Communities are a vital part of society. From the people to small businesses brings growth and innovation to the local community, they need to be innovated with how they continue to grow in today’s society. With technology always changing and adapting to what people want. A part of technology changing on the daily basis is social media. Social media platforms adapt and change all the time like a small business. A platform that small businesses have gravitated towards is Instagram. Instagram was developed and released in October 2010 and since then has become an essential for everyday life. For small businesses around the world, Instagram has become the ultimate marketing tool for them. With many features including the professional account mode and stories mode that Instagram includes with their app, small businesses now have a new advantage with completing against big businesses. As there are many tools available with Instagram, it’s essential that small businesses use them to continue to complete with big businesses. So throughout the entire paper, I am going to discuss why Instagram has become and still has been the perfect marketing tool for small businesses and how each tool has become a valuable and essential asset for the business.
In today’s society, small businesses have become an essential in local communities. As everyone wants to support their local businesses, small businesses need to continuously produce new and creative content to build their brand for growth. So using a platform like Instagram has become an essential marketing tool that allows businesses (mainly small businesses) exposure to grow an entire new audience. In a paper written by Wassan Alkhowaiter, he speaks of the power of Instagram and its power as a marketing tool. An interesting quote as he deliberates on the topic is “Instagram was basically designed for mobile phones, and since smart phones help to connect people to social media on the move, it makes it easier for a business to reach its customers wherever they are” (Alkhowaiter, 2016, p. 61). When analysing this very accurate and honest fact, that Instagram is for smart phones and especially on the go. Most users on Instagram use it to share moments, milestones and special occasions. However for small businesses, it’s to promote their brand and what they’re all about. For example, a small clothing brand would use Instagram to showcase the clothing rather it is woman’s wear, men’s wear or even kids wear. As this business continues to use this inexpensive tool at their advantage for free, they’re saving money in marketing and adverting which is usually two of their highest expenses. A tool that small businesses use that is also an expense that goes with promoting is using Instagram Influencers. Influencer is a social media marketer who helps targets the audience that the particular business wants to attract. It’s a networking tool that all businesses use to grow their audience and brand. As an Influencer has thousands of followers, their popularity can help promote the business products for a fee which the Influencer’s audience may feel encouraged to buy said product from the small business. A Research conducted by De Veirman, Cauberghe and Hudders (2017) suggests Influencers who are “more attractive, extractive, trustworthy, approachable and possessing other socially desirable characteristics” (De Vierman, Cauberghe& Hudders, 2017, p. 2) are targeted more by small businesses to promote their brand and grow their popularity using particular Instagram Influencers. As the Influencer and small business works on an agreement that both parties can agree to, both parties are working together on a marketing strategy that will help establish growth on Instagram for both parties. When a small business learns new skills with Instagram, that knowledge and power is going to help them boost their confidences and benefits from the rise of growth.
As previously discussed in the paragraph beforehand about the power and influence that Instagram can bring to small businesses but with all that knowledge, small businesses need to creative with their posts and keep to the aesthetic that they know is right for their brand as well how they want the aesthetic for the business to look like. By doing this, the audience that has been developed will end up engaging with the business. As content is being created for the small business, it’s got to scheduled to be posted at the right time for their audience by using scheduling programs. Even thou users on Instagram can notify for every post for accounts that users like. However it isn’t just posts that small businesses need to be creative with, it is also stories. With many features like gifs, questions and poll for example. It’s became some of the most creative ways that small businesses in different communities can interact with their respected communities. According by research conducted by Casalo, Flavian and Ibanez-Sanchez (2020) that “brands to post visual content, which can be improved using several tools provided by the platform” (p.2). Diving into this further, they are discussing with several tools on Instagram is important. When it comes to actual posts, small businesses need to target on being creative with videos. Posting videos of Influencers or models being used in the video post can produce an up growth interaction with potentially new customers. So being more creative with video posts might entail learning how to video edit short clips, what the best program is and how it can help a business market future products on Instagram and continue to improve on those skills. As small businesses use these tools to develop their content, they need to be more creative with the content they’re posting for the audience which showcases the message of the small business. A powerful message from a small business that is being portrayed on a platform such as Instagram needs creative content to helps market the business either if it’s a video, photo or even using the story feature to tell the story of the business.
To further explain about aesthetics from the previous paragraph, why is it important for small businesses to have an aesthetic on Instagram? Well an aesthetic is a set of principles underlying the work of an artistic movement. So creating an aesthetic for small businesses is important. From the colour palette to the theme of the business must be taken into consideration for an online presence especially on Instagram. According to Colliander and Marder (2017) “the impact of using a snapshot aesthetic versus a studio aesthetic on social media, on brand credibility and on users attitudes towards the brand” (p.35). When looking at this statement, there’s truth behind especially the users attitude. As the user continues to support the small business on Instagram and potentially purchase from that business. An example of a small business that needs to stay on top of aesthetics is upcoming and indie makeup businesses. Makeup is about creativity with different products and being a popular topic on Instagram, the more they can stand out with their aesthetic the better. As an indie makeup business continues to release more products to the market that is being newly released to the public. They have created a marketing aesthetic in studio which plays into brand credibility of a studio aesthetic mentioned in the quote above. However thou for a snapshot aesthetic for a small business would be perfect for a café. As they produce a coffee with incredible coffee art, a delicious slice of cake or both really plays into the user attitudes on the quote above. It’s authentic and more straightforward approach for a user to interact with.
