Instagram is perfect for your local business.
I know what you’re thinking, “How could a social media platform full of funny cat videos, posts from influencers, and pictures of food help you land more customers and make more sales?”
Believe it or not, there’s actually a whole lot more to Instagram than just fun pictures and videos.
It’s also increasingly becoming a marketplace, with a full 70% of shoppers looking on Instagram for their next purchase. And 50% report being more interested in a brand when they see ads for it there.
Now consider that there are 1.13 billion people using the platform, with more joining every day. That’s a whole lot of potential customers, which explains why there are more than 200 million businesses on Instagram.
But becoming Insta-famous is more than just creating an account and posting product shots. There’s an art to cultivating a following for your local business. And you’re in the right spot to learn how.
In this guide, you’ll learn 11 tips that you can use on Instagram to reach a wider audience, generate engagement, promote your local business, and generate sales.
- Participate, Participate, Participate
Before anything else, Instagram, like any social media platform, is a community.
And just like your business is a valuable part of your local community, you also want to show that you’re a reputable and valuable member of the Instagram community.
This will help you earn followers eager to engage with your content.
But posting great images or videos is not enough!
To establish your reputation in the Instagram community, you want to create relationships with influencers and other brands (even direct competitors) and join the conversations they’re starting. Interact with the content they’re producing and engage with other Instagram users.
You must spend engagement to make engagement.
And when your followers create a conversation in the comment section of your posts, actively join those talks and respond to questions, concerns, praise, and other sentiments.
This is also a great chance to address any potential negative experiences, get out in front of bad publicity, and show your followers that their opinions matter to you.
- Strengthen Your Instagram Community By Reposting Local Content
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You can enhance your business’s reputation on Instagram and in your local community by regularly reposting content published by your local followers, other businesses in your area, and local celebrities.
Not only will the content creator feel great that their content is being featured by your business, but other followers will take notice.
They may mention your “shout out” on their Instagram page, which will help you reach their followers and even more people in your local community. Win, win!
When you share content created by real people, it makes your brand seem more approachable and human.
In other words, your company begins to feel like a friendly neighbor, instead of a business after-sales.
This strategy is not only effective at creating a stronger reputation in the community, but it also saves you a lot of time creating original, unique content.
Just be sure to ask first and tag the user’s Instagram account.
- Maintain A Consistent Brand Identity
Your business Instagram account is just another extension of your brand.
While Instagram is a unique platform that can (and should be) used to achieve different objectives from other touchpoints, even your other social media accounts, you need to keep a sense of consistency across all platforms, especially in terms of the tone and personality set by your brand.
Many customers follow your brand across several, if not all, of these different channels.
If your Instagram persona is dissimilar from the tone set by your website, Facebook page, or your in-store employees, you run a strong risk of confusing your customers.
That means your customer interactions on Instagram and the tone you set in the captions of your posts need to align with how it really feels to visit your business in person.
Otherwise, you may have customers walking in expecting the jovial, upbeat business they met on Instagram, only to be underwhelmed.
This creates a disruption in their customer journey and may disenchant them all together.
- Avoid Blanket Posting
While the tone and persona behind your posts need to remain consistent across different channels, too much similarity can be damaging.
You have to carefully navigate the space between remaining consistent and posting unique content, without blanket posting, that is, using the exact same message and content across different social media platforms.
The danger of blanket posting is that customers who follow you across multiple social media channels are going to see the exact same message multiple times.
After the first time, it stops being engaging and starts being disruptive. Remember, every channel is different and should be treated as such.
That said, there are times when blanket posting is acceptable, like when your business is hosting a local event or releasing new products and you want as many people to hear about this news/event/product(s) as possible.
However, you still want to be sure that you’re cross-promoting responsibly.
Responsible cross-promoting isn’t just copying and pasting your efforts from one platform to the next, but using each channel appropriately to promote the same cause.
- Demonstrate Your Local Lifestyle
Your business’s local lifestyle can best be described as the life a customer leads after they’ve purchased your products.
Because Instagram is such a visual social media platform, it‘s the perfect channel to demonstrate what your brand’s local lifestyle looks like.
Incorporate pictures of your products in action to let customers envision living that lifestyle.
This strengthens your overall brand value and encourages those customers to make a purchase.
When creating images or videos that demonstrate the local lifestyle offered by your products, you should always aim to incorporate popular landmarks in your town.
Not only are these places recognizable and familiar, but they will help complete the customer’s vision of your products in their life, especially if you use landmarks they frequently visit.
- Go With The Trends
Holidays can always be counted on to become a trending topic and businesses have long taken advantage of these days to engage customers with holiday-themed messages.
But there are a lot of other popular topics you can leverage to create compelling Instagram content.
This is a great way to garner some local attention while posting content that is relevant and interesting to your local followers.
To find trending hashtags in your area, you want to pay attention to the news, local events, and community-specific holidays.
