happy to see promotional posts, motivational quotes, product photos, DIY or tutorial content, and images shared from other users (i.e. user-generated content). That being said, they want to see diversity; they’ll get bored or annoyed if you just use one type of post for too long.
Videos can share more information with users, making them valuable, but high-quality photos typically get 36% more engagement on average. If you’re going to use video on Instagram, keep it short, even on IGTV. Instagram users are predominantly mobile users, and they aren’t likely to stick around for more than ten to fifteen seconds at a time.
You should also change up the different camera effects, because you don’t want to give users a headache by using Boomerang for every single post.
In many ways, the aesthetic of the images and videos are a lot more important. Instagram is, after all, a visual-centric platform.
Here’s what we know about the content that performs best on Instagram, largely thanks to a study from Curalate:

Lighter images performed better than darker ones
More background or white space is preferred
Images with bluer dominant colors performed over red dominant colors, and images with a single dominant color did better than those with multiple dominant colors
Images that feature contrasting textures tend to generate more likes

How to get the most out of Instagram hashtags

Hashtags started on Twitter, and while they never took off on Facebook, they’re a staple of Instagram marketing. Just by adding text after the # symbol in an Instagram caption, bio, or story, you can turn any word or phrase into a clickable topic.
When users click, they’ll be taken to all the public posts tagged with that hashtag. Perhaps even more significant, users can now also follow hashtags that interest them. This provides them with a stream of content using the hashtags even if they don’t follow the poster. It’s a great way for users to find content they’re interested in, and—for merchants to expand the reach of their content.
The different types of hashtags you should be using
In order to fully expand your reach and get the most results from your Instagram marketing, you need to be using the right types of best hashtags.
There are six key types of hashtags that are crucial for ecommerce businesses to incorporate into their marketing strategy.
Branded hashtags: Most brands will (and should) have a unique branded hashtag. They’ll attach this to each post, place it in their profile, and encourage users to attach it to any posts in which they’re sharing user-generated content. It can include your brand name, but it doesn’t have to. Examples include Fashion Nova’s #NovaBabe hashtag.
Contest hashtags: These hashtags are a type of branded hashtag created for a specific contest. These are often used to identify contest entries for photo submission contests, and to generate contest awareness overall. In addition to the main branded hashtag contest, you should also incorporate general contest hashtags like #instacontest and #giveaway.
General appeal hashtags: There are certain hashtags that are popular among large, diverse audiences. These can help you get significant reach on your posts, because they’re more likely to be sought out. Examples include #nofilter, #antiques, #ilovemyjob, and #puppylove.
Niche-specific hashtags: Each industry will have phrases and keywords that are relevant only to their target audience. These hashtags won’t get you the same reach as the general-appeal hashtags, but they’ll get you more relevant traffic, such as #harrypotter (if you’re selling jewelry inspired by the Harry Potter series).
Timely hashtags: Current events and seasonal holidays can make great hashtags, especially when you factor in selling-focused holidays like Valentine’s Day or Christmas. People are likely to be searching for content that’s relevant right now, so take advantage of a few #valentineformyvalentine and #stockingstuffer hashtags.
Entertaining hashtags: These won’t help you with reach, but they will serve to entertain your audience and help you to establish your brand. They’re meant purely to be funny or clever, and that’s it. Examples could include #iknowitstooearlyforchristmasstuff and #thisiswhyweallhatemonday. In many cases, entertaining hashtags might be grouped together, one after another, to tell a story, like #iknowitstooearlyforchristmasstuff #toobad #itshereanyway.
For best results, do research on each of these hashtags, and use combinations of different hashtags in each category for your posts. This will strengthen your branding while helping you to reach the largest and most relevant audience possible.
Hashtag best practices
Hashtag usage is one of the most significant factors that will determine your success on Instagram, and they’re unsurprisingly a little difficult to crack. Fortunately, the following best practices will help you maximize your reach and your results:

List your branded hashtag on your profile.
Feature any entertaining hashtags at the very beginning of your hashtag list, where they’re most likely to be read.
Use a large number of hashtags. The limit is 30 hashtags per post. However, numerous case studies have found that somewhere between 8 to 11 hashtags for each post will be the sweet spot, especially if you diversify the types of hashtags.
Switch up your hashtags. Don’t use the same hashtags on every post. Create groups of hashtags that you can cycle through for different posts.. Not only will this increase your visibility to different audiences, it can also keep your account from being flagged as spammy by Instagram.
Take time to explore each hashtag. This can help you discover new hashtags to target, and ensure that you don’t accidentally use a banned hashtag or jump in on a topic without knowing what it means.

