The global pandemic forced businesses around the world to shut their doors and adapt to new circumstances. The vision behind my DA was to create a platform where small businesses in the Illawarra can promote their business, while simultaneously helping consumers easily find and support local businesses. My DA aims to support the future of small businesses in the Illawarra.
In my Pitch I outlined a rough timeline of my expectations for my DA. I reviewed this timeline and implemented feedback from Chris and my peers for my Beta to make necessary changes to reflect the new vision of my DA. I was constantly iterating my timeline to reflect what was and wasn’t working.
- I created an Instagram page (@open_illawarrabusinesses) and shared it to a number of local Facebook groups including UOW Buy and Sell where I generated a lot of interest and received upwards of 50 comments and private messages
- I engaged with the Illawarra community on Instagram by following local business pages and interacting with their posts to engage a following.
- I designed Instagram posts on Canva and Instagram stories on Over. This originally took up multiple hours a day, so I decided to take a different approach so I could focus on producing more content in a smaller amount of time.
- I began sharing posts from businesses directly to my story. This saved a lot of time and I was able to share more content in less time. Businesses often would repost my stories to their stories which resulted in more engagement and a fast-growing audience.
- I began focusing on my story highlights and categorising businesses into each one (cafes, retail, services, alcohol, health and fitness, trades, Italian, Asian, etc). This was with the aim of addressing the long-term future as businesses and consumers can go to my Instagram page at any time in the future and find businesses in a particular category.
Prior to the creation of my DA, I did some secondary research on how small businesses use social media, how small businesses are affected by COVID-19 and the future of small businesses after COVID-19.
Before the creation of my DA, I came across similar Instagram and Facebook pages undertaking a similar idea. The Illawarra Menus group on Facebook was also a source of inspiration and confirmation that there was a need for platforms to collate information on local businesses.
The primary target group of my DA were small businesses followed by consumers in the Illawarra. The majority of my followers and those who interacted with my posts were small businesses, while a small portion were regular consumers.
My DA was available to a public audience from the beginning and I received a lot of engagement, feedback and praise from my audience throughout the semester.
75% of all my followers are located in Wollongong, with 70% of them being female aged 24-35. This was my expected outcome for my audience.
There was a fast growth in the first few weeks as I was sharing a lot of content and engaging with my audience. As other tasks in my life took priority and I had less time to spend on my DA, the growth started to slow, but never coming to a full stop. I still continued to gain followers and get tagged in pictures/stories/messages every day – even if I hadn’t posted in over a week. Towards the end of the semester when I spent more time on it again, the growth picked up again and I was receiving hundreds of interactions per day.
SUCCESS AND LIMITATIONS:
Limitations: Time, effort and consistency. Running an Instagram page takes time to create new posts and stories, reply to comments and tags and interact with followers and potential followers to grow the audience. When I first started my DA I was spending around 4-5 hours a day growing the platform. As the semester progressed and I had other priorities, the time I spent on my DA slipped and I often neglected it for multiple days at once.
Success: The audience and feedback was a strong point. I had no lack of content and once I stopped designing majority of my posts myself, it freed up more time to share content from businesses that was already designed. I received multiple messages, photo tags and comments each day and there was an evident public utility.
Addressing the future cultures aspect was a challenge that I had to constantly review and iterate. The original goal of my DA was to address the short-term future within 6 months. As government restrictions started to ease, I reviewed my future goals and realigned them to focus on a more long term future for myself and small businesses. As I’ve created relationships with local business owners I want to continue to use the platform in the future to share their promotions and stories.