Real Business recently visited the office of Instagram for an interview with Jen Ronan, head of small and medium businesses at the firm. She shared how companies can get the most out of the Facebook-owned social network and effectively become an Instagram success.
Ronan was in London from the Facebook office in Dublin, otherwise known as the Silicon Dock, she informed us.
“I’m often here for bits and pieces. A lot of the time it’s flying in for one thing and straight back out, but it’s good – it keeps me on my toes,” Ronan explained.
“I’m based in Dublin at Grand Canal Dock – the joke about it is they call it Silicon Dock because we’re all surrounded by big tech companies there – Google, Twitter and LinkedIn are all in that neck of the woods.”
Interestingly, Ronan actually started off working with Facebook four and a half years ago, but has been on the Instagram side of the business for 18 months.
With the Facebook and Instagram teams based in one office on the Silicon Dock, her role as head of small and medium businesses means plenty of collaboration – both internally and externally.
“Fundamentally what I do is work closely with product and engineering team in US to ensure we’re building the right tools and products to driver value for small businesses,” she detailed.
“The second thing I do a lot is go out and help educate, and get feedback from, small businesses across EMEA, so there’s a broad geographical split.”
And though it can mean late nights for Ronan, that communication with America and the entrepreneurs is “critical” or else it will be a matter of engineers relying on data alone, leaving SMEs voiceless.
“Oftentimes, if you’re here in Silicon Valley, you may not have that international perspective, and that’s what my role provides. In terms of new product developments, they tend to come out of the US and roll over.
“In my role, I’ll say these are the use cases we’re not meeting or could do better and then we’ll work collaboratively to get the information to support that and make a case to the team to prioritise the needs to drive the most value for the most amounts of businesses.”
Of the companies she works with that seek Instagram success, there’s a broad range of businesses seeking growth, in terms of sector and size. She noted that the fierce passion some users have has resulted in them achieving Instagram success so potent they’ve created businesses with that passion.
“Instagram has allowed them to grow that business and reach more of their customers and create a brand around it,” she said.
It’s not only SMEs vying for Instagram success. Since its takeover, Facebook has ensured its company introduced a strong business model, while the Instagram user base only continues to grow.
It smashed the milestone for 700m monthly active users in April, just months after announcing in December it had achieved 600m users – a growth of 100m in the shortest time frame to date.
Of course, more users means more businesses will have reason to adopt the social network, which will in turn amount to more profit for Instagram and Facebook.
Some 80 per cent of Instagram users follow a business, the network revealed, while three-quarters have taken action after seeing an Instagram post, from visiting a site, searching online or telling friends. To date, one million active advertisers are now on Instagram.
“We really only made ads available for businesses of all sizes from November 2015. It’s been a really whirlwind ride since then. What we’ve really doubled down and focused on is removed any friction to make it really accessible for businesses as possible,” said Ronan.
“We now have a range of different ways people can run ads – directly from FB page and from some of our more advanced tools, Power Editor or Ads Manager. Our biggest one is the ability to promote posts from the Instagram app itself.
“By making advertising more accessible, we’ve been able to help get them even more people that matter to them.”
Check out Ronan’s video guide to Instagram success below:
Taking inspiration from Snapchat, Instagram introduced a Stories feature in August last year – a function that now boasts 200m users daily. That surge resulted in the business testing Stories advertising at the start of the year.
“It’s arguably the quickest that we’ve brought a product like this to market,” said Ronan. “Facebook moves fast and Instagram moves fast, but this is probably the fastest we’ve ever moved – but we did this on the back of the appetite from businesses to connect more readily with customers.”
To keep that Instagram success going strong, Ronan said it’s important to drive value if they want to attract new businesses to advertise, as well as keeping advertisers that have achieved return on investment.
“In terms of what we’re focusing on over the next six months, it’s really doubling down and focusing on that value aspect,” she said.
Ronan is a believer that the visual nature offers a rich opportunity for companies to tell their story in unique ways to effectively engage people.
The firm is in a fortunate position where the Instagram success that advertisers have achieved have kept them coming back for more, thus a lot of growth is organic.
On how SMEs can stand out from large household brands with vast amounts of capital, it turns out the big boys are the ones that look to smaller counterparts for tips on Instagram success.
“The beauty of Instagram, by it’s nature it’s a democratising tool. We work with a company called Hiut Denim in Wales, who produce this really highly crafted and beautiful jeans,” Ronan revealed.
“Founder David Hiut has said the thing he loves most is it gives big businesses and small businesses the same tools.
“We’ve actually seen in a lot of cases, some of the largest businesses are learning from SMBs. They’re a lot closer to customers and have a really rich understanding of what they want to know about their businesses, so as a result they have compelling and unique content that a lot of big businesses and brands often struggle with.”