Instagram was officially launched in 2010...

Let that sink in for a second, it hasn’t even been ten years since the first ever photo was uploaded! Yet it’s easy to consider Instagram as something that’s always been around, isn’t it?

Instagram has seen a very quick growth since 2013, going from a platform to share selfies and food photos between friends, to becoming the latest business platform and playing a key role in business strategy.

Did you know that the MENA region houses 63 million Instagram users? Roughly 10% of the platform’s global users? From this staggering number, 70% Instagram-ers follow a business and 75% admitted to visiting a website, purchasing or telling a friend about the business due to their Instagram posts.

The numbers alone are reasons enough for businesses to go crazy over this platform!

It’s now easier than ever for budding entrepreneurs to ‘set up shop’ straight out of their homes without worrying about regulations, a physical store or even building a website. A simple instagram account with pictures of the products being offered and an increasing number of purchasing followers is all that a business needs anymore to flourish. In Kuwait alone, the last couple of years have seen a huge jump of instagram entrepreneurs in sectors such as fashion, accessories, food, events etc.

Instagram has also made it easier than ever to brand your business or, in the case of influencers, brand yourself. Branding has now become about telling a story and evoking emotions, and Instagram has modeled its entire platform to epitomize this. Brands that are killing it with their instagram accounts know how to best guide their customers through an immersive journey of discovery, inspiration and conversion.

Content and commerce used to be two different things, but now we are starting to see it come together.

A great example of a brand that does this well is 'Letterfolk', a small family-run business that sells handmade felt leather boards with a full set of characters which you can arrange to form endless creations.

Letterfolk's Instagram Aesthetic

Their instagram account is funny, creative and brimming with inspiration for those buying their products, all beautifully laid out. The aesthetics of the account and the humour draws customers in but it's the continuous inspirations on how others use their leather boards that makes you take the leap to click buy.

...and clicking buy has never been easier than with Instagram. Noting the rise in I-Commerce, Instagram continues to develop specific features to further this, such as ‘Shoppable Posts’. Utilizing this feature enables Letterfolk to guide their customers, with the click of a button, from their instagram account directly to the product on their website to checkout and pay online. This seamless process is the easiest way of turning your casual Instagram followers into paying customers!

Instagram is also now potentially considering a standalone app for shopping, according to the Verge. This will allow customers to peruse collections of products from merchants and purchase them within the app itself. Instagram is on the precipice of becoming a full E-commerce website and the Middle East is running with this!

These instagram stores have risen in numbers so quickly, that we can now also see a rise in B2B businesses catering specifically to them. At Tap Payments, goCollect was built specifically with this in mind- to help businesses without websites collect online payments hassle-free.

Zyda, an online ordering system, has also built a platform catering specifically to restaurants with an Instagram account which enables their followers to purchase their products without even having to leave Instagram. Even Shopify’s app store contains dozens of plugins that relates to managing and marketing Instagram- based businesses.

Other big social networks such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter have also followed in the same direction to promote social selling by adding ‘Buy it now’ buttons and facilitating online payments. Nevertheless, they are yet to achieve the level of success that Instagram has.

In the future, branding and sales are areas that promises to have tremendous growth and it’ll be interesting to see the new ways B2B businesses develop to cater to the needs of these Instagram Entrepreneurs.

What are your thoughts on the future of Social Selling? We’d love to hear it!