That’s why it’s smart to follow other businesses, local celebrities, and other community thought leaders because you can look at their Instagram for inspiration on trending and local keywords to use.
However, there is a dark side to leveraging trending topics. Some brands push the envelope and try to hijack topics that are better left alone.
For example, if a tragic event occurs, you want to avoid it. Otherwise, it may appear like you’re trying to capitalize on the misfortune of others.
Controversial topics are another sore spot for many people, and you’ll do less harm to just ignore them. Things like politics, religion, or other controversial topics are a no-no!
- Focus On Localized Hashtags
Speaking of hashtags, there are a lot of parallels between hashtags and SEO keywords.
To optimize the local reach of your Instagram page, you need to focus on localized hashtags.
This allows people in your area to find your posts and your business through area-specific hashtags.
Instead of slapping a generic #nature on your outdoor photo’s caption, use a hashtag that includes your location, like #NewportNature.
It’s also good practice to include hashtags that include your area and the type of business you run. Again, hashtags are a lot like keywords.
If people are searching Instagram for a hairstylist in Chicago (and you happen to be a hairstylist in Chicago), you want your business’s Instagram content to appear in that search.
Thus, you would want to hashtag your content with tags like #ChicagoHairStylist, #ChicagoHair, or #ChicagoBeauty.
The challenge, in terms of localized hashtags, is knowing how local to get.
Do you focus on your specific town or entire state? Is it better to use a hashtag with just your town’s name, or is there more volume in the town and state? Maybe you should target within your specific neighborhood?
There’s no universal, correct answer to this question. It largely depends on how people search in your local area. You will need to do some research to determine the best local hashtags to use in your area.
You may find third-party tools, like Hashtagify or Focalmark useful, as they allow you to enter a keyword/hashtag and see other related words and phrases.
These tools are great for tracking the performance of various hashtags, while also gaining inspiration for new ones.
You can leverage these tools to find great local hashtags and better understand how people search in your area.
- Include A Link In Your Bio
This may seem obvious, but it is an absolute necessity to link to your website on Instagram.
And your business page’s bio is the only space on Instagram that can include a link, so you must capitalize on it.
Without this link, followers won’t be able to convert by visiting your website, buying your products, or engaging with your brand elsewhere.
Wherever it is you want your followers to go after consuming your Instagram content, that link needs to be in your bio.
You may also want to include information about your other social media accounts, like your company’s Twitter handle.
And, as a local business, it’s also crucial to include your address, so followers know where to find you.
- Create Professional, Creative Content
This may go without saying, but there are a lot of business pages on Instagram that routinely post images and videos that are of lower quality, blurry, or poorly composed.
If you want to gain a serious edge on Instagram, consider investing in a higher quality camera, rather than just using your smartphone.
You may even decide to invest in a professional photographer to help you create compelling pictures.
After all, Instagram is a visual platform, if you want to really excel at promoting your business in this environment, then you need to create the best visual content possible.
This is especially important if you’re sharing product pictures. You really want followers to see the item and be able to envision themselves using it (remember, local lifestyle).
If the picture is low quality, not only will they fail to do this, but they may be convinced that your products are poor quality, too.
- Geotag Your Posts
This is another strategy that, while seeming obvious, is something a lot of local businesses forget to do.
If you want Instagram followers to discover and visit your local business, you need to tell them (and Instagram) where to find your business.
You can geotag individual posts with a location.
When users click that location link, they are brought to a map page within the app that shows them exactly where your business is. It also shows other content posted from this location.
However, you shouldn’t always geotag your exact business location.
If you post content about a landmark or specific area in your locale, geotagging that location can create some post variety and creates the opportunity for your content to be discovered by people that search those locations on Instagram.
This also helps demonstrate the sense that your business is an active participant in the community.
- Track & Measure Your Efforts Constantly
Consumer attitudes and behaviors change and that means your Instagram followers are also going to change their preferences.
You should always be paying attention to the content that creates the most engagement and investigating why sudden spikes in likes, comments, and shares occurred.
When possible, ask people who visit your local business as a result of your Instagram efforts what drew them in. The insights they share with you will be invaluable.
And where Instagram really shines is in its ability to bring culture to life.
From shared stories to interactions in the comments section, it provides lots of opportunities for you to show off just what makes your business great.
Instagram gives businesses a ton of options for promoting themselves.
And, whether you’re relying on completely organic posting or you’re supplementing with paid ads, it gives you plenty of routes for people to discover and engage with you.
As the platform ramps up its branded content features and shopping features, this trend seems sure to continue. eMarketer predicts retail social commerce will be an $80 billion industry by 2025, so the sooner you get on board, the better.
But, as you navigate this exciting new world of expanded social media, don’t forget about your local market.
Keep your target audience in mind, pay attention to trends, and don’t be afraid to try something new.