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Ever since the days when it dawned on early adopters of the Internet that you could actually use this technology to sell goods, people have been hawking their old stuff on fledgling e-commerce sites like eBay.
Social media sites like Instagram take all this selling to the next level, giving thrift shopping a digital-age makeover.
Sophisticated influencers now use the powerful tools of social media to advertise their wares to a new, web-savvy audience. They oversee chic photoshoots to showcase their frugal finds in the best possible light, driving their eager audience into a buying frenzy.
Because social media makes it so incredibly easy to sell, up and coming influencers have come out of the woodwork by the thousands to try their luck.
You’ve got your work cut out for you if you want to join their ranks.
In order to succeed, you need to have an insatiable passion for this world.
You also have to follow a few simple guidelines. They’re listed below. But first, let’s see how real people have implemented these strategies:
Meet The Influencers
Our first influencer is Betsy.
You can find her on Instagram @goldwilldigger. Her website carries the tagline “Make Goodwill fashionable one nugget of gold at a time.”
She wants to inspire all who follow her to develop their own strategies for finding thrift shop treasures that will astound and delight even those who think that thrift shopping is somehow beneath them.
Her fascination with thrift shops began when she was a child when she would go to Goodwill to find interesting books to read. Then, she would sneak behind a clothes rack, and lose herself in another world for a couple of hours.
All this immersion in the world of thrift shops whetted her appetite for the amazing possibilities of thrifting.
It wasn’t until she was much older that the thrift store bug really bit her.
Living in a small town in the middle of the country, she had no way to get her hands on all the “cool” brands. So, when she found a chic piece of clothing with a designer label on it at a thrift shop, she was thrilled beyond belief.
And years later, she’s still doing the thrift shop “thing.”
She’s always had a yen for fashion blogs.
But unfortunately, she doesn’t have the bank account to support this extravagant habit. She started Goodwill Digger to show everyone you don’t have to spend a lot of money to look elegant.
Betsy is so good at what she does, she was awarded Goodwill of Middle Tennessee’s Ambassador of the Year Award for 2016!
There’s also Dina of @dinasdays.
Her thrift shop journey started when she was living in Amman, Jordan in the 90s.
She used to drool over the designer catalogs her cousin living in the States would send her. But, being a teenager with a meager allowance, she was upset that she couldn’t afford anything in them.
That’s when she decided to try to replicate the chic looks in these catalogs by frequenting thrift stores.
She became quite good at it, and now, she wants to share her boundless passion for thrifting with the rest of the world. Her Instagram does an amazing job of showcasing her finds, such as unique furniture for a fraction of the price of retail, and designer handbags for under $3.00.
Today, about 95% of her wardrobe is secondhand.
Then there’s Ayana, of @thriftingdivas. Her credo is “I want to inspire women to realize the amazing transformation that happens on the inside when women see themselves differently on the outside.”
She was born on the Caribbean island of Trinidad but grew up in New York City, which inspired her with its vibrant fashion scene. Her thrift shop journey began when she made it her mission to recreate these stunning looks on a shoestring budget.
And now, she wants other women to join her on her journey as they scour thrift shops, consignment shops, and yard sales for sleek and elegant fashion finds that would cost hundreds of dollars in stores selling brand new merchandise.
Lastly, here’s Patrice of @patricejwill. Some people believe she’s a sorceress because of her uncanny ability to replicate stylish looks with almost no money at all.
But her superpowers come only from her absolute refusal to pay retail for anything.
Her audience is women who love clothing found in glossy fashion magazines but don’t have the budget to buy this stuff brand new. To show them it can be done, she started the “Thrifty Threads 365” challenge, where for an entire year she only wore designer clothes she picked up secondhand.
Finding Your Niche
To become a thrift store influencer, you have to carve out your own special niche within the wider thrifting world.
This’ll differentiate yourself from the rest of the crowd and give you a Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
Are you going to sell clothing only? Or, perhaps upcycled furniture you rescued from the Goodwill? Maybe you’ll only sell women’s clothing.
Or, specialize in playground clothing for children.
You could show your followers how to repurpose found objects into artistically inspired home décor. If you do it well enough, household alchemy of this sort will absolutely delight your appreciative audience.
The point is, don’t just follow the herd. Find a way to stand out…like a giraffe in a sea of gazelles.
Try to be as out-of-the-box as possible. Unleash your imaginative powers and come up with a niche that’s never been heard of before.
The more you can do this, the more successful you’ll be.
Tips For Getting The Best Stuff
When scouting out the thrift stores for Instagram-able finds, you need to have a strategy. Going in without one will give you a headache. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you scour the racks:
- REGULARLY CHECK OUT THE SHOPS: Don’t be discouraged if nothing good shows up on your first attempts. The universe rewards those who are patient.
