Big Brands Beware!!! Instagram will give rise to more smaller “boutique” brands within the next two years and drive millions of dollars in sales to your customers! The simple fact is, Instagram users have created their own set of micro-communities based purely on sharing relevant content, and this goes for consumer goods.
Let Me Put This Into Perspective First
I follow @Ugmonk (www.ugmonk.com) on Instagram because I like Jeff Sheldon’s graphic designs. In fact, he makes really great t-shirts that I also like, so I bought one. Sale!
It just so happens that @Ugmonk follows @TrouveMag (www.trouvemag.com), a “collectible print magazine celebrating creativity”. Because @Ugmonk follows @TrouveMag, they show up in my EXPLORE tab. I have since followed and bought Trouvé Magazine, which retails at $15 + $3.50 shipping, roughly 3 times the average price of popular magazines at your typical newsstands. I would have even paid $25 for this amazing piece. Sale!
I love the magazine so much, that I referred it to @COHOOTS (www.COHOOTS.com), a coworking space in Downtown Phoenix and @TanyaMoushi, owner and creator of @GreaterThanCoffee. Being that @Amanda_Marko (designer, creator and publisher of @TrouveMag) looks for creators that inspire, I thought @TanyaMoushi and her should connect. Possible Sale & Definite Relationship!
I follow @DansLaVieDesigns (www.danslaviedesigns.com – coming soon), a handmade jewelry designer from New York based in Phoenix Arizona. I bought a couple of his pieces and really like his attention to detail. Sale!
@DansLaVieDesigns follows @HighSnobiety (www.HighSnobiety.com), a lifestyle news site covering sneakers, art and fashion, and @LeviMaestro (www.maestroknows.com, www.stroshop.com and www.becomb.com), a Los Angeles-based skateboarder and wildly popular entrepreneur. Because @DansLaVieDesigns follows both Instagram accounts, they now show up in my EXPLORE tab and I have since followed them.
I bought @LeviMaestro’s “Living” hat, and I also intend to buy his @Becomb’s “infinity” time piece as well. If he hadn’t sold out, I would have also bought his “forever hustle” t-shirt. Don’t worry, I emailed him asking when he would release more. That’s how bad I want it. Sale! Sale! Sale!
When I’m perusing @HighSnobiety, I come across new items I want and the Instagram accounts of the creators of those products. I go follow them and occasionally buy a product or two Sale! Sale!
Because I used to work for KRUG Champagne, one of the world’s best rated champagne brands and housed under the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy conglomerate, I follow @KrugChampagneUS. While I wasn’t much of a champagne drinker before working for them, I am an avid fan now. I often post photos of KRUG, making sure I tag the brand in the picture or comments. And because brands have to respond to their fans, they will often like my photos or comment back. Sale!
Due to this relationship, their whole network will be able to see photos I post when they hit the EXPLORE tab. Could you imagine if I posted something on Nike and they responded? My account would be exposed to millions.
Instagram: Before & After
So why is this happening? Well, up until April 2014, Instagram’s EXPLORE tab only displayed the most popular photos from within the network and based on the volume of likes. This means you had to either be one of the first “Instagramers” or a well-known celebrity for your pictures to be viewed by others. I didn’t interact with the mobile application as much because I couldn’t relate to the content.
In April 2014, Instagram updated their algorithm changing the entire landscape of how we connect to other members and new products. The EXPLORE tab now displays photos based on who I follow, who they follow, who follows me and what we ALL like. Sure, there are the occasional popular photos displayed in order to keep me apprised of what’s trending, but for the most part, content has become relevant.
To paraphrase Steven Tive Pirre from his Medium article, Instagram Has Introduced an Algorithm, and It’s Better For You and Brands, “Now your brand, can have 20 followers and still gain viral reach. Social proof that comes from friends is far more powerful than the social proof from 200K strangers.”
Do You Understand What Is Happening Here?
Reader, most likely you have never heard of any of these brands mentioned above, with the exception of KRUG Champagne (an LVMH brand).
However, these brands are wildly popular, genuinely authentic, originally crafted, premium priced and going viral.
They have less overhead, higher engagement, quicker response times, and more attention to detail than most big brands. They also command stronger followers due to the nature of their relevancy to both people within their network and their network’s network. In it’s simplest form, I was connected to them through other people within my network who share similar tastes and styles.
In summation, they represent today’s “hyper competition”. Instead of taking years to build up their brand, they experience rapid escalation through unconventional means such as Instagram. Pair that with relevancy, great customer service and complete access to the owners throughout the entire purchasing lifecycle, and you have a case for viral growth to the depths of which Big Brands are scratching their heads.
Here’s the kicker: Post-purchase I share my photos of the products on my account to thank the creators and they respond with comments and “liking” my photos. While I’m not expecting these creators to respond, their fan base does. In fact, sharing and liking our purchases creates a bond and we become social media friends. The viral loop expands and we all continuously expose each other to new products because we share similar tastes.
Talk about true influencer reach!!!!
The Playing Field Is Even
In the past 3 months I have purchased 6 t-shirts, 2 bracelets, 1 hat, 1 pair of sneakers, 1 magazine and a wallet from these “boutique” brands that the Big Boys have never heard of. I have paid above market-to-premium price points for all of them knowing I was supporting their hard work, attention to detail, amazing craftsmanship and their local markets.
The playing field has become even for all brands on Instagram, but only a few (mainly smaller, lesser-known brands) have really leveraged this platform to it’s maximum value. If Instagram isn’t a brand game changer, then what is?
Special Thanks: (in no particular order)
- Tanya Moushi – Entrepreneur, MBA, Creator of Greater Than Coffee
- Oleg Gold – Entrepreneur, Jewelry Designer, Creator of Dans La Vie Designs
- Levi Maestro – Entrepreneur, Skateboarder, Creator of Products He Loves
- Amanda Marko – Entrepreneur, Designer, Creator/Publisher Trouve Magazine
- Jeff Sheldon – Entrepreneur, Designer, Creator of Ugmonk
- High Snobiety – Curator of Fashion
- KRUG Champagne & LVMH – Creator of the World’s Best Champagne
- CO+HOOTS – Downtown Phoenix’s Collaborative Coworking Space
- Stephen Tive Pirrie – Social Strategy Director for a London-based company
- Instagram Icon Photo / Logo Credit from Canva.com