When I first started Anges fresh out of sweating it in Parisian kitchens with a big cheffy-ego to match I fell into the trap of believing that 'my product is so great it would sell itself'. I quickly realised that my cheffy-ego was not going to pay the bills and that I actually had to get down with marketing, one of the basic business tenets. With a limited budget I was desperate to tap into this social media marketing phenomenon all the business gurus were harping on about and went to the School of Google to read loads of articles written by businesses for businesses. Almost all of them preached that you needed to present 'a call to action' and 'lead' the customer...60% of the time...every time.
I'm totally WHIPPING you if you don't respond to my call to action!
[Image: Cal Wootton]
But no one likes a hard-sell - it's SO CRINGE for both the brand AND the consumer. And as soon as I came out of the cheffy-ego trap I fell hard into the hard-sell trap. It was soul-destroying. I'm a chef, and yes I own a business and need to sell my product to make a living but to feel like a used car salesman while doing so (no disrespect to them!), it really is crushing, not to mention completely ineffective when selling what is perceived as a 'luxury' non-essential product. This is perhaps why hard-sell tactics work better for used cars as opposed to dainty pretty patisseries.
I spread myself thin across various mediums - Facebook and Twitter to start with, a Pinterest stint in between, and much later Instagram upon a friend's insistence. I forced myself to belt out obvious shouty call-to-actions on Facebook and Twitter ("Buy Now!"/"Click Here!"/"Pre-Order for Discount!"/"BARF") believing I was following what the gurus preached, but I found it difficult to do so on Instagram with no click-through links, and also strangely unnecessary. 'A picture speaks a thousand words' aside, I found myself gradually enjoying using it more and more, engaging with followers and posting in my 'natural voice', under no pressure to 'sell'. Could it be because I was finally, actually, like fer realz, being social on social media?
Does my cake look big in this??
Instagram is anything but instant, and this can be both frustrating and rewarding. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Instagram posts are not easily shared, gaining followers organically can be slow and there are no real website traffic benefits. However, generally speaking from experience, followers on Instagram are a lot more positive, posts are a lot 'stickier' ie. they hang about feeds a lot longer, and the 'quality' of engagement can be very rich indeed. We have seen a direct increase in our shop's footfall as our Instagram following increases with new visitors each day citing seeing our shop on the app!
Instagram is GREAT for businesses with VISUAL products!
At the time of writing this, our follower count is at 4k, which is not by any means stellar when compared to Beyoncé's or David Beckham's (he got more than 4 million followers the same day he joined Instagram last week!), but each of our followers is genuinely interested in what goes on at Anges and we estimate at least 10% of our daily sales being generated through Instagram, which keeps growing as our following grows.
So how did I manage to capitalise on a free social media app without depending on obvious call-to-actions/subliminal selling messages/jedi mind tricks? By following my own 5-point unofficial Instagram Code of Conduct -
Okay, so I didn't come up with this age old digital mantra myself, but it's the first rule I apply. Before posting blurry, filtered-to-the-hilt selfies of myself with my mates pulling duck-face on a night out #girls #girlsjustwannahavefun #follow4follow #wasted #hashtaghoe, I ask myself, 'Would this be of any interest on my own feed?'. Answer is no. Instead I've focused mainly on Anges product-selfies, ranging from styled, in-situ and in-the-making, with the odd not-so-dodgy selfie or personal post, to convey the brand image consistent with Anges.
Pret-a-Pretzel Cupcake - a LOT prettier than my blurry dodgy selfies
You don't need a bling DSLR fancy-pants camera to take great photos. I have a fat Canon and a Sony sitting in a cupboard for years because there are too many buttons that scare me despite having taken lessons. Besides, the whole point of Instagram is that it's INSTA, not click-upload-photoshop-send-save-post. I practise taking better images using natural light, edit using fab apps such as VSCO and SnapSeed, crop and re-size to alter composition - all on my iPhone.
Phones are SO SMART these days with brilliant camera capabilities that taking decent photos is a doddle. In fact, most of our product photography on our web-shop is taken using my iPhone, as are a lot of the images featured in the press - like THIS ONE!
When I first launched the business I naively paid a lot of money to a photographer to take ridiculous images of macarons in abstract, over-styled settings (macarons perched on antlers/pouring out of high heels/placed on painter's palettes etc). They were pretty enough pictures to be hung on walls, in fact, said photographer had an exhibition in some art gallery charging a ridiculous £800 per print. To this day I have not understood why anyone would buy the prints for any amount, let alone the macarons in the images depicted in unappetising scenes, admittedly styled by yours truly, but since then I've learnt that arty-farty does not selly-welly. By posting attractive images of our products in context on Instagram, be it at a wedding, in a gift box, or styled on a platter, I am unknowingly 'leading' our followers [insert: evil laugh muahahaha].
Popparazzi Sticky Toffee Popcorn and Salted Caramel Layer Cake - Oi! Fat Slice! Get in my mouth!
People like to buy what they can see and relate to, no matter how avant-garde a macaron stuck on antlers might be.
Follow people with whom you share similar passions. They may be obvious, for example I follow @loveandmacarons and @jennaraecakes simply because I admire their work being in similar industries, or people who have unrelated attractive Instagram feeds eg: @capturebylucy, @lilyandfrank, @xantheB and @emilyquinton, for inspiration. Don't get hung up on whether they follow you back or not - Instagram isn't politics, it's just a social-sharing app with people like you and me using it either to stalk or self-promote, or both. So use it, enjoy it and don't read too much into it.
I stalk on Instagram with sexy Teacake goggles on
My business is personal to me and to have followers getting involved with my brand makes the conversation much more meaningful! I try my best to respond to queries, comments and feedback left on my Instagram posts and it has proven to be a very good way to build trust and confidence. After all, it is only being social and that's half the fun of it!
Sometimes, it doesn't need to be over-thunked (I made that word up!) - This average photo of an unusual and mental Matcha green tea cake sold as soon as I posted the image!
So that's it - my 5 tips to bear in mind when using Instagram to boost sales. You may be reading and thinking 'uhh what? They're all dead-obvious points!' Yet, there are plenty of people who think they can short-cut by buying random followers generated through click-farms to boost their follower count believing that helps instil consumer confidence and what not. Rubbish. Consumers are not stupid and bulking up with low-quality following is like getting juiced up on steroids - will only dilute the level of engagement which looks super lame (20k followers and only 200 likes per photo? That's how much we average with our 4k count so other than coming across despo-rado, what's the point?).
Be patient. Have fun. See you on Instagram!
Lots of IG-love,