Why every manufacturer should be on Instagram

You’re a manufacturer so you don’t think it’s worth being on Instagram? Right? Wrong!

If you are a UK manufacturer, especially if your customers are in the creative industries, you really should think about having an active Instagram profile. And here’s why.

When Instagram first came on the scene it was perceived by many as a photo sharing app for teenagers, but a lot has changed since the social media platform was launched in 2010.

In 2016 Instagram introduced business profiles, and by the end of 2017 there were 25 million active business profiles. Growing from 15 million six months earlier.

For many companies it has now become the number one social media channel and a great place to do business.

Kalopsia Collective, a Scottish manufacturer of textiles accessories & apparel run by Nina and Adam, testifies to this: “Many of our clients actually find us via Instagram, and Instagram is today the top channel for us as a manufacturer.”

Showing behind the scenes

One of the reasons that manufacturers are seeing success on Instagram is that people love to see behind the scenes of a business, and Instagram is a great platform for showing that, especially with the introduction of the Instagram Stories feature.

Images depicting your manufacturing processes tell the story of your business in a much better way than mere words can, and showing inside your factory is a great way for potential buyers to know that you are open and transparent in the way you do business.

For The Clayton Leather Group, a group of four tanneries, the oldest of which dates back to 1600, some of the most popular posts on their Instagram feed are the ones showing behind the scenes of their tanneries.

An ever-changing brochure of your products and services

Glossy printed brochures and corporate websites are old hat. They’re all out of date pretty much as soon as you publish them anyway. The new generation of business moves much faster than that, and Instagram allows you to present an up to date catalogue of your products and services.

As a manufacturer Kalopsia Collective uses Instagram to showcase the work that they do for other clients:  “We use Instagram to show products that we manufacturer for a range of both British and international designers, mills and retailers.”

It’s also a great way of showing what your company culture is all about. Who works for you, what are their roles, and how do you interact as a team. People buy from people, and showing the faces behind the manufacturing helps to give your company a personality.

Assemble manufacturing service – Our unique approach lets us focus on what we care about most: taking the time to design and develop the best product possible, crafted in-house and Made in Scotland. An approach for long-lasting products with sustainability and conscious thinking in mind. Find out more at kalopsiacollective.com _____________________________ #sustainabledesign #ethicallymade #makerspace #textiles #textileindustry #textileinspiration #ihavethisthingwithtextiles #cutting #madeinbritain #madeinscotland #scottishtextiles #scottishbusiness #sustainablebusiness #ethicalbusiness #manufacturing #manufacture #longlasting #socialenterprise #consciousconsumer #fabric #fabricdesigner #productdesign #linenlove #makersmovement

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Being discovered by customers that might otherwise not have found you

Instagram is very much a discovery channel. Hashtags make it easy for potential customers to stumble across your business, in a way that other platforms don’t. Nina and Adam from Kalopsia Collective confirmed this:

“One example of a client that has found us and we recently started to work with is Tom Abbiss Smith, who is based in England. He found us on Instagram and made the first contact through there before going to place an order. Because Tom is based so far away from us, without Instagram he might not have discovered us.”

Don’t forget that Instagram is a global platform too. Its worldwide reach can help manufacturers increase exports at a fraction of the cost of other marketing or sales channels.

Communicating with potential customers

Because of the highly interactive nature of Instagram conversations happen much quicker than they may do if a customer was to discover you via another channel. The direct messaging service is quick and easy to use, and in my experience often gets a much faster response than an email.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to potential clients that are regularly liking or commenting on your posts. James Milford from The Clayton Group says that he’s had great success with this:

“Last month I reached out to one of our followers who was interested in a type of the leather I had posted on our Instagram feed. Charlie Borrow sells and operates from his shop in London and has done for a few years now. After a few messages back and forth we arranged for him to visit us to give him a tour of the factory and show him first-hand how we spray finish our leather. The very next day after discussing the specifications over the phone we had an order for shoulders, bridle butts, and lacing hides in three different colours.”

Common concerns from manufacturers wanting to start out on Instagram

I don’t know what to post

It’s important not to get so bogged down in worrying what you are going to post, and then not posting anything at all. Try out different images and see what works. See what other manufacturers are doing too – the ones in this article will make a great starting point for some inspiration.

I only make products for other people

I’d always recommend asking anyone before you post pictures of their products, but when you do it can be a great opportunity to gain exposure for both companies. Just make sure that you credit them by tagging them on the post.

I’m posting but not getting much from it

Instagram is a social way of doing business, and as such, you need to give to receive. It’s a two way thing – start to follow potential prospects and thought leaders, and comment on what they are doing that you find interesting.
It’s not going to be overnight success. Just like any form of business marketing, Instagram takes time to build up. And don’t think it is all about the number of followers you have. Quality of follower is much more important.

No one is going to place an order through Instagram

You may be surprised on this one! Both Kalopsia Collective and The Clayton Group say that they’ve had sales which can be directly attributed to Instagram.
“We’ve most definitely taken orders from people who’ve seen our Instagram account” says James at The Clayton Group. “It was tough at the start to get the message across that to place an order with us directly, they would need to meet a minimum order quantity. However, no potential customer was ever lost as we directed them to our distributors Abbey England’s Instagram account. After a year I started to see more substantial enquiries in my Instagram inbox.”

We’re busy making stuff, we have no time to post on Instagram!

Posting on Instagram probably takes less time than you think, especially if you plan and schedule posts in advance.

James says he spends a maximum of 90 minutes a week for The Clayton Group, planning, writing and commenting on posts on Instagram and “from experience, investing time to reach out and be proactive with your leads generated from Instagram is absolutely worthwhile.”

Compare the time spent on Instagram to how long a salesman might spend travelling around the country prospecting for new business, and you start to see the potential value in dedicating a few minutes a day to raising your business profile on the platform.

We don’t have many followers, so why bother!

When it comes to Instagram for manufacturers, it’s quality over quantity that counts.

As James puts it: “It takes time to build up a dedicated following and to gain their trust is essential. One of the best ways to do this is by consistently posting engaging material. But the most important thing in my opinion is to have quality followers who will consider buying your product rather than just give you vanity ‘likes’.”

Word of warning here – never consider buying followers or gaining them through any under-hand means. Instagram will know, and the reach of your posts will suffer for it.

I hope I have convinced you that your manufacturing business should invest some time in Instagram.

If you’re just starting out on the platform do let me know in the comments below and I will follow with interest to see how you get on.