If there’s one challenge that has cropped up more than anything in interviews with female business owners over the past four years, it’s the pressures that come from running a business on Instagram. Whether it’s comparison or cancel culture, trolling, filters, how to keep up with an ever-changing algorithm, not feeling ‘seen’, the distortion of facts and ease at which misinformation can be spread… every day I’m confronted with conversations – be it in real life or online – that in some way shape or form link back to the collective anxiety caused by Instagram.
In equal measure however, I’m also reminded that in spite of the above, we’re a population of ‘social’ addicts desperately seeking ways to increase our engagement, to secure our next dopamine hit and validate our work (and worth) online.
(Because let’s face it, we’re operating in a landscape that by and large equates our ‘success’ to the number of social media followers we’ve amassed nowadays…)
With that in mind – for the sake of our day-to-day strategy, not to mention sanity (!) – I think it’s about time we revisited our personal definition of ‘success’ and ask ourselves:
Just because society equates ‘success’ with large followings these days, does my business really need thousands of followers to make a positive impact and survive?
Some of the smartest and most inspiring business owners that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting since launching She can. She did. – that are changing the world for the better balancing profit with purpose – have under 3000 Instagram followers (or no Instagram at all for that matter) but have a diary that is jam packed full of meaningful work that pays the bills.
Dr Joanna Abeyie, MBE, Founder of Blue Moon; Selma Nicholls, Founder of Looks Like Me; Lauren Mead, Founder of TeamO Marine; Dr Lydia Yarlott, the NHS paediatrician and Founder of Pando; Maddy Russell, Founder of Paiv Creative, Jess MacIntyre and Natalie Moores, Co-Founders of Mac + Moore and Amber Cowburn, Founder of Working Well all come to mind...
If you’re a salon owner or own a coffee shop, do you really need thousands of followers to thrive? Get creative, market locally and word of mouth will spread. Rely on B2B sales for growth? Smarten up your LinkedIn profile and make new connections. Service-based team of one with room for 5-10 clients on your books at any given time? Email your portfolio to potential clients directly – making sure that you personalise each email – and eventually someone is bound to say yes.
(Move the first.last around a few times and you can reach anyone via email nowadays!)
Put ads up in abandoned shop windows on high streets (with said shop owners permission, that is), work on your newsletter, SEO… dare I say it, pick up the phone!
Whilst I’m not naive to the fact that there’s millions to be made through large audiences (having been made privy to the behind-the-scenes of the high-profile Influencer world from day one, I understand the incredible, the bad and the downright ugly that comes with the territory) my concern is that we’re losing sight of the fact that it’s possible to run businesses without this app too and aren’t stopping to question – if this app causes you angst that is – who you’re actually seeking that large audience for?
The sky doesn’t become bluer when you hit 5k. 100k followers doesn’t make you a better person. And having 1 million followers watching your every step, certainly doesn’t make running a business any easier nor guarantee your company’s success in the long-run.
Part 2 to follow…