January 16, 2022

Digital Marketing Education

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How Instagram is falling short for some small businesses


Yet as Noihsaf has grown, so have the problems. Posts are disappearing typically whenever an Instagram upgrade occurs. And it is hard to get support, according to Lindello, who created a backup account to deal with the challenges. Earlier this year, she became a paid advertiser, giving $500 to the platform to see if that would result in better attention to her troubles, but the recent outage, which began Nov. 1, proves that is not the case. Though Noihsaf is an LLC, Lindello’s years-long attempts to get the brand “verified” on Instagram with a blue checkmark, a process she heard would provide access to help with troubleshooting, have not been approved.

“Instagram markets themselves as this community builder and supporter of small business and that’s exactly what we’ve done. We’ve built this amazing, robust community. And now we’re getting completely punished,” said Lindello, speculating that “maybe we’re getting overlooked because we don’t have the ad dollars like these big companies do.”

Getting one-on-one, human support has been especially difficult, Lindello said. Some Instagram employees referred her to Facebook’s Help Center, which then referred her back to Instagram.

A Meta spokeswoman provided the following emailed statement to Ad Age: “We know it can be frustrating to experience any type of disruption as a small business. We are working hard to make our tools simple and easy to use and offer self-serve, free guidance for all businesses. In addition, any advertisers can get 1:1 support via a chat concierge or email channels by clicking ‘SUPPORT’ from our help resources page.” 

Yet small business advocates say the platform is simply not set up to offer support on a level that would help a company like Noihsaf or its peers grow their businesses. Jones said Instagram simply lacks the infrastructure from a customer support perspective to assist those smaller brands that rely on it as a place to generate revenue.

“They are not set up in any capacity of support from a customer service standpoint for any of the small businesses or big businesses that are dependent on them,” she said. “If they were truly working with the intention of maintaining a robust small business and big business engagement on their platforms, they would have to have true customer service that was meant to be engaged with regularly,” she added, noting the accessibility of customer support operations at Square and Squarespace, for example.

Jones urges her clients—which include creative founders and entrepreneurs like wedding designers, florists and ceramicists and executives in the movie and TV industry—to avoid what she calls “co-dependency” with social platforms. She estimates that she spends between 30% and 40% of her time helping clients navigate around the effectiveness of such platforms and exploring alternatives.

In Lindello’s case, that means building out Noihsaf’s own website, a project she has been working on for several months. The membership-based site will operate on its own, like a Poshmark, without reliance on Instagram, which Lindello may continue to use as a marketing tool for content and designer interviews, for example. Her site should roll out in beta later this month, with the expectation that it will be fully up and running by Jan. 1.

“People log in and check Instagram just to look at Noihsaf Bazaar—we have totally fed the machine,” she said. “Many factors are involved in switching platforms, but the biggest factor is we can’t provide the level of service to our community, we can’t continue to grow our community on Instagram. From day one we were at the mercy of them.”

Register for Ad Age Next: CMO at AdAge.com/NextCMO.

 



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