Social media is important because businesses need to create an online presence to promote their brands, products and services.
“In this era, we can’t say we don’t want Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. When you are in business, you have to have it all. If you don’t know how to do it, get a team to do it,” said Noor Isma Ismail, managing director of The Storage People.
However, there are businesses that become famous through Instagram alone. A few of these ‘Insta-Made’ entrepreneurs shared their success stories at the Women Entrepreneurs Convention, held on 29 and 30 August 2019, during the National Entrepreneurship Week 2019.
Fulfilling a Need
“The name of my company, Cipela, means shoes in Bosnian. I have lived in Bosnia since I was 13 years old. I came back to Malaysia in 2012. I discovered that it was not easy to find bespoke shoemakers, who would custom-make shoes according to a customer’s feet measurements and preferences. So, I decided to set up a bespoke shoe company myself,” said Hidayah Hassan, founder of Cipela.
“I started selling healthy food through Instagram,” said Elyn Pow, founder of Rawsome. “Now I have seven branches. Healthy food is important for people who want to have a healthy life.”
“I started a small pre-loved designer bag shop. I rented a small shop lot to sell the bags,” said Gabrina Lee, who co-founded her business Glampot with her brother in 2007. It was inspired by a family shopping trip to Hong Kong. “We discovered there was a market for these pre-loved designer bags.”
Visual Appeal and More
We cannot deny that we love Instagram because we enjoy looking at beautiful photos. Everybody loves a good photo, whether it is a photo of a delicious cake or a beautiful panoramic view of a mountain.
“You have to take beautiful photos to put in Instagram. The photos have to be visually attractive. There’s no doubt about it,” said Gabrina.
“People really love healthy food. I promoted my products on Instagram through a healthy lifestyle,” said Elyn, who is a mother of two children, aged 7 years and 15 years. She quit her job in advertising to focus on her family.
“The key to selling fashion in Instagram is to sell the lifestyle. We are selling experience,” said Hidayah.
So you take pretty photos and upload them to Instagram to promote your products, hoping that buyers will be attracted to make a purchase. So, what else can you do?
“I created free events, such as a free yoga session. After the session finished, I would offer the participants free healthy food. People felt good after eating the food I provided,” said Elyn.
“We are not only posting about products. We must add value. For example, we can educate our followers about different kinds of brands, and how to take care of different types of leathers,” said Gabrina.
To be a successful Instagram entrepreneur, good customer service is important too. Followers and would-be customers like having quick responses to their comments and messages.
“Providing friendly support is important. We must answer questions, as well as reply to comments and messages promptly,” said Hidayah.
“I wrote templates for Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and gave it to my staff. Using this template can help to minimise any crisis caused by improper answering of questions,” said Gabrina. The last thing you want is an angry customer.
Growing the Business
We do not need to work alone in our business. We can have collaborations with other individuals, companies and brands that we feel jive with our own brand.
“We can grow our business through collaboration. Bloggers were a big thing when I started, so I had some collaborations with bloggers,” said Hidayah. “We can also have collaborations with celebrities. Besides that, we can organise or participate in events.”
“I started out with a home-based business. I made my deliveries from home too. After that, I supplied my products to supermarkets. Eventually, I started to open physical shops. Now I have seven branches,” said Elyn.
“Word-of-mouth is very useful and important to spread awareness about our business, products and services,” added Hidayah. “Good reviews give confidence to new customers to make purchases.”
Many followers does not equate to high sales. Engagement and sales conversion are two separate things.
“A high number of followers doesn’t mean many customers and high profits, but it gives confidence to potential buyers to purchase your products,” said Hidayah.
“You can check the engagement and impressions in Instagram. Maybe 10% are actual buyers who make purchases,” she added.
Personal vs. Business Instagram
Hidayah recommended that entrepreneurs set up separate personal and business Instagram accounts. In that way, you can concentrate specifically on your products and services only in your business account. It is very focused. She also recommended that if you have a few different businesses, you should set up a different business Instagram account for each.
All in all, it was a great session and satisfied our curiosity about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur in Instagram. It is definitely more than just taking and posting pretty photos!
The panel session InstaMade was one of the session in Konvensyen Usahawan Wanita 2019 organized by SMECorp Malaysia that took place in conjunction with Minggu Usahawan Nasional 2019 on 29th August 2019 at MAEPS.