The old saying a picture is worth a thousand words. This is said to us all our lives but as technology has grown, so has that saying. Changing the way it is looked at now. With Instagram allowing everyone to caption a photo with very few words or no words at all. For small businesses on Instagram, their photos/posts need to say a thousand words. As businesses begin to post more and more of their current that they think is best for their accounts. As they begin to post photos and videos, the process of Photoshop and video editing begins. As the likes come in, so do the followers. In a report conducted by Pittman and Reich (2016) by describing a visual image such as “sensory-specific because it is linked to the visual modality, whereas a mental model is not sensory-specific” (p. 167). So seeing a visual in front of us, we need a mental model too to get the full picture. For small businesses using Instagram in this case, they need visualise the image mentality first and focus on the final outcome before starting on the text caption. As the final image is edited and polished to be release for everyone to see on Instagram. Then the business can think of a fun but engaging caption that followers of the small businesses can interact with.
The main element that all these paragraphs is marketing. As society changes, so does marketing. Using different business models, marketing on stuff like Instagram. For small businesses, they need to get on every opportunity possible. They need to capture the consumer’s interest enough for them to be interested and once they are, that’s when the support begins. The usage of social media continues to grow as more people join. So marketing on Instagram now for businesses especially small businesses in small communities is essential. As said in a paper conducted by Iankova, Davies, Archer-Brown, Marder and Yau (2019) about a lifestyle with customers describing it as an “engagement framework that establishes social platforms as central to developing dialogue with customers” (p. 171). Posting an Instagram can do so much but it’s the engaging and interacting part with customers and influencers that helps small businesses to grow bigger in their communities as well to a global audience.
As this paper is being written, there are enough evidences to prove that Instagram has been the perfect marketing tool for small businesses. Everything is changing on the daily basis. So we get more creative, engaging more and really focusing on small businesses. So communities have been able to grow in many ways thanks to Instagram being the perfect marketing tool for small businesses to gain expose and growth in so many ways.
Alkhowaiter, W. (2016). The Power of Instagram in Building Small Businesses. IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2016, 59-64. https://doi.org/10.1007/978_3_319_4534_0_6
Casalo, L.V, Flavin, C. & Ibanez-Sanchez, S. (2020). Be creative, my friend ! Engaging users on Instagram by promoting positive emotions. Journal of Business Research, 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2020.02.014
Colliander, J., &Marder, B. (2018). ‘Snap happy’ brands: Increasing publicity effectiveness through a snapshot aesthetic when marketing a brand on Instagram. Computers in Human Behavior, 78, 34-43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2017.09.015
Iankova, S., Davies, I., Archer-Brown, C., Marder, B., & Yau, A. (2018) A comparison of social media marketing between B2B, B2C and mixed business models. Industrial Marketing Management, 81 (2019), 169-179. https://doi.org/j.indmarman.2018.01.001
Pittman, M., & Reich, B. (2016) Social media and loneliness: Why an Instagram picture may be worth more than a thousand Twitter words. Computers in Human Behavior, 62 (2016), 156-167. https://doi.org/10.1016.j.chb.2016.03.084
12 replies on “Instagram has been the perfect marketing tool for small businesses”
Thank you for this paper on how Instagram is a useful marketing tool for small businesses. I think you have a great example with the potential for cafés to display their menu online. Did you have particular local cafes in mind that you have seen doing this? Are larger chains also using a similar strategy? I also wondered how smaller cafés (or any other small business for that matter) engaged with individuals in the community – do they get involved in particular local initiatives?
Forgive the range of questions, but as you say a lot about the potential of the platform to create marketing content, I wondered how if you had examples of how this content could serve to enhance community interaction and so build community ties and groups. Would love to hear your thoughts!
Absolutely. I did placement last year at Hunters and Disciples last year to complete my hospitality course and well I volunteered to do the social media, so I actually for the first post used their menu on Uber Eats and made it into a video promoting not only their menu but the fact they’re working with Ubers Eats to bring a bigger engagement in the community. Another example is Little Local Co, their content is always just showing the food and drinks on their menu. The way they strategies each photo is very elegant. From looking at their posts, they interact with customers and embrace the community they’re in.
I did and stand by the fact that there potential with the platform. By engaging with the community, it can help them so much by people in the community telling other people they know in other communities to look at this small business insta page, they’re growing which could possible turn themselves into a chain.
Your topic is so relevant, especially today as Instagram has just released a new feature to help small businesses on Instagram be discovered and supported. They have started a “Support small business” sticker where you can post about a recent purchase from a smaller vendor or the small businesses you follow can share products they’re working on! See below:
I agree with your topic immensely, as finding brunch places (yes, I live in Melbourne) is made a lot easier through Instagram, as I can scroll through their feed and see whether I want to eat there. It was great how you said businesses NEED to know how to use social media. I also believe it is so important to be visible on social media as a company!
