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How to use Instagram Direct Messaging for your business: Everything you need to know!

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Instagram is just for influencers? Not at all! In recent years, Instagram has actually become an increasingly attractive platform for many industries. Its messaging service, Instagram Direct Messaging, is therefore the first stop for users to get in touch with companies on the social media site. We explain how you can best leverage the huge potential of Instagram Direct Messaging for your business. 

Airtel, Dior, Tata: There's a reason why any major brand, from fashion to consulting to automotive is on Instagram! The visual platform offers unique possibilities to showcase your company. With its focus on images and videos, Instagram is one of the most powerful social media platforms for transporting a feeling around your brand, and through this emotional approach, getting more engaged responses from users. There's a reason why Instagram is one of the few social media channels where users actually reach out to brands first!

Instagram Direct, the platform's messaging service, is therefore an ideal starting point for engaging users in a conversation, and turning them into loyal customers. In this article, we'll look at the features of Instagram Direct Messaging, its opportunities for businesses, and we'll show you how other brands have had major success with Instagram Direct.

Short and sweet: This is Instagram Direct Messaging

  • Claim: the ideal channel to build a loyal community.
  • User numbers worldwide: Meta has not released specific user numbers for Instagram Direct, but as of 2023, Instagram counts two billion users globally.
  • Target group: Young adults. Most users are between 25 and 34 years old.
  • Unique appeal: Customers want and seek direct contact with companies.
  • Advantages: Instagram DMs are very versatile, promote trust and generate leads.
  • Disadvantages: For large accounts, responding to Instagram Direct Messages becomes a challenge.

Things to know about Instagram Direct

Instagram doesn't only have 1.2 billion active monthly users; 90% of these users also follow at least one company. In general, users have a positive reaction to seeing brands on Instagram. In a recent survey, 78% of users said that they perceive brands as popular when they see them on Instagram. And 74% find brands particularly relevant if they see them on "Insta". What's even more relevant: In the same survey, 72% of users said that they think that a brand is more engaged in community building if it's on Instagram.

In other words: brands that are not on Instagram are missing out on the huge potential of customer engagement and community building that's so unique to Instagram. Of course, being present on Instagram is only the first step. In order to be successful on the social media channel, you also need to actively engage with your community. And that typically happens in the conversational exchange in the DMs! That's why Instagram Direct Messages in particular can be so crucial for businesses.

In fact, you can use Instagram Direct throughout the entire customer journey, from lead generation to sales to customer service to retention. Think of it this way: stories, reels and feed post inspire and then Instagram Direct Messaging informs and converts!

Shopping on Instagram
On Instagram you can take users from inspiration to conversion. (Source: Instagram)

If you're still not convinced that your business should be active on Instagram, let's have a closer look at some stats and numbers that will show you why you're missing out!

Current user numbers and popularity of Instagram Direct Messaging

Don't be fooled by the influencers and fast scroll culture on Instagram. The social media platform is one of the fastest ways into the heart of (potential) customers. Did you know, for example, that 200 million people access an Instagram business profile every day, and 150 million people have a conversation with businesses on Instagram every month. According to Meta, daily conversations between people and businesses on Messenger and Instagram Direct have increased 40% in the last year. And the platform is popular around the world!

India has 230 million users, making it the biggest audience in the world, followed by the US with 143 million and Brazil with 113 million users.

Instagram users by country 2023
Instagram is popular around the world. (Source: Statista)

Features on Instagram Direct

A major advantage of Instagram Direct Messaging for businesses is that it's very versatile and therefore offers companies different options for communicating with their customers. In that sense, Instagram Direct Messaging is comparable to other messenger app services, in which two or more users send private messages to each other. In addition to classic text content, these messages can also contain photos or videos in order to send users relevant information, entertaining, and even promotional content, similar to WhatsApp's marketing notifications or the recurring notifications on Facebook Messenger.

It's also possible to send entertaining GIFs as well as your own Instagram posts or stories via Direct Message. Posts from other users, such as collaborators or brand ambassadors, can also be sent via Direct Messages on Instagram.

But that's not all. Instagram Direct Messaging also allows communication via voice messages or video calls, and group chats are also possible. Another special feature is the ability to send location pins, so users can find a store or event, for example.

And in 2023, Instagram also launched a new broadcast feature: broadcasting channels. Followers can join these channels, and then receive regular updates from their favorite influencers, similar to the Telegram channels.

