To the casual scroller, Instagram may seem like nothing more than a place to lodge party photos, outfit-of-the-day selfies and pictures of the delicious things people eat -- and for many of the platform’s 130 million users, this is exactly the case.
But as the almost three-year-old photo-sharing app matures, more practical reasons for having an Instagram account have emerged, particularly among independent entrepreneurs both in North America, where the service is based, and abroad.
“Instagram businesses are a big thing in Kuwait,” said Kuwaiti artist Fatima Al Qadiri in a recent interview with Italy's Mousse Magazine. “If you have an Instagram account, you can slap a price tag on anything, take a picture of it, and sell it… Even my grandmother has an Instagram business! She sells dried fruit.”
Other consumer goods like makeup, comic books, and even livestock were also found for sale in the region by Jason Kottke, who delved deeper into "Kuwait’s booming Instagram economy" after reading Al Quadiri's interview.
The practice has become so common that the American University of Kuwait recently held an “Insta Business Expo" to shine a spotlight on and learn from "popular entrepreneurs that grew their businesses through Instagram."
It’s important to note that Instagram is not an e-commerce site like E-bay or Etsy.
There is no built-in shop function that would enable a browser to purchase what they see directly, though many large North American brands do use the network to advertise by posting links to their online shops in photo descriptions.
Independent sellers use the site as a more of a digital storefront, designed to attract customers to their physical shops or service locations.
In stead of encouraging people to click and buy, sellers in Kuwait ask people to contact them by phone, email or low-cost text message apps like Kik and WhatsApp.
The Kuwaiti @Sheeps_Sell was recently profiled by Lily Kuo and Simone Foxman at Quartz, who note that its popularity makes sense given the cultural significance and demand for sheep in the region.
Furthermore, the company's ad posters reflect "public anxieties in Kuwait about businesses that employ low-wage workers from Asia and elsewhere in the Middle East."
It reads: ”We have them all, sacrificial and carcasses of all ages. We will bring them to you for all events and birthdays. We promise you, honesty is very important to us. 100 per cent Kuwaiti management. We deliver to all the neighborhoods of Kuwait.”
- In Canada, this type of sales tactic is more often seen among independent fashion retailers and dining establishments.
- Have you ever been enticed to purchase something through Instagram? Share your thoughts below.