- HAVE A LIST…: Thrift stores can be overwhelming if you don’t have some idea of what you’re looking for. Narrow down the possibilities to a manageable few with a list. By having a list, you won’t be tearing your hair out by the end of the visit.
- …BUT BE OPEN TO SERENDIPITOUS FINDS: You might find something not on your list that’ll be the perfect addition to your Instagram feed.
- FIND UNEXPECTED AND NOVEL USES: For example, use old T-shirts to upholster your stools. Or use a baker’s rack as an upright planter.
- GO TO MORE THAN ONE STORE: Each store has its strengths and weaknesses. One might be great for finding unique household décor, while another might have a seemingly endless selection of children’s clothing.
- MAKE SURE YOU SHOP THE SALES: Many Goodwill stores have Half Off Saturdays and other special promotions. Call the store to find out what they offer.
- FIGURE OUT WHICH TAG COLOR MEANS NEW MERCHANDISE: Many Goodwill stores color code their clothing to help them keep track of new arrivals. For example, often it’s a yellow tag that signifies this.
- DON’T BUY JUST BECAUSE IT’S CHEAP: Only buy it if you know you can use it or sell it. Bargains for the sake of bargains is a stupid strategy.
- LOOK AT ALL SIZES: Some stores are very disorganized, with all sizes mixed in together. Sizes can also run differently depending on the manufacturer. You can alter a bigger size item that you love to make it fit.
Setting Up An Instagram Business Account
These days, there’s so much granular information you can glean from social media.
But in order to unleash the tremendous power of analytics, you’ll need an Instagram business account. The heart of Instagram analytics is Instagram Insights. This is a wonderfully useful tool for any influencer worth her salt.
It shows you the ebb and flow of your follower base, the locations where most of them are coming from, the times that your audience is most active, and other things you can use to ascend the top echelons of Instagram stardom.
These tools help you to develop an effective strategy and provide you with a clear roadmap to wherever you want to go. This feedback also helps you answer such questions as:
What are the types of posts your followers can’t get enough of?
What is the best time to post?
Where are your followers from?
Analytics gives you a quick snapshot of your audience. Another great thing about analytics is you can use this information to figure out which posts to boost.
Influencers sell their products, collaborate with other brands, and grow their business. Buying ads is a natural progression from this activity because, with ads, they can up-sell their products and attract more followers.
While a business account is free, you need to pay for the ads. But they’ll more than pay for themselves with the bucketloads of engaged followers they’ll attract.
Setting Up Instagram For Purchasing
You’ve gone to thrift stores and have a ton of cool stuff. You’ve taken stylish photographs that accentuate the intrinsic piece using museum-quality aesthetics.
How are you going to sell all of your amazing finds to your followers?
Some influencers do this by having them comment on the photo with the words “ring me” to signal their intention to buy.
Others have customers direct message them. You might just want them to just click through to your website via a link in your bio.
There’s even an app called Postcart that streamlines the whole process of Instagram purchasing.
With this app, you can turn your Instagram posts into shoppable products. All you do is take a picture, upload it to Instagram, write a description, add a price, and share.
And just like that, your item is for sale.
Your followers can purchase whatever they want with a single click…24 hours a day. Even when you’re not monitoring your Instagram messages.
Whatever process you decide on, make sure it’s easy, quick and efficient.
Once you get good at this and customers know you have the stuff they want, they’ll set up their account to receive push notifications to make sure they see your wares before anybody else has a chance to.
This is equivalent to having a friend who works at the Salvation Army alerting you when the donation truck loaded with new inventory is pulling up to the store.
Writing Your Bio
I can’t overemphasize the importance of a bio that perfectly captures the essence of your online business persona.
If you can’t do this in a compellingly enough way, would-be followers will see you as bland and uninteresting and won’t go with you to where you want to take them.
This is your elevator pitch, so you best “wow” them. Otherwise, you might never get another chance.
A well-written bio introduces your followers to the magic of your brand, and it does it in a way that’s short and sweet. You only have 150 characters to do this.
Ask yourself if you were actually in an elevator talking to potential followers, what is the one thing you could say in the space of three minutes to make them follow you forever?
Asking this question will provide you with all the information you need to craft a compelling bio. Once you’ve done this, simmer your bio sauce further until you’ve reduced it to three or four words that perfectly encapsulates the excitement of what you’re all about.
For example, your bio might be “Teaching women of all kinds killer thrift store skills. Join me on this journey!”
You could extract the following words from this: “teaching,” “thrifting,” and “skills.” Use these keywords to make choices about your positioning. Your bio is also the only place on the platform where you can link to your website.
