Instagram has become the new shopfront for many small businesses, and a boutique Sydney jewellery store, Natalie Marie Jewellery, recently learned its shopfront was being browsed by a pair of extremely famous eyes.
Those eyes belonged to one of the biggest names in show business, Meghan Markle, then famous for her role as Rachel on critically acclaimed television show Suits, and now famous for a royal engagement (and soon-to-be wedding).
Founder Natalie Marie, whose business debuted in the summer of 2012, not long after she graduated from Sydney College of the Arts with a bachelor of fine arts, has amassed quite a following on Instagram.
With over 145,000 followers on the platform, Marie’s “shopfront” is drawing a lot more attention than she ever anticipated.
“Instagram is invaluable for brands like ours, where visual representation of our products is key,” Marie told SmartCompany.
“Instagram works well as a platform for us to immediately share snaps of pieces as they leave the bench, before they are sent out,” she said.
The jewellery brand started as a side project when Marie worked full-time as a fashion buyer, evolving into a growing business that operates out of a studio in Sydney beachside suburb Avalon.
But Marie was taken aback when she opened her phone to see Hollywood royalty Markle praising the jewellery on her site and asking how she could get her hands on some of the pieces.
Marie’s brand then went into overdrive when her product made an appearance on Markle’s Suits character, Rachel.
Markle’s Instagram profile, which has since been deleted, featured Marie’s jewellery on multiple occasions and tagged the business, exposing Marie to over 350,000 potential clients.
But does attention from someone of Markle’s influence boost business?
“Jewellery is always an emotional purchase, an investment,” Marie says.
“We tend to see a huge increase in traffic, but it doesn’t necessarily equate to an immediate spike in sales. It tends to take a couple of weeks to really translate”.
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Marie was approached by a celebrity who asked to be involved with the company free of charge, but she says these things “rarely” happen on Instagram, given actors and actresses are “predominantly styled by stylists and agents”.
So can business owners take the initiative and introduce themselves to influencers?
Roxy Jacenko, founder and director of Sweaty Betty PR, does this for a living. As well as being a social media influencer in her own right — boasting over 215,000 Instagram followers — Jacenko connects brands with influencers, believing they are “incredibly important for small business”.
“It gives them access to large audiences for a fraction of the price of traditional advertising,” Jacenko tells SmartCompany.
“There are many examples of businesses that started purely online or on Instagram that are now flourishing [without using any form of traditional advertising], while many of the larger retailers and brands are struggling,” she says.
Influencers often simply share brands and businesses that they connect with on a personal level, free of charge, but Jacenko advises small businesses, especially those starting out, not to be afraid to offer payment, which is common practice.
She also says business owners should think carefully about the influencers they approach.
“The key for businesses is to think strategically about which influencers most closely align with their target audience,” she says.
“Don’t just go for the influencer with the most followers. Sometimes a smaller, more targeted audience is more effective than a larger, more generalised audience”.
When deciding if influencer marketing is the correct next step for your business, Jacenko advises business owners to ask themselves four important questions:
- Does it seem realistic that the influencer would use your brand?
- Would your product fit seamlessly in their style of posting?
- Who is the influencer’s key audience?
- Is that audience located where your product or service is available?