Smart Solutions

Small Business InstaMarket

An Instagram business page enabling rural small businesses to promote and market local products and services, improving their competitiveness.

Implemented inAlentejo Central

Country : Portugal


What’s the solution?

A Small Business InstaMarket is an Instagram business page where local micro and small companies are invited to register in order to display and disseminate their products and services. Actions can focus on key moments, replicating the concept of a tradition market which is held on specific days.

Rules of participation are agreed to establish registration procedures and requirements regarding the type of participants, as well as technical guidelines for the documentary elements to be provided by participants (e.g. short film or photographs of the product/service to be promoted), among other rules.

Visitors can then follow and interact with their favourite businesses – and contact them directly to make orders.

The InstaMarket page is constantly updated, and linked with specific planned events which can include specific product promotion (through e.g. workshops and business stands), recreational and cultural activities, and giveaways. These activities are designed to maintain follower interest and increase the account’s visibility.

What makes it smart?

This is a smart solution which takes advantage of a free-to-use social media platform to provide an alternative digital market for small businesses, showcasing local products and services, and bringing entrepreneurs and consumers closer together to increase sales. In doing so, it demonstrates a highly cost-effective means of supporting local businesses through digital innovation.

This solution has immediate benefits, helping increase income for small businesses and families, promotes the economic development of rural areas, and supporting the local economy and local jobs in rural areas.

The solution also shows that the use of such online platforms can strengthen the sharing of knowledge and experience among local entrepreneurs, providing new opportunities for cooperation and shared business growth, for example through collective training or creating new joint products (e.g. a basket of goods).

This initiative is highly replicable, as it can be adapted and used in different formats and by different players, with a very positive and immediate economic and social impact on the companies and entrepreneurs involved.

How is the solution implemented?

  1. Draw up a plan

  • Define the challenges and concrete goals of what social media is expected to achieve.
  • Research what other initiatives are there to help determine what is and isn’t working on social media.
  • Understand the target audience.

  1. Invite local businesses to participate in the campaign

  • Define a Regulation on the rules of participation and an application form
  • Reach out to local businesses though partner organisations, social media and traditional platforms
  • Ensure all participating businesses meet the requirements

  1. Create an Instagram account and content

  • Create specific and appealing image.
  • Provide key information including posts, caption, hashtags.
  • Advise participating businesses on producing clear, attractive content

  1. Expand and maintain the audience

  • Use other social media to further spread information and raise visibility.
  • Connect with influencers, bloggers, instagramers, ...
  • Talk directly to customers and followers, nurturing relationships to build a loyal community.
  • Mix up posts formats (videos, images, ...).
  • Focus on the quality of content over quantity.

  1. Monitor progress

  • Define key indicators to help improve the performance of your posts and advertising.
  • Understand who is interacting the most.
  • Pay attention to trends in social media to understand better what people are looking.

The platform itself provides a guide about using Instagram for business, from setting up the account to creating a successful strategy:

“How to Use Instagram for Business: A Practical Step-by-Step Guide” (https://business.instagram.com/getting-started).

In what local context has it been applied?

The Alentejo Central region is facing many common challenges associated with rural areas. Key challenges are to make the local economies and communities more sustainable, resilient and better prepared for challenges and opportunities.

Since 2020, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly felt, resulting as it has in an economic slowdown, affecting markets, investment, growth and employment. In particular, local businesses lost access to their usual face-to-face sales and marketing circuits, such as regional, national and international fairs. Many companies experienced the temporary or definitive closure of stores that sold their products, resulting in declines in sales and creating a significant fall in profitability, severely reduced cash flow and stagnant stocks.

Who was behind the implementation?

LAG MONTE has been dedicated for more than twenty years to the development of Alentejo Central, promoting numerous initiatives to stimulate the local economy.

This smart solution came about through the idea of a member of LAG Monte's staff (Technical Structure). The development of the idea, although fully supported by the LAG, remained under the responsibility of that one staff member.

What was the local journey?

  • A member of the LAG Monte technical structure had the idea of creating a digital marketplace to support local businesses.
  • With support from the LAG, they took personal responsibility for developing a business Instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/smallbusinessinstamarket/).
  • This was challenging since they did not have strong experience in social networks. The support of LAG staff was crucial for developing a good design and image of the page, organisation and set-up of content, and finding the optimum posting times to expand page visibility.
  • The initial idea was to hold an InstaMarket as a 3-day online event. To prepare this, the LAG drafted participation rules covering: eligibility (companies with fewer than 10 employees in sectors including agricultural production, agro-processing, handicraft and local services); registration procedures; and required promotional (audiovisual) materials.
  • The rules prioritised businesses impacted by the Covid crisis, limited participation to 40 companies and confirmed that the service would be cost free for participating businesses.
  • A call for business registration was widely disseminated through local and regional entities in the LAG partnership, local and regional press and radio and online social networks.
  • The creation of the InstaMarket required significant and close preparatory work with each of the participating businesses in order to create a coherent page with similar content presenting the variety of products and businesses.
  • The first 3-day InstaMarket was held 25-27 September 2020, supported by a programme of associated events, including workshops (on topics such as distillation of essential oils and sand sculpture), individual product promotion, business stands, giveaways and even an online music event.
  • The success of the initiative led to the decision to keep the account active, posting content on each business, one by one, so as not to overload the page, as well as continuous contact with 'visitors'.
  • These efforts were supported by a second edition of the InstaMarket focused activities in advance of Christmas 2020 accompanied by physical micro-markets in late November and early December 2020.
  • A blogger with national influence was hired to enhance promotion of the event.
  • An additional campaign focused on the sale of new baskets containing products from local businesses, with a percentage of the profits donated to an initiative supporting the renovation of children’s bedrooms in disadvantaged families.