Do you think small businesses should learn how to use social media or do you think it’s worth them hiring a media consultant to manage it for them? My aunty and uncle run a clothing company and manage it themselves, but I know creating content takes up a lot of their time and they’ve asked for tips from other small businesses about it.
A major benefit to Instagram advertising mentioned was that it’s free, so you raise somewhat of a counterpoint there with the example of your aunty and uncle, I think.
Even without hiring someone to do Instagram advertising, it takes time, and time for someone running a business, is money!
Maybe it cannot be called free advertising.
Good one 🙂
Hi Luke and rest
Is anything ever free then? There will always be an opportunity cost. I think the key here for any business is to find an undervalued channel which hasn’t been saturated yet, and then leverage the organic growth it can bring. A small business should attempt to determine an ROI for each promotional channel, and then pursue the one with the largest yield.
I think originally Instagram’s organic growth potential proved an excellent opportunity for small businesses and individuals growing an audience, but those days are long gone.
Once Instagram (Facebook) brought in digital advertising on its platforms, organic growth rates began sliding. I worked with a client in about 2012/13 to promote their business, and we were fortunate to nurture a community organically before this became virtually impossible. From 800k in just a couple of years would take an enormous budget nowadays to bank on the same thing happening.
It makes no sense for Instagram to push content to a large audience if the user isn’t paying them to do so. Instagram has finite placements for promotion, it makes sense from a business perspective to prioritise the content which has paid for the promotion.
Hey again Luke and Nicholas!
Luke: Yes that’s what I mean – my aunty and uncle’s time is worth money, so it does make sense to hire someone, even just to teach them some basic knacks rather than literally “spending” time trying to figure it out.
Nicholas: You make a great point about anything really being free. Time is money, when you think about it. I would say Instagram, in regards to “free advertising”, works well with word of mouth posting and presenting a business profile to a consumer, when searched. I find myself personally will investigate a business more if I see it mentioned in a friend’s profile where it looks visually appealing, or I will search up businesses for a need I have and go with the one that’s most active and again, visually appealing. I think this aspect might be more what the author of this paper is going for, especially with “word of mouth” in influencers. I agree with the undervalued channel comment too, and I think you can see that with the Kmart community paper in the conference – Kmart communities aren’t as well explored as they should be, and the author of that paper identified a channel that wouldn’t be as discussed and filled that gap.
Would you say that there’s a large amount of pressure on small business owners to make sure their profiles are visually appealing to consumers? I would say yes, as I think the less visual appeal, the less business you can get, no matter how great your product is. Visual currency is essential to any business.
Nicholas I don’t think those days are gone. Maybe for the time being with what’s going on with the world but however growing an audience is always important especially on social media platforms like Instagram. It doesn’t take an enormous amount of money. I’ve worked in social media which Instagram was the main platform for them which gave me a better understanding of how powerful the platform is. It’s really about pushing the right content at the right time.
I do believe that small businesses should learn how to use social media. Before the pandemic, I actually worked for a small cafe and school in Melbourne creating content for both places.It does take time with editing, creating captions and even scheduling but it really helps in the long run for small businesses. So have a social media consultant would be perfect if it takes up a lot of their time because on an average week working there, I could create a week and a half of content within 6 hours split in two 3 hour sessions.
Look at the tools Instagram has created during this time, support small business sticker for Instagram stories which has become insanely popular since it’s been established . I love to know your auntie’s and uncle’s clothing company and help out in anyway I can.
I found it an interesting point that Instagram is so ideal for small business advertising because it is designed for mobile phones, and able to reach people wherever they are.
Do you think the benefit of this is just that it reaches a larger customer base? (People at home + people traveling)
Or is there something about being out of the house that makes people even better targets for small business advertising?
No. I truly believe the real benefit is just not to reach a large customer base but also creating a brand that people at home, travelling or even working can identity with. There is something about being out of the house that helps but look at things now, we’re in a digital world that Instagram can be seen as an advertising place online that helps with online shopping which really can be done anywhere.
I like the you way you have characterised it there, “Instagram has become the ultimate marketing tool”. On one hand you have small business, evolving and innovating in order to grow and employ more, and on the other, you have an evolving marketing platform innovating and growing. Instagram is a perfect small business partner indeed, with at least 1 out of 3 people on the platform having bought goods or services first seen on it (https://www.impressive.com.au/instagram-advertising/).
I am perennially intrigued by the notion of influencers helping brands grow from television to online platforms such as Instagram. Do you think there may credibility issues though as viewers may not trust influencers because they are paid to advertise products or services? What are your views?
Good luck with your paper!
Influencers can be tricky specifically if they’re well known but it does work. I have mixed views on using influencers because there’s so much that goes into it. Commissions, contact agreements, what they brand wants from the influencer and so many other stuff. I understand that not everyone will trust an influencer cause of that but I’ve tried stuff that I love that was promoted by influencers.
Also from experience, some companies will comment on people’s photos and literally ask them to DM them. That to me is unprofessional and shows how much they want to work to build their brand.