Business is booming on Instagram. Each month, more than one billion people around the world use Instagram for entertainment, inspiration, shopping and more. And brands are right there with them.

Brands from all industries can benefit from being on Instagram as 90% of users follow a business on the platform. Plus, there’s a positive perception of brands on Instagram: According to a Facebook survey, people say they recognize brands on Instagram as popular (78%), relevant (74%) and committed to building community (72%).

Building community and supporting customers is imperative for attracting and retaining customers through social media. “Businesses and people are messaging with each other more than ever, and Instagram is an important channel to connect with customers and build relationships,” said Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, VP of Platform Partnerships at Messenger, in regard to Sprout Social launching Messenger API support for Instagram Messaging features.

Social media marketing isn’t just about talking to your customers and fans, but also with them. Direct messages (DMs) are a key connection point between brands and their customers on Instagram. Whether people are looking for customer service, have a question or just want to applaud your content, it goes down via messaging.

Keep reading to learn more about how to effectively serve your fans and customers with Instagram DMs for business.

What is Instagram direct messaging?

According to Instagram, 150 million people have a conversation with a business every month via the platform. While a lot of those conversations happen in public comment sections, Instagram DMs for business afford people privacy that the comments section does not.

Instagram DMs enable immediate one-on-one, business-to-consumer communication. And businesses aren’t limited to just using text in Instagram DMs. There are several other ways people and businesses can drive customer engagement:

  • Send images and videos that are informative or entertaining.
  • Share GIFs that show off your brand’s personality.
  • Use voice messages to coach clients or walk customers through troubleshooting.
  • Embed Instagram feed posts from your business, brand ambassadors, influencers and more.
  • Drop a location pin to help customers navigate to stores, events and more.

Why your brand should use Instagram DMs for business

Behind that little speech-bubble icon are capabilities and opportunities to make your Instagram DM strategy pop.

Connect with customers

Building a community and loyal customers requires two-way communication. It’s not enough to just observe what people are saying, marketers need to react and respond.

2020 Sprout Social Index highlights reasons why consumers engage and message a brand on social media

There are a million reasons people send a brand a DM on social media. Oftentimes they want to share a great experience they had. Other times it’s because of a customer service issue or privacy issue. Consumers behave differently across social channels, but it stands to reason that Instagram users will reach for those reasons as well. Whatever the motivation, showing that your brand will listen, respond and take action is a business booster.

Provide exceptional customer support

As Instagram keeps building up its capabilities for businesses, and as more brands and consumers embrace the Shopping aspect of the platform, businesses should be ready to deliver customer service where the path to purchase began.

According to the Harris Poll, on behalf of Sprout Social, 67% of consumers identified responsive customer service as the most important factor in creating a positive experience with a brand on social. Instagram DMs are therefore a critical base to cover in your customer service strategy.

Improve your Instagram Stories strategy

Reactions and replies to Instagram Stories go straight to businesses’ inboxes, which starts a thread of communication or builds upon previous conversations with that person.

These days, Stories are a staple in any high-impact Instagram strategy. Reactions to those Stories are essential qualitative data that can help you gauge audience sentiment, refine and inform your content and report on the success of your strategy.

Build brand loyalty and retention

Responding quickly to messages bodes well for brands’ customer loyalty. According to the Sprout Social Index™ Edition XVI: Above & Beyond, 40% of consumers expect brands to respond within the first hour of reaching out on social media. Quick responses make customers feel like their needs are a priority.

Want to make your superfans feel extra special? Surprise and delight them by sending exclusives, discounts and sneak peeks directly. Singling followers out and making them feel seen is sure to give them an “aw shucks” moment.

Generate sales and leads

It’s not just social teams that stand a lot to gain from Instagram DM marketing. If people reach out with questions about products or need help navigating a brand’s Instagram Shop, responding to that customer may be the thing that moves them to the next stage of the buyer journey. Not only will responsiveness improve the customer experience and build trust, but it also directly contributes to the ROI of social.

According to the Harris Poll, 53% of consumers identify social media posts by influencers as either very or somewhat influential on their purchasing decisions. If you want to reap the benefits of influencer partnerships, you’ve got to find the right people to represent your brand first.

Fortunately, Instagram is a mecca for influencer marketing. Once you find an influencer who fits your style and meshes with your target audience, start building the relationship through Instagram Messaging.

How to manage Instagram DMs for business

Curious about how to keep up and manage messages day-to-day on top of your other responsibilities? Here are some tips. And if you’re getting started and wondering how to add a Message button to an Instagram Business profile, don’t worry—the Message button is automatically added to your page’s contact options when you create a Business Account.

Establish internal team goals

Set goals so your team remains accountable for providing top-notch customer service, and identify the metrics by which you’ll measure that service. In this scenario, you’ll want to focus on customer care metrics like average reply time and reply rate.