Instagram Stories: What you need to know
Instagram Stories started out as an add-on feature borrowed from Snapchat: a way to share short-lived photos and videos that disappear in 24 hours with your followers.
But it’s developed into an essential part of the platform. Stories led to Story ads, and now Instagram has given us Highlights so that our Stories can live on forever.
Let’s take a look at how to use them.
5 ways to use Instagram Stories for your business
There are a variety of strategies that you can use to get results from Instagram Stories, each of which will benefit your business in different ways.

1. Share content created by your audience
You can use Stories to showcase user-generated content, which is always a crowd-pleaser and will help you get more Instagram followers. People love to see that you care enough about them and their content to feature it on your site. It also saves you from having to create the content yourself, and acts as powerful social proof.

2. Acquire content from your audience
Stories can also help you obtain UGC, which can happen in several different ways. You can place calls to action for users to share pictures of their latest purchase. You can also use poll stickers to get feedback and generate immediate social proof.

3. Share moments from events
Your Stories are also a great place to cover and promote events, whether they’re several weeks away, happening right now, or from the past. This is a great way to provoke FOMO and show everyone what they’re missing out on, which can build brand awareness and increase attendance.

4. Be authentic

Instagram Stories are quirkier than feed content, so it’s a great place to showcase your fun side. Use images and videos to tell your brand’s story, throwing in some behind-the-scenes content when possible.

5. Go live
Instagram Stories allows you to broadcast live right from your mobile phone, and your followers can engage in real time. You can host Q&As, talk about a specific topic, or interview a featured guest or influencer. Once the live is over, you can have it set to be played with the rest of your Stories.

Check out How to Use Instagram Stories for Marketing for a deeper look at what Stories can do for your business. Once you are familiar with the basics, get inspired with 10 creative tips, tricks, and ideas on how to make standout Instgram Stories. 
Extending the lifespan of Stories with Highlights
Historically, Stories would disappear after 24 hours just like the Snapchat feature they were emulating. Instagram recognized that this was resulting in lost ROI on that content, and gave us the ability to create Highlights.
Highlights exist on our profile page, and we can add Stories to them after their 24 hours of glory have passed.
You can create multiple Highlights for the best effect, using one for user-generated content (“What You’ve Said”), one for brand storytelling (“About Us”), and one for events (“Conference 2017”). This makes it easier for users to find content they’re looking for when they first come to your profile, which can help them get to know you and trust you a little faster.
To add Highlights to your profile, click on the icon with the black + above your gallery.

You’ll need to name your Highlight and select the Stories you want to add to it. You can edit them at any time.

Shopping on Instagram: How to use product tags
Instagram now allows for product tags and product stickers, which are available for business profiles (pending approval) and allow users to tap on a product in a post or story respectively, get more information, and head to the site to purchase it.

Shopify offers merchants the ability to incorporate this seamless shopping experience, allowing brands to tag products in posts and stories and potential customers to purchase them without visiting a link in their bio.
This option isn’t just extremely convenient for users, increasing the likelihood that they’ll actually convert, but it solves Instagram’s biggest marketing challenge of attaching links to post that would make it easy for users to click and buy.
To make the deal even sweeter, it’s easy to set up the Instagram sales channel for your Shopify store. You can see exactly how to do this here.
Merchants also have the option to embed an Instagram gallery directly on their site, creating a full integration. This can encourage users to visit their Instagram, where they’ll see social proof and rave reviews, and be encouraged to purchase more through product tags.

