Facebook suffered the largest outage in its history recently. But no one really cares about that. No, what people are talking about those horrible, empty hours when Facebook’s other site refused to load. Suddenly we had to enjoy our outfits, meals and adventures without broadcasting them to the world. We struggled. If it’s not on Instagram, did it even happen?
For the Gram
How did a photo filter app suddenly dictate hours upon hours of our lives? As a social media marketer, i.e millennial with something to say, I get asked about Instagram a lot. If you asked me how important it was only 18 months ago, I would have quite possibly fallen to me knees in praise of the almighty Gram that can both giveth to small businesses and take away with one fell swoop of the algorithm. Now, I find myself getting a little frustrated.
Just Do Good Business
Instagram can be an asset to small businesses. It can help with reach, it can connect like-minded individuals, it can become a public billboard where your message is seen. But it canalso be a big waste of your limited resources. Especially when there is SO much focus on Instagram that we forget the basics of business.
Instagram > Everything Else?
We all get so starry eyed around being good on Instagram that we forget to be good in business. As the old adage goes, we are putting the cart before the horse. Small start-ups and entrepreneurs are most at risk when they focus so heavily on Instagram because, unlike giant corporations with an account for every global region, they are less established and have less resources to spend.
The danger is we become so focussed on the Gram that we forget the very thing we started the business account for: the business. Focussing less on delighting and serving our customer base, improving our offering and being nice people in our ‘real life’ business relationships in favour of content hunting, trendsetting and hashtag, geolocation scheduling can never end well.
We create campaigns that look good, and share our products and services in an aesthetically pleasing way. Great, but we can lose the core purpose of Instagram marketing (sales, conversion, food in our belly in most cases) as we do so. We risk becoming smoke and mirrors, focussing more on the hype around our businesses than our businesses themselves.
Instagram is not Your Product
Here’s the thing. Instagram is a channel, it is not your product. Instagram can most definitely help you achieve your business goals but it is only part of the puzzle. It should not be your only marketing strategy. Think of it as a supplement to your business. It can help for sure, but it isn’t going to provide you will all you need to survive. The meat and bones of your company, whatever you do and whatever you sell, is the company itself.
Your business values, ethos, reason for being, product and services. Those things make your business and, although often much less sexy than Instagram and other marketing trends, these are the elements that will establish your company. Word of mouth from delighting customers travels fast, strong values and ethics translated into your actions and design says a lot more than any social caption. Systematic strategy, consistent valuable content and strong values to guide decision making are much more effective in making your business successful. Especially if your version of success involves a strong, loyal client base, being oversubscribed and being a leader in your industry.
Values add Value
Of course, there is value in partnering with influencers, running ads and looking swish on the feed. But the ROI is often grossly exaggerated. How will your 1M followers actually help your business? How will your high engagement result in conversion? What value does Instagram add to your business if the only time people see it is on the toilet, swiping before they’re wiping? (Hey, if you’re a toilet roll company, this could actually be perfect, it is all relative to your business).
Instagram provides touch points between you and your customers. This is valuable. It provides chances to show what you do, this is valuable. However, if you are not doing much apart from Instagram on Instagram, this becomes hollow and fruitless. It is a tool, but we are treating it like it is the tool. Worse still, we treat it like it is our tool, putting more effort and focus into curating a feed than we do to developing our own tools: our products and services. We are so busy trying to look like good businesses, we risk missing the opportunities that prove that we are good businesses with our actions.
What Can You Do About It?
Instagram is not your business, so stop obsessing over it as if it is. Take a look at the why behind your Instagram strategy and see if it really is worth the time you spend on it. Make sure your marketing strategy is diverse to avoid over relying on any one platform and ensure that you put as much, if not more, effort into your real life relationships as you do your digital ones.