With this very versatile set of messaging features, Instagram Direct opens up many possibilities for companies. Especially if you combine messaging with in-chat shopping features, Instagram Direct becomes a very interesting channel for conversational commerce!

Direct Messages and shopping: the next channel for conversational commerce!

Over the years, Instagram has expanded its conversational commerce features, starting with the introduction of Instagram Shops or features like "Shoppable Products" where users can simply click on a product they see, and then buy it. In 2022, Instagram also introduced an in-chat payment functionality, which allows a direct payment in the DMs. That allows businesses to guide users through the entire customer journey on Instagram!

If you use the Instagram Direct API, you can not only use all of these features safely in a business context, but also scale your customer communication on Instagram.

Instagram Direct Messaging for businesses: Here's how your company can benefit

While companies may hesitate to personally address users via Direct Messages on other social media channels, on Instagram this is a form of communication that many followers desire and even initiate themselves.

In fact, there are different reasons why users write directly to a company on Instagram. These range from positive feedback to service requests to job searches, as a survey by the consulting firm Sprout shows.

Why customers follow brands on social media
Reasons why users message brands on social media. (Source: Sprout Social)

This makes Instagram Direct Messaging an ideal channel to seek, expand, and promote direct customer exchange through the entire customer journey.

Increase brand awareness

First and foremost, Instagram is the perfect platform for increasing brand awareness. Users actively search for brands, and there are also influencers from all kinds of industries, product lines and services that help brands to increase that awareness even further, and reach new target groups.

Generating leads, selling more

This starts by generating leads. As mentioned, your Instagram profile is often the first touchpoint a user has with your brand. From here, the most natural way to reach out is on the same channel, through a DM. This can kick off a first conversation that can turn into a consultation, and even a sale. Now that customers can pay directly in the chat, it creates even less friction throughout the customer journey because the users can complete the entire process on Instagram.

Another plus: Even if these contacts don't convert right away, you always have a conversation to go back to. So, for instance, if the customer was looking for shoes in a size 13, but you only had size 12, you can just send them another message in the same chat when the right size is available. It's easy, convenient, and leads to better conversions. Major brands have seen significant improvements in their conversion and response metrics once they started to focus on Instagram messaging.

KPIs of successful brands on Instagram

It's also possible for businesses to take a more active approach to starting a conversation in Instagram Direct, with click-to-chat ads. If users click on these ads, they end up directly in your Instagram Direct messages. Starbucks Indonesia, for example, ran different photo ads for their drinks, combined with a special deal. When somebody clicked on an ad, it opened in Instagram Direct, and automatically started a conversation where the users could choose one of the promotional offers from the ad, and were also asked if the wanted to join Starbucks' rewards program.

Instagram ad from Starbucks Indonesia
Click-to-chat ads for more traffic to Instagram Direct. (Source: Instagram)

With these ads, Starbucks Indonesia achieved:

  • six times the return on ad spend
  • a 4.7 point lift in ad recall, and
  • a one point lift in intent to visit their store.

Recruiting on Instagram

Another interesting approach is to use Instagram for recruiting. As many young talents check out companies they're interested in on social media, Instagram is a great way to combine employer branding with messaging to attract new talents faster. The German company Aurubis, for instance, has not only found new applicants faster this way, but the exchange between company and candidates has also been more engaging.

Quote Nils Gerstenkorn Aurubis

Solve customer problems efficiently via DM

Aside from questions about a brand, problems with a product or service are one of the most common reasons why users message companies on social media. This is exactly where brands can stand out from the competition by responding quickly and helpfully.

⏰ As with all customer issues, responding quickly to customer service via Instagram Direct messages is key. Depending on the company and the number of inquiries, it may be worthwhile to set up a special service department or even rely on chatbots — of course with a human take-over option — to be able to resolve recurring inquiries more quickly.

It is, therefore, all the more important to be well-positioned as a company here and to solve customer problems efficiently. Surveys show that customers who have had a positive experience with a company's customer service have a more positive brand image and are more likely to recommend the brand to others.

Success story: Sephora streamlines all conversations into Instagram Direct

Sephora's Instagram Direct channel is an excellent example of conversational marketing and customer service via Direct Messages. The customer sees the post of an interesting product collection on their feed and forwards it to Sephora via Instagram DMs, and asks a customer specific question. In the past, these messages were either somehow handled by the social media team, or forwarded to the customer service team, which took more time, and led the customers out of Instagram. That's why Sephora was looking for a way to keep all the conversations on the same channel.