Set a goal that’s achievable. Let’s say your goal is to respond to all Instagram DMs within 24 hours. Try blocking out a time on your calendar each day to be heads down in your Instagram inbox.

Use the filter function to organize your inbox

Filters functions, found on the top right-hand corner of your DMs inbox, can help you organize and keep track of messages.

Once you open a DM, it’s marked as read, so if you’re not ready to respond, leave it unopened. Then, when you’re ready, apply the Unread filter to get back to that message.

Or, if let’s say a customer reaches out with a question you’re unable to answer. Add a flag to any messages that require more further investigation. Then, when you’ve got a response ready, you can find those messages with the Flagged filter.

Add Quick Replies to your toolbelt

The Sprout Social Index™ found that 76% of consumers value how quickly brands can respond to their needs. And Instagram’s Quick Replies help with that.

In Business Settings, brands can add Quick Replies to save common responses to FAQs and other topics that come up most often. Each Quick Reply gets its own keyboard shortcut so as you respond, just type the shortcut you created and voila! The Quick Reply will get automatically added to your message.

Move people from the comment section to your DMs

It’s much easier to keep track of conversation history between your brand and customers in a single-view inbox rather than a busy comment section. If you notice a comment about a sensitive subject, customer service issue or other topics that would be best handled privately, encourage the commenter to bring their concerns to your DMs. Or, take the first step and start the conversation yourself. This can also help brands build more personal relationships with their customers.

Sprout mobile app option to switch from public comment to DM

Maximize efficiency and automate solutions with a social media management tool

Social media managers often have several channels to monitor each day. For some, that means constantly bouncing between various native platforms to ensure that messages don’t slip through the cracks.

With Sprout Social, marketers can review and respond to their social messages in a single place, which improves efficiency. Instead of stressing about the volume of messages to get through, marketers can spend more time on providing quality responses.

Thanks to the launch of the Messenger API, Sprout users can now monitor and manage all kinds of Instagram messages right in the Smart Inbox. Learn more about the new integration with Instagram Messaging, via Messenger API here.

review messages and frequently asked questions in sprout social

5 proven Instagram DM templates that work

Save yourself some time by having a few preplanned messages for common topics and FAQs on-hand. Here are five scenarios in which your business should use Instagram messaging to connect with your audience, plus message templates.

1. Thank someone for following/liking

Welcome people to your community, make them feel seen and start building a relationship from the jump.

“Thanks for following us and welcome to our Instagram community! We love hearing from our followers, so if you ever have questions, feedback or even just want to say hi, feel free to DM us here.”

2. Reply to feedback

Whether someone wants to share their love for your brand or has feedback on how you can improve, you should respond. After all, customer feedback is how brands get better.

“Thank you so much for sharing your feedback. We’ll pass this along to our […] team. We’re always looking to improve our [customer experience, products, content…] and ensure that it stays [enjoyable, helpful, relevant…] which feedback like yours makes possible. Keep it coming!”

3. Address customer frustrations or service issues privately

Sometimes people air their frustrations out in the comment section. Instead of starting a thread and fueling the fire, redirect the conversation to your DMs.

“Hey there, [name]! We saw your comment on our recent post and wanted to help you resolve the issue directly. Sounds like you’ve had an issue with […], but would you mind explaining the situation a bit more? We want to make sure we’re understanding fully so we can help as best we can. Thanks!”

4. Answer FAQs about customer orders

Some of the most common questions brands will receive revolve around product details, shipping, returns and other purchase-related questions. Remember you can also add Quick Replies for FAQs, but here’s a starting point for responding to someone who asks for help with tracking their order:

“Thanks for reaching out! What is your confirmation number? You should have received it in a confirmation email after completing your purchase. If not, check your spam folder just in case it got auto sorted.

Typically orders take […] days to ship but there should be a tracking number in your confirmation email if you’d like a more exact estimation. Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

respond to instagram dms directly from sprout social

5. Reach out to influencers

Expand your influence. Use this template to connect with influencers about potential partnerships.

“Hi [name], we absolutely love your profile and the way you […]. Your latest post about […] really caught our attention. How would you feel about partnering with us on […]? If you’re interested, provide an email address and we can send you more information! We look forward to hearing from you.”

These templates are just starting points for your responses. Remember to make adjustments to align with the tone and voice of your brand. If your Instagram profile is colorful and creative, but responses are buttoned up and colorless, your message could end up feeling robotic or inauthentic. Match what your audience sees and feels on your feed.

Let customers slide into your Instagram DMs

Instagram DMs offer many benefits for businesses, from boosting engagement and building brand loyalty to delivering customer service and supporting the buyer journey.

Sprout is currently expanding access to Instagram Messaging features, via Messenger API, so our customers have everything they need to manage their Instagram DMs strategy with speed and efficacy.

Beyond the inbox, Sprout’s analytics, listening and publishing tools empower marketers to look at their Instagram strategy more holistically. Learn more about creating an Instagram strategy that works for your brand in this comprehensive guide.