Instagram: the Most Powerful Sales Platform on the Internet?

Posted on November 12th 2012

Instagram: the Most Powerful Sales Platform on the Internet?

Recently Business Insider ran the provocative headline: “One Statistic That Should Convince Every Small Business To Get On Instagram.”  The statistic (according to an analytics company SumAll) is that Instagram generates 10% more engagement than Facebook or Twitter.  The article goes on to declare that this increase in engagement leads to direct sales.

I’m convinced.  For law practices, convenience stores, jewelry stores and coffee shops – every single one of them should be on Instagram.  It’s a literal no-brainer.

Just to play Devil’s Advocate….

Let me backtrack for just a second.  I don’t know if it might be prudent to take a look at demographics before deciding to go all-in on Instagram?  It seems to me that engagement (even if it is truly as high as reported) may not be as helpful if I don’t have an appropriate audience to engage:

By Gender
68.2% Female
31.8% Male

By Age
23.5% Under 18
34.4% 18 – 25
30.7% 26 – 35
8.2% 36 – 45
2.1% 46 – 55
1.0% Over 55

By Country
53.5% United States
6.9% Brazil
6.0% Thailand
4.0% United Kingdom
3.5% Australia
26.3% Other

(as of May 25, 2012)

Even though Mark Zuckerberg claims that Instagram users are 100 million strong and growing, if a business isn’t selling almost exclusively to Gen M it’s tough to understand how an Instagram account will reach its intended audience.  Of course that’s probably an apt assessment of any social platform that isn’t named Facebook or Twitter, but seems to contradict the assertion that all small businesses should use the platform.

Also, ten times Facebook and Twitter engagement is 10 percent.   For this statistic to be true, every picture you put on Instagram would have 10 percent of your followers interact with it.  How much time would users actually spend “engaging” with your post when they have 10 times the amount of engagement to accomplish?   And how would a more fleeting interaction drive an increase in sales?  In order for this to be true and actionable, it should really be supported by a few data sets.

Nothing is universal and social media isn’t magic

Anything purported to be a cure-all probably isn’t.  Any standalone social media platform purported to drive sales probably doesn’t.  I cringe when writers make these assertions, because they never hold water.

Why did Forrester conclude (from a wide data set) that email and AdWords were a much more effective ways of driving sales than social media?   It could be that those channels have more targeted reach and are more reliable delivery mechanisms.  There’s probably more to it, but that’s irrelevant.  It’s irrelevant because there is good data supporting their findings.

There is evidence of a movement (particularly for Gen Z) away from Facebook to platforms like Instagram and Tumblr.  Anecdotally, I love Instagram.  But taking the giant leap in logic to say that it may have been successful for a few businesses (bearing in mind that there is no available data supporting this), and saying that all businesses should use Instagram is ludicrous.

That said, if a business isn’t using AWeber and AdWords (or their equivalents, audience-depending), I’m going to say that going all in Instagram may be a little reckless.

Photo credit 

Author information

Jim Dougherty
Writer and chief of miscellany at leaderswest.com
I see social media as a huge differentiator for small businesses and try to tailor my insights to support that view. I am the 12th most influential social media blogger according to Kred, and the single most influential person on the topic of David Hasselhoff according to Klout. Neither of those is probably true. Representing Cincinnati, Ohio and my hometown of Seattle, Washington.

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Jim Dougherty

I write and shepherd content on Leaders West. I write about how smaller businesses can leverage social media to their advantage (and some other stuff).

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Comments

LinkYeah
Posted on November 13th 2012 at 9:09AM

"a literal no-brainer"

So as long as you've got a pulse, even if you don't have a brain and are constrained to life as a vegetable, then you should get your business on Instagram. 

Not sure how many people in deep comas are running successful law practices. 

leaderswest
Posted on November 13th 2012 at 3:09PM

I'm glad someone got that line - I laugh everytime I read it.

The point of course is that there is no universally applicable marketing solution and that a lot of data needs to come in before anything like this can be asserted.

ThibautDavoult
Posted on January 8th 2013 at 1:05PM

I wholeheartedly agree with this. There are always reports out there that are either over enthusiastic or a little alarmist, but these often fail to tell the whole story. Things are never that simple, and if they were, we wouldn't need these reports in the first place!

I still agree with you in the sense that there are definitely opportunities ahead for companies on Instagram (if I didn't, I wouldn't work with Nitrogram). But I do believe any company could at least try jumping on it. The only resource it costs is time, and there are some excellent success stories out there for small businesses, like Shopatrend for example.