In just six years, Instagram has gone from being nothing more than a novelty photo-sharing app to a legitimate social media marketing powerhouse.
Some of the world’s major brands, such as National Geographic, Saturday Night Live, and Coca-Cola, use this platform as a means of building buzz and strengthening relationships with consumers.
To give you an idea of how Instagram stacks up against other social networks, here is a graph from Smart Insights:
With 400 million users as of April 2016, it has surpassed Twitter and is poised for sustained growth.
You can see its level of growth on this graph:
What I love about Instagram is its simplicity and the fact that it’s completely visual-centric.
It’s the perfect resource for connecting with your audience visually and for rounding out your social media campaign.
I also love the level of engagement that takes place on this network.
In fact, “Instagram is now seeing 15x more engagement than Facebook and 20x more than Twitter.”
While we sometimes think of Instagram as a platform used by brands on a large and even global scale, it’s ideal for marketing local businesses as well.
It just takes a few slightly different techniques.
Here are 18 things you need to know about marketing your local business on Instagram for maximum effectiveness.
1. Include your location in your bio
For starters, your bio needs to make it clear where you’re located.
You don’t have a whole lot of room in your description, but you can definitely throw in your city and a line or two about what your business offers.
Here’s a good example from The Orange Peel, a popular music venue in Asheville, NC:
Notice that it’s immediately apparent what their location is.
2. Post local images
The key to any effective marketing campaign is knowing who your target audience is and zeroing in on them.
As a local business, you’re probably tailoring your campaign to a finite audience that’s located within your immediate geographical area. You’re trying to reach a certain city or region.
One of the best ways to capture the attention of your demographic is to pepper in images of local scenery.
For instance, a local business in Seattle might post images of the Space Needle, Pike Place Fish Market, or Woodland Park.
Although this won’t necessarily resonate with Instagram users outside the area, it definitely should resonate with the locals—people you’re trying to reach in the first place.
In my opinion, this helps you create a sense of authenticity, build a connection, and show you’re proud of your locale.
3. Use video too
Research has found that “Instagram videos are seeing significantly higher (over 2x) more engagement than Instagram photos.”
You can take advantage of this phenomenon by sprinkling in video content among images.
A good idea would be to highlight your local flavor by posting clips of your brand around town.
4. Use location-centric hashtags
Hashtags are one of the easiest ways to ensure that your images get found by the right people on Instagram.
Whenever appropriate, go ahead and include a hashtag that indicates your locale.
This could be your actual city or specific locations within your city. In the case of Seattle, you might use #pikeplacefishmarket or #woodlandpark.
And because posts with 11 or more hashtags receive nearly 80% interaction, compared to posts that contain only 2 hashtags (41% interaction), the more the merrier.
In fact, here’s a chart that shows how engagement increases as the number of hashtags increases:
5. Follow other local businesses/notable figures
What you want to do with your Instagram marketing is to establish a community.
The first step to achieving that is to follow the accounts of other brands/notable figures in your area. Ideally, they will be part of the same industry/niche as well.
This should help you build brand equity in your specific area and get local prospects to take notice of your business.
6. Engage with those businesses/figures
To expedite things, it’s important for you to be willing to initiate contact with others.
It’s especially important if you’re a relatively obscure brand just starting out.
Be sure to like and comment on their photos and, of course, respond to comments on your posts.
Once you get the ball rolling, this should generate plenty of local exposure and make your brand a viable part of the community.
7. Partner up with other local brands
Don’t think of your competitors as the enemy. Think of them as valuable allies, whose relationships you can leverage.
By this I mean reaching out to other local brands and seeing if they’d be willing to cross-promote.
For example, two local restaurants with Instagram accounts could post images of one another’s popular dishes, desserts, etc.
This kills two birds with one stone because it not only helps each restaurant boost their visibility but also reinforces a sense of “localness.”
8. Newsjack relevant local stories
The term newsjacking is defined by HubSpot as “the practice of capitalizing on the popularity of a news story to amplify your sales and marketing success.”
If there’s an interesting event happening in town, you could newsjack it by creating a brief clip, featuring you at the event, being part of the action.
This reinforces your business as a local brand and can be instrumental in strengthening the connection with your audience.
9. Take advantage of Photo Map
Photo Map is a cool feature that shows where your photos are taken. All you need to do is geotag your images.
The great thing is that posts with geotags receive 79% more engagement on average.
This obviously comes in handy from a local marketing perspective because you can make it abundantly clear where your business is located.
It can also help you earn the loyalty of your local audience.
Just make sure you’re not solely geotagging your physical address. Instead, geotag from multiple areas around town.
If you’re not sure how to go about this, check out this guide for details.
10. Create local brand ambassadors
Social proof can be incredibly powerful.
When you’re able to create brand ambassadors who praise your brand on Instagram and other social media sites, it’s inevitably going to boost your brand equity.
One way you can turn regular people into brand ambassadors is to encourage your local customers to post photos of themselves using your products or visiting your place of business.
In return, you can mention them on Instagram or re-share their images.
11. Offer giveaways
Another idea is to give your followers a product, t-shirt, etc. in exchange for their likes on your photos.
For instance, you might have a giveaway where everyone who likes your content is entered into a contest with the possibility of getting something free.
If you’re a local restaurant, you might have a giveaway where three people receive a free meal.
This can be a great incentive for promoting your brand on the local level and can help you earn a legion of loyal fans.
12. Hold offline events
One way to build up your local community is to take things offline and hold an event either at your business or another local spot.
This could be around backing a worthy cause or simply having a place where like-minded people can get together.
Simply post the date, time, and location on your Instagram profile.
13. Capitalize on trending hashtags
There’s always some kind of trend happening on Instagram.
If you notice something that ties in with your local area and is relevant to your business, go ahead and post an image that includes a trending hashtag.
In some cases, this can explode your visibility and net you hundreds or even thousands of followers overnight.
14. Get your audience’s input
A good way to build strong relationships with customers in your area is to ask them questions and get their take on things.
Here’s a good example from Juice Truck, a juice company located in Vancouver:
Notice how they encourage interaction while simultaneously making mention of their location.
15. Post at the right time
Part of getting plenty of engagement is posting at a time when your audience is active on Instagram.
Fortunately, this is fairly easy to do for a local business because of the fact that the majority of your audience will be located in the same time zone.
Although this usually requires some degree of experimentation, this chart from Ready Pulse provides a general overview of the best times to post:
16. Show you’re a homer
Want to truly earn the respect and adoration of your local audience?
Just show your love for your city.
For example, you could post a picture of your employees wearing jerseys of your city’s premier sports team.
17. Tell your business’s story
I know that I personally enjoy hearing about the evolution of businesses in my area.
I like to hear how they started and how they got to where they’re today.
One way you can do this is by posting old pictures from when your brand was just getting its feet wet.
For instance, maybe your restaurant started as a humble food cart that gradually blossomed into a much larger enterprise over time.
18. Share photos of your top customers
Do you have a loyal customer who’s been a consistent patron of your business for years?
Why not show them your gratitude by posting a picture of them on Instagram?
This is a great way to strengthen your bond with your customers even more, and it can help you become a staple in your community.
In my opinion, Instagram is one of the best networks for local businesses.
With the right game plan, you can create a very intimate, personal feel on your profile and deepen your brand’s bond with your customers in your local city/region.
I particularly like the fact that there are a great many avenues you can take for connecting with local customers and for pulling in a highly targeted demographic.
And with Instagram usage on the rise, it should remain a viable medium for years to come.
Can you think of any other ways for local businesses to gain exposure on Instagram?