Advertising can be a costly exercise for small businesses, and even if your budget is hefty, consumers mightn’t really believe the message you’re peddling anyway.
But some small businesses around the country have been able to use social media platform Instagram and word-of-mouth recommendations to get customers to do their marketing for them.
The Holy Grail of marketing
According to Nielsen’s latest Trust in Advertising report, earning consumer trust is the Holy Grail of successful marketing campaigns.
The report found word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family remains the most influential form of advertising worldwide, with 84% of global respondents across 58 countries saying this source was the most trustworthy for them.
People also trust the recommendations they read online, with 85% reading internet reviews before they buy something, and up to half of all purchasing decisions involving some form of consumer-to-consumer communication.
“Brand marketers should be especially encouraged to find owned advertising among the most trusted marketing formats,” Randall Beard, global head, Advertiser Solutions at Nielsen says.
“The form of advertising is trusted by nearly 70% of consumers globally, which emphases the notion that marketers maintain the ability to control the messages about their brands in a way that consumers consider credible.”
The key to kicking off a successful word-of-mouth campaign is understanding your key influencers, though there are plenty of companies specialising in this listed in Australia. Running competitions is a great way to get consumers talking about your business, particularly if they’re promoted both in-store and via social media. Asking your Facebook fans to share your giveaway among their own networks, perhaps in exchange for a discount, can also work well for businesses.
Alternatively, asking a client to feature in a case study that you’re able to share among potential clients can also be a great tool. This is a great way to show others that your existing clients have had a good experience with your product or service and how effective you were in giving good service.
Or, you could invite your clients to share their experience in the form of a blog post for you, which could be a great incentive for them. This could include a short bio at the end that gives their own business a plug, and perhaps includes some information on how they came across your business.
While Facebook and Twitter can be fraught with both positive and negative experiences, some Australian brands are realising that the right photo and enough of the right hashtags on photo-sharing platform Instagram can lead to a boost in social media followers and consequently, sales.
A recent Instagram conference in Sydney revealed the primary interest of Instagram for Australian users is their friends, however the next biggest interest is products and services – meaning there’s plenty of opportunities for businesses and brands here.
Instagram has proven a massive hit for a Melbourne cafe, which has managed to build its brand awareness dramatically on the Facebook-owned platform.
Peter Gait, owner of Johnny Pump cafe in Essendon has enjoyed more customers coming through his cafe’s doors because what he serves up is well worth a photo to share on social media.
The cafe serves Freakshakes, which had already proven to be a huge viral success for Canberra-based cafe Patissez, which first posted photos of over-filled milkshakes oozing with fairy floss, pretzels, peanut butter and caramel.
The photo was shared far and wide online, reaping the cafe the kind of exposure that would normally cost millions in a marketing campaign.
The calorie-laden shakes are now spreading to Melbourne, and because they photograph well, these photos are deemed to be ideal visual fodder for Instagram, generating lots of free advertising.
Galt admits he’s never seen someone drink a Freakshake without first taking a photograph and Johnny Pump’s Instagram followers have swelled to more than 3000. Last year the cafe’s Instagram photos would receive between 10-20 likes. Now, the business’s photos receive closer to 300 likes.
Even businesses that perhaps don’t have particularly appealing products from a photographic point of view are having success on Instagram.
The platform has bolstered sales for Melbourne-based online wholesome treats for pets business grow GetWag.com.au.
Account director Arianne Sackville says Instagram has helped her build strong brand awareness among customers and potential customers. The company’s Instagram account is nearly at 5000 followers.
“Instagram is a weird and wonderful world. People even have Instagram accounts for their dogs, and I’m friends with hundreds of account holders that are supposedly held by dogs on the platform, who ‘like’ our brand and posts regularly,” Sackville says.
Her posts vary from adorable puppies, educational tips on caring for pets, inspirational quotes and competitions. It’s all worked to grow brand loyalty and ultimately sales, she says.
Keep it simple
Max Doyle runs Hello Social, working with brands to achieve their marketing objectives via social media.
While it sounds simple, utilising Instagram successfully comes down to having beautiful, visually appealing photos in high definition is paramount, according to Doyle.
“Develop a hashtag strategy/plan for your content. Hashtags are used to allow users to find your posts. You can use an online tool such as Iconosquare to find out which hashtags are popular,” Doyle says.
“Also make sure you interact with other people. Do searches for hashtags that relate to your business, and interact with those posts and accounts. If these people are already posting photos with hashtags that relate to your business, chances are they’re interested in your business.”
For example, if you are a business that sells green smoothies, doing a search for #greensmoothie will bring up a list of posts about green smoothies. These people are your target market, and interacting with them will be beneficial to your business.”
Meanwhile, businesses can also advertise on Instagram, although some campaigns for the likes of the Apple iPhone and fashion brands have been coming under scrutiny among social media commentators in the US. This should serve as a warning to Australian brands hoping to utilise the service.