With support ramping up to shop local this Christmas, Eibhin Kavanagh looked at the use of Instagram to promote Irish businesses and buy Irish.
Since the coronavirus pandemic began last March, companies have fumbled to set up an online presence to keep in touch with their customers and continue to get sales, even when their shutters are down.
Social media has become the key to customer engagement for businesses, especially smaller businesses. Platforms like Instagram that provide business tools such as profile shops and insights into engagements have become essential for them.
In Ireland, there are 1,895,000 Instagram users as of March 2020. This accounts for 38.5% of the entire population, according to statistics by Napoleon Cat stats.
Coming up to Christmas, most media platforms are pushing people in Ireland to buy Irish. With Instagram being a widely used platform, it is without a doubt being used to promote this message.
With the ability to reshare posts as stories and tag friends and family in posts, many buy Irish accounts and gift guides for Christmas have been shared around and have gained a lot of popularity.
Rebekah Caulfield created a post on Instagram with an Irish gift guide containing over 250 Irish businesses to support this Christmas. As of writing, the post has gained 107k likes and 962 comments.
Rebekah Caulfied talked to the City about her gift guide and how it got popular.
“So, I wasn’t even necessarily planning on doing it. Basically, I just made a personal decision that this year that I wanted to support Irish businesses when I was getting my Christmas presents for my friends and family. I was just trying to get organised and on my notes on my phone I was keeping track of businesses that I liked or came across to go back on,” Caulfield said.
After taking note of Irish businesses she saw on Instagram, Rebekah created the original post which contained 17 categories including kids, fashion, lifestyle, and art.
“Obviously a lot of people are interested in buying Irish and supporting small businesses, so my friends were like ‘oh it would be great if you posted it’, so I posted it and it blew up,” she said.
“First all my friends and family were commenting and sharing it on their pages and then I started getting new followers coming in and businesses would start reposting it. Then some influencers with big followings started reposting it, so for a solid week it was just growing with reshares constantly coming,” she said.
Caulfield was able to use her platform after the initial post to continue to add to the gift guide through Instagram stories and highlights. She has since added over 200 businesses to the original post.
With lockdown starting last March, Caulfied noticed more businesses using their social media accounts to engage with their customers.
“With everything going on, it was just being more aware of businesses on Instagram and tuned into that and I think a lot of brands were putting more work and time into their social media so that way I was getting to see them more, whereas normally you weren’t as focused on that pre-lockdown,” she said.
Fiona O’ Raw runs the account @buyirish. The account was set up on the 14th of March, the date the schools closed. The account aims to highlight and draw attention to Irish businesses.
Fiona O’ Raw talked to theCity about how she used Instagram to provide people with the resources to buy Irish.
“I thought if we don’t help people find small Irish businesses, especially online, then we’ll end up losing a whole chunk of businesses,” O’Raw said.
Since starting the account in March, O’ Raw has gained over 8,000 followers and has made over 2,500 posts, all related to buying Irish.
“Instagram has its good and bad elements. It suits itself. It does help you find other businesses but to really make momentum you need that bit of promotion. A huge impact takes a post from somebody with huge numbers of followers,” O’ Raw said.
Fiona O’ Raw was recently contacted by The Late Late show about her work, which showed how a share can benefit an account on Instagram.
“I was contacted by Ryan Tubridy, who has something like 150,000 followers. Within 15 hours I had 300 new followers and within five days I had 1,000.”
However, some of the ways Instagram operates has had a negative impact on her account, as well as on business accounts. The use of algorithms within the feed has created issues with post visibility and has resulted in posts being missed by followers.
“The change to the feed not being chronological is an absolute pain and it’s definitely going to affect business. People are not necessarily seeing the post. It even interfered with how I do my work because it means that sometimes I might not see someone’s weekend giveaway until Monday so I couldn’t post it up for them,” O’ Raw said.
“Instagram has a different way of getting to people, sometimes I click and think how did you find me, you know? I think on a website you nearly have to know the website’s there or have some advertising to get people to your website, where Instagram seems to kind of find its own way,” she said.
While O’ Raw has been running the account since March, she commented on the recent increase in support for buying Irish as Christmas approaches.
“The increase in followers has really been ramping up since getting near Christmas, I’d say since October, so the message is starting to get out there that we need to be supporting local,” she said.
While the support for buying Irish and support local has increased, both Rebekah Caulfield and Fiona O’ Raw agreed that buying Irish is something that continues to be important all year round, and not just at Christmas.
“I definitely do think it’s something that’s important all year round, it’s such a topical thing,” Caulfield said.