Curious title, right? If you follow this internet marketing blog then you know that on random occasions I reference tiki mugs when advising SMBs on the practices of gaining customers through social networking. I have a bit of a collection going and so am always on the hunt for them, offline and online. As a consumer, authentic tiki mugs are a product quite relevant to me and as an online consumer I frequent the web to try and track this product down. Because tiki represents a very narrow niche market the process can be challenging. Sellers don’t exactly have well-optimized websites to solicit customers. These small business owners operate out of workshops and often take to social media to reach people, like me, who may be interested in their wares.
A few months ago I posted an article regarding hashtags that will help you sell your products on Instagram. Within the article I referenced a serendipitous series of events that added to my awesome collection, all of it starting with an Instagram post. Well a few weeks ago Instagram once again sparked a trilogy of consumer occurrences that absolutely have proven its effectiveness for small business looking to sell their products online. Today I am sharing that exact sequence so that you as a small business can envision how to make this photo-focused social network work for you.
A Case of How Three Small Businesses Used Instagram to Sell Their Niche Product
A Well Placed Product Plug for a Tiki Mug
I must stress that I was not on the lookout to make a purchase of anything. I was simply browsing my Instagram news feed while at the gym (was not in the mood to workout either). A post from a user known as TikiPop caught my eye. It was a sweet looking pair of mugs. The photo was hash-tagged accordingly and a comment introducing the post indicated that these were limited edition (only 200 made) mugs from Gecko, an artisan living on the west side of Oahu (HI). TikiPop noted the price, a steal at $25 each, and the link to Gecko’s humble website. I immediately double-tapped my iPad screen to open Safari and typed in the URL and found the very same mugs from the post. I added the one I wanted to the shopping cart, entered in my information, and gratifyingly completed the purchase. Within 48 hrs of TikiPop’s Instagram post Gecko’s website quickly read “sold out” for the Ali’i tiki mug that now proudly displays in my office cabinet. But the brilliance of Instagram as a selling tool for TikiPop did not stop there.
Capitalism at its Best
TikiPop wasn’t just acting as a purveyor of the culture and simply showing support by promoting the work a small business owner (Gecko). He himself is a small business owner. It seems that TikiPop had ordered a case of the very same Ali’i mugs before his initial post on Instagram. By informing followers about the limited edition mugs and encouraging them to check out Gecko’s site and purchase them before they were gone, TikiPop helped Gecko sell-out of the inventory quickly. As soon as that happened the Ali’i tiki mug gained value from the short supply and increase in demand. Now it was TikiPop’s time to make a few bucks via Instagram. After waiting a few days TikiPop took to Instagram and posted that he had some of Gecko’s prized Ali’i mugs for sale. Instead of $25 each the price was now $45 a piece because Economics 101 justified it. Those who missed out on the initial release had a second chance to score the elusive mug and they quickly coughed up the dough to add it to their collection. TikiPop would clear out his own inventory as fast as Gecko had. All of this occurred because of two well-timed and optimized Instagram posts. As a tiki enthusiast and internet marketing specialist I was fascinated by the whole ordeal. This was not a lesson in supply and demand, it was a lesson on how small businesses can attain swift success on social media. I decided to chase the rabbit down the hole further.
Small Businesses that Actually Engage Users Quickly Gain Success on Instagram
I went from customer, to casual observer, and then into website marketer mode as the tiki episode on Instagram unfolded. After putting away my smirk at TikiPop’s wise play I entered #tiki into the hashtag search function to test something out. I found a new brand using #tiki to promote their apparel & accessories line on Instagram. They already had thousands of followers, but would certainly still be considered a small business by all identifiers. I commented on their product line not just because I thought it was cool, but because I wanted to see if they would bother to engage me as a prospective customer. Within minutes of adding my comment on their product post (a pair of socks, to be honest) they @messaged me to show appreciation. I followed-up by liking a few more of their posts and they in-turn promptly responded by doing the same for mine. We quickly developed a customer to brand connection and as of the date of this article I have placed my first t-shirt order with them. I know I would never have found this niche brand located over a thousand miles away if it wasn’t for Instagram. Even after finding them I know I would not have purchased anything from them online if it wasn’t for them responding to my comment and reciprocally engaging me (liking my photos) on my own profile. TikiClothing561 followed social media “best practices” to the tee and sold me, and likely many others, because of it.
I would normally follow-up such an article with a five point list on how you as a business would apply the above to your offering, but I’m pretty sure the message is clear. Instagram, and all of the other big social networks out there, offer small businesses unprecedented access to a customer base they would never have otherwise reached. Create your profiles, showcase your products with optimized photo-edits, and start engaging users from the moment you stop reading this article.