4 reasons your business should NOT be on Instagram
It was around 8pm on a sunny evening, I was finishing off a report I’d been working on about ‘why social media was such a great tool for marketing’ and I had an email drop into my inbox.
The email was from a lovely elderly lady. She owns a small struggling shop, and I’d recently worked with one of her friends on her digital marketing strategy. Her friend’s business is now doing very well, so she had recommended me.
She told me she wanted to get onto Instagram. Lots of her friends and kids had been telling her for ages that it would help to boost her website sales so she wanted me to set it up for her, and teach her how to use it.
I could have said yes, of course, showed her how to do it, took her money and walked away. And maybe that’s what a ‘good’ business owner would have done.
But I know exactly what would have happened.
She would have spent the next six months (maybe) following my instructions when she had a spare five minutes and her business would have been no better off.
Instead, I explained why I don’t think Instagram is a good use of her time right now and other marketing avenues that she would benefit from - that will actually make a difference to her business.
This article probably isn’t applicable to you if you have a team or a marketing budget. This is specifically for you if you’re a small business owner with limited time and budget.
Here are some of the reasons you shouldn’t be on Instagram:
1. Your customers are over 45
If you sold lipstick, you wouldn’t advertise in a sports magazine, would you? That’s not to say that women don’t read sports magazines, but you can safely assume the majority of your audience won’t be reading it. So you wouldn’t spend time, energy and money creating content and advertising there.
Instagram is most popular with people aged 20-40. Of course, there are many people over the age of 40 still using Instagram, but the majority, still are not. So why would you use your limited resources trying to attract people that aren’t typically your customer?
2. You can’t create or source original content
Instagram is a visual platform. Which makes it a little more tricky to showcase your brand if you offer a service (particularly if you don’t work face to face with clients). That doesn’t mean creating content is impossible - you can see my Instagram page here.
To use Instagram effectively, you need to be able to create content that informs your audience about your brand.
Sure, there are plenty of free stock image websites out there (one of my favourites is unsplash.com) but you can’t build an entire profile with stock images - it’s obvious to your audience and they won’t engage with it.
You need to either be able to take decent photos or be able to source someone that create content for you. You must be able to showcase your business, in a visual way to use Instagram effectively.
3. You’re relying on it to make you money
The businesses that are highly successful through Instagram marketing are either:
highly trend-led (appealing to the mass-market of Instagram users)
have a big advertising budget (for celeb endorsements and/or Instagram ads)
For most businesses, I describe Instagram as more of a branding tool, than a marketing tool. It’s a tool to showcase what you have, for people to scroll through your products or services and engage with your brand on a human level.
In most cases, it’s not an effective tool for selling.
Aside from that, the algorithm is constantly changing to make sure businesses that are paying for adverts are seen by users as a priority. So you’ll often notice big fluctuations in how many people see your content (no matter how many followers you have).
Plus, we’ve recently seen several outages where the app has completely stopped working for users. It will never be a reliable source of income - for any business.
4. You don’t enjoy using Instagram and you don’t have the budget to outsource it
Many people (myself included) use Instagram for our business partly because we enjoy it. It’s a visual way to connect with other business owners and it can be fun to create content.
As we’ve already established that it’s not a great tool for making money, so if it has become a drain on your time - a real chore, maybe it’s not right for you.
Instagram (and social media in general) is a communication tool. It’s supposed to be social. If you can just about manage to broadcast your latest product or service, but don’t fancy hanging around to have a conversation with your audience, it’s not going to be worth your time.
Sounds a little counter-intuitive doesn’t it? A digital marketing consultant telling you not to join a social media platform. However, I think it’s an important discussion to have.
Instagram can be a fantastic tool, if you understand how to use it, you have the budget to experiment with it, and it’s where your customers are already hanging out.
You might have seen the ‘success stories’ of businesses that have used Instagram marketing to make millions (let me tell you, these companies are very rare).
If your time and resources are limited, which often they are when you run a small business, Instagram (and maybe other social media platforms) might not be a good option for you.
If you tick all of those points above (particularly number 1), I would strongly recommend that you forget about Instagram right now - consider putting it on the back-burner and focus on where your customer is already.
Not sure who your customer is? Check out my branding workbook here. It’s an interactive guide that will help you to make decisions about who you’re targeting and how to make your business a brand that your customer can engage with.