So, include one so your followers can get more information about you.
Choosing An Aesthetic
Next, choose an aesthetic that accentuates your brand messaging.
This is a consistent look or theme for your account. It sets you apart from other influencers and gives your page pizzazz. You have to make some pretty specific design choices in order to pull this off.
Like, what’s your color scheme going to look like? And, what are your main colors going to be for all of your photos? Will you choose a specific filter to add uniformity of theme to them all?
Part of establishing an aesthetic is learning how to take great photos. A great entry-level camera for Instagram photos is the Sony a6000. This camera is mirrorless and A cheap way to learn is to watch tutorials on YouTube.
Once you have your photos, think carefully about your captions. Make sure they complement your photos in an interesting and conversational way.
Craft captions that reflect your brand’s personality and style. You should use emojis liberally, as they capture the delightful visual nature of the platform and will make your posts SO much more fun.
Post content frequently.
Top influencers post at least once a day. If you post inconsistently, the Instagram algorithm will start to rank your posts lower.
Meaning, they’ll start showing up on your followers’ feeds less frequently.
And spend the time to interact with your followers. Followers really love it when you do this. So, find conversations to sink your teeth into and post interesting comments.
Social media is all about building relationships. If you do social media right, selling is almost a byproduct. This is a more nuanced way of doing things that’s much more effective.
You can go hog wild with hashtags.
Do this because hashtags are the only way to make your posts searchable. They categorize your posts and make your content accessible to a wider audience. Put them in a comment instead of below your captions to make your text cleaner.
You can use up to 30 hashtags, but 11 is the sweet spot. Posts with hashtags get significantly greater levels of engagement than those without them. Don’t use more than 30, because if you do, Instagram won’t let you comment on the post.
Look at the hashtags other influencers are using for inspiration. To measure how effective they are at driving traffic, use a tool like Hootsuite.
Create dedicated hashtags for your campaigns. The more you use hashtags, the more brand awareness you’ll create. Every time you publish a new post, effective use of hashtags will drive traffic to it.
Use hashtags to publicize events.
For example, say you created a meetup at your local Goodwill where you’re going to do some real time networking with your cadre of followers. You could use a hashtag like “thriftapalooza2019” to spread awareness of the get-together. At the event, tag your pictures and videos with this.
Establish your preferred method for how you want your followers to claim their finds.
Creating A Website
It’s essential that you have a website to complement your Instagram feed.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: why do I have to do that? Isn’t posting beautiful photos of vintage stuff on Instagram enough?
Unfortunately, it isn’t.
After they get a load of your gorgeous images, you’ve got to have them continue the journey elsewhere. Instagram only allows you to give your followers so much information. For a heartier taste of what you have to offer, they’ll have to go to your website.
Plus, if you can spread your brand content over more than one platform, you’ll be more visible.
Besides, there are more services you can offer at your website. Things like newsletter subscriptions, lead magnets, and other goodies transform mere customers into loyal brand ambassadors.
What could be more exciting than meeting your followers in person to teach them your thrifty ways?
Dina (an Instagram influencer you met earlier) started Thrift Night Out in 2013 to get people to learn all about the wonderful world of thrifting. These events are great opportunities to learn all about the amazing benefits of frugal shopping in a fun and instructive atmosphere.
Participants learn how to prepare themselves for their thrift store excursions, how to go through the clothing racks like a seasoned pro, and how to decorate their homes using thrift shop décor.
The night starts out with dinner and a presentation where Dina outlines all of her best thrift shop tricks. Then, the party moves to the Goodwill store, where the participants put their new skills into action.
She frequently collaborates with Goodwill stores in Northeast Ohio on all kinds of events where thrifting is the focus.
Some Final Thoughts
So that wraps up my review of the best ways to become a thrift shop Instagram influencer.
There are no quick and easy wins when it comes to social media. You have to be willing to play the long game and build up your audience over time. But when you do, you’ll have an army of followers who’ll be hungry for every word you write and every inspired find you post on your feed.
So many thrift shop Instagram influencers want to do more than make money. Instead, they want to empower their followers to make a difference in the world.
You too can do this if you give your followers something to chew on.
Sure…you can give them flashy images devoid of substance, but in the end, this isn’t satisfying for your audience or yourself.
Empower them to be brand ambassadors of the best kind—those who want to use thrifting to help change the environment and to show people that living within their means is better than buying the latest designer labels or massively going into debt to fuel a life of conspicuous consumption.
There is a better way, and the thrifting lifestyle can be a part of that.
Anybody can do a bang-up job of putting together a killer wardrobe with lots of money at their disposal. Not everybody can do the same on a thrift-store budget.
This is the challenge. Are you up for it?