What have been the main outputs & results?

  • The Instagram-based InstaMarket has provided an inclusive, dynamic space, where companies make themselves known and interact directly with consumers. the social media platform. Instagram has provided an excellent way to communicate with customers and potential customers, all while increasing businesses’ and brands’ awareness and sales.
  • 24 businesses took part in the first edition (all the eligible companies that completed the online application form). 23 business took part in the second edition. In total, InstaMarket has now seen a total number of participating small businesses of: 32 (13 in agri-food, 9 in handicrafts
  • Participating businesses saw a direct upturn in sales whilst still struggling with the impact of Covid-19. Some businesses ran out of stock, and two others established new commercial liaisons, with the formalization of larger orders and with temporal continuity.
  • 198 baskets of local products – as a new product offering – sold online during the Nov-Dec edition of the InstaMarket:
  • The Instagram business page is still active, with a regular update of its contents.
  • The Instagram business pages had around 1500 followers in mid-2021
  • Number of visitors: marketplace widely visited, especially in periods with programmed activities (1st edition in September 2020 and 2nd edition in the 2020 Christmas season).
  • The solution also sparked a capacity building strategy for local small businesses. 9 online training events – provided through the Resource Center for Rural Development (RCRD) – reached 38 entrepreneurs on topics such as: Business English, E-mail Marketing, Leadership and Social Networking.

In a post-InstaMarket evaluation, the participating entrepreneurs pointed out the following advantages:

  • Opportunity to be involved in a totally innovative idea (it has never been done at a national level), with an impact that exceeded expectations.
  • Benefit from a direct marketing campaign, with personalized promotion, national prominence, and potential to reach different and/or wider markets.
  • Realize the importance of investing in social networks and their marketing tools as an alternative to those commonly used (mostly in face-to-face events).
  • Understand the importance of joint actions with a consistent strategy to leverage business growth.

What does it bring the village/community?

Main benefits that the initiative is expected to bring to the local economic fabric

  • Increased resilience of economic activities of the rural territory during the Covid pandemic, and associated restrictions.
  • Improvement in the economic conditions of local businesses (mostly family micro-businesses).
  • An increased potential to reach new markets through new forms of marketing (resulting from the use of already known and used social media platforms and the collaboration of a well-known blogger).
  • Affirmation of the quality of local products allied to creativity and innovation.
  • Improved articulation between economic and social projects (in this case, support to disadvantaged families).
  • Showed entrepreneurs the value of understanding the skills needed to face new market challenges (e.g., the weight of image and social media as a business tool).
  • Increased attractiveness of the territory, including for new creative and innovative businesses.

What’s needed

Financial resources

Financial needs:

It is free to create an Instagram business page. However, social media managing and monitoring is very time-consuming.

In this case, the time and effort involved represent an investment of about 30 days (8 hours a day) of work for one person. (note that the volume of hours spent may have been higher also due to less experience and knowledge to deal with this solution).

There are no financial costs associated with running the Instagram page on an ongoing basis, so long as the human resources necessary for its management are provided for free.

Funding received:
SourceAmountFunded
I'M LEADER Project - Entrepreneurship and innovation in local context. Co-financed by Operational Programme Alentejo 2020N/AThe work of one LAG staff member who managed the Instagram account and relations with participating businesses as part of their daily work.

Human resources

One person can manage the Instagram account alone, or in a team, depending on the scale of the initiative.

They require basic knowledge on social networking, information-sharing, and modifying text and images.

However, it is helpful to possess additional skills and experience in the use of social networks, creation of digital content, writing skills, and monitoring and reporting.

Physical resources

No additional physical infrastructure needed for this online solution, which links customers up to existing businesses.

Venues may be needed for any events held occasionally to promote the Insta Market.

What to do…

  • Research which social media platforms are most used by local producers and consumers already and select the most appropriate.
  • Create a clear concept, and make careful selection of contents (favour appealing images, and accurate, authentic and creative text posts).
  • Stay up-to-date with news and current events and find or create funny or entertaining content on occasion.
  • Use diversified dissemination channels and appeal to the local communities, providing a sense of ownership.
  • Work closely with local entrepreneurs and value them as an active part of the entire process (e.g. taking in relevant suggestions in order to increase the solution performance).

and not to do

  • Don’t stick too rigidly to an initial plan, but respond flexibly to trends and opportunities.
  • Don’t work alone, but seek collaboration and partnership (division of tasks) where possible.

Contact

(read privacy policy)
Funded by
en English
X