SMEs are "killing it" on Instagram in the battle between the Davids and Goliaths of the business world, Amy Coles, head of brand development and Instagram’s sixth employee, told The Guardian’s Changing Media Summit.
She said there was a big opportunity because "one in every four minutes you spend on a mobile is spent on Instagram or Facebook" in the UK, and half of Instagram users follow at least one brand.
Coles highlighted five UK-based small businesses that she said are successfully using Instagram by being "authentic", having a "consistent" visual message and being willing to experiment or refine the message.
Makes jeans in Cardigan, Wales, a town that used to be the biggest producer of denim in the UK until the factory closed down. Hiut Denim founder David Hieatt has made it his mission to return the 400 jobs that were lost.
Hiut Denim, which currently employs 16 people, has tried to humanise the brand by posting not only photos of its products but also the employees behind them. A limited run that Hiut Denim posted on Instagram sold out within 24 hours.
Open day. April 1. We invite our customers to head west. Have some food with us. Hear some music. And listen to our plans for 2016. And then drink some local beer. If you can't make it, it will go out live on Periscope. #hiutdenim #rawdenim #selvedge #westwales #makers #ideas Photo by @andrewpaynter
A watch brand, based in West Drayton, Middlesex, that is inspired by the British seaside.
Using the hashtag #goodtimes, Shore Projects encouraged people to wear their colourful watches and share their own experiences around the shoreline.
According to Coles, "platforms like Instagram have enabled Shore Projects to showcase their watches to a global audience" and the company has become "a global brand" as retailers from around the world have ordered its products.
Wool & The Gang
London-based knitting company focused on sustainability and design.
With a belief that "knitting is the new yoga", Wool & The Gang try to bring mindfulness to its products.
"When you look through their profile grid, you’ll see these themes come through," Coles says. "You’ll see products – the yarn itself and the ready-made products created by the Gang, you’ll see knitting action shots, what they call knitting porn, and fashion-focused lifestyle shots.
"They have a consistent colour palette, shot style, tone of voice. As soon as I see an image or video from them come up in my feed, I know its Wool & The Gang, even if there’s no logo."
A mobile app company, based in east London, that shows people an edit of the best fashion, beauty and fitness products.
Grabble has recently started running mobile app install ads on Instagram. Instead of running ads to a broad audience, the company spent time analysing their current user base to understand who their most valuable customers are, and they use that insight to target the audiences on Instagram who are most similar.
Grabble also tailors its creative. "The lifestyle images they use on their account are great for people who are familiar with the brand and are seeing their content on a regular basis," Coles says, but the ad creative is designed differently for those "who may never have heard of Grabble before".
Bloom & Wild
Florist based in Chelsea, west London. The online service, aimed at busy customers, offers flower bouquets to order that can be posted through a letterbox.
Bloom & Wild was one of the first to test Instagram’s new ad products "that drive action".
The company used the Custom Audiences tool to reach new people with similar behaviours and attributes to their existing customers. They then tested their image and video creative.
By testing, revising and creating until they found what worked best, they increased their bouquet orders by 62 per cent.
Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, is expected to generate £1 billion in ad sales in the UK in 2016, according to eMarketer.
Critics have accused Facebook of hypocrisy when its UK company paid just £4,327 in corporation tax in 2014 – less than many SMEs – by booking many of its UK ad sales in Ireland. However, Facebook is changing the way it processes its revenue and booking more in the UK.