That's when the beauty brand integrated the Instagram API. With this, now an Instagram inquiry reaches an agent directly, and the agent replies with a short answer and directs the customer to the product pages, where they can find details.

Sephora Instagram Direct
Sephora can answer customers on Instagram. (Source: Meta)

⭐ The results:

  • 100% of customers who contact Sephora on Instagram now receive a response on Instagram.
  • On average, 15% fewer responses are needed per conversation to resolve a query.

Scale the potential of Instagram Direct with chatbots

Of course, there's even more potential in Instagram Direct for scaling customer service. With a more powerful chatbot, significantly more queries could be solved automatically, as is already possible with WhatsApp chatbots, for example.

The integration of chatbots in Instagram Direct is very easy via API. The most important thing, whether with chatbot or manually, is to respond quickly and offer customers a smooth user experience. Therefore, especially for simple, often recurring questions, a chatbot is helpful, both for customers and for companies.

For companies who are looking for more advanced chatbot capabilities, it's also possible to combine Instagram Direct Messaging with an AI chatbot, for example.

But even without a chatbot, Instagram Direct is an important channel for businesses because it not only allows you to better connect to potential customers and sell more, it's also an ideal way to build a long-term relationship with them!

Build a loyal community

The customers who feel a special connection to a company become loyal and returning customers. And a two-way, interactive exchange with these customers promotes this trust-building a lot more than a one-time interaction on the phone, for example. Especially because consumers are already using Instagram as a platform to find brands they trust, Instagram Direct messaging is a powerful tool for building customer loyalty.

Aside from having one-on-one conversations with customers, Instagram offers additional tools to nurture these relationships. For example, companies can use direct messaging on Instagram to get feedback from customers, launch surveys on new product ideas, or even ask customers directly what offerings they would like to see from the company in the future.

Connect Instagram Direct with WhatsApp

Instagram also makes it easy to direct customers from there to your WhatsApp business account. You can create this synergy in several ways.

  • Add a WhatsApp button to your Instagram bio
    • Open the Instagram profile page and click on “Edit Profile.”
    • Click on “Contact Options.”
    • Click on “WhatsApp.”
    • Here you need to enter the number associated with WhatsApp to which the verification code will be sent;
    • Enter the verification code on your Instagram profile.
    • The button should now appear in your bio.
  • Link your WhatsApp business account in your bio.
  • Post click-to-WhatsApp ads.
  • Redirect the community to WhatsApp through your stories.
  • Include a click-to-chat ad in your Reels.

This way, you can leverage traffic from potential customers on your Instagram page and turn it into a personal conversation with your business.

Promote Instagram Direct channel properly

You can get your customers to contact you on Instagram Direct by asking them to do so in a story. Stories are often seen, so they're a good place to point out the possibility of Instagram DMs. But it's even better with an ad that links Instagram Direct.

Here's how to create an ad in the Facebook Ads Manager that links to Instagram Direct with a click:

  1. In the Ads Manager, go to Ad Creation.
  2. Select the message's destination.
  3. In the messaging destination section, select Instagram Direct.
  4. Edit your audience, placements, budget, and schedule as desired, then click next.
  5. Select your ad format and complete your ad setup.
  6. Under message template, select either create new or use existing.
  7. Click + create to create your dialogue. When you're done, click save and exit.
  8. Finalize your ad. Click publish to publish it.

Once your ad gets the approval, it will be visible in the selected placements. When someone clicks on the ad, it will open in Instagram Direct, and you can start the conversation right away.

How to integrate Instagram Direct via API

The Instagram API grants you access to all the possibilities of Instagram Direct for your business, from integrating chatbots to using a central inbox for your incoming messages to tracking conversion.

Examples of use cases for the Instagram API
The Instagram API is the way to go for businesses. (Source: Instagram)

Instagram's Messenger API makes it possible to integrate Instagram Direct into existing software tools. Your customer communication becomes much faster and easier, which in turn impacts customer satisfaction. So, how do you get access to the API? You can, of course, build your own IT set-up, but that takes time, knowledge, and a lot of resources. Or, there's plug-and-play solutions like Sinch Engage.

Sinch Engage is a ready-to-go messaging software for businesses. It gives you access to the most important messaging apps, including WhatsApp and Instagram Direct, and you can easily answer all incoming messages in one central inbox, and also easily integrate chatbots. Don't believe it? Try it out for yourself!

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Image of Marinela Potor, editor-in-chief at Sinch Engage.
Written by: Marinela Potor