Setting up on-site Instagram galleries is simple and fast thanks to Shopify Apps like Instafeed and Shoppable Instagram Galleries.
How to run an Instagram contest
Instagram contests are a particularly popular strategy on the social network, and for good reason. They can yield great results because everyone loves the chance to win something.
Instagram contest rules to remember
Before you get started on your Instagram contest, it’s a good idea to do a quick refresher course on Instagram’s contest rules. They can be found here.
In summary, they state that:

You can’t imply that Instagram is affiliated with the contest in anyway.
You can’t ask users to tag themselves or others in pictures they aren’t in.
You follow local laws and requirements, including restrictions about age, eligibility, or prize offerings.
You must clearly state the rules for entering and participating.

Types of contests you can run
There are numerous different types of contests that you can run on Instagram. Each offers its own unique benefits, and many merchants will overlap different contest concepts for maximized results and ROI.
Different types of contests you can run include:

Tag a friend in the comments: This is designed to have your new followers draw in their friends who may theoretically be interested in your business. It’s not for every brand, but it’s easy for users and requires little effort. It will also give you a huge bump in engagement.

Follow us: This is often just a part of contest participation instead of it being the sole requirement of users, but it’s often an underlying goal for a lot of merchants. A one-time comment isn’t bad, after all, but long-term following is better.

Leave a comment: These contests may take the form of caption contests, or where users are simply asked to leave their opinion or share their experience. These contests are exceptionally easy to track, and because the barrier of entry is low, you’re likely to get plenty of participation.

Photo contests: Perhaps the most demanding of users time, these contests also yield the highest rewards (and consequently require the most appealing prizes). They require users to submit an original photo or video, either natively attached to a contest hashtag or through contest software. They provide the most valuable UGC, which you can then use on your own profile later.

Contest software: Should merchants use it?
Before you get started on your contest, decide whether or not you want to use contest software. There are both pros and cons to using it.
Using contest software will cost money (typically somewhere around $30-50 per month), and it will take more time to put together because you need to create landing pages. This often means that your contest won’t “live” natively on Instagram; users can’t comment directly on a single post, they’ll need to click on the link in your profile and engage there.
That being said, there are big advantages to using contest software. It’s significantly easier to track participants and their entries, making it much simpler to choose a winner. Some contest softwares can even choose a random winner for you, if you’d like. You can even get excellent analytics, often in real-time, to see how your contest is measuring up to goals.
There’s also a lot more flexibility if you’re using contest software. Do you want to add a voting component to the contest? Now you can. You can also obtain actual lead information, like users’ phone numbers or email addresses thanks to the secure contest landing page. This gives you real, quantifiable lead information that can be used to nurture leads or retarget them with ads later on.

Source: Woobox
If you decide contest software is right for you, I recommend the following services:

Instagram Analytics: Everything you need to know
Instagram has its own native analytics tools that can give you an abundance of information about your on-platform performance. Note that analytics are only available for Instagram for business.
To access your analytics, go to your profile page and then click on the graph symbol in the top right hand corner.
Under your Instagram Analytics, you’ll be able to see important performance data like the following:

Total number of profile visits
Total number of website clicks
Total reach (the number of unique accounts who saw your posts)
Total impressions (the total number of times your posts were viewed)
The performance of every post, including engagement and impressions
Total number of views on your Stories

You’ll also be able to see key information about your audience, including:

Number of followers and recent growth trends
Gender and age breakdown
Where they live
Follower activity, broken down into days and times, which can help you determine peak posting times

While these analytics aren’t quite as sophisticated as Facebook’s Insights, it still gives us a lot of information about how progress on the platform. We can see how our impressions, reach, and engagement are increasing or decreasing month to month, and how it holds up against a growing or shrinking follower count.
By comparing this information against top performing posts and analyzing their performance, you can detect trends and patterns that will help you make your marketing more effective long term.
Building a complete Instagram marketing strategy
Instagram is a must-use platform that ecommerce businesses should add to their marketing roster if they haven’t already. Embrace it fully by diving into the different features enthusiastically, posting different types of content regularly, and engaging with your audience. You may even be surprised by how quickly you see the results come pouring in.
Take your Instagram marketing to the next level with influencers and paid advertising:

Illustration by Eugenia Mello