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:
23.5% Under 18
34.4% 18 - 25
30.7% 26 - 35
8.2% 36 - 45
2.1% 46 - 55
1.0% Over 55
53.5% United States
4.0% United Kingdom
(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.
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