I'm not really sure when I started using Instagram for business. I do know that I started long enough ago that I had forgotten I had already set up a business page for Grove Street Kids, and then had to create a new one... But I guess the more important question is... why did I start using it for business?
At our former home on MLK Jr. Way (old Grove Street) GSk was located in an old style, quintessential Berkeley building that had two lovely bay windows on either side of the front entrance. Those of you who have been "following" us before Instagram even existed, knew us for our windows and the photos we posted to our website. Each week, after the window dressings were changed or a new theme was presented, many photos were taken on the store camera (what's that?), downloaded to the computer, edited in Photoshop and then uploaded to our website and/or Facebook, so our customers could get a glimpse of what our shop looked like or what was coming into the shop that week.
When we moved to our new location, though excited for the new bigger and brighter space, the windows, though many, lacked the same "charm" shall we say, and thus we were presented with some challenges as to how to continue our reputation....
I imagine that I must have seen a photo posted to a "friends" Facebook page, in the format of a square with some sort of cool filter. It intrigued me, and upon some investigation, I discovered that the photo was taken with a program, or better known as an "App" that could take the photo, format, filter and frame it all in one shot! Not only that, it could be uploaded to Facebook at the same time!
The multi-tasker in me was elated! Oh, the time it would save! "Time" being that ever-elusive thing that most folks, (especially business owners!) never seems to have enough of.... right? So, I downloaded the App and started snapping away. During the move, I documented the progress and the buzz and excitement it generated thru our Facebook page was incredible! From the "Insights" tab on our administrators page I could see in the weeks that followed just how much activity our pictures were generating... it was pretty exciting.
But comments and "likes" were coming, of course from folks who were already "following" us either on Instagram or Facebook already. Of course, what we really wanted was to generate more "likes," and more "followers." But how did we get to be one of those pages, you know, the ones with the little "k" after the number because they have so many?
Well, I would be kidding myself to think we'd ever get that many likes or followers, but I was hopeful we would get more than a couple dozen, which was where we were at just a few months ago. But just posting the pictures wasn't enough, so how to get more? It was my 12 y.o. daughter who enlightened me to the concept of the "hashtag." I didn't quite get it at first, thinking that hashtagging was something that one "tweeted" or whatever, and GSK was not on Twitter. "No," she grunted, with the rolling of the eyes that can often accompany any conversation with a tween... "hashtagging a photo will allow others who don't follow you to see your photos, and if they like them, they can start following you!"
Brilliant! I thought. More "followers" on Instagram would translate to more "likes" on our Facebook page, which would then translate to more business! (The long story of that is that, supposedly, the more interaction folks have between our website and social media pages, the higher up in the search engines we get when someone searches for "kids resale" or "used children's clothing" and the like....). So there it was, the answer to my advertising problem, and so I started "hashtagging" away on our "New in the Shop" photos... #gymboree #janieandjack, #miniboden...#teacollection.
Not too many hours had passed that I started getting notifications from Instagram on my phone... "chloes_mommy likes your photo"..."didianddot likes your photo"... and so on. Within an hour of the most recent post, we had 8new followers on Instagram and 5 new page likes on Facebook! This was historical! And so exciting! Then, notifications like "Size?", "Price?" and "Do you ship?" followed shortly.
Do we ship? Well, no, we hadn't since no one had ever asked. So, I thought, "Should we?" And so I posted responses to their questions like "Please email us your interests at email@example.com." And they came. From New Jersy. From Minnesota. From British Columbia. I kid you not. Emails and phone calls from moms across the country.... as close as San Jose and as far as Washington, DC. or Philadelphia, it went on. And on. One gal, a former customer of mine, went thru all of our photo albums on Facebook and made a list of the items she was interested in, that topped 65 items! Turned out we still had about 20 left. So did I ship them? Sure enough!
But then I started getting requests, not just for shipping, but for more photos! "Can you take photos of anything in size 3T and email them to me?" Some of the requests got a bit out of hand, enough so that I started to stress and lose sleep. The reason being is that I wanted to accommodate folks, but I could only do so much. I was trying to still run my shop, after all. Why didn't they understand this? I had changed our profile "about us" to say that items were available for purchase in our shop - translate: we do not ship. But still week after week I still get the comment "Do you ship?"
One of the gals who contacted me, came into the shop to purchase the items she had asked me to hold, and explained it all. Turns out Instagram is now the alternative to eBay for buying and selling... that there are groups on Facebook for the same, and once your photos get "tagged" then your photo gets clicked on and the questions and comments get posted. Which explained why people were asking about photos I uploaded weeks ago, let alone days... and not seeing the info "about us" - they weren't actually going to our Instagram page, but rather following photos in a feed under that now infamous "hashtag."
In the end, though we have more than tripled our number of followers in just a few weeks, I have decided to let go of the idea of trying to please the many around the country, and focus solely on the many that are local and "regulars"to our pages and our shop. I will continue to use Instagram as the app it was originally intended, as a photo-sharing site, that we can share with Facebook to generate interest in our new arrivals each week. We hope that, if you don't already, you will follow us on Instagram and like us on Facebook so you too, can be the first in the know. And if you have any questions about an item that you like or see on either page, please just drop us an email with your interests to firstname.lastname@example.org!